A lesson of Democracy from The Gambia, Africa.

Unity Makes Strength

On the 20th of January, all the eyes across the world watched the United States “celebrating the peaceful transition of power” from one President to another. The Inauguration Ceremony became the main topic of discussion, and has continued to be, as the aftermath of it has turned out to be quite shocking. Millions have been marching across the world for several days now. Not only in D.C., not only in the United States, but in London, Paris, Beirut, Myanmar, and many other countries that have nothing and everything to do with that Inauguration Ceremony.

Amid the raging storm against Trump, something (significant to some, that might seem small and insignificant to others), happened in Africa; the same Africa which is constantly undermined by thousands of authors across the world, as they continue to view this beautiful continent as only a source of misery, hunger, and death. The Gambia, a small country completely surrounded by Senegal,

The Gambia completely surrounded by Senegal
The Gambia completely surrounded by Senegal

home to the notorious Gambia River (once used for slave trade), has somehow shown the world amidst the ongoing controversy what the “right”, democratic way is.

Yahya Jammeh’s “adventure” started in 1994, when he led a bloodless military coup against previous authoritarian President Dawda Jawara, ending with success leading to a 22 years reign of power over Gambia. This long period was marked mostly by non-democratic features such as political purges, corruption, and the excessive/ unnecessary use of force. However, on January 21st, a day after Trump’s very own succession of power, Jammeh decided to spare the blood of his people and pass the power to Adama Barrow. International pressure following a decision by the United Nations Security Council, which legitimized the newly elected Barrow, led to decisive actions by most states in the region, as they all condemned Jammeh, and threatened to use force to take him out of power “if necessary”.

So far the story does not sound democratic at all; and it is not. What should be learned from the Gambian crisis is quite simple: “Unity Makes Strength”. Led mainly by Gambia’s sole neighbor, Senegal, the regional actors managed to conduct a peaceful transition of power from Ex-President Jammeh to newly elected President Adama Barrow. Intriguingly, from an authoritarian to a democratic regime.

There are several reasons worth mentioning about this transition of power and why it serves as a positive milestone for the world. But, two reasons stand out to teach us the lessons that we need to learn from a country that doesn’t make the headlines often.

The first one is a simple message to Jammeh’s colleagues in and out of Africa. The age of globalisation has arrived and the time for those who live in the past, is bound to come to an end. Peaceful transition has become an option, and people no longer need to fear government crackdowns and suppression in general.

The second aftermath of Gambia’s case is even more intriguing. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the organization that benefitted the most after Gambia’s own people. What has so far seemed like another one of the peripheral unions that have been widely ignored by the West, has proven that under the banner of cooperation and unity, regional governance can be a great virtue that can be exercised by all. The main reason why this second result is significant is purely symbolic.

As the supposed leaders of the “free world” in the West, like Donald Trump, Theresa May, Marine Le Pen and many more preach isolationism and hate; the world is given a small glimmer of hope, coming from a surprising source. We must not allow ourselves to be engulfed in the hate of some. Gambia’s voice must be heard loud and clear. The most important actor in each state is the people, and no struggle for political power justifies the spilling of innocent blood.

Sami Meziad

Featured Image Rights of MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images


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