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Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s strong man on his last legs?


Mr. Yahaya Jammeh, the Gambian buffoon is still adamantly defying the fervent wishes of his people and diplomatic overtures from members of the West African political elite to step down.

The showdown between Jammeh and his political opponent, Mr. Adama Barro has been compounded with the latter being sworn in as president of Gambia in next door Senegal.

Overnight Mr. Jammeh has become the West African political villain du jour; he has earned this tag, this shameful label because of his intransigence. Here is a man who for 22 years ruled his tiny nation with an iron fist while committing crimes against his own citizens along the way.

So, when he conceded electoral defeat two months ago, there was a tremendous sigh of relief in West Africa.  The citizens of Gambia were ecstatic, elated and hoped for a new dawn. People said he had been magnanimous. We all thought Mr. Jammeh would walk off into the sunset and allow his successor to govern.

But the flood of euphoria that had swept Gambia was short-lived, abruptly cut short by Mr. Jammeh’s stunning about turn. His announcement that he was contesting the results of the election he earlier had accepted gracefully shocked the world and left the good people of Gambia despondent.

Some have dismissed Mr. Jammeh’s behavior as the antics of a man on his last legs. But they are wrong;Mr. Jammeh is an astute politician; he knows exactly what his political objectives are and he has deliberately created a political crisis to further these goals and to reap as many benefits as he can muster.

The Gambian strong man’s behavior is emblematic of all that is wrong with politics on the continent where leaders whose terms have come to end dubiously seek to extend their stay in power by manipulating the system.

Mr. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Mr. Musevini of Uganda who are still clinging to power after several decades are examples of African leaders who have overstayed their welcome.

Mr. Jammeh is a throw back to the past where military strong men held sway across the continent. That era is now confined to the scrapheap of history, and Africans will not countenance soldiers swooping into town and upsetting the system.

At the end of the day, Mr. Jammeh has to go. But not by force of arms. He should be shown the exit quietly and without much fanfare, that is, without bloodshed and a breakup of the Gambian society. There must be a political solution to the impasse.

A military approach will only compound problems. The reported invasion of the tiny West African nation by ECOWAS troops led by Senegal to help ensure that Mr. Barrow assumes power sends out the wrong message. Whatever happened to continued dialogue with the recalcitrant Mr. Jammeh?








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