The current political crisis in The Gambia brought about as a result of defeated President Yaya Jammeh rescinding his earlier acceptance of results of the December 1, 2016 polls presents a serious test for ECOWAS and the rest of the democratic world, particularly Liberia’s chairmanship of the regional body.
Outgoing President Jammeh had conceded earlier to coalition leader Adama Barrow, vowing to relinquish office peacefully and terming the poll results “a clear victory” for Barrow. But in a 360 degree turnaround, he withdrew his concession last Friday, pointing to “unacceptable errors” reportedly found by election officials.
The current Chairperson of ECOWAS President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Tuesday led high-level ECOWAS delegation to Banjul, The Gambia to ask Jammeh to accept the election result. The delegation was expected to include Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and outgoing Ghanaian President John Mahama.
President Sirleaf told the Voice of America over the weekend that Jammeh’s reversal was “unacceptable” and threatened peace in Gambia and the entire West African sub-region. She called on the 51-year-old defeated leader, who had hung onto power for the past 22 years to “do the right thing” and facilitate a smooth transfer of power.
Detail of the mediatory effort has not been made public, but we believe firmly that Liberia’s leadership and dare say the rest of the world’s, is crucial here. The Gambian situation has not degenerated into chaos, and President Sirleaf, having watched her own country collapsed in a 14-year bloody civil war before resurrecting thru international peace initiatives brokered by both ECOWAS and the U.N., is pretty seated with vast experience and support from her colleagues in ECOWAS to steer Gambai back into stable waters.
Leadership in whatever capacity has a way of placing demands that are sometimes undreamed of or unimagined. The Liberian leader currently finds herself in such circumstance. Leading her own country with an ailing economy towards what is expected to be heavily contested elections next year, President Sirleaf has by per adventure automatically assumed the role of a twin’s mother on the world stage, as she would have to nurse Gambia to stability while navigating her own country to political transition.
West Africa and the rest of the world cannot afford to have any one individual revert the current wind of democratic change blowing across many continents. We must do all that is necessary in supporting and sustaining this momentum. We think defeated leaders should be gracious enough to concede and turnover power peacefully.
In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan conceded to Muhammadu Buhari, and peacefully relinquished power; the world’s greatest democracy – the United States of America recently went to the polls and elected Donald Trump, who until the results came, seemed not to have been the favorite, but opinion poll-favored Hillary Clinton conceded defeat, and just last week in Ghana, incumbent President John Mahama conceded to Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party.
We hold the conviction that a success for ECOWAS in that tiny West African country under President Sirleaf’s leadership could also mean a great achievement for Liberia in regional peace initiative, and uplift the country’s image among the comity of nations. But she would need strong support from her colleagues in the region to succeed in The Gambia. This means decisions that will be taken at the heads of state level should be enforced with no deception.