Friday, March 28, 2014

Jammeh's troubled ECOWAS history

The Gambian dictator's relentless pursuit of the Chairmanship of ECOWAS is puzzling to those who follow the long and troubled relationship between him and the regional organization.

Yaya Jammeh has tried and failed to chair the sub-regional grouping since his 2001 'reelection'.  Frustrations with ECOWAS has grown as a result, and there's some mistrust and animosity between the current and past political leadership of the organization and Jammeh over the Chairmanship.  Jammeh has the dubious honor of being the longest serving leader who has never served as Chairman, and this, obviously he is painfully aware of, and has built up resentment against ECOWAS.   He hardly attend its meetings, except when there's a particular agenda item, like election of a new Chairman that he makes it a point to take part.

A great deal has been said about the reasons, most external, why Jammeh will never be bestowed the leadership of ECOWAS, such as the bilateral partners like the United States, U.K. and the European Union whose relations with Jammeh has been unfriendly or even hostile.  He has heaped insults at the United Kingdom and its exploitative and colonial and neo-colonial exploitative history.  He's used his own form of revisionism to pull The Gambia from the Commonwealth which, from his own interpretation of British colonial history, is an instrument of British exploitation.

Jammeh has accused the United States of trying to impose gay and lesbian life-style on The Gambia as pre-condition for economic assistance.  He has told these tales to his people, and unfortunately the unsuspecting populace have believed them.

Jammeh has treated ECOWAS with equal contempt.  Jammeh has failed to implement two of the ECOWAS Court's decisions that went against his regime.  One was the decision by the Court to compensate the family of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a young Gambian reporter, who was last seen in the custody of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).  He had since disappeared, and presumed killed by agents of the Jammeh regime.  The case was taken up by the ECOWAS Court that eventually decided that the reporter's family should be compensated the sum of US$25,000. Jammeh has refused to implement the order of the Court.

A second case involving yet another reported named Musa Saidy-Khan who was also tortured while in custody.  He escaped and sued the Jammeh regime.  The ECOWAS Court decided in the reporter's favor and order he be compensated US$25,000.  Again, Jammeh refused to abide by the Court's decision.

During the 2011 presidential elections, ECOWAS was the only external observer that failed to take part in the monitoring of the process by deeming the preparation and the prevailing political environment preceding the vote not to be  considered the reelection of Jammeh not to be free, fair and transparent.

The drama we see unfolding in Yamoussoukro, starting tomorrow morning, is a dictator obsessed with the Chairmanship of ECOWAS, and yet refuses to recognize the legitimacy of one of the organization's constituent organs, the ECOWAS Courts, by ignoring all of the Court's decisions involving cases brought to it by Gambians.

It is also the same ECOWAS that has refused to validate the last reelection of Yaya Jammeh by declaring that the process were not free, fair and transparent thus questioning the legitimacy of the very same Member wishing to be Chairman of the organization.  It is an extremely odd position that both ECOWAS and Jammeh find themselves, each pretending that all's well and that it is business as usual.  All is not well and business is not as usual.  Let's see what tomorrow brings.