Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jammeh's Commonwealth threat ignored at home

Threats by Yaya Jammeh to withdraw Gambia's membership in the Commonwealth is not getting as much traction within The Gambia, as it is getting from the international press.  The reason for the lack of traction at home is because the dictator's stock has recently lost significant value in the eyes of ordinary Gambians, and his treatment at the hands of Gambian dissidents in New York only devalued his stock further.

Yaya Jammeh's New York sojourn was the worst experience he has had in his 19-year rule.  The Gambian exile communities in the United Stated converged on the city that was host to the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations to protest against the regime in Banjul causing disruptions to his entire delegation.  A handful but determined protesters trapped Jammeh in his hotel suite for 48 hours unable or afraid to venture outside to attend to official meetings and social functions.  Out of frustration of being holed up for two days, Mrs. Zeinab Jammeh decided to leave the hotel to attend a social function only to discover the hard way that the only exit available to her was through the hotel's back door entrance which serves as access for food delivery.  The humiliation of Jammeh and his delegation was captured on video and posted on youtube which was the topic of discussion in the streets of Banjul, Mansa Konko, all the way up to Basse.  The dictatorship that has succeeded in suppressing the will of the people with threats of imprisonment, torture and even death for almost two decades had been revealed as headed by a cowardly leader who could be denied his freedom by a handful of Gambian protesters with cardboard signs.

The local population was gleeful of the humiliating treatment of Jammeh and his delegation, which in turn, emboldened them, even if passively. When Jammeh was forced to shorten his trip and returned home, he was greeted at the airport by a handful of personalities.  The mood was described at somber.  Arriving in Banjul, his motorcade was met by a handful of him "Green Boys" ( mimicking Colonel Gaddafi's youth enforcers ) in their green uniforms, and the Scout Band.  This was not the typical reception Jammeh had been used to in his nearly two decades.  The Gambian population seemed to have had enough of the suppression as well as the buffoonery of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Junkung Jammeh.

When Jammeh finally broke from the Ritz-Carlton prison to make it to the United Nations Building to deliver his address before an empty hall, he wasted no time in attacking the United States, the imperialists, the United Nations Security Council before launching a vicious attack on gays and lesbians causing the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms. Samantha Power, to tweet that Jammeh should stop delivering hate speeches.  After 30 years of enjoying freedom, democracy, the rule of law and a high degree of civility under Sir Dawda Jawara, the buffoonery displayed under Jammeh is a stark contrast from years gone by, and a constant source of embarrassment for Gambians and friends of the Gambia, including the Commonwealth organization - an organization that Jammeh now considers is to be a neo-colonial organization that is exploitative of The Gambia and other former British colonies.

Gambia took its rightful place within the comity of nations under Sir Dawda Jawara and was recognized as one of the three most democratic countries in Africa behind Mauritius and Botswana.  The international recognition and respectability were all squandered under Jammeh who oversees one of the most repressive and corrupt regime.  Gambians have been embarrassed enough by the current government to show open disdain of a regime that has obviously overstayed its welcome.

The unexpected announcement on state-run television that The Gambia has "left the Commonwealth of Nations with immediate effect" was received in Banjul with an uncharacteristic air of resignation.  This is not the reaction Jammeh was hoping for.  He thought by picking the Commonwealth to express his disdain at "The West", the damage would be minimal, while extracting maximum international attention comparable to say withdrawing its membership from the United Nations.  The deafening silence from the local population, some of whom have little knowledge of the Commonwealth, and its importance to their lives, after the announcement, is a worrying development in the eyes of Jammeh but an important signal about the level of frustration about the attitude of an increasingly isolated dictator.

There are indications that key members of the security forces are equally frustrated that Jammeh has gone way on the deep end, and some have started to express their frustrations at an increasingly erratic megalomaniac which could spell trouble for him.  Meanwhile, Jammeh is being challenged by ordinary Gambians to formally submit its official notification to the Commonwealth Secretariat, a notice that has not been received as at the time of this writing.  It appears that ordinary Gambians are calling Jammeh's bluff. How things have changed in so short a period of time.