Ladies and gentlemen, we got him. Those were the words of Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, after Operation Red Dawn which was conducted on December 13th 2003 near the town of Tikrit and it led to the capture of longtime Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Fellow Gambians, we can also say that we got him. On December 1st 2016, Gambians finally got Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s dictator for more than 22 years. After enduring many years of hardship, arrest, torture, hire, fire, arrest, kill, and the list goes on, Gambians finally decided that they have had enough and bravely voted Jammeh out of office and voted in Adama Barrow, the flagbearer of the opposition coalition.
To many people’s surprise, he accepted the results as the will of the people and the will of God. In his concession speech, he said that he came to power on Friday July 22nd ,1994 and lost on December 2nd , 2016. People were ecstatic. There were celebrations and jubilations all over the country. There was a feeling of “free at last” and some people even “turned from green (ruling party color) to yellow (main opposition party color)” and joined the festivities. Some people sang and others cried. Some old people thanked God for answering their prayers and others danced. Gambians at home and abroad congratulated each other and celebrated the victory of the coalition in different ways. This went on for a week until December 9th when Jammeh came back on national TV and effectively said, never mind. He announced that he no longer trusted the results of the “rig-proof” election and was therefore going to “annul” them. It was like NAWEC just turned off the lights when the dance was starting to get really “groovy”. So what happened and why did he change his mind?
Well, Jammeh, being a master manipulator, was capitalizing on an innocent and inconsequential mistake by Gambia’s truly independent electoral commission (Bravo to commission chairman Alieu Momar Njie) and the urging of his sycophants to “annul” the election results. He started maligning the election which, a week earlier, he described as the fairest in the world. He falsely stated that he and his party were informed of the mistake days after he conceded defeat. If you listened to his concession speech, you heard him mention losing to Barrow by 18,000. Many people, including myself, were wondering what he was talking because at the time the official results were showing that he lost by 51,000. So, evidently on December 2nd, he knew that he lost by 18,000. But after one week when it finally sunk in that he lost and he started looking at the ramifications of having to leave the presidency he changed his mind. Undoubtedly, his decision got an assist from some coalition member(s) who were not disciplined enough during interviews and discussed plans to prosecute him after he leaves office. That spooked him and his people and as a result he rushed to the TV to pronounce that he no longer accepts the results of the election and is calling for a new vote.
Jammeh’s pronouncement was unconstitutional, was nonsensical and totally irrational. But do you expect Jammeh to be rational, knowing all the atrocities that have been committed under his watch? The answer is simply no. Who killed a doyen of Gambian journalism, Deyda Hydara 12 years ago? Who killed the young and promising finance minister, Koro Ceesay, in 1995? Who killed the students in April 2000? Who killed the 2 Solos, Sandeng and Koroma? They both did solo heroic acts but died as a heroic duo. Where is Daba Marena, Ebou Lowe, Ebrima Jobe, Alhagi Ceesay and Chief Manneh? Where are the bodies of the nine Mile 2 inmates and the body of Njaga Jagne? The list goes on and on and on. Jammeh knows more than all of us what transpired in the country in the past 22 years. Therefore, when it dawned on him that he will have to answer the questions above and many others, he decided to try to hang on to the only place that offers him immunity, the presidency.
Under his 22 year presidency, many people have disappeared, many have been killed, many have been unlawfully arrested and are languishing in jail and secret detention centers. In short, all Gambians have been traumatized by Jammeh and his people. And knowing that he can spend the rest of life in jail for all the atrocities committed under his watch, some of which he personally ordered, he decided to reverse his decision on the election results. It was not a surprise at all to many who have been following him over the years. Actually, the surprised party in this case, I can guarantee you, is Jammeh himself and his people. Because, despite all his threats, Gambians showed him that they were no longer afraid of him and mustered the guts to vote him out. But as if losing the election was like having a bad dream and not reality, he decided to in effect to “try it again”. Hence his decision on December 9th and the subsequent threats that demonstrations will not be allowed and will not go unpunished.
Gambians, who care less about him now, have not staged any demonstrations not because they are afraid but because they know they did what they had to do, that is vote him out and render him irrelevant. Why then go out and demonstrate and get shot by a desperate despot. He has already killed many and would not mind killing more in the name of “maintaining the peace”. Gambians should be applauded for showing this kind of maturity and fearlessness ( give them a shout-out if you are reading this column) . Instead of mass demonstrations in the streets, people, whether individually or in groups, have been denouncing Jammeh since he made his announcement.
In the past week alone we have seen his ambassador to the US, the Teachers Union, the Bar Association, the University of the Gambia Staff Association, The Nurses and Midwives Association, The Medical and Dental Association and many more have come out in public and made statements denouncing Jammeh’s decision and asking him to leave. I can guarantee you he was hoping that all these people and groups would have instead come out into the streets and demonstrate. That would have given him reason to order his troops to “shoot those bast..s”, as he did during the April 2000 student demonstrations. The way Gambians have been handling him is very gratifying and very encouraging because if this trend continues, and I am confident it will continue, eventually everyone around him, even the “Gambia national Army” will come out and denounce him. Then, he won’t be left with any choice but to change his mind and leave.
I hope he does so, sooner rather than later, and accept the fact that Gambians are done with him and have decided to move on without him and want him to hand over power peacefully. This will lead to a smooth transfer of power, with no lives lost and no infrastructure damaged, to the new government led by Mr. Barrow, who, before concluding, I would like to congratulate for his victory but also remind him of the saying by the English poet and dramatist Edward Young (1683–1765) that “procrastination is the thief of time”. In the Gambia’s case, he and his coalition, by not quickly setting up a government, are allowing Jammeh to steal some time to make some crazy headlines, have meetings with heads of state and frankly increase his confidence that his crazy dream of retaining the presidency, after being voted out by the people, may come true.
We all know that by the will of God, he will be kicked out of the presidency at the end of his term. It is very encouraging to know that the ECOWAS heads of state have all shown a commitment to ensuring his exit from power in January 2017. But remember, Jammeh is not a rational person. So, Mr. Barrow has to act fast in making his cabinet picks for it to become real to Jammeh that Gambians finally got him and that it is indeed over. Good luck!
Please see Part II of this publication for some suggestions and ideas to help with the cabinet picks.
Written By Elderly Gambian