Bye Babili Mansa: The phony ‘lord of lords’
SO, finally, His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Abdul Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of the Gambia, Lord of all Lords and King of all Kings has finally decided to call it quits.
The story of this unreconstructed idiot and military buffoon would be laughable if it were not so tragic. Tragic for this perennially blighted continent.
For the benefit of my fellow Basotho whose minds reside in the mountains, far flung from the world of current affairs, I will briefly recap the story of this young man who was known simply as Yayha Jammeh before power got into his empty head and he gave himself the outlandish title above.
On 1 December 2016, Jammeh, who had ruled the tiny sliver of land called Gambia for 22 years, lost elections to an opposition candidate Adama Barrow. After losing that election, the unthinkable happened.
Jammeh, known for his cruelty and legendary human rights abuses, called Barrow to congratulate him and wish him well.
“The Gambian people have spoken. They have decided that I should take a back seat. I will pass the baton to you Mr Barrow and I wish you well. You are now the democratically-elected President of Gambia.
Congratulations…..” Jammeh told Barrow in a candid telephone call broadcast on the state owned television station.
Your lady Scrutator follows and knows the politics of Africa (from Cape to Cairo) like the back of my palm. Or just as good as I know the political story of Lesotho from Ha Hohlo to Mokhotlong with all its main players, pretenders and the numerous also-rans.
Though Uganda’s Idi Amin butchered more of his countrymen than did Jammeh, the two were evenly matched in terms of crass buffoonery. Both rose to power in military coups. Jammeh seized power, from independence time leader Sir Dawda Jawara, as a young military officer (aged 29) in 1994.
One of the reasons advanced by Jammeh then for toppling Jawara was that the latter was stealing mangoes, the Gambia’s main export product then, alongside groundnuts.
Whoever drew the boundaries of the Gambia as a nation state must have a very good sense of humour. The country is a tiny sliver of land wholly surrounded by Senegal with a narrow Atlantic coastline. It is split into two parts by the Gambia River which runs through it. The Gambia is indeed very tiny place of only 1.9 million people. It is Africa’s tiniest country. It is only 11 295 square kilometres in size.
One fifth of that comprises of water that makes up the Gambian River. Its annual GDP is about US$1 billion, meaning that Roman Abramovich can buy the country six times over. On the whole map of Africa, the Gambia looks absurd if not obscene. I could never understand what the hell the colonialists had in mind in partitioning the Gambia from Senegal in the manner they did. That’s a story for another day however. Back to Jammeh.
Over the 22 years he has ruled this tiny enclave, Jammeh distinguished himself as Africa’s No 1 lunatic. Except that his lunacy is very tragic. He has murdered or tortured hundreds of his opponents and critics. He has threatened to behead gays. He vowed to close any hotel or B& B outlet which accommodated a gay person.
More bizarrely, he has claimed to have invented a concoction, comprising of banana leaves that “cures” Aids in three days. He also claimed to command mystical powers to cure infertility in women. He claimed Allah had ordained him to rule for one billion years.
While Jammeh lavished himself with Rolls Royce, Bentleys, Mercedes, lavish homes in Dubai, Morocco and the USA, more than 80 percent of his people live on less than 50 cents a day. No wonder why Gambia, on a comparative scale, commands the highest number of Africans fleeing into Europe.
Anyone in doubt that Jammeh is a mad idiot would have been left in no doubt of the fact when the eccentric Gambian ruler gave himself the grandiose title of “His Excellency, Sheikh Professor AL haji Doctor Yahya Abdul Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of the Gambia, Lord of all Lords and King of all Kings.”
If he had not been forced out of power, it is said that Jammeh was about to bestow upon himself the additional title of “Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Ne- braska”. Apparently the governor of the US State of Nebraska had suggested the accolade while cracking a joke with Jammeh and the former Gambian “leader” took it seriously.
Elections Jammeh won during his tenure were routinely rigged forcing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to refuse to send observers. When voting Gambians use marbles, which they throw into a drum depicting their candidate, instead of ballot boxes.
It is against this background of Jammeh’s unpararelled political buffoonery that it came as a shock that he conceded defeat in his country’s 1 December 2017 poll.
For us who have followed this clown, it did not come as a surprise when he reneged on his decision to accept defeat just a few days later and announced that he was no longer going to accept his opponent Barrow’s victory citing some electoral irregularities. Jammeh then cancelled the results of the polls he had lost. He refused to hand-over power to Barrow and called for fresh elections.
He declared a state of emergency, forcing Barrow, the victor, to flee to Senegal instead of being sworn in to start his new term as president.
Africa was dumbfounded. The world was shocked. But not lady Scrutator. This behaviour was typical of Jammeh.
However, Jammeh was unlucky enough to live in a region were there is nothing called SADC or the Southern African Development Community (SADC). But he had to contend with the might ECOWAS. If SADC existed in West Africa, Jammeh would most probably be still in power. Fortunately, it doesn’t.
ECOWAS would have none of Jammeh’s antics. It gave Jammeh an ultimatum to leave power or be forced out militarily.
About 8 000 troops from West African troops invaded Gambia, after several rounds of talks with West African leaders had failed to move Jammeh. In fact the buffoon had denied landing rights to the plane of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the lady president of Liberia and current chairman of ECOWAS, when she initially tried to land in the Gambia to knock some sense into Jammeh’s empty head.
Other missions involving other West African leaders led by Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari had failed. Meanwhile in nearby Ghana, there had been a peaceful handover of power from incumbent President John Mahama who conceded defeat to Nana Akufo-addo.
As ECOWAS troops approached Banjul, the capital of Gambia, Jammeh had no option but to concede that the time for his clownish behaviour was now up. He rescinded his decision not to accept the results and announced a new one to accept them. He then asked to be allowed to go to his village to become a farmer but ECOWAS leaders insisted he had to go into exile.
He was then shipped to the equally incongruous Equatorial Guinea, another tiny country run by another mad-man who goes by the name Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power in a bloody coup from his uncle, in 1979. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, according to the London Independent newspaper, is alleged to often kill and eat the testicles of his dead opponents.
As a final showcase of his anthropological stupidity, Jammeh demanded that he be allowed to carry many of his special toys bought by funds stolen from the Gambian people. A cargo plane was on hand to ferry his Rolls Royce, Bentley and Mercedes Benz vehicles. A dozen other cars were to follow him. Jammeh then tried to break the Central Bank of Gambia to try and steal US$12 million but he was stopped.
Why have I decided to focus entirely on this idiot called Jammeh this week? Because politicians of his ilk not only disgrace and shame Africa, they also demean the entire black race.
I have also focused on this Jammeh issue because it shames SADC, our mostly useless regional body that has cheered while dictators like Robert Mugabe and Joseph Kabila, among others, cling to power by hook and crook. Surely, SADC must be sent on a crush course at ECOWAS to learn about the basics of democracy and how to govern for the people.
True to form only Botswana’s Ian Khama was the only southern African leader to stand up and condemn Jammeh.
He announced that Botswana had severed all ties with Gambia and would no longer recognise Jammeh. The rest kept mum. Shame on you SADC and all your so called leaders, except the beloved soldier Ian Khama of course.
The question can also be asked; If SADC was effective would be this Kingdom be in crisis. Me thinks not.
The challenge of course is to ensure that we never breed leaders like Jammeh. This means no Bokang Ramatšella should be seen anywhere near our Parliament.
Botswana President Ian Khama
Gambian former president Yahya Jammeh.