A mes­sage for Africa

The Star Early Edition - - FOOD VERVE -

FOL­LOW­ING 12 hours of talks that ended early on Satur­day morn­ing, com­mon sense fi­nally pre­vailed when strong­man Yahya Jam­meh was forced to re­lin­quish power and leave The Gam­bia. It’s in the best in­ter­ests of the tiny West African coun­try that the de­feated dic­ta­tor goes into ex­ile to al­low Pres­i­dent Adama Bar­row to re­build this na­tion and strengthen demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions.

It took the threat of mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion by re­gional forces and last-ditch ef­forts by West African lead­ers to con­vince Jam­meh to go.

Af­ter 22 years of Jam­meh’s iron-fist rule, the peo­ple spoke last month, and the coun­try can now move on. Thanks to West African lead­ers who stood firm and united in en­sur­ing democ­racy and the will of the peo­ple are re­spected in The Gam­bia, we have one dic­ta­tor less on our con­ti­nent.

And the mes­sage is clear: Jam­meh and his ilk can no longer hold Africa back and hang on to power against the wishes of the peo­ple. A few years ago, Lau­rent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast also learnt this the hard way.

We wish all of Africa could follow the ex­am­ple set by West Africa and re­ject lead­ers who want to rule for­ever – even when re­jected by the ma­jor­ity. Fewer lead­ers will want to hang on in fu­ture, know­ing that the neigh­bours won’t look the other way.

We are en­cour­aged by the smooth tran­si­tion of power in parts of West Africa, in­clud­ing in Nige­ria, for years plagued by coups. The op­po­si­tion have come to power in Nige­ria and Ghana in re­cent times, with no blood shed. And now The Gam­bia joins this good story, al­most ru­ined by the pow­er­drunk Jam­meh.

It’s sad that Bar­row was in­au­gu­rated in neigh­bour­ing Senegal, in a small room at a Gam­bian em­bassy. It’s an as­sault to democ­racy that a leader who won elec­tions couldn’t be sworn in in his own coun­try, but we are glad san­ity pre­vailed in the end.

Coun­tries such as South Africa, Botswana and Kenya, who stood up and con­grat­u­lated Bar­row af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion and while Jam­meh dug in, must be ap­plauded for their stance against dic­ta­tor­ship. African Union Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma also an­nounced she would be invit­ing Bar­row to the AU sum­mit in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the end of the month. This is the true mark of lead­er­ship.

Jam­meh stood no chance as more and more African lead­ers took a stand against his at­tempt to plunge The Gam­bia into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. The ster­ling ef­forts of African lead­ers to en­sure democ­racy won the day in The Gam­bia show that the con­cept of African so­lu­tions for African prob­lems is not so far-fetched. We just need the po­lit­i­cal will to repli­cate this in the rest of the con­ti­nent. Dic­ta­tors must have nowhere to hide.

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