Monday, April 11, 2016

Jammeh should step down while he still can

Jammeh as he appeared in 1994 

We have been insistently calling for Yaya Jammeh to step down while he still can.

With the imminent collapse of the Gambian economy, fueled by personal greed and incompetence of Jammeh and members of his entourage comprising of a set of bureaucrats whose only qualifications appears to be a display of blind loyalty to the dictator and/or to be tribally affiliated to him, the call Jammeh to step down is growing louder.

The economy is deteriorating at an accelerating rate primarily as a result of the regime’s increasing lack of fiscal discipline despite numerous and persistent warnings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – an institution that is without blame for overseeing a mismanaged economy that has been in the making for nearly a decade.

Gambians are poorer today than they were when Jammeh seized power unconstitutionally in 1994, despite promises of a better living condition for Gambia’s 2 million inhabitants.  Jammeh has decimated the agriculture sector, degraded the education sector that now produces students that are barely functionally literate and militarized the tourism development area leaving the beaches resembling armed camps resulting in tourists fleeing The Gambia as a tourist destination for Cabo Verde and Senegal.

Jammeh is not faring any better in the foreign policy sphere either.  He has unilaterally and without notice pulled The Gambia’s membership from the Commonwealth, unceremoniously broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and threatened to pull Gambian from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over the 2011 presidential elections that the regional body felt was not free and fair.  

Jammeh erratic leadership and idiosyncratic behavior is felt throughout his 22-year brutal dictatorship and has demoted The Gambia to the status of a pariah state for a country that once occupied an enviable position within the community of nations as one of the few multi-party democracies in Africa along the likes of Botswana and Mauritius. 

The recent Gambia – Senegal border closure, a direct result of Jammeh’s unilateral decision to increase the Trans-Gambia highway tariff by 10,000% in contravention of both bilateral and regional conventions, is additional reminder that Jammeh is unfit to lead the Gambia and should step down. 
The border closure which is in its second month is having a devastating effect on ordinary Gambians in general and on Gambian and Senegalese traveling public in particular.  Its effect on government revenue is more devastating, forcing Jammeh to recoil by reverting to the old tariff rates even though the damage has already been done as the diplomatic isolation deepens.

Over the weekend, Jammeh decided to replace his embattled and corrupt Chairman of the so-called Independent Electoral Commission with another long-serving member of the discredited and highly partisan Commission.  Both of these gentlemen are in the pocket of the Gambian dictator and are thus equally unsuited for the IEC.  

In fact, the replacement Chairman, Alieu Momar Njie, was involved in 2007 in a D 4 million fraud case involving the state and the ex-Mayor of the Kanifing Municipality.  He was eventually appointed as Commissioner of the IEC and now Chairman of the IEC.  To Reactivate the charges against Chairman Alieu Njie – a routine Jammeh trick – will not take a lot of effort should he try to be independent or act against what Jammeh sees to be against his political interest.

Whatever the case,  the fact remains that the Commission is still infested with corrupt Commissioners who have presided over a rotten system that has ensured the entrenchment of Yaya Jammeh as one of one of Africa’s most brutal, corrupt and incompetent dictators.   Gambians now are determined to see the back of Jammeh who must either step down or be forced out of office in 2016.