Africa: International Media and Human Rights Organisations Stole the Gambia Election
By Lonzen Rugira*
President Yahya Jammeh, in his New Year’s message to the Gambian people, persisted in his rejection of last month’s election outcome, which he says was tampered with.
On this basis, he quickly rescinded his concession to Adama Barrow, the coalition candidate. He has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the election null and to demand for a fresh vote; meanwhile, he has declared that he will stay in office in order to ‘defend the constitution.’
But was it the election that was tampered with or was it Jammeh himself? Jammeh’s mistake thus far is to pretend that the reason for his rescission is the former.
He ought to have come clean that it was the latter that had forced his change of heart.
It was all perplexing. For some reason, folks in the leadership of the political opposition thought it was wise to bloviate to the international media about their plans for the president, a man who had just conceded defeat: there would be no immunity; they’d return to the ICC; they’d seize Jammeh’s assets and prevent him from traveling abroad; and they’d prosecute him in less than a year and possibly within the next three months because they wanted to “move fast,” a senior official was quoted saying.
They’d even go as far as bragging that Jammeh had tried to reach out to Barrow but the latter had denied him access. They feared that Jammeh was too cunning that if given an audience he would manage to win himself a deal that would exchange immunity for leaving power: “The President-Elect has refused because his predecessor is so unpredictable,” a senior member of the opposition coalition is quoted telling the Guardian news organisation, before boasting, “There’s no question of immunity.”
Similar stories were published in the aftermath of the election. There were all kinds of “inside reporting” that painted a picture of a besieged Jammeh. In one of the stories, the reporter was certain about the events that transpired on election night.
She wrote how the chiefs of police and army had gone to meet with Jammeh and that they had urged him to ‘prepare for defeat.’ They told him, she said, that he was on his own because ‘the people had spoken.’
He could not count on their support henceforth. Whether such reporting intends to convince that one, Jammeh in this case, is at once a brutal dictator as well as someone who welcomes threats from his subordinates is left hanging.
In her reportage, she even managed to solicit quotes from senior opposition politicians – the government in waiting – who were eager to play along. They are caricatured and they caricature themselves along the way.
I, like most people observing the train-wreck, waited for the voice of reason from the opposition to deny any association with such ‘inside reporting’ and to provide the requisite reassurance.