Despite his constant rhetoric claiming to have “Allah’s Bank” at his disposal and blaming “400 years of colonialism being responsible for the impoverished state of the country”, Dictator Jammeh who has also been conveniently ignoring the fact that The Gambia has now been independent for 50 years and considering that her counterparts like Singapore, Malaysia, etc, which have equally been former colonies, have managed to be developed due to their embracing of democratic principles that he (Jammeh) has denied Gambians, has decided to quietly swallow his words and bow to EU demands in order to receive much needed aid from that body – aid that he claimed The Gambia didn’t need. According to ARTICLE 8 of the Lome and Cotonou Protocols, good governance, respect for Human Rights and the rule of law have to be satisfied for EU funding to be provided.
Today, the country is at a crossroad, at the brink of explosion because of Jammeh’s nearly 21 years of tyranny and misrule, and perhaps the worst dictatorship Africa has ever seen. He has systematically dismantled the democratic process, muzzled opposition parties, suppressed civil liberties and press freedom, detained innocent citizens without trial and disappeared others without trace, killed many, cracked down on innocent LGBTs – essentially terrorized the whole country with total impunity. Of recent, Jammeh has openly been ranting hate speeches deliberately geared toward instigating religious and ethnic divide in the country.
No doubt, as a backlash to bad governance, the economy has suffered a meltdown in recent times. Latest figures according to a government communication to the World Bank on 4th March 2015 couldn’t be more telling – “at nearly 7 per cent, GDP declined by 1quater per cent in 2014, and the level of public debt had risen to 100 per cent of GDP by end of 2014” the report noted. Investment in the country has gone exceedingly low since investors face constant risk of sudden arrests in addition to other discouraging issues like high taxation. It is therefore no accident that the unemployment rate is above 20 per cent and higher particularly among the youths. The situation is so dire that the youths are forced to take the perilous journey called the “back way to Europe” at alarming rates. The Gambia now tops the list when it comes to the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean seas to seek opportunities in Europe. Foreign Exchange earnings have dropped by 50 percent and the exchange rate by 7.8 per cent against the US Dollar from previous years. This is leading to a collapse of the banking system. In response, and true to form, the Dictator by yet another “Executive Directive”, erratically intervened to fix the monetary exchange rate much to the amazement of the banks and the international world by setting his own rate that he might as well have picked out of a hat. However, as crazy as all these moves sound, observers have noted that none should be surprised for this after all is a country in which the President owns most of the businesses, at the centre of all the corruption, and the whole entire economy therefore revolving around him alone.
It is against this backdrop that the Dictator is being forced to succumb to the EU 17 Point Demands. Reached for comment, political activist Banka Manneh notes that meeting these demands as basic as they are, will be a tall order for Jammeh. “Lamin, I think Jammeh may be trying to play his chess games again and we hope the EU will not accord him the luxury. He is cornered and the best approach will be to tighten the noose rather than giving him breathing space since that’s essentially what he is asking for here. He knows he is presiding over a dying system and only re-engaging the EU as a survival tactic” He cautioned. Many observers agree. They added that Jammeh and good governance just don’t mesh and any effort to reform the man will only prolong the misery of innocent Gambian people because it will ultimately fail.
So when word came that a Gambian Minister has told a friend that the Foreign Minister has informed Cabinet that they are going to re-engage the EU as they have no choice given the state of the economy – in effect, Jammeh has decided to capitulate, it was just a confirmation of what we knew was going to happen eventually. According to the same source, these Ministers are now very worried, jittery, and want to jump ship. The chicken it seems is finally coming home to roost.