Friday, April 8, 2016

Suddenly, ECOWAS is legitimate in Jammeh's eyes

Yaya Jammeh 
The two-month old Senegal - Gambia border closure has forced the Gambian dictator to swallow his pride (or has he any?) by imploring the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to arbitrate in the stand-off between the two countries, triggered by the unilateral tariff increase by Jammeh.

ECOWAS has suddenly become a legitimate body in the eyes of a dictator who is obviously on the ropes as a result of the economic squeeze exerted by the Senegalese Transport Union in preventing union drivers from plying the TransGambia highway.

Jammeh has been thumbing his nose at the regional organization since he seized power in 1994 by refusing to knowledge, much less recognize, several of the ECOWAS Court of Justice's decisions - all of which have gone against the regime in Banjul and in favor of namely journalists who have been killed, tortured or had disappeared.

Deyda Hydara, the veteran Gambian journalist was ambushed and killed by security agents of the Jammeh in December 2004.  The ECOWAS Court found the regime of Jammeh to have failed in properly investigating the case.  It also declared that Gambia had violated its treaty obligations by promoting a climate of impunity that effectively stifles freedom of expression.  The Court, as a result, awarded damages of US$50,000 plus court costs which Jammeh ignored.

That was not all.  Previously, Jammeh had refused to implement the Court's decision in the case of Ebrima "Chief " Manneh, another Gambian journalist who disappeared since July 2006, to pay his family damages of US$ 100,000.  Unfortunately, the journalist remains missing to date, his whereabouts unknown and financial damages remain unpaid.

The ECOWAS Court ruled in favor of yet another Gambian journalist named Musa Saidykhan, who was in the custody of the security agents of the regime for three weeks, held without charge and tortured.  In December 2010, the Court ruled in his favor and ordered the regime of Yaya Jammeh to pay Saidykhan damages of US$ 200,000.  Again, the Jammeh regime chose to ignore the Court's ruling.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Jammeh has taken the issue of the border closure to the regional body with the hope that it will intervene in his favor.  With numerous ECOWAS decisions ignored by Jammeh, one wonders whether Jammeh expects Senegal to abide by any subsequent decision of the regional body should it go against the government of Macky Sall.  What if ECOWAS finds Jammeh to be at fault?  What then? Will he abide by the decision or will he continue to flout the decision as he has with previous Court decision?  We'll wait and see.