Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Goodluck Jonathan's visit to The Gambia

The Nigerian leader's visit to Banjul is coming at a time when his Gambian counterpart is in need of tough talk from one of the most powerful countries in Africa, and the most important country in the ECOWAS region.

The recent spat of incomprehensible moves by Jammeh following his return from the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York have caused disruptions in both the bilateral cooperation programs with Nigeria and with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Bilateral cooperation Agreements with other Commonwealth countries, particularly with India may have been affected as well following Jammeh's abrupt withdrawal from the organization.  The ensuing turbulence from all of this has disrupted the lives of many Gambian students and civil servants who suddenly find their Commonwealth scholarships and training withdrawn and travel plans cancelled.  

As a leading member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria is acting in the spirit of good neighborliness as regional emissary to Banjul with the hope of talking sense to a senseless dictator who lacks the maturity expected of someone who has been in power for almost two decades.  President Jonathan will attempt to convince Jammeh to return to the fold and in a undramatic fashion, and soon, because his withdrawal harms Gambia both economically and diplomatically.  The withdrawal certainly affects a large number of Gambians who benefit from economic and technical cooperation programs which is heavily tilted towards human resource development.

Closer to home, Jammeh is regarded as a disruptive force within the ECOWAS region that impedes the debate and eventual implementation of the organizations's economic integration and regional security programs which cannot succeed without a stable and secure environment.  Member states are increasingly growing impatient with the idiosyncratic Gambian dictator who is constantly causing disruptions on the international scene that directly impact the entire ECOWAS integration and regional security programs, including the all-important the Maritime Safety and Security Program.  Jammeh is in conflict with the European Union which has led to limited sanctions against his government.

The EU is a leading trade partner that is currently in the midst of negotiations with Member States of ECOWAS for a new Economic Partnership Agreement that is yet to be concluded.  Jammeh's belligerent behavior and anti-Western rhetoric is certainly of no help to any successful bilateral cooperation with the United States as suggested by his recent refusal to sign one such agreement.  All of these trade negotiations are coming in the midst of ECOWAS's attempt to implement its trade harmonization program which requires the participation of the entire membership for it to be successful.

On the domestic front, the Nigerian leader will follow the footsteps of the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament by reminding Jammeh of the harsh and draconian laws and the need to improve on the human rights conditions of all Gambians.  It is hoped that he will also meet with leaders of the opposition to discuss with them the way forward, particularly the conditions that must be fulfilled by the Jammeh regime before they will participate in any future elections.  Discussions should also center specifically around the release of political prisoners including the United Democratic Party's national Treasurer, Amadou Sanneh and the two Gambian-Americans who went missing during a visit to their home country several months ago.