Saturday, December 7, 2013
Jammeh must step down, and now
It is evident from the past several months that the regime in Banjul has lost control of the state's machinery, further threatening the very well-being of ordinary Gambians.
Functions of the Central Bank have been unilaterally transferred to the Presidency causing severe disruptions to the markets, especially the foreign exchange markets, resulting in massive losses to private investors as well as government foreign exchange accounts.
Economic management has always been the biggest challenge of the Jammeh regime. The key economic ministries have been manned by Jammeh's hand-picked men and women regardless of experience and/or qualifications. Corruption is extremely high and it occurs in the highest of places. Jammeh is known to act as the final arbiter in any major tendering of government contracts. He is the single biggest businessman in The Gambia with interests in almost all sectors of the economy.
All assessments conducted by donors of the Gambian economy have been bleak, and prospects for a recovery considered dim because of the regime's apparent inability to exercise prudence in its monetary and fiscal policies, characterized by high level of domestic borrowing, crowding out the private sector causing high rates of interests. Businesses are fleeing the country as a result of the constant interference by a regime that insists on micromanaging all aspects of the economy.
The economy is not the only mismanaged aspect of Gambian life by a regime that is increasingly displaying level of incompetence never seen it is 19-year of governance.
Recent foreign affairs debacle started off with the Gambian protesters that confronted the Gambian dictator, his wife and their entourage when they were holed up in their hotel to almost their entire stay in New York to attend the 68th United Nations General Assembly. Faced with intense protests from Gambian exiles and refugees who descended on him from eastern seaboard localities, something he's never experienced in his entire presidency, he became very upset for being humiliated. He was forced to stay cooped up in his hotel while his African counterparts and colleagues moved in and out unfettered by their own nationals. The entire three-day protests were captured on video and posted on YouTube which were instantaneously accessed by Gambians as event unfolded. Social media brought the entire debacle in the homes of Gambians.
Arriving home, Jammeh withdrew Gambia's membership in the Commonwealth by attacking it as a neocolonialist organization. The abrupt action obviously did not receive the blessing of neither the National Assembly or the citizenry via referendum. In fact, a majority of Gambians opposed the move by Jammeh. Gambians did not recover from the shock of the Commonwealth withdrawal before the regime announced a few weeks later that it is severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan - a long time and reliable friend of Jammeh and his regime.
If Gambians were surprised by the move, Taipei was shocked by the move. Neither Taipei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor its Embassy in Banjul had an inkling of what was in the pipeline. However, in the ensuing days following the break-up, it became clear that Jammeh's frequent demands for money from the Taiwanese culminated in a cash and unreceipted in the sum of $ 10 million which was turned down may have pushed him over the edge. It may have taken the Taiwanese 18 years to realize that Jammeh is an 'idiosyncratic character' ( their description of Jammeh ) who is not only unpredictable but ungrateful as well. The diplomatic break-up immediately blew a large hole in Gambia's budget in critical sectors of the economy i.e. education, health and agriculture.
The hope of immediately getting China to replace Taiwan quickly faded as Banjul realized, however belated the realization, that Beijing will not rush into establishing diplomatic relations because of the diplomatic 'detente' or 'diplomatic flexibility' it had established with Taipei.
Jammeh's international reputation has come under sharper focus, and has taken a big hit; thanks to the protests mounted by Gambians in the United States. Protests mounted by Gambian dissidents in Europe against the Gambian dictator who is in Paris to attend the Peace and Security Summit of over 50 Heads of State and Government will certainly help reinforce the international image of Jammeh as the symbol of repression and indiscipline.
Jammeh's bodyguards being filmed beating up on protesters in front of Jammeh's hotel can only further reinforce an already bad image of this regime. As the diplomatic isolation of the regime in deepens internationally, internal resistance is beginning to manifest itself in forms never expected only two months ago. The youth of Banjul went on a rampage a couple of days ago, smashing car windows and other property destruction. Security personnel were also targets of youths in both Banjul and Brikama after football matches.
These are sign that the regime is on less secure position than ever before. More worrying is there appear to be cracks within the security apparatus. Allegiances are beginning to shift. Meanwhile, the protests will continue outside Gambia. Internally, the youth will start agitating in ways never seen before too.
The regime has undoubtedly failed the Gambia people in most fronts, especially in the economic and diplomatic fronts leading to increased opposition to a regime that is using murder to get rid of its opposition. These murders are becoming extremely frequent. This circle of violence will continue unless Gambians rise up and demand the resignation of Jammeh and his cabinet. The international community must also step in to facilitate a smooth transfer of power to avoid a tribal bloodbath.