Delusional Democracy

There will be an ‘election’ in the West African country of The Gambia next year.

It will not be democratic. It will not be open, fair or representative. It is not difficult to realize this. President Jammeh’s rhetoric clearly demonstrates no great love for the democratic process. He places his hold on power more in the hands of Allah than in the hands of the Gambian people stating that he would rule for one billion years if Allah says so. Allah may say so, but Jammeh is clearly worried that the people won’t agree.

Presidential candidates now face a new exorbitant registration fee of US$25,000 that will deter them from even considering challenging Jammeh. To run for President against Jammeh you not only have to be exceptionally brave and you now have to be exceptionally rich as well (two thirds of The Gambia live on less than $1.25 per day).  Jammeh is clearly trying to kill off any challenge to his leadership at the source. The bizarre part is that there is any credible precept of democracy in The Gambia. Jammeh is going through the rigmarole of getting parliament to vote in this registration fee. Does anybody buy it? Does anybody think he is a democrat? It is highly doubtful. Even his stoutest supporters, and he does have many in the country, don’t champion his democratic credentials, they champion his strong man tactics and ability to stand up to the ‘west’. Why does he feel the need to worry about the perception of democracy in the country? Perhaps the outside world is starting to take an interest. The Gambian authorities have for too long been held in high regard by the international community, despite countless human rights abuses. Are the UN, and more importantly the US, waking up to the lack of accountability placed upon The Gambia?

There are signs that the world is casting its gaze upon the unfair political situation in The Gambia and realizing they have a moral duty to act. Some EU aid has been suspended, the US has dropped The Gambia from a free trade program, and the UN has sent special rapporteurs to the country who issued a damning report (see Foreign Affairs article here and the report here, be warned the report is a harrowing read). Will these measures have any effect on the outcome of the ‘election’ next year? It looks doubtful, but Jammeh is worried. The world should be concerned that his worry brings about further repression and abuses of the Gambian people.

Bridge Builder

In other Jammeh related news, statehouse recently announced that Jammeh should now be referred to as His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa. The addition of Babili Mansa means bridge builder in Mandinka. You couldn’t make this stuff up. See the announcement here.

This is a map of The Gambia –

Gambia-physical-mapAs you can see, never has a country been so dominated by a river. It stretches the entire country, splitting the country into a north and south bank. Jammeh, the ruler of The Gambia since 1994, now insists he be called the builder of bridges. How many bridges have been built, that make it possible to cross from the north bank to the south bank, since he became ruler? Zero, zilch, nada.

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