Social media has these days been inundated with ridiculous stories of the Senegalese government mobilizing its armed forces for a military invasion of the Gambia to forcefully remove the APRC government from office if on January 19, 2017, the Gambia government doesn’t conform with the Senegalese-manipulated-ECOWAS ultimatum demanding the inauguration of Mr. Adama Barrow as president of the country.
I am hoping and praying that such a rumor of war spread mainly by enemies of the Gambia living abroad who would stop at nothing to destabilize our peaceful nation even exchange of surrendering our country’s sovereignty or statehood to Senegal will merely remain what I believe it is-wishiful thinking.
Notwithstanding, Senegal’s greatest political obsession with the Gambia has been to own our Anglophone nation and changed it into a Francophone one or a puppet regime taking orders from Dakar. Mr. Adama Barrow is giving them all the signs that he could be their candidate in finally fulfilling that objective, not caring whether the man commands the political or intellectual efficiency to deliver the promised land.
Indeed, Gambian dissidents living abroad have tried everything, organizing several military attacks against President Jammeh’s government since he was elected to office in 1996, starting from the first in November 1996, when Gambian mercenaries fighting in Liberia for Charles Taylor assembled in Sokone Village, Senegal, for three months before attacking the Gambia for regime change but failed woefully.
The last major attempt to overthrow the APRC government by armed attack was again financed and sponsored by the Gambian dissidents in the USA on December 30, 2014. The mercenaries flew from the USA with their key sponsors, landed into Senegal, attacked the Gambia but got severely beaten before retreating to Senegal and flying right back to the USA from Dakar Airport. At least the American government arrested, tried and convicted them into their prisons for the international crime committed.
Some of these dissident vultures living in America, Europe and Senegal are now eagerly contending for government positons in an Adama Barrow government with their qualifications for appointment measured by who hates President Jammeh most and would be willing to pursue his demise and that of all his believers and supporters after he steps down on January 19, 2017.
This writer Samsudeen Sarr is slated for public lynching because of his unflinching support for His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor Alhagie Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh Babillimansa. They will never succeed!
Of course, it has been an open secret well before Gambia attained her independence from Great Britain in 1965 that every Senegalese Government starting from that of the first after independence, headed by President Leopold Sedar Senghore (1960-1980) to the current, by President Macky Sall (2012-now), always overtly or covertly expressed its compulsion to annex our Anglophone nation into its 8th region.
Political scholars in both countries have been cognizant of this long-term strategic yearning of Gambia’s Francophone neighbor during the first PPP government of President Sir Dawda Jawara (1970-1994) to the current APRC government of His Excellency President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh (1996-now) to have the two countries merged into one nation called Senegambia with Gambia added as one more to their seven demarcated regions.
Nonetheless, the former president, Dawda Jawara and the current, HE President Jammeh at one point or another made it crystal clear to them that the two countries, by strategic interest cannot under their spooky terms and conditions become one country.
Obviously, the closest period Senegal had had in realizing the unrealistic objective of permanently occupying the Gambia was in 1981 when they intervened militarily to foil the infamous Kukoi-Samba-Sanyang’s coup d’ tat that seized power from the PPP government with the help of the Gambia Field Force, culminating into an imprudent bilateral agreement by the two heads of state and creating a Senegambia confederation that eight years later collapsed out of the disingenuous spirit characterizing the covenant.
From June 1981-the military intervention year-to September 1989, the withdrawal year-every effort by Senegal to merge the two states into federation with a monetary union discarding the Gambian currency, the Dalasi, in favor of the adoption of Senegal’s French-backed CFA was resisted by President Jawara and his entire PPP government.
President Abdou Joof (1981-2000) tried every trick imaginable to get President Jawara to ratify the federation treaty but failed. In fact, Mr. Kukoi Samba Sanyang who after losing control of the coup situation fled to Guinea Bissau became the key bogeyman in their blackmailing tactic for President Jawara to collaborate by constantly reminding him of Kukoi’s capability of coming back, stronger and more lethal, of which without Senegal’s permanent presence in the Gambia the PPP government had no chance of surviving his onslaught.
Apparently, to foil the 1981 coup, the Senegalese Army with the help of France totally crushed the small Field Force Unit that backed Kukoi the coup leader with a huge collateral damage in Gambian lives and properties that was never quantified up to this very day. The mass graves still visible by the Banjul Highway remain the only indicator that the thousands of men, women and children still not accounted for could be buried in them.
Many Senegalese soldiers were killed too but were all identified and financially compensated by the PPP government (Sir Dawda Jawara in his book Kairaba, mentioned that compensation package).
Suddenly overthrown from power when President Jawara thought no one could, he cold-bloodedly authorized the Senegalese to apply whatever means they could to get him back his government from Kukoi Samba Sanyang; yet, after everything was said and done he decided to stonewall all demands made by Senegal for the settlement of the “bill”.
The similarity today is that Mr. Adama Barrow, with the doubt cast over the legitimacy of his election victory, thanks to the corrupt or incompetent Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of the Gambia is also trying to say all the right thing to impress the Senegalese with even promises of making President Macky Sall of Senegal his closest adviser just to get to the Statehouse in Banjul. I am hoping that it is not another seduction ploy to militarily involve Senegal on his behalf as many are predicting the potential genocidal escapade?
However, the major difference in Senegal’s involvement this time is that Sir Dawda Jawara had a functional and well entrenched government for sixteen years and was safely sitting in Dakar when he authorized the blitzkrieg to destroy the coup plotters and give him back his government; but this time around, Mr. Barrow has no government and lacks the authority to have Senegal interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation that has a president and functional government for twenty years.
And since he is in the country like everybody else and not sitting in Dakar waiting when the Senegalese Army would be performing the dirty job, Mr. Barrow ought to also recognize his vulnerability and that of his family members, friends, surrogates and everybody living in the country. War nowadays, in its best definition has become symbolic with the indiscriminate killing of people and the destruction of their properties.
Albert Einstein once talked about war and said this: “It is my conviction that killing people under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder”. Whereas Abraham Lincoln bemoaned it as “force that is all about conquering but comes with victories that are short-lived”.
Yes, when Senegal did it for the PPP after President Jawara in 1981 promised Ex-President Abdou Joof everything he wanted to hear just to get his country back, for three years from 1981 to 1984, Senegal literally took control of the political, economic and security narrative of the Gambia with everything suggesting that Gambia was unavoidably going to be the 8th region of Senegal. The entire security machinery of the Gambia was taken over by the Senegalese Army and Gendarmerie.
In the end the Gambians couldn’t endure the embarrassment and frustration of their arrogant and condescending behaviors for treating us as if Gambia’s whole survival depended on Senegal. That was the pivotal reason in July 1984 that compelled the Gambia government to contract a British Army Training Team (BATT) from England to form a new Gambian Army totally independent of Senegalese involvement and influence but designed to eventually take over the security responsibility of the nation from all foreign forces.
In September, 1989, five years later the dream of turning Gambia to an 8th region became a nightmare of an unsustainable co-existence of two incompatible political foes that forced the Senegalese Army and Gendarmerie to unilaterally and unceremoniously withdrew all their forces from the country. Not a single reason was given for their sudden withdrawal from the Gambia up to this very year in 2016. Speculators have been giving all sorts of reason, although the sticking point of many Gambians always being politically suspicious of Senegal’s intention of seizing their small country cannot be overlooked.
In my interview with the Freedom radio a couple of weeks ago, I raised this same subject of why Senegal unilaterally and suddenly withdrew their forces from the Gambia in 1989 and a Senegalese listener called in to say that it was because of Gambia’s refusal to support Senegal when they wanted to go to war with Mauritania in April 1989. I could vividly remember that incident while serving in the Senegambia Confederation Army as a lieutenant when the order came from Banjul that the Gambia was going to remain neutral in the conflict between Senegal and Mauritania, and will never fight in support of Senegal if war broke out.
I don’t know how credible that reason for their departure in 1989 was, but in the absence of no reason ever shared with the public, any speculation could be true or false. But let’s assume that it was the truth for their withdrawal in 1989 and then ask the wisdom in 2016 of venturing into another bloody military incursion into Gambia aimed at ultimately installing an Adama Barrow government that would be expected to be supportive of their future war plans if Mauritania must be fought again. Wouldn’t that be repeating the same historical blunder make by President Abdou Joof 35 years ago, or even worse this time?
As a strict warning, I want every nation, particularly Senegal to respect the fact that the Gambia Armed forces deserve special respected as one of the most well-trained, well-motivated, highly educated and very versatile army in the Sub-region. Their mastery of conventional and non-conventional warfare is second to none; the terrain belongs to them and the past twenty-two years of being fully supported by President Jammeh provided them with adequate knowledge of every contour of ridges, valleys, swamps and forests in the country including every street layouts. Intuitively, they could navigate the dark byways into cul-de-sacs and blind alleys where death traps could be laid and deadly ambushes sprung.
Trust me, this time it wouldn’t be like 1981 when the Field Force was less than 500 men strong with many of them never motivated to fight for Kukoi who mistakenly declared the replacement of the PPP government with an unfamiliar Marxist-Leninist political system. We are today looking at thousands of well-trained troops dug in to defend their country.
The youth may also volunteer like they did in 1981 and became the most deadly and elusive urban fighters against the Senegalese troops then. Not to mention the level of anarchy, if, like in 1981, the prisoners escape and form fighting, looting and raping gangs all over the country.
So please, let us be mindful of wishing for what could degenerate into another Iraqi or Libyan debacle where the international community thought they got it all right to remove an undesirable leader for a desirable change but ended up getting it all wrong and turning a whole stable region into hell on earth. When Saddam Hussain was targeted on a whole host of lies fabricated by the international community with the narrative that the operation was going to be a swift and simple replacement of a dictatorship with modern western democracy, the chronic animosity between the Shia and Sunni Muslims in the region totally escaped the minds of the war architects.
War mongers like Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense for the George Bush administration confidently predicted how the Iraqis were going to welcome the American troops as liberators and treat them as super stars. It turns out to be nothing but the dumb war Obama called it then.
Today, I can sense a similar degree of obsession by the international community rallying behind Senegal and ECOWAS to remove President Jammeh by force, with total disrespect to a leader governing one of the most peaceful nations in the world that if disrupted could transform a whole region into an inhabitable environment plagued with unimaginable ethnic and religious conflict.
President Jammeh’s supporters including me strongly believe that the elections were fraudulent providing him with all the perfect reasons to rescind his earlier decision of conceding defeat after the electoral commission came back three days later to show astounding difference in the second results. But instead of acknowledging the truth, the Senegalese government keeps on misleading the world that President Jammeh just out of nothing tangible rescinded his decision of conceding defeat and should not under any circumstances be given any benefit of his doubts. The Gods in the Gambia are as wide awake as the Gods were in Iraq when bullying a weaker nation on fabrications and mere hatred of the leadership becomes an international obsession edging towards possible calamity.
In fact, the emphasis that the overwhelming majority of the Gambian people voted against President Jammeh in favor Mr. Adama Barrow is a total exaggeration, if we are to honestly consider the total votes obtained by the former as 208000 against the latter’s 227000 in a population of 1.8 million people.
Indeed, with the registered voters totaling 886,578 and only 578,583 voting, while 360,711 not showing up, complicated by the controversy caused by the IEC’s announcement three days later that the results were incorrect by over 51000 votes, the idea of all or most Gambians supporting Mr. Barrow is false and certainly hyperbolic. Thousands of Gambians, including the majority of the members of the Armed and Security Forces, are firmly in support of President Jammeh and his government and nothing could convince them that they freely and fairly lost the elections to the opposition Coalition Party.
Conversely, with the war option on the table and given the shape and size of the country where the bulk of the population is highly concentrated in the urban area, a military intervention to remove one government and install another could result into none of the stake holders surviving the carnage. That’s not necessarily suggesting any possibility of a foreign force ever defeating the Gambia’s warriors in their own terrain. The battle for Banjul could be more vicious than the battle for Bagdad with no invader leaving alive.
If the Gambians were given the chance of deciding through a referendum for a foreign military intervention in their domestic affairs, 99.9 % of the population in the country will reject it. But their concerns don’t matter in the minds of the sophisticated international bigshots chattering in impressive jargons constructed in elaborate academic exercises.
Anyway, just out of curiosity, can someone tell me how these ECOWAS heads of state intend to forcefully converge in the Gambia on January 19, 2017 to ensure that Mr. Barrow is by force sworn in as president?
If my memory serves me right, the last time elections were nullified in West Africa was in June 1993 when Moshood Abiola was declared a winner of Nigeria’s presidential election and the whole international community registered their support of his victory against the Military’s defiance led by the late General Sani Abacha. There was no controversy in that election like the one in the Gambia. But did ECOWAS heads of state in 1994 remotely consider attending Mr. Abiola’s inauguration by force after the whole international community gave him the endorsement to go ahead with his plans of swearing in himself? Or did they fear that Abacha would have put them in their place and decided to settle for the safe option of respecting the ECOWAS protocol that categorically forbids member states from interfering in the internal affairs of neighbors?
Hence, by disregarding the same law in 2016 on the Gambian situation, ECOWAS heads of state are blatantly violating the statute or typically playing double standard. If they couldn’t force their way into Nigeria or mobilize a military force to intervene on behalf of Mr. Abiola, why in the world do they deem it acceptable to treat the Gambian situation in the way they are doing? It simply boils down to an ungodly conviction to bully the small Gambia into political submission that would not have happened if it was another larger country in the Sub-region.
I believe it is after all about underestimating a country facing a common political hurdle that if not handled with honesty and care could become another horrible nightmare for the whole sub-region. Starting a war could be easy but sustaining or ending it could be problematic.
In conclusion, I have this to say: The unintended consequences of the Senegalese-orchestrated campaign to force the Gambia government into abiding by the unjustifiable demands of the international community, insisting that President Jammeh steps down by force without any regard to his legitimate right to question election results marred by fraud and gross incompetence, must be entertain by any decent and peace-loving human being. We can’t repeat the recklessness that created Iraq and Libya when we could avoid it.
Gambia does not need another UN peacekeeping force to come and police its communities either.
Last but the least, I can’t be a traitor but a loyal Ambassador to His Excellency President Jammeh and will remain by his side to the end. Call me the last ambassador standing, but not a shameless traitor in search of new opportunity. I don’t need it, period.
Long live the Islamic Republic of the Gambia!
Long live the Gambian people!
Long live His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Doctor Alhagie, Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, Babillimansa
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Gambia Armed and Security Forces.
New York City
The author is the Gambia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations. He was a former Lieutenant Colonel and commander of the Gambia National Army.
This opinion piece is sourced from Jollof News Network