News from the Gambia is that incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh no longer accepts election results as a result of irregularities unearthed after his concession. For a while the whole continent thought the respect for democracy would be salvaged but alas, the joke is on everyone who believed this “too good to be true” ending to be the true end of matters. Why would a dictator who has crimes to answer for accept an adverse election result, a result which was a figurative arrest warrant: the end of him and his cronies? One can also, however, imagine a situation where the opposition had lost and the now so common chorus of “election rigging”, “irregularities” and “voter intimidation” would have been sung. Who among these politicians has the decency to accept the will of the people?
A concession that never was
President Yahya Jammeh lost the election to President-Elect, Adama Barrow and accepted the results resulting in widespread respect for a man known to have perpetrated despicable human rights violations. Now, barely a week after the concession, he has taken an about turn and has said, “In the same way that I accepted the results faithfully believing that the Independent Electoral Commission was independent and honest and reliable, I hereby reject the results in totality.”
The whole continent is at a loss as to what could have led to this sudden 180 degree turn. The incumbent president says, “Our investigations reveal that in some cases voters were told that the opposition had already won and that there was no need for them to vote and, out of anger, some of them returned home.”
That is no different from the empty claims by every other losing politician in the political discourse. For a man who had warned citizens against even peaceful protests in his country after the elections, this sudden change of mind exposes not just his hypocrisy but many other politicians’. This breed of politicians will only accept results favorable to them as if their baseless sense of entitlement has an effect on their popularity. Before the elections, Jammeh had said, “Our election system is fraud-proof, rig-proof, you cannot rig our elections. There is no reason that anybody should demonstrate.”
What has changed now about the “rig-proof system”? All the world sees now is one demonstrator against the “fraud-proof system”: Mr Yahya Jammeh!
There is an African proverb to the effect that one cannot insult the crocodiles of a river he is yet to cross. Barrow and his team might be guilty of causing the apprehension Jammeh suddenly exhibits as they have pledged to prosecute him within a year of assuming power. Whereas other politicians make such extravagant claims in the run-up to elections, the elected coalition in The Gambia seems serious and naturally, the outgoing regime is trying to protect itself. However, saying the coalition should not have asserted its impetus to deliver on its election promises is encouraging politicians to blatantly lie to the people for votes. That is unacceptable. Jammeh’s about turn cannot therefore be blamed on the coalition promises and the promise to deliver on them. Disrespect of democratic systems cannot and should not be justified by anyone for whatever reason. Why would Jammeh feel that his safety outweighs the will of 263,515 people who voted him out of office? That disrespect of the masses is unacceptable. Whatever Jammeh’s secret motive is in this whole fiasco, it is reprehensible to undermine the will of the people.
Hypocrisy as a global political problem
The U.S. government has condemned Jammeh’s actions with Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman of the U.S. Department of State saying, “This action is a reprehensible unacceptable breach of faith with the people of The Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process ad remain in power illegitimately.” Though it truly is a sad period for Gambian democracy, the West should not assume its traditional patronizing narrative and pretend it is better at democracy than everyone else. Is it not Jill Stein who recently petitioned for recounts with the backing of Hillary Clinton in America? Is it not Donald Trump who had refused to say whether he would accept the election result if he lost? The misgivings of the United States of America do not in any way justify the African problem but are a sign that the West should resist the urge to be Big Brother when it has the same problem back home. The current crop of politicians are simply hypocritical, whether in the West or in Africa.