Since the announcement made by the former president Yahya Jammeh on 15th October 2021, prior to the recently held presidential election on 4th December 2021, that he has not approved any alliance between his APRC party and the National People’s Party (NPP), Gambians reacted to it in different ways.
The news came less than two months before the recently-concluded Presidential election. While some, mainly in the opposition camps were happy and celebrating it simply because they saw this development as a blow in the face of incumbent President Adama Barrow, some said it was the right decision to take, but some were wondering why Mr. Jammeh could not clearly see the writings on the wall and accept the alliance offer?
President Barrow’s party had previously wanted a coalition with the former president’s party, APRC. This became a key concern for many Gambians as the former government of Yahya Jammeh has been implicated in a lot of human rights violations such as killings, torture, imprisonment of oppositions and journalists, etc.
The majority of Gambians believe that if Mr. Jammeh had agreed to form an alliance with President Barrow, it would have been a great opportunity for him to leave Equatorial Guinea, where he has been living in exile since January 2017, and come back to his country if Barrow wins.
However, for Yahya Jammeh his expectation was beyond the writings on the wall. He is not only interested in coming back but wants to get the assurance of his safety and security if he comes home.
Despite the allegations of human rights violations and killings under his 22-year rule, Mr. Jammeh is also looking for total immunity from prosecution. Mr. Jammeh wants President Barrow to guarantee that he would not face any prosecution in the future if he comes home, which Barrow could not promise.
For Jammeh, President Barrow should stand firm on his own and declare that he will guarantee his safety, security, and immunity from prosecution. He wants Barrow to give a deaf ear to Senegal, Ecowas, and the African Union (AU) and act on his own as a president of an independent nation.
However, Mr. Jammeh still sees President Barrow as a puppet of President Macky Sall and Ecowas and the Western Powers. Jammeh’s biggest perceived enemy in the sub-region is President Macky Sall of Senegal and Barrow is being seen as a brother to President Sall who gives him advice on many decisions especially if it has to do with the international community. Jammeh is upset that President Barrow clearly said that he alone cannot guarantee his (Jammeh‘s) return.
Mr. Jammeh wants President Barrow to assert authority and use his discretion as a president to guarantee his return and freedom, but Barrow could not. Since this clarification was made, Jammeh became furious and thought there is no longer an interest for him to join Barrow’s proposed alliance and this is why he refused to approve the APRC’s alliance with the NPP.
Furthermore, Jammeh’s Friday (on 15th October 2021) address to his supporters who were in Kanilai, came a few days after Barrow’s visit to his family in the name of a proposed reconciliation. Mr. Barrow defended his visit to the former president’s family, saying it will cement his objective of having reconciliation with Jammeh and the APRC, whilst victims and rights organisations saw that move as a betrayal of the victims.
However, Jammeh was not happy about the visit as he lost hope in Barrow. It was as a result of the said visit that Jammeh was quick to break his silence on their proposed alliance.
Moreover, it is important to note that Yahya Jammeh is determined to return to the Gambia to recover his ill-gotten wealth which was seized by the government. He has been sanctioned by the USA, England and his foreign accounts have been frozen but Jammeh has since not made a single public comment on this.
This reminds me of a particular statement made by renowned Gambian journalist Ebrima Jaw Manneh, who is based in the US, in an article he published sometime in January 2018. It was captioned: “The Looming Threat“. In this article, Ebrima Jaw Manneh, my former editor-in-chief at the Daily Observer, said: Jammeh is still determined to return to the Gambia to claim his seized wealth. It’s about the economics of wealth and power. His presence is palpable. He is not physically in the country, but his long evil hands are visible everywhere by show of agency. Remember, one of his futile demands from Ecowas leaders days before his banishment was the security of his assets in-country. Seeing hundreds of assets and bank accounts frozen, pending recommendations from the Janneh Commission, must be unsettling for him. This alone could give him cause for vengeance. He reminds me of Euron Greyjoy in the Game of Thrones (TV series) – horrible for heinous acts and thirsty for power. But also calculating and decisive. APRC party still salivates at the possible return of their Euron Greyjoy.
President Barrow’s mistake
Despite his claim for a reconciliation, President Barrow made a mistake by quickly visiting the former president’s home after their claims of forming an alliance with the APRC. The decision was seen as a political move but not reconciliation as he claimed. Secondly, as a president, Barrow should have visited the victims‘ families or the victims‘ centre first before thinking of visiting Jammeh’s family. Besides, in all honesty, there cannot be any reconciliation without justice.
Therefore, President Barrow was too quick to go to Jammeh’s family without having adequate information and correct intelligence briefings as to the current situation vis-à-vis the repercussions of such a visit at this crucial time, wherein preparations for the race to State House were in high gears.
Advice for President Barrow
Following Jammeh’s rejection of the NPP-APRC Alliance a few days after Barrow’s visit to Jammeh‘s family, he (President Barrow) should have made a thorough screening of the people around him including some security advisers and reprimand them. They are giving him the advice to take certain political decisions (blunders) which are not in the public interest.
He should replace his political advisers and some senior intelligence officers around him. The wrong advice they gave him backfired. This has always been the case in many instances of national importance.
The Kanilai visit was a great mistake and could have been avoided, for it was not important and urgent at that time. After all, what is the end result of that visit? What has he achieved from the visit? Indeed, it was a big embarrassment and a betrayal of Jammeh’s victims. It has not helped in any reconciliation process and has worsened the relationship between President Barrow and the victims. In other words, the victims‘ hopes for justice faded away.