The Gambian strongman, Yahya Jammeh, must not be allowed to damage his country’s democracy
On a day the presidential election in Ghana was concluded with concession by the defeated incumbent President John Mahama, The Gambia chose to do great damage to its democracy. The defeated country’s dictator, Yahya Jammeh, who had only a week ago waxed lyrical about the “the most transparent, rig-proof elections in the whole world,” is now singing a new tune.
“I am rejecting the results of the presidential elections in totality,” he said. “I will not accept the results based on the IEC recent changes of the results without the IEC explaining how the changes were made. All the parties were called to the IEC on Monday, to tell them that there was a mistake made, which was unacceptable”.
Meanwhile, following the presidential election in Ghana, the initial apprehensions turned out to be misplaced when President Mahama conceded defeat, thus keeping faith with the democratic tradition in the West African country. “A few minutes ago, I received a call from President @JDMahama congratulating me on winning the 2016 Presidential Election,” Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo, the victorious opposition candidate posted on his Twitter handle before the national television announced that the president had indeed conceded.
While we commend President Mahama for being gracious in defeat, we must condemn in very strong terms the desperate attempt by Jammeh to lead his country into avoidable chaos. Clutching at straws one week after he voluntarily admitted losing the election is most reprehensible. We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders within the sub-region to prevail on Jammeh to back down from his ill-advised move and begin the process of handing over power to the victorious opposition candidate, Mr. Adama Barrow.
It is particularly important for West African leaders to step in quickly, especially in view of the irresponsible statement credited to Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, chairperson of the country’s new coalition that won the election, who vowed that Jammeh would be prosecuted after leaving office, including for corruption and crimes against humanity. With a man like Jammeh still holding the levers of power, it is naïve and reckless to make such a threat against him at this most delicate period of transition.
In a recent editorial, we explained how the promise of African reawakening has not materialised, essentially because the primary desire of many leaders within the continent is not to serve but to exercise absolute power aimed at self enrichment. However, the new political wave sweeping across the continent gives fresh hope of a renaissance. By enthroning democracy, anchored on free and fair elections, it will be easier to work for the economic prosperity of the people on a sustainable basis. That is why the attempt to reverse the election in The Gambia must be resisted.
However, it is noteworthy that Ghana has been a force for progress in the democratisation process on the continent. Elections in the country have always been relatively peaceful with the outcomes not subject to the kind of disputations that we see in most other countries. President Mahama therefore deserves accolades for sustaining that tradition. But The Gambian dictator must be asked to step back from his disastrous path as he is inviting grave trouble for himself and the small West African country.
In case he is oblivious of recent history, we will like to remind Jammeh of the tragedy that befell Ivory Coast when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the reality that the market was over following his defeat at the November 2010 election. In the end, it was Gbagbo who is now sitting in the dock of the International Criminal Court (ICC) looking, for all intents and purposes, like a common criminal. To compound his woes, the ICC recently made public an arrest warrant for his wife, Simone Gbagbo, for alleged crimes against humanity, the first time the court has charged a woman. Meanwhile, his erstwhile opponent, the man he tried to deny his victory, Allhassane Quattara, is the president.
It is our hope that Jammeh can learn from the book of Gbagbo and retrace his steps before it is too late.
In case he is oblivious of recent history, we will like to remind Jammeh of the tragedy that befell Ivory Coast when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the reality that the market was over, following his defeat at the November 2010 election. In the end, it was Gbagbo who is now sitting in the dock of the International Criminal Court looking, for all intents and purposes, like a common criminal