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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Why Nigeria must not support a Military Intervention in Gambia.

This December Gambia, a tiny West African Nation, surrounded by Senegal to its North, South and East, held its first presidential election. This led to the emergence of Adama Barrow of the United Democratic Party (UDP) as the President elect.
                Prior to the election Gambians and the International Community in general shared the fear that Yahaya Jammeh The Incumbent President of Gambia would not relinquish his seat as the President of the Gambia, but to the initial surprise of his people and the international community, President Yahaya Jammeh came out to concede defeat to Adamma Barrow the candidate of the UDP,  many who celebrated the initial triumph of democracy in Gambia, called it a good season for democracy in West Africa applauding the successful elections in Ghana and Nigeria where opposition candidates emerged as President elects with the incumbent President in both cases conceding defeat, were disappointed when Jammeh rose up later to challenge the election results, President Jammeh described the election process and results as “influenced” by foreign actors.

                    The fear of a political crisis in Gambia have forced leaders of the ECOWAS sub-region to hold talks with President Jammeh in Gambia, with the President of Nigeria named the Chief Mediator. The President of the West African Commision Alain Souza have since suggested that military options are not off the table if President Jammeh still refuses to honour the results of the election even the mediation efforts by ECOWAS fails to stop Jammeh from holding on to power.

                        Addressing the issue of the Gambian Presidential election, ECOWAS should thread with caution as the claims by Jammeh that the election was influenced should be taken seriously. The commission should investigate these claims made by a sitting Head of State, that, the election conducted by the electoral body under his Government may have been compromised. If Jammeh is able to provide reasonable evidence to back such claims as he is making ,  if Jammeh can provide enough evidence to substantiate the facts that a foreign power somewhere have in one way or the other influenced the just concluded election, If Jammeh as the Gambian Head of State have reasons to believe that the election conducted under his government was not free, fair or credible enough as to warrant his handing over office to the candidate produced by the election, then the ECOWAS Commission should be concerned about the capacity of electoral bodies in West Africa to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
ECOWAS, if provided with reasonable evidence of foul play in the just concluded Gambian elections, instead of supporting the idea of a military intervention, ECOWAS should form a committee to put things in place for the conduct of a re-run election in Gambia, to be conducted by a neutral and independent electoral body to be created and supervised by ECOWAS. If the Gambians do not want Jammeh as their President in the first election, I am quite sure their opinion won’t change in the second election.  The mistake of using military force to remove sitting Presidents in Africa is becoming a popular “fail” that we must begin to reconsider. If Jammeh claims are true that a foreign power is influencing election results in West Africa, then leaders of the West African region should be very concerned, if this is a problem for Gambia today, it may become a problem for another West African Nation tomorrow.

                        While Alain Souza, the President of the ECOWAS commission is mulling the idea of a Senegal led intervention into Gambia, we should all know this one thing about the Armed Forces of Senegal especially their Army which is regularly being trained and equipped by the United States in its claimed anti terror efforts in Africa. The  irony of this is, while the United States is frustrating the Counter terrorism efforts of Nigeria which have been battling attacks from Islamic terrorism for the past few years, by blocking Nigeria from purchasing the much needed western military hardware needed for her anti-terror efforts. The United State have been training and funding the Armed forces of Senegal in a claimed Counter Terrorist effort even though Senegal is not directly threatened by any of the known Islamic Terror groups.  One could easily guess that terrorism is not the primary reason why the United States is training and funding a country not affected by terrorism for a war against terror, while those fighting the true war against terror are being abandoned by this same Foreign Power. The proximity of Senegal to Gambia being that they share major land borders is reason enough for any Foreign Power that is claiming to be “championing Democracy” to want to use the Senegalese Military as a tool to remove their long time rival and Dictator even if it takes influencing elections or going against the wishes of the Gambian people , or using military force either directly or indirectly.

                    We watched the same thing happen in Libya, where Terrorists posing as anti-government Rebels where assisted to topple a sitting Government, without having an effective master plan in place to prevent an escalation of the already volatile situation in that country. Africa, especially some North and Western African States have been facing terror attacks from terrorist that were radicalised, trained and equipped in Libya. What we see now as terrorism and insurgency in North and West Africa is the aftermath of the failed state situation that Libya was thrown into after the foreign backed removal of Gadaffi from power, which saw terrorist groups gaining access to Government owned heavy stock pile of weapons in the ensuing anarchy, these terrorists later used these weapons to wage a destructive Jihad in North and West Africa. These are the weapons we now see in use by Terrorists groups such as Boko Haram, Al Ansaru and other Dangerous terror groups that are presently operating in West Africa.

                      Democracy is more democratic if the election process to back it up is fairly and credibly conducted by a non bias and Independent electoral commission. The question ECOWAS should be asking at this point is; where these the conditions under which the just concluded Gambian Presidential election was conducted? If not, then we should look towards conducting a re-run election with a credible, neutral and independent electoral body. We should not be too quick to turn Gambia into another Libya. The competence of an electoral body created by ECOWAS to conduct elections in Gambia can be found in Article 12, page 9-10 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.