What Jammeh Wants
By Baba Galleh Jallow
Certainly, Jammeh’s ultimate desire is to totally nullify the results of the December 1st elections and stay on in power. Over the past 22 years, he has repeatedly declared that neither elections nor coups can remove him from power. And while coups might be beyond his power to anticipate or control, elections are something he remains confident he can prevent from removing him from power. His shocking but not surprising about-face after conceding defeat to Mr. Barrow is the first manifestation of his assumed capacity to prevent elections from removing him from power.
But rejecting the election results, having soldiers occupy the electoral commission offices and filing a bogus petition with the non-existent Supreme Court are just first steps in Jammeh’s plan to hang on to power. He has some ugly tricks under his sleeve that he intends to inflict on the Gambian people in the coming days and weeks, especially after his term expires on January 19. His promotion of several dozen members of the security forces just before he made his about-face is part of this ugly plan. Jammeh is selling his electoral defeat to the Gambian armed forces as a “we honest soldiers against them corrupt civilians” scenario, just as he had done in the period leading up to his coup of 1994. He is making the army believe that it is them, patriotic armed forces of The Gambia, against a cohort of corrupt civilians and their foreign masters who want to exploit The Gambia’s resources, place the country and its people under foreign bondage, and corrupt the morals of Gambian society.
Having studied Jammeh for 22 years, we know for sure that he never really retired from the military. What Gambia has had for the past 22 years is a military dictator in civilian clothes, a classical wolf in sheepskins although he couldn’t hide his ravenous appetite for the flesh and blood of those he considers “lesser animals”. Honest members of the Gambia armed forces will tell you that Jammeh is fond of reminding them that he is part and parcel of the army and that it is their duty as custodians of Gambian security never to allow the country to fall into the hands of corrupt civilians and their foreign neocolonialist masters ever again. He is busy singing that same song now, away from the public eye and sadly, some elements of the Gambian armed forces are buying into it, perhaps because it is the most convenient and lucrative thing for them to do. Jammeh dared to reject the election results because he believes that he has the undivided loyalty of his fellow soldiers in the Gambia Armed Forces or at least significant sections of the Gambian military. He plans to use the army to totally nullify the results of the December 1 elections and stay on in power. And if Gambian people and the world don’t like it, well, you know what he says; they can all go to hell.
Having convinced the military that they need to rise up and prevent The Gambia from being taken over by corrupt civilians and their foreign masters, Jammeh is waiting for an opportunity to deliver the dead blow to the aspirations of the Gambian people. He now hopes that the Gambian people go out into the streets to protest or demonstrate against his annulment of the elections. When that happens, he plans to brutally suppress the protests or demonstrations and then have all members of the Coalition leadership rounded up and thrown into prison. This explains why he has deployed armed soldiers all over Banjul and Serekunda. So far, his plan has been frustrated by the cool-headed manner in which the Coalition leadership and the Gambian public have reacted to his provocative insult against the will of the Gambian people. Because no one has come out to demonstrate, he is not yet able to have the Coalition leadership arrested. But that is precisely what he wants to do, given the slightest opportunity. It is imperative that the Coalition leadership keeps this important fact in mind: namely, that Jammeh will use any outbreak of public protest or demonstration against his rejection of the election results to have all of them arrested and thrown into jail so he could stay in power. If the Coalition plans on inaugurating Mr. Barrow as Gambian president on January 18, they should keep this fact and mind and work on a Plan B.
Jammeh has his obnoxious plan all laid out and ready to go. He is just waiting for an opportunity to put it into motion. He will not listen to the ECOWAS leaders’ reasoning and their pleas to step down in the interest of peace and the security of the Gambian people. Jammeh does not care about the peace of security of the Gambian people. Jammeh will also not listen to the United Nations, or the United States, or Senegal, or anyone for that matter. He does not care about threats of serious sanctions, unless those sanctions are in the form of military intervention, which is the only thing that can remove him from power, barring a sudden natural death or arrest by members of the Gambian security forces. It would be a disastrous mistake to expect that Jammeh will willingly step down when his term expires in January 2017. While that is the date stipulated in the Gambian constitution, Jammeh does not care about the constitution either, as he has repeatedly demonstrated for the past 22 years.
If Jammeh is not somehow persuaded or forced to leave before January 18, 2017 he is not going to leave on that date. In fact, he would be eagerly awaiting any sign of protest or demonstration in The Gambia which he would promptly use as a pretext to arrest all the coalition leaders, including Adama Barrow and throw them into jail. At his chosen moment thereafter, he would drag them before some kangaroo court manned by mercenary judges, bring bogus charges against them, and give them long prison sentences. He would then have succeeded in inflicting a fatal blow on the highest aspirations of the Gambian people and would continue his reign of terror for as long as is possible for him. If that happens, we may just be saddled with Jammeh “for a billion years”. This man has no conscience and will lose no sleep over the blood he will spill or the families he will destroy.
If the international community is serious about helping Gambians deal with this brutal dictator, they should act now rather than later. If they intend to send in a military intervention force, they should do so as soon as possible. This is, of course not an option Gambians want by any stretch of the imagination. But the coalition leadership should not reject that possibility out of hand. For one thing, removing Jammeh from power will not only serve the purpose of allowing Mr. Barrow and his government to take their rightful place as the new custodians of the Gambian constitution. It would also serve the purpose of getting a brutal and oppressive Machiavellian tyrant off the tired backs of the Gambian people. While we hate to imagine any form of violence in our dear little country, unfortunately, it might be the only viable option for the removal of a bloodthirsty tyrant who is intent upon indefinitely holding the Gambian people hostage. If the international community fails to act decisively one way or the other before January 18, and barring the decisive intervention of well-meaning members of the Gambia Armed Forces, Yahya Jammeh will eventually frustrate the Gambian public to such an extent that mass demonstrations would be inevitable. And when that happens, he will get what he wants: He will brutally repress the demonstrations and promptly have the coalition leadership arrested and thrown into jail. Gambians and the international community must know that if it boils down to what reason dictates or what God wants versus what Yahya Jammeh wants, Yahya Jammeh will do what Yahya Jammeh wants.