Monday, 26 November 2012 22:00(Column) – About two weeks ago, the deadline given to President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia to vacate office by the newly formed National Transitional Council of the Gambia (NTCG) came and went, living us all wondering what is going to happen next.
Online Gambian radio and newspaper commentators made us all believe that the organisation, which was formed some months ago in response to the brutalities, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, disappearances, and killings of Gambians by the Jammeh regime was all prepared and ready to storm Banjul, capture Jammeh and that is it; game over.
The NTCG and its supporters told us that they want Jammeh to resign immediately and are willing to use violence to end dictatorship in the country. Their press statements have not however, disclosed who Jammeh should handover power to.
Section 65 (2) of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia, states that on the death or resignation of a president, the Vice-President, or if there is no Vice-President in office at the time, the Speaker shall assume the office of President for the residue of the term of the former President.
So I don’t know whether the NTCG wants Jammeh to handover power to the Vice President or ignore the constitution and handover power to Mr Bajo.
I do admire the courage of Mr Bajo and his NTCG team, but I think the whole idea of launching a rebellion in the Gambia is simply premature and poorly thought through. The idea was made without taking into consideration the political climate in the Gambia.
The problem of Jammeh's dictatorship in the Gambia is very deep. Since coming to power in 1994, Mr Jammeh has deliberately weakened the political, social and religious institutions of the country by putting them firmly under his control. This has resulted in a situation where Gambians in the country are unable to work together, to confide in each other or even to do much of anything at their own initiative.
The people are living in state of fear and even though they are aware of the brutalities of the Jammeh regime and the lack of true democracy in the country, they are still reluctant to accept any gospel of change. And no real change can happen in the Gambia until the mindsets of these people are changed.
I say this because it is the people who keep dictators in power. Dictators like Jammeh require the assistance of the people they rule, without which they cannot secure and maintain the sources of their political power. And as long as these people continue to see him as their Mansa, they will always resist to change.
Now coming back to Sidia Bajo’s threats to launch an armed incursion into the Gambia, which many Gambians in the Diaspora have given their vocal support, I am yet to be convinced that it is the right solution to Gambia's problems.
Like all Gambians who are committed to the restoration of true democracy and the rule of law in the country, I want an end to the political madness in our dear country, but my study of African politics have made me suspicious of any group that wants to impose its will on the people.
We have seen it all before in neighbouring countries and other parts of the world where a group of people takes over power with promises of change only to turn out to be more ruthless and corrupt than the dictators they have succeeded.
This was the case with the July 22 coup, which despite the promise of Mr Jammeh and his revolutionary council members to be soldiers with a difference, have introduced what Baba Galleh Jallow described as sit-tight dictatorship and are running our country like their personal estate to do with as they pleases without due regards to the laws of the Gambia.
I am not saying that Mr Bajo is going to be another monster like Jammeh, but he needs to explain his vision and mission more clearly to the Gambian people.
I agree that our political landscape has rotten into decay and we need to critically assess the present, plan the future and prepare for the tasks that lie ahead. But, however noble the NTCG’s motives are, I still believe that they need to go back to the drawing board.
The dictatorship in the Gambia cannot be successful destroyed without the backing of the Gambian people, and the NTCG needs to win their hearts first. It needs to explain to the Gambian people why they believe that Jammeh is bad for them and the Gambia. It needs to sell the idea of change to Gambians rather than impose change on them. That is what democrats do.
Secondly, I believe that any form of armed attack in the Gambia will instead of removing Jammeh from power, only increase the sufferings of the Gambian people. Armed rebellions have rarely won freedom. They instead trigger brutal repression that frequently leaves the ordinary people more helpless than before.
As Gene Sharp stated: “By placing confidence in violence means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually the harsh military realities usually becomes inescapable. The dictators always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the democrats are (almost always) no match.”
I believe that change is inevitable in the Gambia as modern dictatorships are more vulnerable than before. No dictatorship is permanent as Aristotle noted many years ago when he said “Oligarchy and tyranny are shorter-lived than any other constitution.”
To conclude, let me bore you with the story of the Greek warrior, Achilles, who no blow would injure and no sword would penetrate his skin. Legends say when he was a baby, his mother dipped him into the water of the magical River Styx, which protected his body from all mortal danger. There was, however a problem. Since he was held by the heel when he was dipped into the river, the magical water had not covered that small part of his body. When Achilles was a grown man he appeared to all to be invulnerable to the enemies’ weapons. However, in the battle against Troy, instructed by Apollo who knew the weaknesses, an enemy soldier Paris, shot Achilles with a poison arrow in the one place where he was vulnerable...his heel. The strike proved fatal.
The moral of this story is like Achilles, Jammeh also has his weaknesses and if we seriously want get rid of him, we should never fight him in a game he is strong at. We should instead identify what his weaknesses are and concentrate our attack on them.
Written by PK Jarju
You can follow me on twitter @pkjarju
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