Since he took over power in 1994, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has freely rule over the Gambian people without any resistance whatsoever. He hires, fires, arrest, detain and imprison with impunity without a single resistant either from an individual, group of citizens or an institution. For almost 20 years Jammeh has imposed on Gambia everything he wants whether it is for or against the general interest of the Gambian people. He managed to subdue citizens; slowly destroy the little institutions he inherited such as the Student Union, Press union, Labor Union, Teachers union, Bar association and the little judicial independence that existed in Gambia before 1994. Thus, the blatant mutilation of the Gambian constitution by watering it down through his legislative Parliament and the enacting of draconian laws without a single legal challenge emboldened President Jammeh and turned him into a one man State who controls everything. This finally led to a President who dangerously think and even said that he “owns the country”.
In life everything has a beginning and is sure to have an ending. The Gambian President for far too long has gone unchallenged, untested and ill advised that being the President means he is above the law; and is the Judge, the jury and the executioner. This has led to an unprecedented consolidation of power in the hands of one man who is not shy from using his amassed power. He has arguably forced the most productive citizenry into exile and has rendered the others impotent through false patronage in hiring, arrest, imprisonment and extrajudicial killings.
In late August 2012, President Jammeh overstepped his boundaries and executed nine convicted inmates and threatened to execute all forty-nine death row convicts in Gambia in the name of stopping crime. He was trying to show his toughness and by executing alleged criminal convicts accused of murder and treason Jammeh thought his actions were justified and will win the sympathy of the country. This was a deadly mistake and one that will go down in history as the incident that sparks real political resistance against his regime. Almost immediately the killings of prisoners attracted widespread international condemnation and a sparkling protest from Gambians across major cities in the world. Jammeh was shocked that prisoner killings would attract more outrage than even his April 10 & 11th Student Massacre. Scared of the backlash Jammeh organized a PR campaign for citizens to go on national television and justify his cruel actions. Most of the people who led that PR became his immediate victims.
The execution protest woke Gambian activists up who suddenly realized that Jammeh will not stop at anything to get his way. Then came his visit to the 68th UN General Assembly which set the stage for the real battle ground and test on his strength. When confronted by less than twenty determined exile protesters at a New York hotel, the real Jammeh was unmasked. He wouldn’t dare leave the hotel to face his protesters which went viral on social media and brought great satisfaction and enthusiasm for Gambian activists. Jammeh was never to have a peace of mind again outside the Gambia. He was set to be confronted in Belgium which affirmed that anywhere in the West is a no free zone for the Gambian leader.
As he contemplated yet another visit to the United States – a place his wife likes to call home, Jammeh braced for another show down. This time he was prepared with his own security but he underestimated the determination of the Gambian activists to ensure that he does not enjoy a breath of fresh air without challenge. He met fierce determined protesters who were ready to finally blow the cover off the dictator and expose his real grip on power in Gambia. The event permanently put the Gambia on the map for having one of the most brutal leaders in Africa who orders his agents to assault citizens even as he enjoys protection from the US secret service. It is certain those people were even disgusted with the assault on a woman and a journalist and had enough of him. Thus his expulsion from the luxury DC hotel was a polite warning that he must prepare to leave the country or face the consequences.
As Jammeh flew back to Gambia to continue his grip on to power, one thing is crystal clear; resistance against his iron fist rule is only going to get worse. From now on, it is a given that Gambian activists who are well spread across Europe and America, knows exactly how to muscle the dictator and every time Jammeh steps outside of Banjul he is going to have to share his space with angry Gambians. There is even increasing evidence that the next grand battle against Jammeh is going to be at his doorsteps in Banjul and his new Capital Kanilai. The Gambian people have had enough and once a people are pushed too hard against the wall, there is no alternative but to stand their ground. Gambians were glued to social media and online radios in Gambia to listen and witness the humiliation the President suffered in the United States. His PR campaign on the role he played in the US Africa summit can only be a laughing matter as many have already seen footage of his confrontation.
The President has no choice but begin to yield and what happens next would not be a surprise to any conscious Gambian. He would either need to open the political airspace in Gambia, ease his iron grip on to power and gradually allow dissent; or face the brunt of resistance that many have seen around the world. Rumors have it that even the opposition political establishment has taken a page from the Diaspora protest and the smallest crackdown on opposition supporters, will likely attract mass resistance. Gambians have finally come to terms that they have already paid a heavy price for giving Jammeh the benefits of the doubt and the saying that when you give a fool a yard he takes a mile is what Jammeh has become. For now the battle ground lines have been drawn and history is well positioned to capture the records that Jammeh either yields or ignites political uprising that will no doubt draw the curtains of dictatorship in Gambia.