Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#GambiaRising



More interesting developments in Gambia (the last time I wrote about Gambia it was on the president declaring the country an Islamic Republic, but without any changes in the constitution).

Gambia has only had two leaders in its history - President Dawda Jawara, who led the country from independence in 1965 until he was overthrown in a coup in 1994, and the man who overthrew him, Commander (now President) Yahya Jammeh.

Jeffry Smith and Maggie Dwyer at the Monkey Cage describe the parallels between the situation leading up to the 1994 coup and today - "an increasingly vocal and inspired political opposition, popular protests demanding change, and armed forces with low morale (including reports that senior officers have refused recent orders). Jammeh also confronts rising international isolation ..." One difference, however, is the security forces - they are larger today, report directly to Jammeh, and engage in repressive action such as "arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings of government critics and dissidents", enabling Jammeh to repel up to eight coup attempts. However, there are now cracks in the military's senior levels.

One thing political science tells us about militaries in government is that if they are forced to choose between unity in the military and control of the government, they will generally choose unity, leading them to often step down from office when faced with popular protests. 

If the military leadership is split, sustained protests have a fair chance of bringing an end to Jammeh's rule. What would follow is difficult to predict - the outcome from the last leadership change wasn't anticipated.

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