Monday, March 31, 2014

Grow up, Yaya

Returning from a humiliating defeat at the hands of his own colleagues in Yamoussoukro,  Yaya Jammeh, in his characteristic style, took to the national airwaves to deliberately distort the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiation process which has been ongoing for over two years.

If you live in The Gambia, you probably have never heard of the EPA process mentioned once by either Yaya Jammeh or any of his cabinet ministers. The reason for this is Yaya Jammeh is in the habit of keeping his people in the dark on everything.

His ministers never discuss issues of national interest, and they certainly do not entertain debate on issue of national import. What is the University of The Gambia, the pride of Yaya Jammeh, for?  Political indoctrination and the art of group think?

The decision by the ECOWAS Heads of State not to put Jammeh's name in nomination is a decisive rejection of the petulance of an African dictator who has refused to grow-up on the job despite 20 years at the helm in Banjul.  His singular achievement during these years is to run into the ground a healthy economy he inherited from a legitimately elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara who was elected twice to lead ECOWAS.

Jammeh was quoted in as saying that The Gambia will not sign the proposed EPA with the European Union on the grounds that "the country would not continue exporting raw materials only."  His rationale is that he wants value added in-country to create employment which would have been a valid concern if Gambia had a huge manufacturing base like a Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

Gambia's primary product is still groundnut which Jammeh has overseen the sector's decline in the 20-years he's been at the helm.  When he seized power, the annual export stood at 150,000 tons.  Last year, he managed to purchase only 30,000 tons.  We have reported this evening that the Groundnut Corporation has run out of cash to buy a single ton of groundnut three weeks before the close of the season.   The second foreign exchange earner is tourism.  So where is the beef ? Yaya.  This is our first point.

Our second point is that neither the European Union nor members of the ECOWAS community is forcing any one to sign anything, and certainly not during the April 2-4 April Summit or anytime before October 2014.

This blog's Facebook pages have been following the raging national debates that have been taking place in Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.  Even as we write Ghana and Nigeria are still debating the EPA at all levels and among academicians, business communities and ordinary folk.  Why is it that Gambians have not heard about the EPA until his monumental failure in his fail bid to head ECOWAS.  His outbursts designed to muddy the waters in a deliberate attempt to conceal the fact that his agenda is not Gambia's but his personal self-centered and greedy motives to maintain and retain power at all cost.  His colleagues rejected him because of the manipulator of humans that he are, using falsehoods to conceal his real motives. He is considered a trusted partner which is one of the reasons for his rejection in Yamoussoukro.

A third point we want to make is in reference to a quote attributed to him that "the EU must have studied it (the EPA) and discussed among themselves as a continent, and put it to Africa.  Why didn't they (EU) put it to the African Union?"  the most simple answer is the European Union is not a continent-wide grouping.  In fact, until fairly recently, it comprised only of 15 countries, the same number of countries as ECOWAS Members States.  True, the EU has since expanded to 28 Members States to include the newly independent states from the old Soviet block and its satellites.  Even with this expansion, it hardly qualifies as continent-wide organization.

Another reason why it makes sense to deal with regional economic groupings is because the mere size of Africa with varied natural resource endowments and different set of trade issues.  Why do you think ECOWAS has been trying for years to harmonize and rationalize its varied trade and customs protocols among its Members?  Has Gambia not been participating in the exercise over the years? Jammeh should learn to shut up after he's run out of excuses.  Again, his colleagues were right in rejecting him because he is not a team player.  It's like the kid who took his ball and headed home because he was not allowed to score a goal.  We wish Jammeh will grow up and stop throwing tantrums whenever he doesn't have his way.

Jammeh has the tendency of insulting the intelligence of Gambians and the international community.  He thinks because he has absolute control of the Gambian media outlets and the only television station, he can manufacture his own facts with the hope that no one will notice.  If Gambia feels strongly about the issues he's raised during a purported airport interview, and reported on, why weren't these concerns raised - however frivolous they appear from our vantage point - at the appropriate EU-ECOWAS-Africa fora.

As far as we are concerned, this is the first time Gambians have heard of the Economic Partnership Agreement in general and the appropriateness of negotiating with ECOWAS instead of the African Union in particular.  This is from a guy who less than 48 hours ago was 15 votes away from heading the very organization he now thinks is not the legitimate organ for the European Union to negotiate with.  This guy never ceases to amaze.

Jammeh's latest tirade suggests to us that he is preparing the groundwork to bail out of the 4th EU-Africa Summit after his Yamoussoukro experience, and a potential repeat of his UN General Assembly experience last November when a group of Gambian dissidents holed him up at his hotel for two days.  The same dissident groups are travelling to Brussels in the coming days to join forces with the Europe-based dissidents to protests against Yaya Jammeh and his repressive, corrupt and incompetent regime with the worst human rights record in Africa.  We will not be surprised if he delegates his Vice President or his Trade Minister to face the protesters at the appropriately-named Queen Victoria Hotel in Brussels which will be the venue of the EU-Africa Summit.

We will be following developments leading up to and including the Summit.