Friday, April 12, 2024

The Crisis of Post-Presidency: A Problem Macky Sall and Yahya Jammeh Have in Common

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By Amat Jeng, Howard University, Washington D.C. ([email protected])

In the late 1970s, the Comoros entered a period known as ‘période noire’ after President Ali Sohli, a deranged dictator, born in Madagascar and educated in France, came to power. One day, Sohli had a dream about a man with a dog who had come to kill him. The next day, he ordered his so-called teenage militiamen to kill all dogs on the island. They used machetes and killed hundreds of dogs; they tied some dogs behind Land Rovers (remember this!) and drove recklessly and jubilantly in Moroni, the capital city. In 2009, Gambia’s ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, currently suffering from nostalgic depression in Equatorial Guinea, lost his aunt. He sent a bus to Jambur village and picked up more than 50 women whom he accused of witchcraft. The bus, accompanied by some Land Rovers, drove the women to Kanilai and gave them hallucinogenic concoctions. Some of them died, and some of those who survived got kidney diseases.

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The point is that when corruption, greed, and fear become too apparent, leaders can become irrational and eventually take decisions to their peril. With his unprecedented decision to postpone the February 25th election, Macky Sall has demonstrated that he is facing the same problem Jammeh faced in 2016: the fear of life after the presidency.

Yahya Jammeh knew he had lost the presidential election; Macky Sall knows that the opposition – not his preferred candidate(s) – was going to win the election. Both leaders had attempted to stay in power, not because they wanted to protect democracy, but because they wanted to protect themselves from the wrath of future ‘Commissions’ like the Janneh Commission and the TRRC.

Sall appointed new members of the Constitutional Council. His main goal has been to eliminate prominent opposition leaders from contesting. In doing its job, the Council, to Macky’s dismay, disqualified Karim Wade, a candidate whose participation Macky Sall counted on to help weaken the opposition. When Karim Wade was disqualified, and Sall’s party, led by Amadou Ba, appears to be in disarray, the opposition’s prospect of winning the election became more obvious. Sall’s biggest nightmare is to see Pastef and its coalition of parties come to power.

Sall has, for the last five years, let greed, fear, and corruption define his style of leadership. Democracy in Senegal has shrunk; corruption is at its highest level; and the state is captured by a small group of rapacious elites. Evidently, the desperate attempt by incumbents to cling to power after their terms have expired is rooted in bad leadership, bad advice, and the failure to create that environment needed for life after the presidency.

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After he had won his second term and lost key regional and mayoral posts in 2022, Sall should have gone back to the drawing board, listened to his opponents – not his supporters -, made concessions and compromises, and pardoned political prisoners. His party might not win the 2024 presidential election but it would remain a key player in Senegalese politics for years to come. And more importantly, he could protect his cronies and some of his ill-gotten wealth.

Back to where we started: Ali Sohli fired more than 3, 000 civil servants; he lowered the voting age to 14; he brought Tanzanian soldiers to guard him; he walked to a mosque and screamed “Go ahead. Call on God! See if He answers!” Amidst all the delirium and madness, a majority of the people of Comoros watched in silence while Ali Sohli went on a dictatorial rampage.

Led by a French mercenary called Bob Denard, a group of trained European fortune soldiers attacked Comoros and overthrew Sohli, while he was high in Marijuana in his room with a couple of teenage girls. He was arrested and killed. Denard drove his body jubilantly in a Land Rover (I told you to remember this) and delivered it to his mother, Mahamouda Mze, who buried him in her backyard, without a ceremony. Tragic! The final point is that many of our leaders have made tragic errors by allowing power to consume them, and the most tragic thing is those who came after, seem not to have learnt from the past.

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