He said to me..” most dictators are cowards who bargain than flee. We shall see in six hours’ time” and true to his word, “His Excellency, Bridge Builder, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh struck a deal with ECOWAS. These were his parting words, “I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians.”
I was referring to a conversation with a Gambian friend in exile who works with a reputable international Organization. For many years, he has not stepped a foot back in The Gambia because of former president Jammeh’s persecutions. We, had this conversation hours to the deadline for Jammeh to pack out or face the brute might of the ECOWAS Mission in Gambia (ECOMIG).
So as the story goes, Jammeh negotiated with a gun to his head. Jammeh this time, was outnumbered, over powered, lost loyal allies in the army and in the cabinet, there was very little he could do with a few presidential guards. In the end, military intervention was the last resort. The military intervention this time paid off without firing of a single shot.
In an earlier article, http://sammydarko.com/jammeh-spent-force/, I made an observation about his exit. I postulated that, Jammeh may face similar Rambo style removal from office if even part of the army remained loyal to block any invasion of the palace.
What deal this Jammeh actually broker for himself, family and friends. The ECOWAS, AU AND UN issued a joint declaration in Banjul on the 21st of January as follows…. I will refer you specifically to these paragraphs;
Sounds go to me. The man has been promised that he can return to the country and contest elections in the near future, something he bargained hard for. After all there is no term limit in the Gambian constitution. Parliamentary elections in that country are due in April. Presently, Jammeh’s APRC has 64 seats out of the 68 seats in Parliament. It remains to be seen, if the people of the Gambia will change the statistics in the Parliament, whether Mr. Barrow’s UDP or the opposition parties that formed the coalition, will secure majority of seats. The outcome will be germane to whether Jammeh is still a force to contend with in the Gambia.
Interestingly, President Adama Barrow had pledged to set up a Gambia National Reconciliation to cement social, cultural and national cohesion. And this was given full flesh in the ECOWAS declaration supra. This step, in my view may not be a bar against any civil or criminal prosecution against Jammeh or his officials. But it’s an indication that The Gambia may be unwilling or incapable of Prosecuting Jammeh for the many alleged atrocities committed by him whiles in office – refer to my earlier article, Jammeh, a spent force for some of his alleged crimes.
This leads me straight to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Jammeh whiles in power dreaded and hated the ICC. He announced the Gambia was going to pull out of its membership. But he could not complete that process before he got booted out of power.
Fortunate or unfortunate? The current Chief Prosecutor at the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, is Gambian, just like Jammeh. She was also his legal advisor soon after his coup in 1994, became his Minister of Justice in 1998, and was sacked in 2000.
The Court’s founding treaty, called the Rome Statute, grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes.
Many of the alleged atrocities committed by Jammeh could fall under (B), crimes against humanity. But the court can only prosecute cases only when States do not, are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. The ICC is intended to complement, not to replace, national criminal systems.
Alternatively, the court can exercise jurisdiction if such a crime was referred to its Prosecutor by the United Nations Security Council pursuant to a resolution adopted under chapter VII of the UN charter. Chapter VII is about actions that threaten the peace of a country among others.
Trail of such a person can only start once the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has sufficient evidence against an individual. OTP will then submit a request to Pre-Trial judges to issue a warrant of arrest or summons to appear.
The big question is, will African countries who will shelter Jammeh be willing to extradite him to the Hague if ever such a process starts which I believe will sooner than later? Does this declaration they have agreed to tie their hands to such an action?
Another issue worth noting is that question, what becomes of the election petition filed by Jammeh?
As far as the Gambian constitution of 1997 is concerned, the elected president is sworn in whiles the court rules on the legitimacy or otherwise of his presidency. Unless Jammeh expressly withdraws the petition, it is my considered view that the Supreme Court of The Gambia when properly constituted will examine the merit or otherwise of the petition.
I am watching…..