Monday, October 13, 2014

Is Zeinab Souma Jammeh legitimate political target?

The question whether Zeinab Souma Jammeh, Gambia's First Lady, is a legitimate political target has moved from being purely a rhetorical question into the realm of actually eliciting real answers, now that she has also served almost as long in the job as her husband.

Apart from her now famous jet-setting habits and shopping sprees in New York, Paris, Rabat and Guinea-Conakry, she has managed to stay behind and away from the Gambian political scenes effortlessly.

As a Moroccan of mixed parentage (Moroccan mother and Guinean father) she has never felt the need to assimilate with the local Gambian populace, so to speak, but feels more at ease with "her own kind" in Morocco and with her sisters in Conakry.   Consequently, she feels less obliged and not driven by political expediency to attempt to win the hearts and minds of Gambians, especially when she seems to be actively encouraged by her husband to stay away from Gambians like they've been afflicted with the Ebola virus.

Her aloofness, and genuine lack of interest in the country or its people, except if it is the meager resources that her husband siphon off that are subsequently stashed in foreign banks and the purchase of foreign estates in the United States, Europe and Africa, may be an issue that concerns even the ordinary Gambian.  They often wonder out loud why their First Lady is never seen in their rural villages and hamlets across the country. Their welfare is certainly not a priority of someone who goes by the title of First Lady.

It has now come to light that Zeinab Jammeh maybe the only person standing in the way of Jammeh calling it day in advance of the 2016 presidential elections. According to a highly credible source close to the Gambian dictator, sometime in the past couple of years, Jammeh did confide with the source in question that he was considering stepping down from the presidency.

The reasons Jammeh reportedly gave was that he needed sometime to address the grave health issues which plagued him for years, and which he couldn't address adequately because of the mounting economic pressures at home and the political opponents actively pursuing him abroad.

According to the source, Jammeh's idea was to select a person within his APRC as his successor to run in 2016.  However, the idea was shot down immediately by Zeinab Souma Jammeh because relinquishing the presidency is suicidal.  She reasoned, there's no guarantee that the APRC candidate will win an election. She was quoted as saying "they will come after us and our children."  She is obviously aware of the threat her husband's regime faces, and by extension, her very own safety and that of her kids.

The time frame of the conversation is still unclear but we were told it might have taken place at the height of the Arab Spring or immediately after relative calm came to Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

What is clear to this point is that Zeinab Souma Jammeh is clearly the woman behind the Gambian throne and she will not let Yaya Jammeh resign or retire.  In doing so,  she has answered our question : that Zeinab has effectively transformed herself into a legitimate political target by preventing Yaya Jammeh from stepping aside even though she has spent nearly two decades staying above the political fray; not anymore.