Sunday, 11 December 2016

West Africa's Leaders Must Not Abandon Gambians In Their Hour Of Need

The UN Security Council has now voted unanimously, to demand that Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh steps down from office, after losing the recent presidential election.

In light of that, it is vital that the leaders of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), meet as soon as practicable, to set up a high-powered team to help keep Gambia's transition process on course.

Gambia's president-elect, Adama Barrow, must be assisted by ECOWAS to go through all the processes that will enable him to be sworn into office, to begin his tenure as stipulated in Gambia's Constitution.

To ensure peace and stability, as president, Adama Barrow must follow Nelson Mandela's approach - and let bygones be bygones: by pardoning former President Yahya Jammeh immediately after being sworn into office.

It was a grave error of judgement on the part of the leader of Gambia's United Democratic Party (UDP), Usaina Darboe,  to state publicly that Yahya Jammeh would be prosecuted - when Jammeh had accepted that the chairperson of the Independent  Electoral Commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, had conducted a fair and transparent election: and therefore conceded that he had lost to Adama Barrow.

Darboe's statement of intent might have played a role in Yahya Jammeh's subsequent refusal to accept the results of the election - a sudden about-face that has followed in the wake of Darboe's hastiness in announcing that Jammeh would be put on trial.

It would be far better for the new leaders of The Gambia to opt to follow post-apartheid South Africa's choice of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help heal the wounds of the apartheid era -  and use that to assuage the feelings of those hurt by Jammeh's regime's many human rights abuses: rather than opting for trying Yahya  Jammeh.

By so doing, light will be shed on the human rights abuses by President Yahya Jammeh's government, during sittings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - and he will also be given the opportunity to apologise to the Gambian people: and seek their forgiveness. The Gambia can then move forward and put its past behind it.

Perhaps Ghana's current leaders could consult the president-elect, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, and offer to give former President Jammeh sanctuary in Ghana - so that Adama Barrow, his successor as Gambia's leader, can govern that country without having to look over his shoulders all the time?

ECOWAS leaders must spell out clearly to Yahya Jammeh, the consequences of continuing to refuse to accept the results of the presidential election and step down: globally enforced sanctions against him and members of his family; ditto the military high command and their families; as well as all his regime's members and their families.

Failure of those initial sanctions to get him to accept the results of the presidential election, and step down from office, should then lead to their being escalated eventually to a full naval blockade to stop Gambia from trading with the rest of the world, if need be. That should bring him round to their point of view very quickly.

Whatever be the case, West Africa's leaders must not abondon the Gambian people in their hour of need - just when their nation is on the cusp of a new era: during which Gambians can begin to enjoy all the personal freedoms guaranteed that nation's citizens in Gambia's Constitution.
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