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Gambia turn the page with Adama Barrow for a new era of democracy

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The serious risk of triggering a political crisis in The Gambia has been averted. Last Saturday, the standoff between outgoing President Yahya Jammeh, who insisted of not wanting to recognize the electoral defeat of the December 1, and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) was resolved in the departure of Banjul’ former strongman.

The flamboyant autocrat has left their country to go into exile in Equatorial Guinea, where he was welcomed from President Teodoro Obiang and the vibrant opposition protests, according to which, should not have the opportunity to obtain political asylum for its prolonged refusal to accept the result of the vote.

The Jammeh’s departure was favored by the mediation of the Guinean President Alpha Condé and the Mauritanian Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, as well as the threat of armed intervention of a Coalition composed of five ECOWAS nations, led by Senegal.

Twenty-three years of absolute power

The exit from the political scene of Babili Mansa (which in the local language Mandinka can be translated as “conqueror of rivers”, a title that in June 2015 Jammeh has added to his name), put an end to almost 23 years of sovereign ruled on more small African nation, governed in total disregard of human rights.

As confirmed by the numerous cases of disappearances, killings, arbitrary arrest and subsequent torture against opponents of the regime. All amply documented by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations against torture in a report on Gambia, presented in March of last year.

Jammeh leaves a country plagued by extreme poverty, endemic unemployment and economic crisis, which over the years have prompted especially young people to migrate in dramatic conditions. As with the nineteen-year-old Fatim Jawara, goalkeeper of the Gambia’s national women’s football team, drowned last October on a raftleft from Misrata, while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Lampedusa.

The former president has instead embarked on a presidential plane made available by “friend” Condé, while in the weeks prior to his departure would take advantage of several flights of a Chadian cargo to take away from Gambia its luxury cars and other valuables. To follow the script that marked the farewell of other African dictators like Sani Abacha, Mobutu Sese Seko, Hissene Habre, Hosni Mubarak and Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, before leaving the Gambia Jammeh has emptied the state coffers.

The lawyer Mai Ahmad Fatty, an opponent of the former regime and now adviser to the new president Adama Barrow, spread this news. Fatty explained, “In a matter of two weeks were withdrawn 500 million dalasi from state coffers in the name of Jammeh.” Namely about $ 11 million, in a country with a GDP that does not come to 939 million dollars.

The Oath at Gambian embassy in Dakar

For safety reasons, the investiture of the new president Barrow took place on January 19 in Senegal, where he had arrived four days ago at the invitation of ECOWAS leaders, who deemed more prudent that the inauguration ceremony should pass in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, still considered as territory of the small African nation.

The new president is back yesterday afternoon in Gambia, where to ensure the establishment of his government; ECOWAS has deployed a military contingent of 7 thousand men. Last Monday, Barrow told CNN that it intends to keep the foreign forces in the country until the new government will not be firmly established.

Barrow, also expressed the intention to dismantle immediately the NIA, the ill-famed Jammeh intelligence service and to reform the entire Gambian army, remained for over two decades loyal to the former president.

African political crises

In recent months, the sub-Saharan Africa has been repeatedly marked by significant crises, linked to the performance or non-performance of elections. First of all the recent case of the Democratic Republic of Congo where, last December 19, at the expiry of its mandate, President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power. Only after bloody street battles and long and controversial negotiations, the elections have been postponed to the end of 2017.

Another striking example is that of Burundi, where the mediation of the African Union failed to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza not to reapply for a third illegitimate mandate, dragging the country to the brink of civil war.

The rapid resolution of the Gambian crisis is explained by the bad terms that Jammeh had established over time with Senegal, starting Banjul’s support given for the separatist rebels in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance, to have an instrument of pressure against the stronger close.

As soon as he had the opportunity, Dakar did not hesitate to take off from political scene a nearby awkward as Jammeh, who now seek to escape justice taking refuge in a country that does not recognize the International Criminal Court, like Equatorial Guinea.

But President Barrow, has already stated that for the new Gambia now is not the time for processes and revenges against Jammeh and his supporters, but to rebuild a nation for too long plagued by dictatorship and corruption.

@afrofocus

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