Building The New Gambia: ECOWAS Is On Track! No Change.

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By: Madi Jobarteh

First of all, it is important for all Gambians to realize that the aim of ECOWAS is not to wage war on the Gambia. That is, and has never been their aim. ECOWAS is engaged with the Gambia issue primarily in fulfillment of its legal and political obligations for which the Gambia is also an integral part in those decisions and instruments. ECOWAS is interested only in defending the constitution and sovereignty of the people of the Gambia.

The Context

ECOWAS is the organization comprising the peoples and governments of West Africa set up in 1975 to promote the political integration and economic development of our sub-region. For that purpose it has created various protocols in addition to its treaty as well as established institutions to promote its objectives. In the wake of the First Liberia Civil War from 1989 to 1997, ECOWAS entered into the business of military intervention for the first time to protect and keep peace in that country. This was during the Chairmanship of Sir Dawda Jawara at the time when ECOMOG was created to help Liberia to stabilize. Indeed ECOWAS did a good job there to support Liberia transition from conflict to democracy. But then the Second Liberia Civil War broke out in 1999 to 2003 in which ECOWAS again became heavily involved leading to the resignation of Charles Taylor in 2003 and the establishment of democracy with the election of current Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005.

We have also seen how ECOWAS became a key player in the Sierra Leone civil war between 1991 and 2002, leading to the end of that conflict and ushering in peace and democracy. In all these situations, ECOWAS employs peace building and diplomatic measures. This is what had also happened in Burkina Faso in 2014 when rogue generals of the presidential guards of the ousted Dictator Blaise Campaore interrupted the revolution of the people by seizing power briefly. ECOWAS engaged with the situation as well leading to the surrender of Gen. Djenjere and his rebel soldiers.

ECOWAS always takes the path of diplomacy first because this is its primary means of conflict resolution as espoused in its ‘Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security’ adopted in 1999. In 2001 a supplementary protocol was added to the Mechanism called the Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy. The aims of these instruments are to prevent, manage and resolve internal and inter-State conflicts, and to promote democracy and good governance in the sub-region. It was as a result of these conflicts in Liberia and then Sierra Leone and other countries that ECOWAS had to develop its capacity fully to address peace and security issues. It is under the Mechanism that it has set up the Mediation and Security Council as well as the ECOWAS Standby Force, which are already engaged with the Gambia issue.

Hence what the ECOWAS Chairperson, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said today in Accra does not reflect any change in position of the sub-regional body. Rather she is still treading on the same path that the organization has always used to address threats to peace and democracy in the sub-region. Diplomacy is the first tool of employment. ECOWAS has to be seen to exhaust the full length of diplomacy before they kick off with the second option, which is military intervention.

The APRC Petition and Supreme Court

Many are worried about her reference to the ongoing illegal petition of the APRC, and rightly so. I want to say that all Gambians including the Coalition and GDC must begin to discount this petition by standing behind the position of the Gambia Bar Association. Yes, the right to petition is in the constitution, but the Gambia Bar Association, as the most authority body on law and justice in the country has told us that it would be unconstitutional and a violation of natural justice for Yaya Jammeh to empanel judges for the Supreme Court only to sit to hear a case in which he is the lead beneficiary. Hence Gambians must stop singing about this petition as a right of Yaya Jammeh when the facts are that the requirements for him to enjoy this right do not exist legally and constitutionally. Let us not help Yaya Jammeh perpetuate illegality by acknowledging that he has a right to petition. The right does not exist. Period.

This petition is not only dead and illegal, but it is the most ridiculous petition in the history of election petitions. In this petition, filed by Bala Garba Jahumpa on behalf of the APRC is asking for two things on a very contradictory premise. In the first place it is asking for the Supreme Court to declare the December 1 presidential election void and invalid because they claim it did not comply with the Elections Act. They further said that the election was not fairly conducted in good faith and therefore not credible. Yet at the same time, APRC went further to ask the same Supreme Court to declare Yaya Jammeh as duly elected based on what it calls actual votes of the same election that they have condemned as void, invalid and fraudulent! Am confused!

The question therefore is this: How can the APRC ask that the election of Adama Barrow be declared null and void because of a fraudulent election, yet they still ask the same Supreme Court to declare Yaya Jammeh the winner on the basis of that same election? It is like a father who denies his daughter a present because he claims the present is bad, yet calls his son to give him that same present as a good gift. What an unjust father? Therefore even if the Supreme Court sits on this matter, it is clear that no judge in his or her right mind would entertain such a clumsy petition. It will be thrown out! In any case, the petition cannot in any way stop the inauguration of Pres. Adama Barrow on January 19.

What To Do?

What we need to do, as Gambians is to continue to work hard to defend the vote. Let Adama Barrow and his team continue to demonstrate more proactive and strategic leadership. Let the people continue to intensify civil disobedience. Let us join the Gambia Bar Association to demand the resignation of the Mercenary Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbele because of his professional misconduct. Let Yaya Jammeh realize that, either way, diplomacy or military intervention, the peace and stability of the Gambia lies in his hands. Will he burn the Gambia or will he save the country he claims to love. History is recording. Time will tell. #GambiaHasDecided.

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