Give it up for ECOWAS, they don't joke around, do they?


JF-Expert Member
Apr 10, 2009
As the no-longer Gambian president Yahya Jammeh refused to leave, Gambians were fleeing the country in anticipation of a possible West African military intervention to install the new President-elect Adama Barrow.

A colleague sent around an essay he’d authored, imagining a similar scenario if the outgoing American president had also refused to leave. High-level diplomatic missions, with requisite pleas to do the right thing by the presidents of Canada and Mexico. An offer of asylum by American favourites Cuba and Venezuela. The threat of a military intervention by…the North American Free Trade Agreement? While the no-longer American president challenged the president-elect through the Supreme Court and Congress extended its life to protect him.

It was quite funny. Except that it’s not.

Put that way, the completely embarrassing and unacceptable behaviour of many of our incumbents, who see themselves as God’s chosen people, is brought into stark relief. But it is not just megalomania at play.

It is also the awareness of just how much they have to account for — from plunder of their states to the vicious treatment of citizens who dare to stand up to them. From human-rights defenders to journalists to opposition politicians. And, even, ex-comrades-in-arms.

But there are several bright spots in the unfolding Gambian tragedy.

First, the people. Who finally said enough — through the ballot.

Second, the electoral management body. Who respected the integrity of the people’s vote. Despite having to then themselves scamper into exile.

Third, the region. Its unequivocal condemnation of the no-longer president’s about-turn after his (deranged) initial concession speech.

Of all the regional economic communities, we have to give it to the Economic Community of West African States. Not only is it far ahead of the rest of the continent on freedom of movement, it doesn’t joke around when it comes to a willingness for pre-emptive diplomatic — and military — action. Dating back to its Nigerian-led military intervention in Liberia and Sierra Leone. When it says enough is enough, it means it.

The Ecowas contingent entered the Gambia but halted to give Jammeh a chance to leave peacefully.

But still. When all else has failed, it is good to know that the crossing of at least some red lines will be met with consequences. We don’t see that sort of decisiveness elsewhere on the continent.

The leadership of the East African Community — admittedly not set up to be a security institution — in respect of Burundi has been, well, half-hearted and lacklustre. As for the leadership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development — whether in respect of Somalia or South Sudan — the supposed results speak for themselves.

We wait to see what happens next. For the people of the Gambia. For the rest of us —expecting equally difficult attempts at transition through the ballot.

Source: The east african

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