Yahya Is Truly A Bad Guy – Him Staying/Leaving Is No Good Goal Of Our Struggle
Yahya is a real bad guy! After 20 years we know he will not preside over a functioning democratic republic of The Gambia. In fact the nation is moving towards a constitutional monarchy as opposed a sovereign republic. Yahya arbitrarily seizing private power for personal gains and putting citizens into force-labor in his so-called farms including civil servants who at the time are on the clock at the expense of tax paying Gambians. Yet Yahya staying and/or leaving is not and should not be the end goal of our struggle. The danger in that halfway goal is that we are likely not to address the root causes of all these problems.
The goal of our struggle is and/or should be ‘A Democratic Republic of The Gambia’. By that I mean A Functioning Institutional Democracy.
Should Yahya die today of any natural cause, do you think that will lead Gambia into the desired democracy. No one knows for sure what will happen but it is very likely he is succeeded by another military personality who will likely impose his/her version of democracy (dictatorship and building another city and farming industry in his or her birth place). The opposite may also happen but if history is any good source of reference anytime man was/is trusted with unchecked power it has been abused. Surely, there were few men in history who had the opportunity to abuse power but choose to do good with it.
Should Yahya get depose through elections, my guess is the successor will impose his/her version of democracy through concentration of power at the executive branch. This is what Yahya has been doing and it was what Jawara did. I am not sure there exist a Gambian who would do differently without the necessary checks overseen by citizens capable of life of democracy. They (leaders) eventually become too powerful for those who put them there in the first place to have any ability to remove them. Instead they dictate how we think, what we learn/listen, what we eat, what we value, etc.
Should Yahya go down through a coup – well the coup leader in the first place has used unlawful means. What else is there to say what will likely succeed that? Interestingly the coup leader can make a good case that democratic processes has been corrupted to a level they’re not worth pursuing. There is a merit to this argument at its face. The problem is it becomes a vicious circle that has neither a beginning nor an ending. This was synonymous to Yahya overthrowing Jawara when others have pursued democratic processes without success. We have to become a nation of laws and no men. Important to note here, laws that serve the interest of the people and not those perpetuating someone’s grip on power.
The likely difference in the outcomes of these 3 possible ways of the demise of Yahya will largely depend on the personality of the successor. That is his/her lust for power. The difference of Jawara and Yahya – both have high lust for power. Yahya is more brutal in dealing with his opponents than Jawara but he (Jawara) was equally ruthless in bringing down opponents. Just changing the presidential seat occupier in Banjul will certain change the boys/girls running around town but will not address the underlying issues stalling our democracy. In addition thinking or believing that Yahya is the obstacle is a mistake. Jawara was, Yahya is and the successor will! That is we all will!
This will continue to be the case until majority of our citizens acquire ‘The Requisite Capacity’ to live a life of democracy. Until that day you can write the best constitution, the best laws and the neatest institutional governance arrangement someone will abuse it. Only capacitated people can/will uphold and sustain democracy and nothing else.
To achieve this will not be easy given our timid socio-cultures and as well the rooted culture of patronizing politics since the founding of our nation. However none of such reasons are cause not to start working on it.
It will require a holistic and multi facets pragmatic political approach. Our struggle has to be politically pragmatic dealing with ‘The Yahya Problem’ that has its roots in who we’re as people. That in part means our primary demand is not Yahya staying and/or leaving. Achieving the end goal will determine who stays, leaves, dies and/or goes to jail. In employing this pragmatism our struggle should always be attuned to the level of the global desire and willingness to defend freedom and democracy. The global freedom and democracy stand is our leverage; that leverage is our only tool to enable us exerts maximum pressure on Yahya.
One good example in the ever-dwindling global desire and willingness to defend freedom and democracy at its core (the defense of Right to Life) is the recent Syria debacle. After US threatened to use military force against Assad for supposed use of chemical weapons on Syrians – he is now a central part of the political agreement making him the legitimate leader. This is the dirty party of global politics but is very real and the sooner we realize and play accordingly the better or else we will remain at the losing end. That leaves the other fighters (terrorists/rebels/bandits or freedom fighters, who knows) with no immediate chance of assuming power. This became an acceptable option because to take him (Assad) out is an expensive proposition but also the lack of political will among global powers. They therefore used political pragmatism to settle for what they settled for. Yahya to the global eye is not as bad as Assad, therefore if the global powers can accept Assad remain in power they will not hesitate to have Yahya around unless we make an extremely good case for the opposite.
To turn this somewhat unfriendly global enthusiasm for defense of freedom and democracy into our favor will require not only understanding these dynamics but also earn our seat amongst the shaker and movers. Had we did our homework by now we will not only have few demonstrators along avenues leading to UN General Assembly Meeting Plaza but also has representatives lobbying our cause at such corridors like UN and other multilaterals, Number 10 Downing Street, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, The Hill, etc. Folks this is our winning formula!
How would our struggle earn a seat among the world of freedom and democracy. The short and general answer is we’ve to play pragmatic politics, however that is not helpful to a politically passive populace like ours. Then what’s it specifically? First we have to be ‘Somebody’ and stand for ‘Something’ that has meaning to global powers. I have already laid out these steps in my earlier postings – that is we have to have ‘A National Face’ and as well ‘A Comprehensive National Democracy Vision’. Those two will inform our coordinated actions both inside and outside the borders of The Gambia, what I called ‘An Iron Wheel’.
In varying forms this is how every successful struggle in history had been managed – ANC and their charter against apartheid, PLO and their charter against Israeli occupation, the Civil Rights Movement and the Dream in US for equality of citizens under the law are just few to name. On the other hand we’ve also seen endless takeovers, transitions and chaotic civil wars all over our sub-region and yet none of those countries are one I can call a democracy including Abdoulaye wade’s Senegal. In fact the later at one time intend on the coronation of his son to the throne. This was the case because citizens left matters to few who they assumed would bring democracy when they get to the big seat. Others were with the view the current power holder is so bad that any way he is out is ok – before they know 100s of thousands were killed and/or de-limb and after all that horror the heroes never let democracy rain. Let us not fall for the same mistake even though the current situation dire.
This approach will give us the leverage (International support – political, funding and moral backing) needed to de-power Yahya. The process will institutionalize political education necessary to create the requisite human capacity that will not only dictate the desire changes but also be daily charge with its sustenance. It is recognized that such a social engineering will require time and resources but there is yet a viable alternative option.
The use of global freedom and democracy political leverage is our only practically manageable process to de-power Yahya. Several others ways such as ones (natural dead, elections and/or military coup) mentioned earlier are possible but not totally manageable if at all. Every day goes by without a concerted action to place ourselves on that long path is a missed time that we will pay a heavy price; the longer the delay the hefty the price for us to afford.
The arbitrary demand that Yahya must go and go first before we shape our destiny is an untenable political demand. In fact there is no political pathway to fulfilling such demand besides the use of force – I have never hold a gun and hope not to have a cause to fire one except in self-defense. Don’t get me wrong I have no problem against Yahya going away today but there is no practical formula that can be totally managed by we the people. The only option available to us is the use of political leverage – ‘A National Face’, ‘A Comprehensive National Democracy Vision’ to be followed by all the possible lobbying in this world. That will drag Yahya to the negotiating table to talk about The Gambia and not him and/or any other politician. The outcome will be a people dictated governing arrangement better than both Jawara’s and Yahya’ Gambia and more importantly on the terms of the people of The Gambia.
This is not an easy undertaking and in no way I am suggesting so. By the inherit nature of politics it will consume time and will cost lot of resources. Fortunately we can afford them. Sadly though, we might accept certain outcomes that are not desired but the better of the alternatives to pave ways to achieving our end goal – ‘A Democratic Republic of The Gambia. The overriding power of this approach is in its people centered modulus that dictates the outcome and sustaining such outcome.
Burama FL Jammeh
The Founder/General Secretary
The People’s Movement For Democratic Gambia
810 844 6040