The New Gambia, by Niklas Hultin


President Adama Barrow greeting the people. Photo by Katarina Höije

It finally became clear on January 21, 2017, that Yahya Jammeh, the long-serving autocratic president of The Gambia would step down and leave the country. The road to this point was a twisty one. Jammeh had lost the December 1, 2016, election to Adama Barrow (who represented a coalition of opposition parties). Although Jammeh, much to everyone’s surprise, initially conceded the election he quickly reverted to form and suggested that the election was not valid and called for a new one to be held–a position rejected by the opposition and the international community. Most notably, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) took a firm line and recognized Barrow as the legitimate president and suggested that they might use military force to oust Jammeh. As negotiations between the parties remained inconclusive,arrow and his associates travelled to Senegal where, on January 19 he took the oath of office at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar. Meanwhile, ECOWAS forces, consisting primarily of Senegalese troops with Nigerian air and naval backing, mobilized to enforce the election results. After a tense period that saw ECOWAS forces briefly enter the country only to pull back, Gambians–and West Africans–could breath a sigh of relief as the by now completely isolated Jammeh agreed to go into exile with not a drop of blood shed. In the evening of January 21, Jammeh boarded a plane for Equatorial Guinea. Continue reading

Small arms control and the question of the state in West Africa (with particular reference to the Gambia), guest post by Niklas Hultin

The widespread adoption of the global arms trade treaty (ATT) is widely considered a great success for international civil society and the human rights community. The intention of the treaty will make it more difficult for states to channel weapons into the hands of insurgent groups and other non-state actors through a multilateral commitment to uphold certain export/important standards and to avoid the diversion of conventional arms from legitimate actors to illegitimate ones (contrary to the fears of the US National Rifle Association and such groups, it does not constitute a global gun licensing regime or something of that sort).

The merits of this approach are considerable and the activisits who worked tirelessly for over a decade to usher in this treaty deserve credit. That said, from the vantage point of the capacity and practice of African state, one wonders if the intended measures are more aspirational than realistic and reflect an overestimatet appreciation of the institutional and social capacities of African states.

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