Yayah Jammeh's Outrage and Ending Impunity in Africa

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Jammeh --will he go or stay. Photo. State.gov.gm

One major question will be answered in Africa on January 20. Will Gambia swear in a new president, Adamu Barrow, winner of the December elections as demanded by Ecowas or will Yayah Jammeh cling to power?

Only one week after Jammeh --in power for 22 years now-- conceded defeat to Barrow after the December 1 vote he announced that he had changed his mind and rejected the outcome citing serious "abnormalities" in the electoral process. Jammeh who polled 36.7% to Barrow’s 45.5% is calling for fresh elections that should, according to him, be presided over by a "God fearing, competent and an impartial electoral commission."

Meanwhile the Electoral Commissioner has reportedly now fled. The regional Economic Commission of West African States (Ecowas) has threatened to intervene militarily if Barrow is not installed.

Jammeh’s maneuver is not new on the African continent. His style however --accepting defeat then reversing himself-- deserves scrutiny.

Why would he concede defeat under the glare of international media and make a complete turnaround? Did he deliberately lull everybody into believing that he was departing while he plotted his perpetual stay in power?

Did he genuinely bow but was pressured by his cronies in the army? Did Barrow’s group, as is being alleged, let the cat out of the bag, by mentioning intentions to prosecute Jammeh after he departs from the presidency?

Whatever the reason Jammeh joins a long list of African tyrants who take advantage of every situation to perpetuate their stay in power with fraudulent or sham election schemes.

To achieve this end, African tyrants have in recent times mainly manipulated the constitution and conducted shambolic elections, organized by partial, incompetent, unjust and unfair electoral commissions that they themselves appoint, supervise and remunerate.

Remember the disingenuous 2007 machinations of Mwai Kibaki who in broad day light, arm- twisted Samuel Kivuitu, the Chairman of the Kenyan Electoral Commission then, to declare him winner.

This sparked unprecedented violence between supporters of Raila Odinga and Kibaki's resulting in thousands of deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands of ordinary Kenyans.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe after being defeated fair and square by Morgan Tsvangirai refused to yield. This sparked wide spread violence leading to the deaths of many ordinary Zimbabweans.

In Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, organized an election in which he competed against himself and garnered 99.2% of the vote. Nguema has been in power since 1979.

Here in Uganda, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has since 1996, used shambolic elections organized by an electoral commission appointed, remunerated and practically controlled by him, to perpetuate his stay in power. He seized power in 1986.

In all the elections organized by Gen. Paul Kagame he has basically competed against himself in Rwanda, garnering more than 90% of the vote in all cases. Recently, he organized a referendum, in which he competed against himself and garnered 98%, to remove the seven- year, two terms constitutional limitation on the presidency.

For keen observers of Africa’s political development trajectory, it is evident that the continent has gone through mainly three evolutionary stages.

Shortly after independence, many African tyrants captured and retained political power through coups d’ etat. This phenomenon lasted for nearly 10 years, from the 1960s – 1970s. Thereafter, in the 1970s and ‘80s, Africa entered a new era of regime change. This was the era of violent civil wars.

The third evolutionary stage is what we continue to witness --in Uganda, Rwanda, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Congo, Chad, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Angola, Sudan and now Gambia. The epoch of using shambolic elections to acquire and retain political power.

These evolutionary stages in Africa’s political development trajectory came against the backdrop of nearly one hundred years of colonial rule of the African peoples by the Western world and before it, the epoch of slavery and slave trade.

African peoples have thus gone through all sorts of tragedies, and untold suffering some man-made, others, natural.

In resisting colonial rule, fighting for independence and against apartheid. many African leaders and ordinary citizens were murdered. Coups d’ etat and civil wars contributed to massive loss of life and property among Africans as did neo-colonialism and now shambolic elections.

In the face of all these tragedies and adversity, African peoples’ resilience has never ever been broken.

African dictators may manipulate constitutions and rig elections, suppress, torture, maim and even kill their people; but all will face their days of reckoning.

Maybe Ecowas with its resolute and unified stance against Jammeh's outrage will begin to show African rulers that the days of naked impunity must end.

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