Tuesday, December 20, 2016

ECOWAS delegation has no influence (yet?) on Jammeh in Gambia

Yahya Jammeh, who took control of Gambia in a military coup in 1994, continues to reject the outcome of the election he lost on December 1.

Presidents from four other ECOWAS countries - Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - visited Gambia to convince Jammeh to accept the election results, but to no effect (as of yet). Military action is an option but there are no clear plans from ECOWAS on that front.

Jammeh at first (surprisingly) accept the election results, but then he changed his mind. One reason he may have decided to stay is "foolhardy pledges of some of the opposition to arrest him for his many abuses of human rights." Military dictators often negotiate a transition to democracy in exchange for amnesty for any human rights abuses during their rule. Jammeh didn't try to negotiate his exit - he tried to win a fifth presidential election (which is why scholars such as Geddes characterize rulers like Jammeh as a personalist leader).

Nonetheless, the opposition would have been better advised to hold off on any threats to prosecute Jammeh until they were safely in power and had clear control of the military. Investigations into the assassination of Sankara by Compaore were one of the triggers for a coup by Compaore's presidential guard after Compaore (another personalist leader who took power in a military coup) was denied the opportunity to run for a fifth presidential term. Members of military governments don't like to face criminal charges if they step down from power.

The winner of the election, Adama Barrow, says he will go forward with his inauguration in January. If he does, and Jammeh continues to claim he won the presidency, this would be similar to what happened in Cote d'Ivoire in 2010, which restarted the civil war.

It looked like 2016 would be the year when Gambia would no longer be the only ECOWAS country that isn't at least "Partly Free," according to Freedom House, but it looks like that won't be the case. ECOWAS looks likely to enter 2017 as it did in 2016, according to Freedom House: with four "Free" countries (Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, and Senegal), ten "Partly Free" countries, and one "Not Free" country: Gambia.

No comments:

Post a Comment