Madi Jobarteh

(JollofNews) – Let me go straight to the point. At this stage of his life, which is intertwined with the life of the Gambia, I wish to strongly advise that Yahya Jammeh to take the offer of asylum from Nigeria. I strongly believe that taking this offer is a unique opportunity to preserve the most precious gift he has; that is his life. Of course such a course of action also saves the Gambia from either a civil war or a foreign military intervention or both. Saving the Gambia is in fact the reason for this piece of advice to Yahya.

To understand the context, it is clear that the only reason why Yahya Jammeh is unwilling to step down is entirely because of his fear of facing justice because of his atrocious rule.

Secondly he has been involved in numerous illicit activities such as arms and drugs trafficking with dangerous actors in South America, Eastern Europe as well as in Africa. For example the discovery of a one billion dollar cocaine factory in Bonto in 2010 operated by South Americans could not have taken place without the involvement and knowledge of the highest office holder. Jammeh also engaged with the notorious Ukrainian arms dealer Victor Bout and there are reports that at least one of his aircraft came from that part of the world.

Thirdly, we would recall that the late Baba Jobe was actually in the UN list for travel ban for involvement in the blood diamond saga and the conflict in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Of course Baba Jobe was into that business as a front man for Yahya Jammeh. Thus given all these engagements, locally and internationally one can understand how Jammeh has entangled himself to the point that life without the presidency means imprisonment or death.

But I think Jammeh can at least preserve his own life even if he will have to go to jail at one point. But I do not see him go to jail soon enough because it is always tedious, cumbersome and with huge effort to bring a former president to justice. In any case, I wish to share some scenarios here, which can serve as lessons for Yahya Jammeh so that he can see that the asylum offer from Nigeria and Morocco is his saviour. What is clear is that he cannot ever serve as president of the Gambia as he used to do after January 19.

At this moment, there are a number of former dictators like him who are hiding in various countries, peacefully and quietly. Some have been sentenced in their home countries in absentia, but many are yet to face any trial. They still have their lives. I think Yahya Jammeh should look at those scenarios so that he saves himself.

Lessons From Former Dictators

One of those former dictators is Mengistu Haile Mariam who led a Red Terror in Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991 killing between half a million to two million people. Since his overthrow he fled to Zimbabwe. Even though he was convicted of genocide by an Ethiopian court, yet the tyrant lives peacefully in safety in Harare.

We also have the case of Blaise Campoare who was ousted in a mass uprising in 2014 in Burkina Faso. He fled to Ivory Coast where he has been quiet so far. There is no doubt that he will face justice but this is no time soon. One of his crimes is the assassination of the Great African Patriot Thomas Sankara in 1987.

President Jammeh with Presidents, Buhari, Sirleaf and Mahama

We also have the case of Ben Ali of Tunisia who was kicked out by the masses marking the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011. He fled to Saudi Arabia with his family. Meantime a Tunisian court has sentenced him to 20 years for inciting violence and murder. But he is safe for the moment.

Another case is that of Hissene Habre, the Butcher of Ndjamena who was toppled by rebels in 1990. He fled to Senegal and lived quietly and peacefully there until 2016 when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for human rights abuses and the killing of 40, 000 people!

Other dictators who ran before rebels or foreign intervention reached them include Idi Amin of Uganda, and Mobutu of Zaire. Idi Amin was chased out by Tanzanian forces in 1979 and fled to Saudi Arabia where he lived until his death in 2003 without facing trial. For Mobutu, he ran away before rebels led by Laurent Kabila reached his palace in 1997. He eventually died in Morocco three months later.

Hence these are all scenarios, which provide lessons for Yaya Jammeh to learn from. If he grabs an asylum offer, he can save his own life and that of his family as well as save the lives of Gambians among whom are his associates, family and friends. How much he cares about them will determine what choices he will make.

Failure To Take Asylum

In the event that Yaya Jammeh refuses to take the Nigeria and Morocco asylum offers, then he risks losing his life or face arrest and imprisonment. Again there are several former dictators whose fall should have been a lesson for Yaya Jammeh.

At the top of the list is Moammar Gadhafi of Libya. After 42 years of tyranny, the masses of Libya rose up against him in 2011. He responded with massive violence which also triggered foreign intervention by the US, France and UK mainly. Within 100 days he was chased out of his bunkers only to be shot to death by young Libyan boys. Since then Libya has known no peace.

We also have the case of Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast. In the 2010 presidential election, Bagbo lost to Allasane Ouattara yet rejected and annulled the results by accusing the electoral commission of fraud. He also took the matter to the constitutional court, which in fact ruled in his favour, but then it was clear that he only manipulated them as Yahya Jammeh manipulates the Gambian judiciary. In the end a civil war ensued which led to foreign intervention by France. He was arrested with his wife along with his party youth leader Ble Goude, and they were bundled to The Hague where he is now facing trial at the ICC.

Before all of this, we can recall the case of Samuel Doe of Liberia. Following his reign of terror much like Yahya Jammeh, he was confronted with a rebellion led by Charles Taylor in 1989. Refusing to escape even when the rebels where just a street across the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Samuel Doe was captured by the rebel forces of Prince Johnson in 1990. He was badly tortured and mutilated to death. These scenarios provide instructive lessons for Jammeh and failure to seize the asylum offer will spell doom for him sooner than later.

What Is Going To Happen?

The many faces of President Yahya Jammeh Cartoon: Damien Glez

The fact that ECOWAS leaders have invited Adama Barrow to the France-Africa Summit in Mali on January 14 is a huge message. Not only have ECOWAS, AU and the international community embraced the verdict of the Gambian people. But they are also sending a clear and an unequivocal message that they are determined to kick out Yahya Jammeh.

Again, let us recall the case of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone to link the two scenarios. In 1997 some rogue soldiers led by Johnny Paul Koroma overthrew Kabbah’s regime and the man fled to Guinea. Within nine months, Kabbah was brought back to Freetown by ECOMOG forces led by Nigeria. Thus what I see happening is ECOWAS forces coming back with Adama Barrow on or before January 19 with full force. In that instance, I can see Yahya Jammeh physically captured or killed.

By virtue of its geographic make-up inside Senegal, and the limited strength of the Gambia Armed forces most of who do not support Jammeh, as well as the sophisticated stature of the Senegalese and Nigerian forces with longstanding experience in these kinds of activities, it is obvious that ECOMOG can contain the Gambia within one hour.

Yahya Jammeh must bear in mind that the Senegalese already had military experience in the Gambia in 1981, and the Nigerians have the longest expertise and experience in foreign intervention all over the region. Hence these countries have by now gathered the most up-to-date data and analysis on the Gambia’s security situation that I am of the view that their intervention will be surgical with maximum impact and limited cost.

In light of the foregoing, one needs to advice Jammeh to see reason and seek the best option. He needs to be realistic that he can no longer be president of the Gambia. Even if there is no foreign intervention, it is clear that a civil war or a rebel incursion will erupt in the Gambia if Jammeh insists on staying.

The 1996 Farafeni attack or the 1997 Kartong attack as well as the 2014 Banjul attack are indicators of what can happen if Jammeh stays. He cannot survive a civil war or a rebellion or a foreign military intervention. Secondly he cannot also survive a mass uprising of determined citizens.

Yahya must also know that it is totally impractical that he can obtain amnesty from anyone because the crimes he has committed cannot be forgiven by anyone. Thus sooner or later, he will have to face justice. The issue is, how to manage that part of history such that he will still own his life even if he has to live in a prison somewhere.

Therefore failure to go for the asylum offered by Nigeria, and standing up against the Gambia and the international community, I think reality will catch up with Yahya Jammeh in which he might end up in his own ‘Five Star Hotel’ at Mile 2. Given that he has not refurbished his hotel for a long time and has not paid his staffs well, it means he will find the rooms there extremely infested with cockroaches and mosquitoes with very bad food and extremely unkind guards and fellow inmates. He needs to think about that.

Time is running out for him, and the sooner he makes a decision the better. Yahya Jammeh has to accept the fact that he has fallen like all tyrants do at one point. His next move should be how to make that fall lighter and less painful. But he cannot stop it.

Yahya does not have the kind of opportunity that Bashar al-Assad has in Syria with support from powerful countries and a strong, well-equipped army behind him with a divided people. Thus I conclude that Yahya should seek asylum in that case and save his life even if he does not care about saving the Gambia. To refuse asylum is to face death or torturous imprisonment at Mile 2. Let his advisors and loved ones wake him up.

Waato Tijay! Wahtu Amatut! #GambiaHasDecided.

by Madi Jobarteh