Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 December 2016
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s John Mahama are in Banjul – the capital of The Gambia today, Tuesday, 13th December 2016, to persuade Jammeh to accept the results of the presidential election and stand down unconditionally.
Gambia’s president Jammeh is a man unknown for doing things in half measures. He is more than an extrovert. He loves power and cannot stomach the thought of not being in control of the Gambia.
He is a larger than life character who strongly believes that one day the whole world will come knocking at his door begging for something that only he has the power to provide – well – after God that is.
When he claimed several years ago to have found a cure for Aids, no one came knocking. Instead, many thought he was mad. He was not amused.
He then quickly turned his spiritual vocation around by practicing exorcism on young women. He has his fans, many of whom are political sycophants and poor tribesmen and women, who rely on him to put food on their table.
When he lampooned and threatened western nations for supporting civil rights organisations in the country, he was dismissed as a deranged despot.
But if his decision to allow a relatively free and fair elections two weeks ago was just a bait thrown at the opposition and those he regards as enemies of the state – giving them false sense of security and comfort, then he has now got the world knocking at his door.
After losing the presidential election and conceding defeat, many would say that Jammeh was simply playing up to the world gallery. Jammeh has no intention of leaving office.
What Jammeh now has, are the names, pictures and voices of the opposition calling for his arrest and trial for crimes ranging from corruption, abuse of power, and murder.
Jammeh’s final game plan now is simple – to hang on to power by any means necessary.
There is too much at stake, if he relinquishes power – including his very survival. He needs to stay on in some capacity. As he told his successor Adama in his acceptance statement – ‘I will be available to give advice’.
But Jammeh knows that by staying on as president, he will not be able to attract much needed foreign investments.
The Gambian economy is collapsing. Revenue from tourism is declining, as European tourists stay away.
Large swathes of industry have remained closed for several years, as foreign owners packed up and left.
After twenty two years of wielding absolute power, Jammeh is now faced with the possibility of those he had tortured calling the shots. Should he stay or should he go quietly?
What is so shockingly surreal is that, rather than regarding the arrival of West African leaders in The Gambia as a first attempt by the world to pull him back from the brink, his alter ego is getting the better of him.
With renewed swagger and invigorated spring in his step, Jammeh is dangerously deluding himself that at long last, he has now got the world at his feet begging for something that only he can give Gambians – peace.
With Jammeh refusing to go quietly, not only is he risking plunging The Gambia into war, he is moving closer to either facing judgement day in the Hague or writing his own death wish.
He should perhaps give Gbagbo a call and ask for his advice, as to how not to go against the will of the people. (Photo: Mrs Gbagbo being humiliated by opposition forces when fighting broke out in the Ivory Coast).
Jammeh may be staging his final grandstanding, but he ought to be reminded of the heavy responsibility that now hangs on his broad shoulders. Should the Gambia descend into chaos and violence, he will face justice and be held to account.
An international military coalition, led by African Union troops will intervene to protect the Gambian people. Jammeh now has clear choices to make, while enjoying his final grand standing as the president that was destined to rule the Gambia for ever – well “until God says enough is enough”.
Will president Koroma and his fellow heads of State from Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, pull Jammeh back from the brink?