Gambia: The Country With 2 Presidents

By Scott Kirwin

With all the noise of the inauguration it’s easy to miss what’s happening elsewhere. Take Gambia, the tiny West African nation of about 2 million people all living within spitting distance of the Gambia river. The nation is 1/870th the size of the United States and embedded completely within Senegal except for a small stretch of beach that is popular with British and French tourists.

As reported here, here and here, the now former president-for-life Yahya Jammeh lost an election, initially conceded defeat then changed his mind. Yesterday his successor Adama Barrow was sworn in as Gambian president at the Gambian embassy in Senegal as Senegalese military forces, backed by Nigerians and other West African forces swept into the country.

Jammeh is now holed up in the presidential palace, entertaining various West African leaders as they attempt to talk him into leaving the country. Meanwhile other African nations are one-by-one recognizing Barrow as president and begging Jammeh to leave peacefully.

News of this drama taking place in Gambia is thin – so to follow events there people are relying on Twitter. #Gambia and #GambiaHasDecided will get you up-to-the-minute video feeds showing Senegalese soldiers waiting for orders in the capital Banjul, as well as its nervous citizens waiting for the next act in the drama to play out.

I’m no fan of Twitter due to its censoring of conservative viewpoints but if you are interested in keeping up to date what is happening in this tiny African country, it’s the only game in town.

One thing that following these hash-tags has shown me is how naïve people are. Jammeh is no Saddam by any stretch of the imagination but the main weapon Barrow supporters are using against Jammeh are mild threats and pleas, as if enough people begged Jammeh to let go of power he would do it. So far the Senegalese army hasn’t fired a shot, but it’s not clear to me what the reaction will be from Barrow supporters if and when they do.

For the sake of Gambia I hope that it ends peacefully but people need to steel themselves to a brutal truth: Dictators have no problem resorting to violence to stay in power. Do the Gambia people and the rest of West Africa have the will to resort to violence to remove him from power?


Photo by melenama