Image by: Jason Florio/IRIN, © All Rights Reserved

The Gambia: Tale of shifting narratives

We all despised Goloh – Yahya Jammeh – (except for the APRC knuckleheads). He was a brutal dictator and a thief. A dark soul and a misfit if you will. He had Gambia in a choke hold, and the oxygen was running out fast.

It was this extreme urgency that finally compelled the opposition parties to come together to form a coalition and challenged Goloh and his APRC government in last December’s presidential election.

Every decent Gambian, who wanted to end the dictatorship, regardless of their geographical location, supported the Coalition under the leadership of Adama Barrow on all fronts.

The Coalition came up with an MOU and we all campaigned for them. Ink flowed out of pens and Facebook was buzzing, microphones amplified and the airwaves were blazing, text messages flying and WhatsApp was vibrating, money transmitted out of wallets into GoFundme and Benachin was being served; all in an effort to get out the vote and have the Coalition elected as Gambia’s transitional government.

I am sure we all remember the election. The tension, sleepless nights, anguish, and anticipation. Waiting for the results to be announced felt like a lifetime. And when they were finally announced by the IEC and in favor of Barrow and the Coalition, the jubilation was short-lived.

With a bruised and battered ego, Goloh accepted defeat just to turn around and totally reject the results of the election in its entirety. This was the genesis of the now infamous “impasse.”

When all the negotiation tools and tricks for a peaceful transfer of power failed, Barrow was lifted out of Gambia for safety reasons and Halipha Sallah moved in to man the post.

He was the spokesperson that gave numerous press conferences challenging Goloh and laying out for him the consequences of his actions if he failed to hand over power on January 19th.

Goloh’s defiance continued and President-elect Barrow had to be sworn in at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. It finally took fighter jets, military tankers, and boots on the ground in the form of ECOMIG to send Goloh into exile.

President Barrow’s welcome was epic. Gambians had ushered in a new dawn by the ballot, not by the gun, and the excitement was palpable.

The airport was filled to the brim and the streets were overflowing with people, it was Wee Barrow time. This was Gambia’s highest moment in a long time, and it was profound and moving.

Gambia was all over the news, admired and praised by the rest of the world for defeating a dictator without a single bullet fired or an ounce of blood spilled. A new democracy was born, Gambian style! And this spirit carried over into the joint Independent-Inauguration celebration on February 18th.

Money was now flowing in. The EU pledged 225 million Euros to lift Gambia out of “virtual bankruptcy” after two decades of dictatorship, stealing, and wasteful spending, of which the EU delivered 75 million Euros. The deal was signed and sealed.

“The sky takes on shades of orange during sunrise and sunset, the color that gives you hope that the sun will set to rise again,” but inside the Gambia, things were now going from GRAY (the Coalition’s color) to YELLOW, BLUE, PINK, WHITE, and BROWN.

The National Assembly election had been scheduled for April 6th and partisan politics was now center stage with parties courting APRC National Assembly Members to run under their party colors. The focus had now somewhat shifted away from the Coalition government’s initial agenda and the tactical games began.

Despite the enormous security challenges Gambia is facing after two decades of brutal dictatorship, it didn’t take long for complacency to set in like rigor mortis, and the new administration started appointing former APRC government loyalists to key positions of power, like Masaneh Kinteh and Abdoulie Bojang to name a couple.

Security is paramount for any country, and certain key appointments can either strengthen or compromise a nation’s security. We are all aware of APRC’s burning desire to regain their glory days of ruthlessness, and they will not stop at anything to accomplish their goal. Kanilai is smoldering as we speak.

Leadership is more than a title or a designation, and it cannot be outsourced. President Barrow should address the nation in a unifying manner; there are too many burning issues and his voice needs to be heard.

(Image credit: (c) Jason Florio/IRIN, All Rights Reserved)

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