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ECOWAS shames Sadc

By Benjamin Semwayo

After ruling The Gambia with an iron rod for two decades Yahya Jammeh’s days are finally over. Jammeh is remembered for terminating the peace and tranquillity that had characterised The Gambia during the four-century British rule and replacing it with a twenty-two-year-long nightmare marked by unimaginable misery, hardship, poverty, murders, disappearances and violence.

Benjamin Semwayo
Benjamin Semwayo

When he lost the election he dug in, and in the face of an onslaught from the military wing of ECOWAS, he was prepared to plunge the country into a blood bath had his army General not stepped in to bring the stalemate to a peaceful resolution. In his deluded state he had the temerity to challenge the combined force of fourteen countries before his rule was brought to an abrupt, inglorious end.

Jammeh’s legacy is comparable to that of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and there are indeed obvious similarities between the two men. Both men appeared on the political scene as knights in shining armours who would exponentially improve the lot for their people and were embraced passionately by their respective nations. They both promised heaven on earth, only to turn against their unsuspecting subjects and unleash orgies of blood-stained violence never before witnessed in their respective countries.

Both Mugabe and Jammeh lost elections and conceded defeat, only to make a u-turn and refuse to vacate office. After the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe tension was on a knife’s edge and the world stood with bated breath as Mugabe’s securocrats doctored the results over a six-week period to deny Tsvangirai the outright win that was his.

In addition to wrecking havoc with people’s lives both Mugabe and Jammeh embarked on wealth-grabbing sprees and lavished themselves with national wealth, taking food right out of the mouths of their hungry citizens. Both men were acutely egocentric and externalised vast amounts of money for use in the dark days that they knew were sure to come one day, the days when they would have to flee into exile when their time was up.

For Jammeh that time came on the 21st of January, 2017, when he made a hasty retreat as his beleaguered country faced the military might of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), which refused to countenance the stink tarnishing its region.

This leads us to the question of why ECOWAS’s Southern African counterpart, the SADC (The Southern African Development Community) has repeatedly reacted differently from ECOWAS in its response to the repeatedly stolen elections in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe an opposition candidate can have gazillion votes but that does not translate to winning the elections.

ECOWAS and SADC are both African organizations and one would expect that surely in the twenty-first century both bodies would have attained a level of civilization that that would put them on the same page in relation to political maturity.

It would appear the West African countries are more politically mature and advanced, and one is tempted to think that it is because of their proximity to the west that they are a few strides ahead of the southern African region. That should not be the case given that in this digital age the diffusion of knowledge and ideas is expedited by the present-day scientific advances that shrink time and space.

SADC leaders stand accused of abetting illegitimate government in Zimbabwe and should be ashamed that while they act on a level international playing field with equal access to developmental tools our region should lag so far behind ECOWAS. They should learn a lesson from the Gambia and embrace the more progressive way of handling political matters exhibited not only ECOWAS, but also other regional bodies.

Southern Africa blighted by the nuisance of having the world’s oldest leaders who are hardened to their ruts and archaic ideas, and resist any attempts to elbow them out of power even when it is clear that they are not performing satisfactorily. People living in southern Africa need to take an interest in the way they are governed and fan the winds of change to promote development.

Adama Barrow set a new precedent by being sworn-in in a foreign country. Perhaps Zimbabwe can take a leaf from that should Mugabe steal the next election as he is plotting to do. More importantly, the opposition parties should form not two, but one coalition against the ruling party to face Zanu PF in the 2017 elections. In Africa that is how dictators are toppled. Be under no illusion.