Thursday, April 14, 2016

What is Jammeh doing in Ankara?

Yaya Jammeh 
Yaya Jammeh has ventured outside of Gambia only twice in over sixteen months and before his current trip to Ankara, Turkey, ostensibly to attend the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit.

The first two foreign visits were to the ECOWAS Summit in Abuja to extract an invitation from Alpha Conde of Guinea - who was also at the Abuja Summit - for a two-day state visit which was unannounced and which was denounced by Guinean human rights activists and journalists alike for Jammeh's repressive style of governance.  Guineans also questioned the motive of Jammeh's visit since he failed to attend Conde's inauguration to his second term only a week before.

Despite political pressures at home due to a failing economy, high level corruption resulting in an increasingly agitated citizenry, Jammeh has convinced himself that the potential dividends of the trip are greater than the inherent risks of being away.

Besides the OIC Summit, his Ankara visit affords him the opportunity to meet with other Islamic leaders to drum up support for his Islamic Republic of The Gambia Project - to transform Gambia from a secular into an Islamic Republic.  The fact that a change in the secular status of the State requires a referendum does not deter the Gambian dictator from proceeding with his project even if it means contravening the Gambian Constitution for the umpteenth time.

Turkey, the host of this year's OIC Summit, is already a strong bilateral partner of Jammeh with an equally strong military cooperation program which Jammeh expects to expand and strengthen with Ankara at a time when his isolation from the United States, Western Europe as well as Gambia's traditional donors.

As his efforts to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States fail to materialize, the reasons of which range from the precipitous drop in the price of oil resulting in a corresponding decline in revenue coupled with their military commitments in Yemen, Jammeh's attention is now focused on Turkey and countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to help in his efforts to make the transition to an Islamic State.

Of course, Jammeh will also need money to maintain power and to run the state - Jammeh's style.  He is looking forward to strengthening his ties with Ankara with the hope that the client state relations will ensure an increase in the flow of financial resources from new friendships he has been trying to cultivate for the last couple of years to substitute for the decline in Western aid money.

The imminent introduction of Sharia law is a forgone conclusion in the eyes of an increasingly number of Gambians, including a significant number of influential Muslim clerics in and outside Gambia.  In fact, there are some who are convinced that Jammeh intends to start implementing Sharia law before the 2016 December presidential elections as a way of stifling political dissent and keeping potential opponents at bay with the threat of beheadings and public floggings.  Far fetched?  Maybe. Within the realm of possibility? Certainly.