Jammeh’s “One Billion Years” as President Are Over Already?

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He had many times boasted that he would remain in power for “a billion years” if he wanted! Many wondered whether the man had gone crazy, assuming the power that belonged only to Almighty God.

For yes, it is only He, the Almighty that puts down one and raises up another. Okay, as in the case of Samuel K. Doe, God, for His own reasons, permitted what happened in Liberia on April 12, 1980, when President William R. Tolbert Jr. was overthrown and brutally murdered. But what Doe and his ruthless fellow coup makers did not realize was that the same God who granted them success in their mission on that fateful 1980 morning was also watching to see how they would use power.

Why? Because God is a just God. He is no respecter of persons. He rewards justice and punishes injustice.

That is what He did to Samuel Doe because of his ruthless (cruel, cold-blooded) use of power.

We have brought Samuel Doe into this Editorial because he and Jammeh were of the same character. Jammeh served in Liberia as part of the Gambian ECOMOG peacekeeping contingent, and saw Doe as a mentor whom Jammeh was determined to emulate. So not long after he returned home from Liberia, Jammeh overthrew Gambia’s elected President, Sir Dawda Jawara, in a bloodless coup on July 22, 1994 and immediately proceeded to rule the country with an iron fist. He started harassing and jailing, without due process, scores of former officials, human rights activists and journalists, including Deyda Hydara, Publisher of The Point newspaper and President of the Gambian Press Union, who was killed. Hundreds of journalists joined the profession after the Liberian Observer’s Kenneth Y. Best got to The Gambia in 1990 and met only seven journalists in the entire country. Yes, a few weeks after Mr. Best’s Gambian Observer was launched in May 1992, scores of young Gambians joined the profession. By the time of Jammeh’s overthrow of President Jawara on July 22, 1994, nearly 100 journalists from The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria had joined the Gambian Observer staff.

The newspaper alone told the story of Jammeh’s coup d’état to the world, so the staff enjoyed a two-month honeymoon with the military regime. But when the newspaper became critical of the increasing brutality against innocent Gambians, it immediately incurred Jammeh’s wrath. Many Observer staff, including Mr. Best, were harassed and imprisoned; and on October 30, 1994 Jammeh deported Mr. Best back to war-torn Liberia! But despite all this, the Gambian Observer never lost a day of publication.

Eventually, Jammeh and a business associate, through a financial maneuver involving the Gambian Central Bank, purchased the Gambian Daily Observer and turned it from a vocal independent newspaper into a professionally-produced government mouthpiece.

The Liberian Daily Observer, which has over the years constantly monitored Jammeh’s tyrannical misrule, on April 9, 2016, published an Editorial calling on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations immediately to intervene to stop Jammeh’s tyranny. That Editorial immediately followed the arrest and imprisonment of Ousainou Darboe, Chairman of the main opposition group, United Democratic Party (UDP), and UDP Secretary General, Solo Sandeng, who soon died in prison. The Editorial wondered why the international community continued to remain silent on Jammeh’s murderous repression. “What benefit,” the Liberian Daily Observer asked, “do the West, China and other nations get from Africa’s instability? Is it that the exploitation of our resources is made easier so long as the continent remains in chaos?”

Following Darboe and Sandeng’s imprisonment, the Gambian people also began to strategize politically. Eventually, prior to the presidential elections last week, Gambian political parties, in a remarkably astute move, put aside their differences and joined to put up ONE candidate that most Gambians could rally around and vote for. That is how they succeeded in defeating Jammeh in the elections.

It is admittedly to the former president’s credit that he graciously conceded defeat. This led many within the country itself and around the world to wonder how he could have so easily and so quickly conceded defeat.

Had the international community taken note of the Liberian Daily Observer’s last April Editorial? Had they read to Jammeh “The Riot Act”? (This is an idiom meaning a serious and vigorous reprimand and warning to anyone acting badly).

But whatever led Jammeh to concede defeat so quickly, we thank God that the elections have gone off so peacefully and successfully, removing the tyrant from power.

As Kenneth Y. Best said in his Message to the Gambian People, published in today’s edition, it is hoped that President-Elect Adama Barrow “will work faithfully, relentlessly and expeditiously to restore democracy and the rule of law to The Gambia, by which the spirit and self-confidence of all Gambians will be uplifted, and the people become ready to participate meaningfully in national reconstruction and human development.”

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