Anxiety prevails in the Gambia as the people await what becomes of their country come January 19. Will this country tow the path of peace or anarchy? Will Gambians have a new president? Will the incumbent remain in power? On this day of destiny, the current president, Yahya Jammeh is expected to relinquish power and the president-elect, Adama Barrow will resume as the country’s president.
This day is expected to be special because it will be the first time that this West Africa nation is peacefully transferring power since Independence. For now, it is uncertain if this historic occasion will come to pass as expected because the incumbent president had backtracked after conceding defeat in a recent presidential election.
Calls and appeals from ECOWAS, the AU, the UN and other local and international bodies to Jammeh to respect the outcome of December 1 presidential contest had fallen on deaf ears. In fact, there are reports that troops from the sub-region are on a standby to intervene and use military force to oust Jammeh if he refused to relinquish power.
Interestingly, Jammeh once told journalists that he would rule Gambia for a billion years if Allah so willed. Apparently, he was determined to cling to power as long as he would. However, with the outcome of the presidential election and with what appears to be a political impasse in the country, it is uncertain as to what Allah’s will is for The Gambia come January 19. Or let us put it this way, Jammeh’s will seems to be on a collision course with that of Allah. But think about it, Allah has really been so magnanimous to Jammeh by allowing him to rule the country for 22 years despite his dismal human rights records and bad governance.
During this period, this erratic leader acquired numerous titles that made his official introduction, ‘His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa’ a laborious exercise. He claimed to have the cure for HIV/AIDS. Jammeh withdrew Gambia from the Commonwealth, which he described as a neo-colonial institution. He stated that Gambia would never be a party to any institution that represented an extension of colonialism. Jammeh declared the country an Islamic republic in an attempt to distance Gambia from its colonial past. In addition, he threatened to kill anyone who indulged in homosexual acts.
Jammeh stated: “If you do it [in the Gambia] I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”
Apparently, in the past 22 years, the will of Allah had been the will of Yahya Jammeh and the will of Jammeh had been the will of the people of Gambia. These wills have been inseparable and Jammeh took advantage of it and patently abused the opportunity. He ruled with an iron fist, conducted sham elections and clamped down on the opposition, and freedom of expression in the country. It seemed that at the presidential election in December, this bond was broken.
There was a split between the will of Jammeh and the will of the Gambian people and probably the will of Allah. Gambians voted for a change and invested their will on Adama Barrow.
Jammeh accepted the outcome but later changed his mind citing irregularities and voter apathy. Was that also the will of Allah? He annulled ‘the election in its entirety’ and stated that a fresh contest would be conducted. His party is challenging the election results at the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately. the court has one judge. Jammeh still thinks that there could still be some chance for him in the will complex of Allah. Hence he continued to invoke Allah as the one who would determine his political future and destiny. But hasn’t that destiny been determined? Hasn’t that future been decided? Can’t President Jammeh read in between the lines?
As the world counts down to January 19, 2017, Gambia finds itself in a political deadlock with two opposing wills – the will of president Jammeh and the will of the Gambian people as invested in the president-elect, Adama Barrow. As Jammeh and the people of Gambia await the will of Allah to manifest on January 19, the pertinent question is: which side will Allah align with? Which will triumphs at the end of the day? Which shall Allah endorse: the will of Yahya Jammeh or the will of the people of Gambia?
Leo Igwe is a Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist, a former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and a Ph.D. candidate at the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.