A message for Africa
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.