Few days ago, a contributor on your show gave a sobering and wide ranging analysis of the implications of interference by Senegalese forces in The Gambia to dislodge President Yahya Jammeh from power in the event he refuses to hand over power to President-Elect Mr. Adama Barrow come January 19th, 2017. The commentator went on to give a very pessimistic assertion that the true intent of Senegal is and has been to occupy or annex The Gambia, to transform it, as he put it, into an eighth region of Senegal. I found his analyses and portrayal of events as too simplistic and could not disagree more with such pessimistic perspectives and outlook.

I strongly believe that Senegal has no illusions or intentions of occupying or annexing The Gambia because such actions will be contrary to their ambition of being considered a bastion of democracy in West Africa. My arguments are based on the following: First: We live in the 21st Century, with the actions of countries governed by international laws and regulations; Second: The Gambia is a sovereign country and a full-fledge member of the United Nations, alongside community of nations, as well being a member of The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS). Thus Senegal will not gain any political support or legitimacy both internationally and nationally should it attempt the futile adventure of occupying or annexing The Gambia; Third: The Gambia is an English speaking country maintaining strong ties with countries in Commonwealth including English speaking Nigeria, a regional power in West Africa and a strong member of ECOWAS. The significance of these associations must not be underestimated and will make it impossible for Senegal to maintain a stable and lasting sovereignty over The Gambia without strong national and international response. Fourth: The current President of Senegal, Mr. Macky Sall, is a man of strong democratic credentials who believes in the rule of law, international order and the maintenance of peace and stability in the Senegambia region. Moreover, Mr. Sall came to power through a democratic process, and The Gambia became the first country of his visit when he assumed the presidency. A major reason for this was the recognition of the strategic importance of The Gambia to his efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region. Fifth: The planned intervention purportedly to be led by Senegal will be mandated by and undertaken under the auspices of ECOWAS, the regional West African organization mediating a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia. The Senegalese-led forces will be constituted as a ECOMOG force (the West African multilateral armed force) with the most likely involvement of Nigerian forces or military personnel, and will not be taking direct orders from the government of Senegal. Importantly, they will have a clear mandate and mission, and will operate under the direction of the ECOMOG High Command, which should preclude or allay any apprehension of Senegal infringing on Gambia’s sovereignty for its purported geopolitical ambition.

There is already precedence for this kind of intervention, with good track record, in several ECOWAS member countries in West Africa where the failure of democratic process, institutions and governance necessitated intervention by ECOMOG forces to restore and enforce peace and the sovereign will of the people. Examples include interventions in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissao and Burkina Faso. ECOWAS as an institution must be commended for these stellar accomplishments, and makes me feel proud of being a citizen of West Africa, if not Africa as a whole. I cannot agree more with the sentiments expressed recently by the President of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, about the extraordinary achievements by ECOWAS in enforcing peace and stability as well as supporting democratic processes and good governance in member countries. Kudos to the organization! I remain highly optimistic that with developing democracy and democratic institutions, West Africa will ultimately make strides in fighting corruption, which will stimulate increased investment (domestic and foreign), spur economic growth in the region and enhance prosperity for its people.  The organization is headed in the right direction and must be given all the support necessary to effectively fulfill its mandate.

Thus I will implore all fellow Gambians to be highly supportive of the mission and role of ECOWAS or possibly ECOMOG should military intervention become necessary. I will implore ECOWAS to be decisive in deploying ECOMOG forces in The Gambia should President Yahya Jammeh refuse to step down and hand over power to President-Elect Adama Barrow come January 19th, 2017. Indecisiveness, by engaging in protracted negotiations with Jammeh will undermine the accomplishments and effectiveness of this highly relevant organization. Through decisive actions, ECOWAS is in a unique position of sending strong signals to future would-be leaders in the region that dictatorship, oppression and undemocratic practices could no longer be tolerated and will not be disregarded with impunity disguised under the cloak of so-called “national sovereignty”. The countries belong to the people and the will of the people must prevail!

 In conclusion: The media should play a key role in allaying fear among the Gambia’s populace by explaining and educating them on the circumstances and significance of ECOWAS intervention. They should do this by explaining the mission of the organization, and make them understand that Senegalese or ECOMOG forces are not occupying forces despite what Yahya Jammeh would like to them believe. Yahya does not have the support and firepower to go toe-to-toe with ECOMOG forces or spark a regional or tribal conflict.  I believe Gambians are smart enough not to fall for that trap. I am astounded that Jammeh until now failed to understand the limits of his power and capability and continue to cling on to power. He should negotiate an exit strategy with the coalition and ECOWAS the soonest the better. The clock is ticking.        

Written By A Concerned Gambian Citizen, Kansas, USA

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