The final sprint – staying positive

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Many are wondering what will happen come January 19th 2017, when the term for Gambia’s outgoing president ends and he refuses to leave power. ECOWAS has made it clear that the president-elect, Adama Barrow, will be inaugurated and that they leave all options, including military intervention, open, to make sure the verdict of the people will be respected. Jammeh has made it clear he will not leave in peace. Panic and uncertainty has spread and Gambians are fleeing to Senegal and other parts of the world.

A state of emergency has just been declared as I write. To begin with, the authority of this man and any validity his state of emergency may have, stands only for another few hours. After January 18th, him and his state of emergency can be labeled “G” for “Garbage”.

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While there is genuine cause for concern, I remain optimistic that Jammeh’s removal will be quick, easy and with not much loss of life. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but my optimism is based on a few factual observations:

Gambians have spoken and there is no turning back. After voting on their choice on December 1st 2016, Gambians have continued to speak up. Private individuals, unions, associations and other groups of Gambians both at home and abroad have been very clear that Barrow is their chosen president. The peaceful but unflinching resolve means that nothing can make us waver from this position.

Having heard our voices and seen our actions, the international community is standing by Gambians to make sure our verdict is respected and implemented. Senegal, ECOWAS, AU and the UN have all demonstrated their commitment to do whatever it takes to see that our decision stands.

With all due respect to our military, there’s no masking the fact that the international fighting force is no match in terms of material resources, will or combat experience for the Gambian army. Any resisting Jammeh loyalists will be crushed relatively easily by the ECOWAS troops.

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The ECOWAS forces are professional and they come in with the understanding that protecting lives is of the utmost priority. I trust them to complete their mission of surgically removing the cancerous organ with precision while protecting the rest of the body.

For a shrewd dictator who has until now been very good at holding on to power, Jammeh has repeatedly been making some uncharacteristically dumb and costly moves that undermine him. This has proven to those soldiers supporting him and those on the fence that the man has lost the plot. It has shattered any remaining drops of confidence they may have had in him and his ability to manage the situation.

The past few weeks has seen former Jammeh loyalists deserting him. Ministers, ambassadors, “friends” etc have all left or even called on him to respect the will of the people. Not only has this further weakened him, it’s also a sign that they recognize there is no way out of this for the regime.

Jammeh cannot hold a gun and man a post. He needs soldiers to loyal to him to stand guard, ready to sacrifice their own lives to save his. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for Gambians, Jammeh has not sown any seeds of loyalty to anyone over the years. Over the years, he has shown that he is loyal only to himself. He has killed, tortured, imprisoned or jailed any top military officers he has been jealous of. Sadibu Hydara, Sanna Sabally, Ndure Cham, Solo Bojang, Lang Tombong Tamba…the list goes on.

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Members of our military will know not to stand with a coward. The same man who gets on national television threatening ECOWAS to dare enter Gambia, accusing them of being foreigners who will not be allowed to meddle in Gambian affairs, was exposed when he went behind the scenes to beg the same ECOWAS to spare him and send judges to hear his case. Our men and women in uniform are smart enough to recognize that this man, who has already sent his wife and children to safety abroad, will quickly run and abandon them and their families the moment bullets start to fly.

Military or civilian, given our closely knit family and neighborly relationships, it’s impossible to meet a Gambia who has not been hurt either directly or indirectly by Jammeh. This means that all the Gambian members of our military are sitting with some grudge against him, waiting for an opportunity for revenge. The friend he killed, the mentor he jailed, the cousin he sent on exile, the brother he tortured – all linger in the minds of our military. The fact that they already started arresting military personnel is evidence that Jammeh knows that they will not stand with him. Those arrests are also further evidence to other soldiers on why they need to stand with the people and not with the rebel.

Recognizing all the above, soldiers know that this is a dead end and there is no way out. Where even Chief Justice, Fagbele, refused to do his bidding by recusing himself from that injunction, it’s abundantly clear that it’s OVER!

Our inherent Gambian values of peace, empathy and sympathy for others, especially family and friends will always shine through when all else fails. We are the people where the Serere is king to the Jola, the Badibunka is master to the Kiangko, the Njien teases the Njoben for eating too much. We are the nation where the muslim celebrates christmas more than the christian and the Good Friday Nanmburu does not skip a house when making the rounds. We are that country, where per capita income is less than $1 a day, yet homelessness is unheard of because we care for and about each other. We have waited and watched for too long and know the score.

Rather than risk their lives for a Jammeh with NOTHING to offer them, I remain optimistic that our soldiers will do what’s best for the nation, and for themselves. Come January 19th 2017, I hold on to hope that the military, including the Chief of Defence Staff, Ousman Badgie, will do the sensible thing and continue to do what they’re doing today. Their allegiance will remain with The Gambian People! They will capture the criminal at state house and declare their commitment to serve the Gambian people and their new rightful Commander In Chief, Adama Barrow.

After all, we all know… #GambiaHasDecided

Article written by Sana Sarr

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