This is the cardinal rule of African politics (per most African politicians):
An incumbent does not lose an election!
- The incumbent is a normal human being i.e. to say, s/he concedes defeat (like a Goodluck Jonathan or a John Dramani Mahama) and vacates office. As a normal human being, the incumbent is not power hungry, and does not envision life-long rule. S/he recognises that leadership is not entrenched in holding political power but in the ability to serve and influence positively; real leaders know they do not need to be called Mr. President or Madame President to lead.
- The margin of loss, against the incumbent, is so irredeemable that, not even “meticulous verification” over a six week period assisted by “clever” judges can make the process malleable to manipulation in the incumbent’s favour.
- In his/her entrenched, but misplaced, sense of arrogance and assurance, the incumbent falsely believes that, by giving the chief of the elections body unsolicited perks, victory will be guaranteed.
- The incumbent lives in a country where rules are made to be obeyed e.g. Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania; where saying no to the people’s will is inconceivable.
It seems one man missed the memo:
His (former but never really excellent) Excellency
Dr. (who claims to cure AIDS)
Jammeh made three tactical errors:
- He assumed he would win the battle, did not build a strong fortress to protect his interests (also known as rigging machinery) and went to war without the necessary armoury breaking every rule of The Guide on Despotism by African Rulers,2016, 50th Edition.
- He publicly conceded defeat, abandoned the No Retreat No Surrender rule, as explained in The Guidebook to Stealthy Electoral Theft authored by R.G. Mugabe and A. Bongo, 2012, 1st Edition. Did the cabal forget to tell him never to openly admit to losing an election?
- He publicly congratulated his opponent for his win and wished him well: Blasphemy 101 according to The Book of Political Eels: A slippery way to hang on to power!3rd Edition with contributors from Cameroon, Angola, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt and Zimbabwe.
- He publicly professed that the election was free and fair and that the result reflected the legitimate free will of The Gambian people: Another blasphemous act as expounded in Chapter 1 of the Book: Never Say Die, 2008, Eds R.G. Mugabe, P. Biya and Y.K. Museveni
Verse 2: And then Jammeh changed his mind after a few days. Wrong move, the birds were already out to catch the eel!
He not only shot himself in the foot but also in the balls!
As things stand the world is witnessing a battle of wills:
- Jammeh vs the people of The Gambia who vehemently rejected him as their leader and are waiting for their new elected leader to step into his leadership roleon January 19.
- Jammeh vs Adama Barrow who has sworn to be sworn inon January 19.
- Jammeh vs ECOWAS which has threatened military action to remove him from power if, on January 19 , he refuses to vacate office- threats he has laughed off .
- Jammeh vs AU which, in its Communique declared that it will no longer recognize him as the legitimate leader of The Gambian peoplefrom January 19. The second paragraph of the Communique is key to comprehending the enormity of the claustrofuck that is Jammeh’s back-pedalling on the election result. The AU Peace and Security Council said:
[The PSC] Recalls Article 23 (4) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Council further recalls communiqué PSC/PR/COMM. (DCXLIV) adopted at its 644th meeting held on 12 December 2016, in which Council strongly rejected any attempt to circumvent or reverse the outcome of the presidential election held in The Gambia on 1 December 2016, which is a clear expression of the popular will and choice of the Gambian people, and called upon outgoing President Yahya Jammeh to keep to the letter and spirit of the speech he delivered on 2 December 2016, in which he welcomed the maturity of democracy in The Gambia and congratulated the president–elect, Adama Barrow.
Where was Robert when Yahya needed him?
But on to more serious business: what does the AU’s non–recognition of Yahya mean?
The recognition of a government and its leadership is the hallmark of its legitimacy. Recognition of leadership is hard ball diplomacy and the distinction between the practice and the rhetoric of democracy. Recognised leaders, presumably, carry a legitimate mandate while those not recognised do not. A leader’s recognition makes him/her an integral member of the international system in which his/her state is represented. In the case of the AU, recognition of leadership includes:
- the right to attend AU summits and represent one’s country through the Assembly of Heads of State and Government;
- the chance to be elected chairperson of the African Union;
- the mandate to appoint recognised ambassadors representing the state’s interests in key political organs of the AU such as the Permanent Representatives Committee, the Executive Council and the Peace and Security Council.
Non-recognition of leadership is one of the key strategies of the AU to deal with unconstitutional changes of government i.e. where individuals take over power through unconstitutional means including coups, rebellions, insurgencies, amendments to constitutions.
Effectively the AU’s position means from January 19 Jammeh:
- Will become a rogue.
- Will no longer be welcome at AU summits.
- Will no longer be the legitimate representative of The Gambian people’s political will.
This bold step by the AU is commendable; and hopefully will be carried through to effect.
Admittedly, the AU has, recently failed to take decisive action to address specific unconstitutional changes of government. In the DRC, the incumbent, Joseph Kabila attempted to entrench his power by amending the constitution so he could extend his mandate. This has cost lives, with the AU taking on soft diplomacy to resolve the crisis. In Gabon, – the incumbent Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba “won” the election by a narrow margin of 5,594 votes, securing 49.8% of the vote to the opposition leader Mr. Jean Ping’s 48.2%. To secure this win, one of the incumbent’s stronghold, Haut Ogoogue, recorded an unbelievable 99.9% votes cast, a disparate figure from the national average of 59%. The AU did not query nor act in the face of this blatant thievery.
Similarly, on 29 March 2008, Zimbabwe held its parliamentary and presidential elections. The parliamentary results were announced within a week but the elections body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), took six weeks to announce presidential election results, in what is arguably, one of the most brazen acts of undermining a vote in the history of the continent. When ZEC eventually announced the results, on 2 May the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won 47.9% of the vote and Robert Mugabe, the incumbent 43.2%, necessitating a presidential election run-off set for 27 June 2008. The AU did not question the so called “meticulous verification” of results in the face of parallel vote counts that claimed Morgan Tsvangirai had won the election with a clear majority.
Clearly, the African Union (AU) has grappled with boldly condemning election theft and constitutional amendments; two forms of unconstitutional changes of government that are insidiously undermining efforts to democratise Africa. As the AU seeks to re-brand and set itself apart from its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); moving away from the OAU principle of non-interference and preaching non-indifference, the extent to which the continental body can interfere in the internal affairs of a member state without violating fundamental principles of statehood; namely sovereignty and territorial integrity, remains unclear. The uncertainty is steeped in the history of the AU itself, given member states’ past struggle for independence from the shackles of colonialism and their current struggle for full sovereignty and integrity from neo-colonialism.
The idea that the AU could possibly err, by choosing the wrong side in an internal electoral or constitutional dispute, and damage its credibility, has seen the AU adopting an overcautious approach, urging peace and calm and almost always without exception, taking incumbents’ botched results as the final, official and credible outcome of the election. Where incumbents have not conceded defeat and like the true despots they are; clung to power by manipulating electoral systems and declaring themselves winners, quickly swearing themselves in and continuing business as usual, the AU has remained cautious.
The failure to always act decisively in the face of such treachery has been detrimental to the AU; leading to its loss of credibility as a strong institution capable of resolving Africa’s political problems. To gain credibility, the AU must be prepared to boldly take concrete action against incumbents; even when they do admit or accept that they have lost.
Unfortunately for Jammeh, he forgot to read paragraph 2/12/2016 of The Book of Political Eels: A slippery way to hang on to power which states, “You snooze, you lose”. The rules by which the AU has failed to act in the past do not exist in his case. He may have thought he could get away with his actions, but his public admission of loss as an incumbent is a loss that the AU cannot ignore; as much as his knee-jerk attempt to reject that loss as an afterthought comes at a cost that the AU cannot afford. Inaction by the AU would reverse all efforts to democratise the continent; for, what worse thing could an incumbent do than lose an election, admit to the loss and still refuse to leave office?
January 19 could not come sooner; it feels like Game of Thrones Season 7!