Friday, December 11, 2015

What is behind Jammeh's threat to declaring Gambia an Islamic State?

Jammeh with military bodyguards 
Faced with increasing opposition, including within his own political party and avid supporters - though not displayed outwardly - the Gambian dictator has once more raised the specter of forcibly turning the once bastion of democracy into an Islamic State.

He issued his latest threat at a recent political rally in the town of Brufut, on the outskirts of the capital - a town he has hesitated to visit because of recent spat of demonstrations and mass arrests by his security forces.

The demonstrators were protesting against strip-mining of both sand and heavy metal in a nearby village by Jammeh who, many believe, owns the mining operations in an area of the country that is considered a tourist paradise because of its beautiful beaches.  Although the 3 youths who were charged with rioting and sent to jail because they were denied bail for offenses that are bailable, were subsequently released after the charges were dropped, area residents are still riled up with public display of contempt to the Gambian dictator.

Sensing that his popularity is slipping because the country and its people have fallen into hard economic times because of bad and incoherent set of economic policies, coupled with harsh and repressive tactic employed by the security forces, Jammeh is adding harsh rhetoric to the mix by employing obloquy, and other forms of intimidating tactics - like saying to his supporters composed of the young and village elders that he owes them nothing anyone caught practicing FGM will be personally circumcise those responsible.

Using such abusive and vile language in such a disrespectful and contemptible manner has turned a sizable number of Gambians against him and his increasingly unpopular and isolated political party.  

To direct the attention of an unhappy population away from the realities and the daily challenges facing them, Jammeh is resorting, once again, to inflammatory language designed to both intimidate the local population and to send a message to the Arab world, as he has done in the past, that he is ready to take The Gambia the Islamic State route.

He abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan two years ago - preceded by a couple of months -  of his withdrawal of The Gambia from the Commonwealth without notice or proper authority from his (rubber stamp) parliament with no public objection from Gambians.  Jammeh thinks he can pull a similar fete i.e. transforming his threat into reality by declaring Gambia an Islamic State with little or no consequences from neither internal or external sources.  

Starve of development funds because of his deplorable human rights record and economic mismanagement, Jammeh is looking towards the Arab world as substitute for and source of development aid.  Thus, chances are he will transform his threat into reality because, in addition to lack of development aid from western countries, there is no rule of law in The Gambia and in spite of the fact that Chapter 1 of the Constitution states that "The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic" and, therefore, unconstitutional to change its secular character.