The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. Today, the Imburi are crying so that we will focus on the Gambia. The UN Security Council has heard the cry and has called for a transfer of authority to a new president, duly elected, Adama Barrow.
Adama Barrow took the oath of office of President on 19 January 2017 at the Embassy of Gambia in Dakar, Senegal as he is in exile for his safety in neighboring Senegal. The long-time President, Yahya Jammeh who took power in 1994 in a military coup has been in office so long that he refuses to leave.
Many have suggested that Jammeh could leave, especially to avoid local violence or foreign intervention. In his 22 years of service in a country where the trade of arms and drugs is the chief economic activity, he must have put his share of profits in foreign banks. There are suggestions that with funds collected to offer him a “golden parachute” he could leave peacefully. Nigeria has offered him a nice retirement home. But Jammeh insists that he will stay on and that the one December vote was somehow fixed against him and his alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction Party.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has strongly suggested that Jammeh leave power and has sent a number of high-level missions to the capital Banjul to urge a departure. To drive home their point, ECOWAS has stationed troops in Senegal on the frontier with Gambia. Some Senegalese troops, members of ECOWAS, have crossed the frontier into Gambia to prevent violence but said that they did not have a political mission. The current chair of ECOWAS is the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who knows first hand what armed conflict and civil war can bring to a country.
There are those in Gambia who expect the worst. Some 45,000 have left the country for Senegal in the last few days. Many shops have closed, and food prices have climbed . There are real possibilities for violence. President Jammeh had a long-term policy of hate speech against minorities, especially the Mandinka whose traditional home is Senegal and against gays. Jammeh's current supporters are stressing that “gays and their foreign supporters” are those who are creating instability. There is real danger that violence based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political allegiance will break out.
Ministers in Jammeh's government have resigned including the key ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Trade. Some ministers have left the country for Senegal fearing revenge violence. Certainly a quiet retirement in Nigeria would be a welcome end to Jammeh's brutal and corrupt years of service. But the situation merits watching closely. The Imburi are worried.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.