Breaking the impasse

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President-Elect Barrow and his team should continue to be on alert and make their paramount mission the preservation of their hard-fought and historic victory against the Jammeh regime. It is no minor feat that the Coalition was able to orchestrate a clear victory at the ballot-box, against the long odds. And peace-loving people throughout the world should applaud their efforts and encourage them. But their work is not done.

One can even argue that what is left is perhaps even harder and more critical. But I find solaceinthefactthatMr.Barrowandhiscolleaguesaremakingalltherightmoves. They were very astute in their reading of Jammeh’s illegal pronouncements on December 9, 2016, regarding the status of the December 1, 2016 election.

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Gambians, including Jammeh supporters, should feel very grateful that we were able to dodge a bullet. Had Mr. Barrow behaved like any other uninspired person, we would be in a state of war right now, God forbid. The reason being, most people in Mr. Barrow’s position, after hearing Jammeh’s failed attempt to annul the election, would have felt anger and lash out at Jammeh, thereby giving him an excuse to inflame the country.

But cooler heads prevailed, and the maturity shown by the Coalition saved the country from what could have been a great disaster.

The Gambia Bar Association is spot-on in its analysis pointing out that Jammeh’s pronouncement on December 9, 2016 is tantamount to treason. They took his own words at face-value and to their logical conclusion. If we have a constitutionally elected president (Mr. Barrow in this case), anyone who tries to undo that election outside the bounds of the laws of the country, is dangerously flirting with treason, in my opinion. I believe the Coalition also read the situation in the same way. The UN Security Council also saw through Jammeh’s betrayal of the Gambian people; which is why they called upon Jammeh to resign forthwith because he had forfeited his right to lead. But the Coalition leaders were measured in their statements and did not call out the potentially criminal conduct. They just pointed out that Jammeh had no authority to annul the election and counseled their supporters to focus on going ahead with their transition plans.

Realizing his catastrophic blunder and knowing that the days when he could use force to usurp power are over, he asked his party to file a petition to try and annul the will of the Gambian people, which was expressed through an election he organized by himself. In other words, he tried to usurp power through unconstitutional means (by his treasonous pronouncement on national TV) and that failed. Now he wants to stage a constitutional coup. Gambians should not stand for that either. A coup is a coup.

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Gambians have spoken and he wants to overturn that. We should not accept a coup if he wants to use the army to overturn the will of the people; neither should we accept it if he wants to use the courts to achieve that goal.

Thankfully, every fair-minded person in this world sees through what Jammeh is trying to do and has condemned it, for the most part. I have always known that Jammeh and his cohorts are the most selfish people one can encounter. But I must admit that I never thought that they were this conniving and unpatriotic. I am so scared for our country and we should all be. Everybody knows what the endgame is here. Jammeh should leave. He is done. The question is: how will he leave? He’s chosen that he is going to leave violently, which is why he decided to first send his family to the safe confines of the United States before setting the country on fire. That move, clearly backfired. But let’s just pause for a moment and think about this. To me, this is one of the most disgusting aspects of this saga.

Here, we have someone who is always roiling against the so-called West, and when rubber meets the road, he sends his family to the United States. And because he cannot run away, he digs in and puts our families in jeopardy. Even if an outside force were to come to the country and arrest him, at the very least some Gambian might lose his or her life unnecessarily. And even if it is a single Gambian, it will be one too many. That does not even speak to the anxiety people are under as we speak, the time the new government is losing instead of preparing to take over, and what it’s going to cost the neighboring countries to come to Gambia, to our aid.

Thank God that there is still hope that Gambians can resolve this matter, without the need for bloodshed. First, under no circumstances should the Coalition go to court with Jammeh. Thankfully, his petition is so inadequate that any respectable court would have thrown it out the minute it was submitted. Again, he should not be allowed to stage a constitutional coup by using corrupt foreign judges to overturn the supreme will of the Gambian people. At the risk of sounding xenophobic, I must lament here the despicable behavior of foreign judges in the country and their Gambian enablers like Jammeh and his Attorney General. This should not be tolerated.

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Jammeh’s gripes about the election are beyond ridiculous. If we were not dealing with a life and death situation I would say that his complaints are laughable. I mean, how can he say that we need a redo because 300,000 registered voters did not vote on their own volition? Did anyone forcefully prevent those voters from voting? Is voting compulsory in The Gambia? Is there an acceptable number of non-voters that will render elections credible? Ironically, in the 2006 elections, an equivalent number of registered voters did not vote and yet he did not criticize those results. This whole point is as ridiculous as the Coalition also arguing that Mr. Barrow would have won by a larger margin had Gambians in the Diaspora been allowed to vote in the election. No serious court would listen to that. As for the other stuff, I do not know any Gambian who is gullible enough to believe that Jammeh’s hand-picked IEC would collude with the Coalition to suppress Jammeh’s voters. Give me a break. It is sad to watch the spectacle on TV where Jammeh reads the letter from the IEC Chairman rectifying the result tally.

Can someone please explain to Jammeh that the letter is not a legal ground for overturning the election? On the contrary, the letter is evidence that the system works. Human beings make mistakes. And they rectify the mistakes. This mistake could have been as simple as a typo adding an extra zero to the numbers. If the IEC did not catch the mistake and rectify it, that could have created a problem. But the mere fact that they rectified the mistake, knowing that it has no impact on the final outcome, in the interest of transparency and accountability, lends credibility to the IEC. Simply put, the petition has no legs to stand on and should not be entertained. Again, the Coalition is doing the right thing by ignoring the made-up issues in the purported petition.

It is so defective on its face that the courts should not even waste resources entertaining it. To bring judges all the way from Nigeria to steal the election from the Gambian people, based on frivolous grounds, is not only a gross waste of resources, but very insulting as well. Anyone who has ever been involved in election petitions, like I was in 1992, would know that one has to overcome a very high burden of proof in order to upset the supreme will of the people. Not only would Jammeh and his cohorts have to prove major irregularities during the election process, they also have to prove that but for those irregularities we will have a different outcome. Jammeh’s purported complaints do not even come close.

Add to that fundamental deficiency, an illegitimately packed court that has no business entertaining the petition. But everyone in the country knows that the foreign judges we have in there are not interested in justice and will not hesitate to thwart the will of the Gambian people. I hear Jammeh talk about not wanting to be colonized by the British and brag about his patriotism. But it’s not a problem for him to bring unscrupulous foreign judges to the country to enslave Gambians. This is just pathetic.

In any case, the solution I alluded to earlier on is in the hands of Jammeh’s supporters, be they in the armed forces or in his inner circle feeding him bogus grounds for challenging the election. To break this impasse, short of having an invading force, they should withdraw their support; and under no circumstances should they obey orders from him that he has no moral or constitutional authority to give. A lot of his supporters (mainly outside the country) have begun withdrawing their support. I am begging and urging his inner circle to give it up. Jammeh by himself is nobody and he knows it. How sinister can one be to send one’s family out of the country, promote soldiers so one can use them to murder innocent Gambians, and then hold the country hostage? Let us wake up. Our families are in serious jeopardy. As the saying goes, when the rain falls, it doesn’t fall on one man’s house.

It is understandable that some who were on the Jammeh gravy-train might be experiencing separation anxiety, fear and want to cling to power. Give it up. Some of us did that 22 years ago and we are stronger for it. You are in a lot better position in that Mr. Barrow (whom I do not know) does not seem to be a vindictive person; and in fact appears to be very God-fearing, measured and reasonable.

Others in the Coalition leadership are also very mature statesmen who believe in the rule of law and will not unjustly persecute Jammeh loyalists. The Coalition should continue to convey this message. They are not after revenge. Even the Gambian people, like me, will not stand for that. Besides, Gambia is also under the microscope. With the international community focused on it, the new government would be unwise to go after the Jammeh people in a vindictive manner. I am sure the Coalition leadership knows that. So, there is an alternative to engaging in a suicide pact with Jammeh. For the sake of our country and our families, let us not plunge our dear country into a civil war simply because a few in our midst do not want to relinquish power. If Jammeh was the patriot he claims to be, he will give up for the sake of peace even if he was robbed in the election. But we all know that he was defeated fairly. Any Gambian with a conscience should ask him to leave. If he had a fraction of the piety he claims he has, he would have realized that God does not engage in double- speak: if he won the election, The Almighty would not say that Jammeh lost.

Maintaining peace in The Gambia should be our utmost priority. I pray that Jammeh and his few supporters realize that his time is up and he should leave peacefully. God Bless our Country and save our families from the evils of war.

The author is in Washington, DC

By Muhamad Sosseh, Esq

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