19TH January 2020
This is the period of the Impasse. From 9th December 2016 to 21st January 2017, few people could predict where the country was heading to. Most people were convinced that war was inevitable. Thousands left the country while others became displaced persons.
During the first week of the impasse, security forces took over the streets and placed sand bags in all strategic locations. Military officers were decorated at the 11th hour to earn their loyalty.
On the other hand, the Gambian population was told by the spokesperson of the incoming President to move about as usual and give little regard to the militarisation of the country. They were asked to fraternise with the soldiers to pacify them.
It was made abundantly clear that an incoming President who has derived legitimacy from the ballot box should back electoral legitimacy with constitutional legitimacy by waiting to assume office on the date explicitly set by the Constitution.
The spokesperson emphasized with all the authority at his command that all supporters of the coalition should wait for the inauguration of the incoming president on the day following the expiration of the term of office of the outgoing president.
It was asserted without any ambiguity or ambivalence that to stay any day longer after the expiration of the term of the outgoing President would transform him to a rebel and that all forces that support him at that point would also be classified as rebels.
This was the verdict of law and justice and had to be announced for all to take note.
From the first week of the rejection of the results to the 18th January 2017 all forms of negotiations took place without any breakthrough.
The promise to give the coalition supporters the fruit of their victory marked by an inauguration ceremony at the stadium was aborted as the outgoing president refused to budge. The exodus of Gambians became more intense. In my book, the impasse the causes, consequences and reversal of the exodus are fully explained.
While Gambians at home were anticipating a state of emergency that intended to make inauguration impossible, President Barrow took oath of office on the 19th January 2017, at the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
ECOMIG was then charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the President of the Gambia is given the security to assume office and be protected to serve as the legitimate executive of the Republic of the Gambia. Jammeh did not take oath of office after the expiration of his term. In short, he became a private citizen in the state house as my book would explain.
To drive the reality of a change of government to all Gambians I first sought and got a declaration of loyalty to the new commander in chief, from the security chiefs represented by the then Inspector General of police .
As mediation for a peaceful transfer of power commence while the ECOMIG forces prepare to use force to make the ground fertile for the return of the legitimate president of the Republic, I issued the following statement to update the Gambian Nation on the historic change of government:
STATEMENT FROM THE SPOKESPERSON OF THE COALITION
20 JANUARY 2017
THE DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE GAMBIA?
The declaration of the results of the 1st December 2016 polls was one of the most eventful developments in the political history of The Gambia since Independence. This was the first time an opposition candidate won an election against an incumbent whose power was so entrenched that many thought unbeatable in an electoral contest. All Gambians, irrespective of the political divide, were equally overjoyed by the decision of the incumbent to accept a defeat. Little did people know that a week after that he would reject the results thus leading to an impasse in the peaceful transfer of executive power.
Today, over a month and a half after the declaration of results and two days after the expiration of the term of the incumbent, there is still a contest of legitimacy in assuming executive power. What is responsible for this impasse?
The answer is simple. The Constitution is very clear in asserting that the person declared elected shall be sworn in and assume office on the date of expiry of the term of office of the incumbent. The Constitution did not envisage the shifting of the goal post after a goal is scored and then call for the replaying of the match.
The letter and spirit of the Constitution makes it mandatory that a person declared elected in a presidential election shall assume office after the five year term of the incumbent expires. Since the loser has powers to file an election petition to challenge the validity of the results, he had the obligation to shoulder all the challenges that goes with the hearing of a court case. A court case could take months or even years to the dissatisfaction of a petitioner. Hence justice and law demands for the assumption of executive power by the elected person whilst the loser wait for the outcome of a court case. Instead of accepting his fate, the loser in this instance, decided to rely on a state of emergency declaration to try to extend his mandate by 90 days.
This is considered unreasonable and unjustifiable by the person elected president. He also relied on section 100 of the Constitution to claim that as the person declared elected by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), he had acquired the right to take the oath of office and assume the functions of the Office of the President of the Republic of The Gambia.
Hence, by the 17th of January when the incumbent extended his term through legislative intervention the possibility of having two presidents in the country side by side contesting legitimacy became evident. It was clear that by 19th January the person declared elected will also find ways of taking oath and assuming office.
On the 19th of January 2017 the person declared elected in the polls of 1st December 2016 decided to go to the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, which is considered by international law as Gambian territory outside the Gambia, to take oath and assume the Office of the President of the Republic of The Gambia. Now the nation is being challenged to either recognise a loser in the 1st December 2016 polls who has decided to extend his mandate by unconventional means and a winner who should have been sworn in by conventional means but, because of obstruction from the loser, decided to be sworn in through unconventional means.
Hence, at this moment, there is a contest of legitimacy between the loser and the winner of the 1 December 2016 polls.
What is the way forward for the Gambia?
The contest of legitimacy may either be resolved through negotiation or war. That is the current fate of the Gambia.
ECOWAS is engaged both in negotiation and preparation for war in support of the presidency of Adama Barrow. The presidency of Yahya Jammeh would have to rely on the security forces of the Gambia. In order to facilitate negotiations, the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania and a UN envoy are here in the Gambia to talk to the loser in the presidential polls. Will they succeed? That is the question. If they succeed, Gambia will experience a peaceful transfer of executive power. If they fail to succeed, the contest of legitimacy will be decided through confrontation of military power.
This is the defining moment for the country. Will those who control executive power or assume it have to work on dead bodies or wade in pools of blood to go up or down? That was not the reason why The Gambia became a Republic. That was not the reason why section 1 (2) of the Gambian Constitution asserted that sovereignty resides in the people and that authority to govern must be derived from their consent and utilised to promote their general welfare.
A government that cannot generate hope or guarantee liberty and prosperity is not fit to govern. What is important now is for each Gambian to take a stand to decide what type of Gambia they want; a Gambia where leaders transfer executive power in peace or one where power is transferred through war?
This decision does not exclude the armed and security forces of the country. They are supposed to be the protectors of the Republic and the people. Would they wait for the contest of legitimacy between an outgoing and incoming president to be determined by war or peace? If they support the assumption of office by an elected president then peace would prevail. If they allow the contest of power to be determined by war then war would prevail.
Today is D-Day. Everything is at a standstill. Shops are closed, commodities are difficult to purchase, streets are empty, university and schools are closed down, banks and offices are closed, petrol stations and other businesses are closed, the tourists have departed, the country is experiencing a shutdown and the economy is slowing down to a halt.
This statement is an SOS call for the military and civilians to combine together to save the country from war by promoting and ensuring a peaceful transfer of executive power and leave the courts to carry on adjudicating on the petition of the loser. This is the dictate of law, justice and reason and should not be disregarded.
We are therefore urging all our citizens that as we anticipate a peaceful outcome, all Gambians should see the installment of a new president at the state house as a national victory. Each is expected to celebrate the victory by renewing our commitment to unify our diverse people, irrespective of the language they speak, the religion or gender they belong to or any other difference so that none will ever perpetrate injustice or deliver hate messages based on callous prejudices.
We want a Gambia of the people whose leaders are sensitive and responsive to their concerns to emerge. This is the demand of our times and circumstances and the cornerstone for the consolidation of peace, liberty, justice and prosperity for our motherland and people,
We hope that today before nightfall the national television (GRTS) will start to amplify the voices of all the people. We expect that the security chiefs will take the liberty to appear on television to assure all Gambians and non-Gambians that they are committed to peace and would not encourage any violence that would put lives and properties in jeopardy and would be committed to a government that derives its authority from the consent of the people.
We hope that Gambians would wake up on Saturday, 21 January 2017, to a new day that offers hope to all and despair to none.
As we enter the third year of the end of the impasse, it is important for each of us to take stock. All of us must bear in mind that it is the peaceful transfer of power which has made it possible for APRC to have its peaceful demonstration as a legitimate political party in the Gambia. It also makes it possible for the victim centre to do the same to awaken the conscience of the nation. It is the same reason why both the ‘Three Year Jotna’ and ‘Five Years for Barrow’ movement could occupy the street and promote diametrically opposed agendas.
There is no doubt that a combination of any two of these movements would be greater in number than any one of them.
Hence, in a democracy numbers in the street are pillars and drivers of opinions aimed at persuasive influence and not legitimate authority to uproot or install governments.
The first phase of democratic empowerment is to build a coalition aimed at enabling the people to uproot a government by their wit and will. Now our duty is to strengthen their will power so that it would never again be stifled by inducement or intimidation but would be guided by truth and conscience in order to make informed choices.