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Something is still rotten in the state of Gambia. By Foday Samateh

Something is still rotten in the state of Gambia

By  Foday Samateh

Yahya Jammeh and his diehard supporters can slaughter hundred or thousand cows for a merry feast. They can throw all manner of sumptuous parties in all the seven regions of The Gambia for the fourth presidential election he had been declared the winner. All the celebration and chest-beating will not alter a damn truth about this drama of falsehood masqueraded as democratic election. Night will never be day and a cat will never be a dog no matter how many times the claim is made. So too a police state will never be a free nation by mere lip-service. This election, like the previous three, is nothing but a coup by the ballot box to renew the conferment of democratic legitimacy on a petty dictator.

The purported victory serves only one purpose. Further perpetuation of the status quo of a single man who is under the influence of messianic delusions and cheered on by a groveling troupe of mendacious loudmouths, gullible expendables, shameless opportunists, unprincipled apologists, flatterers for hire and happy know-nothings. The official
election result isn’t so much disappointing as it is offensive in that an avowed autocrat continues to exploit the democratic process to keep tightening his grip on power.

The supporters have two recurring defenses for the regime. The first is that Yahya Jammeh is a democratic president because the people voted for him. The people voted for Hitler too, but no one ever considered the Nazi madman to have been a democratic leader of Germany. Saddam and Mubarak had also won elections, but no one ever paid any credence to their landslides. The second is that he has brought transformational development to the country. Then why is The Gambia still sitting at the bottom rung of the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries in the UN development ranking index.
Put another way, in all the thirty years of the previous president, the national debt amounted to three billion dalasis. In seventeen years, this regime accumulated twenty-five billion dalasis in our name for some modest development. If Jawara had ever enriched himself in office, Yahya Jammeh has flamboyantly transformed himself from a destitute usurper to one of the wealthiest men in all Africa.

Yes, the regime has built schools as it should, but the annual West African Examination results show that the standard of education has deteriorated. The regime has built hospitals as it should, but the mortality rate hasn’t dropped a nick and life expectancy hasn’t improved a notch. The regime has built a television station, but only to turn it into a propaganda bureau to brainwash the nation into believing that we are blessed with a great leader endowed with divine powers. The regime established a university but deprived it of even a semblance of academic freedom for credible scientific research and critical debate on public policy and national affairs.

Too much is made of the regime’s vaunted developments; Schools, roads and hospitals are essential but very basic requirements for any modern nation-state. They have been built in both democracies and autocracies, by both transparent and corrupt governments across the world. The difference is not the physical presence of the structures but
the function they provide for the public good. Kim Jong-il of North Korea also built schools and hospitals and roads. Freedoms and democratic pluralism are the proudest boasts of civilized governments. Oppressive regimes everywhere justify their stranglehold as necessary for stability. The world knows the truth. Democracies are stable over the generations
while dictatorships hardly outlast a single regime. It says volumes about the state of the economy when remittances from citizens striving and scraping for a living in foreign countries constitute a major component of the GDP and every youth is desperate to travel elsewhere for opportunities.

Just about any head of state with average ambition can build schools, roads and hospitals. What sets Yahya Jammeh apart is his misplaced self-image as a man of destiny, gliding on the sweeping wave of history. Listening to him, an act of unbearable mental torture, one hears a jumble of crude vocabulary of a self-anointed republican, patriot, nationalist,
field marshal, prophet, genius, shaman and humanitarian. A breathing definition of a multiple personality disorder. He wants to impress upon his audience that he doesn’t only embody the dreams and spirit of the nation but attains a greatness so unique that it defies all categorizations and comparisons. That he is a one-off phenomenon in all the vestiges and vistas of time.

    Such blinding if not archaic hubris and heroic pretensions are quite familiar. Like all egomaniacs, he is the opposite of greatness. He is a petty, aggrieved, insecure, venal, paranoiac, pernicious, depraved, intolerant, crass, corrupt, deceptive, dishonest, avaricious, intemperate, dishonorable, untrustworthy, misinformed, semiliterate, inarticulate, thuggish, malcontent, violent, tribalist, lying little man. Someone needs to tell him that the Holy Quran is not for carrying around. The sacred Revelation is not a prop for
gimmicky display of piety. The Words of the Almighty are meant for recitation to acquire wisdom and guidance. If this ignoramus really knows how to read the Book of all books, he would be doing so every morning and night on national television and leading every Friday prayer at the State House mosque. Just like he is no professor or doctor of any sort, he is no sheikh. He is an empty pretender. A vain extrovert infected with infantile and fetish need for attention. From his overdressing, raving and ranting to uncouth mannerisms, the sane mind is conflicted over determining whether he is a scarecrow or clown with the keys to the highest office in the land.

    For whatever developments that will take place in the next five years if he stays in power, the following too will happen. More defenseless citizens will be rounded up and whisked to Mile Two Maximum Security Prison he called the “five-star hotel” for his enemies. The country will remain a “hell,” as he put it, for journalists until the last of them becomes his crowing praise-singer. He will own more businesses to amass more wealth to drive out competition for monopolistic control of the economy. He will further crush dissent, buy support and influence, and institutionalize patronage into the whole system for access and success to strengthen his clutch on power. He will further promote superstition over science and make new claims that he possesses “miracle cures” and herbal elixirs for more medical conditions. He will continue to court and befriend the endangered species of like-minded despots and unsavory
characters around the world. He will continue to run the affairs of the state like a Mafia boss of the underworld. He will pile up more debt on the nation, raise taxes ever higher, his regime will remain unaudited while a financial time bomb ticks for the country. For supporters and opponents alike, prepare for a painful reckoning when the lease of time for his
nefarious reign is up.

ECOWAS – A coming of age

Economic Community of West African States


A coming of age

The Global Democracy Project (The GDP) extends its appreciation to ECOWAS for the sobriety and vision for a better community worthy of her citizens that ECOWAS has displayed in some key areas of community life. Among these, are:

  1. The strengthening of the ECOWAS court of Justice
  2. The pivotal role ECOWAS played in the ominous vortices of La-Guinea since the passing of President Lansana Conte(PBUH) up to the healthful climax of the first democratically elected president Alpha Conde in the country’s 50-year history. Special commendation goes to President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso for his role as ECOWAS mediator in that matter.
  3. The critical role ECOWAS played in the negotiations between all sides of the Ivory Coast divide prior to and after the election of President Alassane Ouattara. Special commendation is due Nigeria and Presidents Ya’Ardua(PBUH) and Goodluck Jonathan.
  4. The insistence of ECOWAS for free and fair elections in Gambia, in the absence of which to decline participating as observers in the Nov. 24th, 2011 election in Gambia. This comes on the heels of the contempt with which the President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh views his more sober peers and the institution of the community.

ECOWAS has demonstrated that a paucity of resources can be overcome by a preponderance of goodwill, collegiality in justice, and considerate life. It is significant to recognize that this transformation has accrued at the same time that each member nation of ECOWAS experienced greater democracy and momentum from such conscienergy has helped guide their actions. We are reminded that when we clean our own homes, we are empowered to help our neighbors clean their homes.

Although it took a little while for the ECOWAS community to be on the right side of history in the Libya affair, it could be forgiven for deferring to the continental body, the AU, which was derelict in its duty to expedite and perhaps negotiate the more peaceful and benign exit of Gadhafi and his family during the early days of the Cyrenaica (Souk Turak) Uprising. With ECOWAs leading the way to circumspect, we are hopeful that the regional communities will inevitably help to center the AU.

Even as we commend ECOWAS for a renewed spirit of good-neighborliness and sober stewardship, we encourage the community to invest itself in the permanent resolution of the separatist MFDC expedition in southern Senegal, to remain engaged in Liberia’s fragile peace and to undertake proactive conflict prevention efforts rather than reactionary conflict resolution. With limited resources, conflict prevention is a far superior consideration to conflict management and peacekeeping after the breakout of internecine conflict. We had ample experience in West Africa and in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda that when seemingly inconsequential neglect and injustice is ignored, it has the potential of undermining the entire community, if not in full-blown and intractable carnage, certainly via a series of festering tumors to ravage the community’s peoples. Further, we encourage ECOWAS to harness goodwill from environmental co-ordinations such as the Mano-River Union, Sahel-Cills, OMVS, OMVG, The Niger River Authority, The Great Green Wall project, and other similar cultural and environmental reserves of bonds. After all, multinational rivers and ranges, are ready conduits of both prosperity and conflict to include arms and contraband.

Du Courage. God Speed.