African nations are on the verge of taking an extraordinary step to rescue democracy in a country where its fate is hanging in the balance.
On December 1, Gambians will vote in their country’s most consequential election since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. For the first time, a unified political coalition will challenge Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s longtime dictator, only months after the most vigorous protest movement in the country’s recent history.
The many nuances of the situation on the ground in Nigeria – a deteriorating economy, a seeming rise in violence, and a political witch hunt under the guise of anti-corruption – cannot be overstated. In simple terms, aid offered to Nigeria, from any U.S. executive branch agency, should only be provided with a mutual understanding that members of the Nigerian military who stand accused of gross violations of human rights be held accountable.
Several factors indicate that the risk of state-led mass killing in The Gambia is increasing: a steady deterioration of the Gambian economy due to mismanagement and rampant corruption; the death and disappearances of several prominent opposition leaders; and a recent uptick of inflammatory rhetoric and political violence.
Today, Jammeh faces a collection of challenges similar to those that ushered in his own regime 22 years ago: an increasingly vocal and inspired political opposition, popular protests demanding change, and armed forces with low morale (including reports that senior officers have refused recent orders). Jammeh also confronts rising international isolation, including the suspension of aid from major donors and the country’s dismissal from several U.S. aid programs, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
In years past, these abuses committed against the Gambian people, and carried out with absolute impunity, have largely been met with silence. However, that scenario has gradually changed, with Gambia being thrust into the spotlight for several reasons, providing a much-needed complement to ongoing domestic and diaspora-driven advocacy efforts.