The Challenge of International Diplomacy: One Man, Yahya Jammeh, Should Not Be Allowed to Turn West Africa’s Democracy Clock Backward

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West Africa has in recent years become a beacon (shining example) of democracy in Africa, Dr. Ibn Chambas has said.

Dr. Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in West Africa, acknowledged this truism when last Wednesday he convened in Monrovia a meeting of Heads of UN Missions in West Africa.

Dr. Chambas, the UN’s most senior official in the sub region, recognized with glowing pride the holding of successful democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power in several West African nations in recent years.

In the past two years, he said, there have been 10 presidential elections in the sub-region, with opposition leaders becoming victorious in five of them, the rest won by incumbents.

In all five elections won by the opposition, there have been peaceful transfers of power. But not in The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh being the exception, Dr. Chambas declared.

This recounting of democratic transfers of power, we submit, is fine, strong and hopeful language, but how can it be implemented everywhere?

Here is the challenge of international diplomacy. This newspaper, the Daily Observer, has in recent Editorials called on the UN and some of the world’s leading democracies to mount a concerted and determined effort to get the Gambian leader, President Yahya Jammeh, to do the right thing by conceding defeat and stepping aside. This will allow yet another peaceful transfer of power in West Africa.

But how can this most serious challenge to international diplomacy be met? We think that one way forward is for the leaders of the United States; the People’s Republic of China; Russia; Great Britain—the Gambia’s former colonial power; Senegal—Banjul’s next-door neighbor; the
European Union, including Germany, France and the Scandinavian nations; Nigeria, West Africa’s biggest and most powerful nation; the African Union (AU); the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and the United Nations, should send a Joint Delegation to
Banjul. The aim and objective: to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to heed the voice of reason and facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to President-Elect Adama Barrow.

We strongly believe that such a potent, dynamic force would work because President Jammeh would be facing the world’s most powerful nations and institutions, to which he cannot say no.

What promise could they make to President Jammeh to cause him to concede?

Such a promise may not be a matter of money, since Jammeh is probably already rich. The promise could include the guarantee of his personal security inside the country and a waiver (disclaimer) from all the atrocities or misdeeds he may have committed during his 22 years in power and, ultimately, the removal of any threat of prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

We think this might work, but it has to be backed by a strong and sincere commitment by Jammeh that he will follow the brave and humble example of President Sir Dawda Jawara, whom Lieutenant Jammeh overthrew in a bloodless coup d’état on July 22, 1994.

President Jawara has since lived peacefully and quietly in the country, and has said and done nothing to interfere with the country’s new political order that followed the coup.

We urge all of the leaders of these nations and organizations to consider the humble suggestion by this newspaper, whose daughter newspaper, the Gambian Daily Observer, founded by the same publisher, the Kenneth Y. Best family of Liberia, has suffered gravely under Jammeh.

That daughter newspaper has not lost not a single day of publication since Head of State Jammeh, on October 30, 1994, deported its founding publisher, Mr. Best, back to Liberia. The Gambian Daily Observer is now one of West Africa’s richest and most successful newspapers.

Let people around the world plead with the world leaders, United Nations and other International Organizations named in this Editorial to rise to this historic occasion and challenge by taking this great initiative. We are talking about the United States, backed by the personal interventions of President Barrack Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump; China’s President Xi Jinping; Russia’s President Vladimir Putin; Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May; Senegal’s President Macky Sall; the European Union Commission’s Head, Jean Claude Juncker;
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel; France’s President Francois Hollande, and leaders of the Scandinavian nations; Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari; the AU’s Chairman Idriss Deby; ECOWAS’ President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the UN’s’ Ban Ki Moon and the Security Council’s President Roman Oyarzun of Spain.

We think this powerful international coalition should be able to send a sufficiently strong message to President Yahya Jammeh to get him to step aside.

Such a potent display of international diplomacy should work, in order to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia.

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