GAMBIANS have proved that Africa has the capacity to solve its own problems, says veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga. In a statement yesterday, January 23, 2017, on events in the Gambia, Mwaanga congratulated West African leaders for their tenacity.

“West African leaders in ECOWAS cannot be congratulated enough for their tenacity and resolve in saving Gambia from the brink of a catastrophic political, constitutional and military crisis. By so doing, they have also redeemed Africa’s honour in the eyes of the world, and demonstrated that Africans have the capacity to resolve their own problems. It was heartening to see African diplomacy at work, which produced a peaceful resolution of the impasse after the elections of December, 2016, which saw Dictator Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled the Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years, lose elections to Adama Barrow,” Mwaanga stated.

“Jammeh, who had initially accepted the results of the elections, which were described by all international observers, as free, fair, democratic and credible, then changed his mind after one week and disputed the election outcome, demanding that fresh elections be held while he remained in power, controlling all state institutions including institutions of state violence and repression, which had sustained his autocratic rule.”

He summarized the role ECOWAS leaders played in ousting Jammeh.

“ECOWAS leaders met and through their President Marcel Alain de Souza, had warned Jammeh that he would face military action if he did not vacate office peacefully and allow the newly elected President Barrow to assume office. Jammeh was defiant at first and even ordered the Parliament of Gambia to extend his tenure of office by ninety days and ratify the state of emergency of ninety days which he had declared. He was supported by the Army Commander, who later switched his allegiance to the new President. Using the stick and carrot approach, ECOWAS leaders decided to walk the talk and mobilized 7000 troops, by air, land and sea which moved into this tiny West African state and remained ready to enforce the will of the people of Gambia as expressed through the ballot. They also continued the carrot approach of negotiations until the very last minute, with a view to avoiding unnecessary bloodshed and senseless loss of life,” Mwaanga stated.

“As good fortune and common sense would have it, the reluctant democrat and dictator Jammeh, finally agreed to step down without a single shot being fired and opted to go into exile in Equatorial Guinea. This was a major victory for African diplomacy, which was very ably supported and reinforced by the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union.”
He, however, lamented that it would be hard for Gambians to rebuild their country because over US$11 million and other precious items had vanished.

“Sadly, as Jammeh was boarding a private jet at Banjul airport the capital of Gambia in the company of President Alpha Conde the President of Guinea, government officials were reporting that US$ 11 million dollars had vanished from the state treasury and that luxury cars and other precious items were being loaded on to Chadian cargo planes to go and support the former dictator’s ostentatious living style in Malabu. This clearly was tantamount to looting of the meager resources of the people of Gambia who must now embark on the unenviable task of rebuilding their ravaged country. During Jammeh’s 22 year rule, thousands of Gambians fled their country to Senegal and elsewhere running away from his repressive rule. Local and international human rights groups have repeatedly demanded that Jammeh be made to account for acts of torture and detention of political opponents. The choice of Equatorial Guinea as Jammeh’s preferred asylum destination was therefore not surprising, because it is not a signatory to the statutes of the International Criminal Court,” Mwaanga stated.

He stated that President Barrow needed a lot of support.

“President Barrow, who was sworn in as the new democratically elected leader of the country in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday 19th January 2017, as per Gambian constitution is now expected to return home soon. It is no wonder that the people of Gambia have been taking to the streets to celebrate the end of Jammeh’s totalitarian regime which came into office through the barrel of the gun, suppressed and repressed its people for 22 years and created an atmosphere of tyranny. The challenges facing President Barrow are many and varied and deserves the support of his people and the boundless goodwill of Africa and the International community as he rebuilds and consolidates democratic governance in his country,” stated Mwaanga.