Monday, October 12, 2015

Gambia's regional player status threatened by Jammeh's meddling in affairs of Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz
Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, continues to misread Guinea-Bissau's political dynamics - a political evolution that seems to be moving at too fast a pace for the Gambian dictator to process and appreciate.

Guinea Bissau's political landscape has shifted significantly in the last decade, with new alliances formed, even within the ruling PAIGC party and among former rival factions, thus changing the complexion, as well as the rules, of the game.

By inviting the rival factions to his home village of Kanilai in the midst of deepening political crisis, Jammeh appears to be sending the wrong message to the parties engaged in shuttle diplomacy who are trying to defuse a highly tense and combustible situation that requires delicate negotiations that the current Chairman of ECOWAS, Abuja and Conakry are conducting.

President Jose Mario Vaz of the ruling PAIGC fired Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Periera over a series of disputes which included the hiring of a new army chief, and replaced him with the 39-year Baciro Dja.  The move raised some constitutional issues which the President's own PAIGC party consider unconstitutional thus pitting PAIGC parliamentarians and party executives against the president who is from the same PAIGC party.  Thus the dispute is purely an intra-party that could be solved internally without meddling from the outside which may help explain why representatives from the PAIGC refused to honor Jammeh's invitation, leaving only representatives of the opposition, PRS, to attend the Kanilai meeting.

According to a highly placed source, Jammeh could have used the occasion to the PRS delegation's views on how they see their role in the new political environment and what He (Jammeh) can do to help.  Instead, our source continued, Jammeh started off by lecturing them on the genesis of the political stand-off and the personal role he played in trying to bring peace and stability to Guinea Bissau and the region.  The problem with Jammeh's pitch was, as indicated earlier, the pieces in the chessboard have moved without Jammeh realizing the new realities in a country that continues to pose security challenges by continuing to be chronically unstable.

PRS holds the balance of power in Guinea Bissau with approx. 47% of the votes in the last elections. Anything that will jeopardize the current make-up of their parliamentary position will be avoided.
Other outside parties interested in seeing a stable Guinea-Bissau are also determined to build on the current dispensation to strengthen it.

Rightly or wrongly, the Kanilai meeting was seen by some Guinea-Bissau watchers and regional security experts as Jammeh's way of trying to inject himself into the Guinea-Bissau conversation now that it appears that he's being deliberately kept out by the main players i.e. Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea-Conakry and ECOWAS.

It is obvious that Jammeh feels left out of the equation with Macky Sall firmly in the driver's seat. This brings us to this week's tirade by Jammeh through his Communication Minister about last month's article in l'Observateur, a daily newspaper owned by Youssou Ndure, a former member of Sall's cabinet and a famous Senegalese singer.

The article accused the Jammeh regime of playing an "explosive game" in Guinea Bissau by "sparing no financial effort to tempt" members of parliament of the opposition PRS with money to join the Vaz government, something PRS has refused to do, to date, for the reasons we have cited above.  It must be noted that Guinea-Bissau was recently extending assistance to the newly installed government of Jose Mario Vaz, comprising of a dozen four-wheel drive vehicles in the name of Yaya Jammeh, according to the official mouthpiece of the regime in Banjul.

Eyebrows were raised in certain quarters and resented by many Gambians when Jammeh decided to provide aid to a country whose 2013 GDP per capita is US$ 563 to Gambia's US$ 488.67.  When compared to 1994 figures, the year Jammeh seized power, Gambia's per capita GDP was the third highest in the 16-Member ECOWAS region behind Cote d'Ivoire and Cabo Verde at US$ 737.51 representing thrice Guinea-Bissau's thus highlighting the same point the Senegalese newspaper was alluding to.  Previous to the 12 vehicles donated to Guinea-Bissau, the Gambian dictator had also donated US$ 500,000 each to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as his personal contribution to the EBOLA campaign to those countries when the threat of the disease was on Gambia's doorsteps threatening to enter.

Jammeh's reaction to the l'Observateur's article critical of his regime, in our view, was as disproportionate and it was inappropriate because the article in question was not the official position of the Senegalese government nor was it the official position of the paper. It was a reporting and not an editorial piece.

Because the paper is owned by a former minister in Sall's cabinet is immaterial and thus should have not found its way into an official response to an article written by a journalist in a privately-owned and operated newspaper about a political issue with vested interests that are regional in nature.

Jammeh is obviously frustrated for being left out of the equation which should force him to ask himself the question: why?  He suffers from a condition known as trust-deficiency syndrome.  His colleagues do not trust him and neither does the rest of the international community.