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11.01.2017 Feature Article

Gambia President For 1 Billion Years At End Of A Dream

Yahya Jameh, President of Gambia
LISTEN JAN 11, 2017
Yahya Jameh, President of Gambia

On 22 July 1994 he invaded peaceful Gambia political space with dangerous weapons and dislodged the nation’s serving elected government by coup. Yaya Jammeh raised hope of Gambians that he came not to stay in power but for correction of wrongs. One of the bigger wrongs according to Jammeh was about longevity of deposed President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, 30 years government.

Jammeh also lambasted the ousted Jawara regime for what he called “rampant corruption and flamboyant lifestyle.” Specifically, Jammeh cited occasional travels of deposed President Jammeh and his cabinet ministers accusing them for grossly abusing state power. “We are soldiers with a difference” was Jammeh’s claim to bringing salvation. Here is what happened soon afterwards and in later years:

Transparency, Accountability, and Probity
To win public confidence that he was serious about fair play in governance, Yaya Jammeh began with loud pronouncements chanting Transparency, Accountability, and Probity.

People of Gambia easily fell for the sweet talk with higher expectation that the nascent junta that staged military coup to dislodge an elected sitting government was truly ready for business beyond usual up and down for nothing.

The expectation was to see government business running in the most accountable, transparent, and open probity. What that means in practice is a situation where the public having access to information through vigorous scrutiny without any fear or hindrance.

Before any long in office, the junta government became so protective of sharing public information by ways resembling they preferred doing things under cover of thick darkness. Financial information about how much the junta found in government coffers remains in dark until today, more than 22 years after that infamous 22 July 1994 toppling of elected sitting government.

To shield himself from public view, Yaya Jammeh raised high walls all around the State House mass of land. All private building windows facing the State House were ordered for immediate closure to prevent anyone from seeing whatever the junta regime kept out of public eyes.

Transparency, Accountability, and Probity remained political slogans for only short while. That was the period when Yaya Jammeh and his junta government rounded deposed ministers lined up for Algali Commission of Enquiry about their properties. It was dramatic moment for most people.

Worst situation came up when it was time to announce the country’s first annual budget since military takeover. The Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay who was to deliver state of finance did not finish his task as anticipated. Ceesay was murdered and set ablaze in his official car at outskirts of a village far from his regular route. Up to this moment, government of Gambia under Yaya Jammeh fails to produce any credible report about how Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay died. No arrests are carried. The rest remains tongue biting gossip till the perpetrators and their victim meets in better place.

Retirement from army to contest elections
Having tasted power and all the economic inducements going with it, Yaya Jammeh back tracked from his earlier promise of returning to military barracks after a transitional government term.

Just as he busied himself promoting members of Gambia Armed Forces and appointing state ministers during his final days after December 2016 electoral defeat, Jammeh is repeating his old steps. A consultative committee came up with recommendations in 1994 that Jammeh and his junta coup mates were allowed a transition of 2 years. This was later adjusted to 4 fours.

During that period, Jammeh began his white elephant projects of building schools, rural hospitals and modernising the airport terminal building. He promised delivering finished project every six months.

With free access to public finance, Jammeh carried out his white elephant projects regardless of feasibility study or planned documentation.

Before end of the transition rule from military to civilian government, Yaya Jammeh decided to carry out rapid promotion in ranks for himself and members of his coup making comrades. Shortly after their self-promotion Jammeh found another avenue of opportunity to stay in power. He announced his retirement from the army to remain Chairman and Head of military government.

Within a span of time, Jammeh organised some influential persons in Gambian public to act as though they appealed for him to contest election slated for 1996. The Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) that Jammeh led as Chairman and Head of Government was renamed to become Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). Nothing changed in the military character and ways from AFPRC to APRC. Jammeh contested elections in 1996 and was declared winner. That gave him hope of demolishing all structures and systems, grossly flawing regulations required for orderly dispensation required for good governance.

Broken structures, policy failures and lack of systematic operations

With strong determination to lay iron fist of control over the way government runs, Yaya Jammeh began by abolishing systems and structures designed for orderly dispensation. He renamed the post of Gambian presidency as Chairman of the 22 July 1994 revolution, referring to that infamous coup. Gambia has since not benefitted from a genuinely committed serving president.

Systematic dispensation could not sustain without regulations, policy and procedures. That is exactly how Yaya Jammeh carved his way into becoming full blown dictator with free access to public resources and institutions and not observing rules or regulations.

For purpose of instilling fear in public sector workers and state ministers Yaya Jammeh assigned himself the principal role in hiring and firing. Through that he managed to subdue the entire public sector work force.

Extending his sphere of authority and influence over the public sector, key revenue generating institutions became financial milking pot to fuel Jammeh’s wild desire in getting rich quick and big. Financial regulations have been seriously flawed as nobody dared raise questions about the insatiable money grabbing misconduct of a government leader who sees everything as his personal belonging. In 22 years, entire economy and finance of Gambia collapsed under heavy weight of Jammeh’s mismanagement and his lethal bleeding claws. Over time he became richer than the state.

As way of sustaining his financial possession, Yaya Jammeh opened business in all sectors reserved for genuine entrepreneurs. His range of private business activity extends to selling onion, sugar, vegetables, meat, fish, beach sand, public transport service, commercial farming, land, including housing. In all parts of Gambia Jammeh runs commercial business using public sector workers to carry out his private business activities. That is all possible because there are no regulations observed as Jammeh preferred taking undue advantage of the nation’s highest public office; Gambian presidency without being scrutinised or subjected to regulations.

Money from “World Bank of Allah”

Nobody apart from Yaya Jammeh and his inner cabal could tell how much money they found in government coffers at the time of their coup. There was no clean Balance Sheet of cash inflow and outflow.

When asked how he was able to fun his lavish spending, Yaya Jammeh told Gambians that he was getting money from “Allah’s World Bank”. That was the time some development partners advised Jammeh and his military cohorts for return to barracks.

Unwilling to accept just as he treats the ECOWAS advice after his 1 December 2016 electoral defeat Jammeh insisted that people of Gambia want him to rule. He bragged that without development support from external partners, Gambia will still develop relying on “Allah’s World Bank”.

Vision 2020 the promise of Economic Superpower

Confident that his money supply will never run out Jammeh promised transforming Gambia into world class economic superpower in 20 years. He called that Vision 2020. It is already beyond 22 years. While Gambia degenerates to high scale poverty the man who controls public finance and resources as president is richer than country he insists on misruling at all cost to life and property.

It turned out that Jammeh was tapping money from generous handouts by oil rich Libyan leader Gaddaffi. When Jammeh broke ranks with his chief cashier at the purported “Allah’s World Banks”, cash flow health began to deteriorate.

Perfect opportunity fell on Jammeh’s way as international drug traders and arms dealers found out about the money grabbing president of poor African nation Gambia.

Through illegal arms dealings, money laundering and drug trade, Yaya Jammeh found his gold dig more lucrative. The world already knows so much about Jammeh’s high profile money laundering and other illicit dealings. Jammeh therefore has good reason why he preferred clinging on power as unconstitutional President of Gambia. Time however is not on his side last round though.

Creation of Police State in Gambia
Disappearance without trace, detention beyond legal limit, extrajudicial killing of opponents perceived or real are the ways Yaya Jammeh maintained his grip on power over 22 years.

Creating a police state as way of inducing fear has to some extent worked for Jammeh. All around Gambia there are secret detention points. Families have been denied access to see their loved lost ones and over time they could not ascertain being dead or alive.

Political opponents have been subjected to routine arrests, torture, and on extreme occasions being killed. There are so many skeletons hiding in Jammeh’s cupboard that fuels his worry for leaving power.

Apart from his gross financial misappropriation, Yaya Jammeh for over 22 years presided over police state operations against Gambians and visitors alike. He has so much at stake when night turns into day for Yaya Jammeh by occasion of his eventual unseating.

Situation of Gambia is one of most terrifying police state with killer squats operating under cover of darkness dictated by Commander In Chief Yaya Jammeh.

Lifelong Presidency ambition for 1 Billion Years

Drunk with power, Yaya Jammeh told a BBC reporter that he will rule Gambia for “1 Billion years”. He said so while keeping confident about his fraudulent electoral mechanism that kept him going for over 22 years.

Not knowing that his secret winning card has already been exposed, Yaya Jammeh agreed to spot counting as show of transparency he bragged about in the past. Everything closing on Jammeh, the spot counting turned a sharp slap on his cheeks. His dream of 1 Billion years runs on fast track to unexpected disgraceful ending.

As matter of fact, Jammeh has failed in delivering his promise transforming Gambia from peanut fuel economy to world class economic superpower. With that failure already certain, it appears Jammeh’s 1 Billion years rule is on fast track to unhappy end for him and his cohorts.

Surprising election defeat
Being in power for over 22 years, Jammeh was already too confident of another sweeping victory. Months before election, he arrested and detained leader of largest political party Ousainou Darbo. While Jammeh carried out his campaign freely, opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Ousainou Darbo and his entire executive were serving unlawful prison sentence. This was organised by Yaya Jammeh as scheme to create extremely unfavourable atmosphere for any other political grouping.

Plans for sweeping victory came under threat when members of various Gambian opposition parties agreed on a coalition flag bearer to contest against incumbent Yaya Jammeh. Not so many thought there was any chance of unseating Jammeh through the ballot. The coalition led by property entrepreneur Adama Barrow still carried on with support from Gambians in the Diaspora.

Social network was largely utilised as campaign outreach strategy and it worked so well within very short span of time. While Jammeh carried on his monopoly of state media, the internet and mobile phones became tool of information sharing for Gambia media and civil society in what has been once described as progressive partnership.

Before Jammeh could realise the power of social media capable of influencing votes, it was already too late for him. Information flow was overwhelming and at speed beyond imagination. On 1st December 2016, Jammeh was eventually defeated in an election he was too confident to win. At first he conceded defeat. Later he changed his mind by rejecting not only the final results but insisted on another election. GAMBIA HAS DECIDED. There was jubilation resembling how Saddam Hussein and Gaddaffi were unseated. Jammeh already knows Gambians had more than enough of him in his over 22 years misrule with iron fist dictatorship.

Choice of war over peaceful handover
With a choice of handing over to President Adama Barrow peacefully, Jammeh insisted on war against Gambians who rejected him openly. He was approached by ECOWAS for peaceful handing over. The last option of military intervention has been put on the table just in case Jammeh prefers that too.

Failure of Vision 2020 marked by Drive for War

Presdient Yaya Jammeh who promised transforming Gambia into economic superpower of world class standard is now insisting he will cling on power until war tears him apart from high seat of Gambian presidency.

Critics of Jammeh are proven correct that the man has only selfish economic interest in seizing political power. After all the personal money and materials that Yaya Jammeh amassed over 22 years he still wants more. For Jammeh, his dream of 1 Billion years rule has to be fulfilled otherwise he will put Gambia in flames. According to Gambian constitutional provisions, Jammeh’s official occupation of Gambian presidency expires on 18 January 2017 when President Adama Barrow will be sworn in.

If Jammeh still insists clinging on power, ECOWAS already made their position clear. The international community also backs ECOWAS in support of Gambian electorates who rejected Jammeh by the ballot while he insists on war through the bullet. It is now matter of time. Whether or not Jammeh chooses bullet over ballot admitting defeat, Thursday 19 January 2017 will be another Gambia where people power reigns for better times ahead.

Sarjo Bayang
Sarjo Bayang, © 2017

The author has 35 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: SarjoBayang

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