Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is Yaya Jammeh's foreign policy adventurism a threat to regional stability?

Arial view of the Port of Banjul 

Something very strange, even by Jammeh's standards, happened during the official opening of Parliament signalling the new legislative session.  Apart from the normal tight security, the national radio and television agency (GRTS) was instructed not to take any close shots of the dictator while he delivered his speech to the National Assembly and no cell phone use, either to place calls or take photos.

However, the most unusual protocol was the state-controlled television was not to transmit the speech live to the outside world.  The speech was recorded and then heavily edited before subsequently broadcasting it.

The dictator's prepared speeches and the ones actually delivered are substantially different in length and substance because of his habitual deviation from and extemporaneous delivery of his prepared texts.  This year's State Opening of Parliament speech by Jammeh was no different.

By not transmitting the speech live and the absence of a final text of the speech checked against delivery, many details could be lost by design which raises numerous questions, including the motive of Jammeh.  Was he deliberately trying to conceal and/or obscure some details of the speech?

This is certainly the views of some of my sources in Banjul, one of whom specifically drew my attention to last week's opening of Gambian Embassy in Moscow in the midst of the country's worst economic crisis which has led to a Staff Monitored Program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Embassy opening came only days after it was reported in a local newspaper that Yaya Jammeh used the occasion of his State Opening of Parliament speech to announce the building of a new ferry by Damen shipyard in Holland "and...also working on building a Deep Seaport in 2021."

A source familiar with the workings of the dictatorship and the foreign policy adventurism of Yaya Jammeh raise his concern about Russian intent with the question " are they going to finally get a sea base on the Atlantic Ocean to counter NATO and the US?"

The source further suggested that the Embassy opening and the Defense Agreement between Russia and The Gambia should be looked into more closely.  These developments tie in nicely with the announcement that Jammeh intends to building a deep seaport in 2021.