By Kemo Cham – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is at it again; this time he is calling for the prosecution of Ivory Coast internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara and the release of the man he believes is “the constitutionally legal president of Ivory Coast”, Laurent Gbagbo.
Yahya Jammeh is once again trumpeting the anti-colonial rhetoric in his opposition to Western intervention in the affairs of Africa. In opposition to the rest of the world, he said “the Gambia government would not recognize any president, including president Ouattara, or government in Africa that has been imposed by forces outside the African continent for whatever reason.”
This statement, released Saturday, marks the first ever statement by Yahya Jammeh since the removal of his friend, Ivory Coast former president Laurent Gabgbo, who refused to step down peacefully after losing elections. Mr Gbagbo was arrested last week by forces loyal to the internationally recognized president, with the help of French and UN forces.
Yahya Jammeh has since been opposed to the international community’s effort to have Gbagbo step down. And now he says Gambia, under his leadership, cannot recognize President Ouattara.
This makes the former lieutenant, who himself assumed power in a military coup 17 years ago, the only person, save for Laurent Gbagbo’s daughter and closest henchmen, to continue on their refusal to recognize the internationally recognized president. Even the Generals who planned Gbagbo’s resistance against President Ouattara have now pledged loyalty to him.
But this is not the first time Jammeh is condemning Ouattara’s government. He described him as a rebel in a statement released at the height of the standoff.
“We know what those governments and presidents stand for in Africa as they loot African resources on behalf of the powers that brought them to power”, Jammeh said in his statement Saturday, supposedly on behalf of the Gambian people.
But there can hardly be any member of his government who would support such a stance, although they certainly dare not express this view.
Yahya Jammeh appears to be echoing Laurent Gbagbo’s Daughter, Marie Antoinette Singleton, who continues to consider her detained father as president. She is reported to have enlisted the services of lawyers known to have defended well-known war criminals, including NAZI war criminals and Iraq’s former dictator, Sadam Hussein.
In the view of Jammeh, it is President Ouattara who should be tried and not Gbagbo.
“Alassane Ouattara and his forces cannot go scot-free and blame everything on President Laurent Gbagbo, who according to the Ivorian constitution is the legitimate president of Ivory Coast”, Jammeh said.
Since the emergence of the problem in Ivory Coast and the stance taken by Yahya Jammeh, Gambians have been wary about his intentions. Elections in Gambia have barely been free and fair, but with the wind of change blowing on the continent, many Gambians have been hoping that come November polls could be time for change in their country, which has been under a dictatorship for over 17 years now this July.
Jammeh’s opponents, however, believe his expressed opposition to international intervention in Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa demonstrates his intentions to follow on Gbagbo’s foot step in case he loses elections. Apart from ruling out any development for areas in Gambia where the people do not vote for him, Jammeh has said that whether the people voted for him or not he would still win.
Many world leaders, including, recently, UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, has stressed that the outcome of Ivory Coast’s problem would greatly influence elections elsewhere on the continent. And these leaders have been determined to ensure that the will of the people prevails, hence the removal of Gbagbo.
As far as Yahya Jammeh is concerned, however, the international community is the problem as they have no rights to intervene in Ivory Coast or anywhere in Africa. He is calling for fresh elections as a condition for his recognizing anyone other than Gbagbo as legitimate president of Ivory Coast.
“As far as we are concerned, the only solution to avert a long drawn-out civil war with all its attendance consequences in Ivory Coast is to reorganize presidential elections in the shortest possible time,” he said.
But this statement of Yahya Jammeh is bound to arouse suspicion given that the war is supposed to be over already. There have been reports of his involvement in the arming of Gbagbo, in contravention of international arms embargo. And now, by predicting a civil war when the guns are slowly but gradually going silent, Jammeh could be sending a message to Gbagbo loyalists to resist the internationally recognized president’s rule.
Interim government without Ouattara
Yahya Jammeh is also calling for an interim government that he insists must not include the legitimate president Alassane Ouattara.
“In the meantime, an interim government of national unity should be formed without Alassane Ouattara as he also has a lot to answer for,” Jammeh said, further calling for “an impartial and comprehensive investigation into all the atrocities carried out in Ivory Coast by a team of honest and decent Allah-fearing people.”
Calling on the UN to ensure the safety, protection, and well being of Gbagbo, referring to him as “the constitutionally legal president of Ivory Coast”, Jammeh further insists that the former Ivorian president “cannot be tried while Alassane Ouattara, the internationally selected president of Ivory Coast, goes scot free after massacring thousands of civilians just to be president”.
The Gambian ruler added that Gbagbo must be set him free.
“One thing that is very clear to all Africans today is that the plot to re-colonize Africa is very real and we most stand up to it,” he said.
Jammeh went on to say that events in Ivory Coast have vindicated him and his government in their earlier assertion that “Western neocolonialist-sponsored agents in Africa that owe allegiance only to themselves and their Western masters are ready to walk on thousands of dead bodies for the Presidency.”
Interestingly, Jammeh himself is on record, countless times, propagating a popular saying of his, that he would kill thousands of Gambians if need be to save the rest, meaning his rule. He has done so in 2000 with the massacre of over a dozen unarmed school children whose protest he feared was aimed at bringing his government down.