A Classic case of failed despotism 

Africa, Governance, Human Rights, Peace, Politics

This is the cardinal rule of African politics (per most African politicians):

An incumbent does not lose an election!


  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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)






                                                                                                           Babili Mansa


Like a bwauss: Yahya Jammeh: Credit BellaNaija.com

Jammeh made three tactical errors:

  1. 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.
  1. 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?
  1. 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.
  1. 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!


Picture Credit: The Daily Mail UK

He not only shot himself in the foot but also in the balls!

As things stand the world  is witnessing a battle of wills:

  1. 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.
  1. Jammeh vs Adama Barrow who has sworn to be sworn inon January 19.
  1. 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  .
  1. 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 presidentelect, Adama Barrow.

Where was Robert when Yahya needed him?

But on to more serious business: what does the AU’s nonrecognition 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:

  1. Will become a rogue.
  2. Will no longer be welcome at AU summits.
  3. 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!


Maybe we need an ECOWAS in Southern Africa

Africa, Democracy, Governance, Politics

Military governments found their most marked expression on the African continent recording an unprecedented eighty-five violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998.Seventy-eight of these took place between 1961 and 1997. Undoubtedly, West Africa was the worst affected region and it continues to experience more coups, rebellions and civil wars. Given this history, it is no wonder then that this region formed a regional bloc, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to foster regional economic integration but also prioritising the maintenance of peace and security in the mandate of its bloc cognisant of the intimate link between peace, security and stability and economic growth.

 Over the years, ECOWAS has proved itself determined to see an end to unconstitutional changes of government including coups, rebellions and incumbents who refuse to vacate office after losing elections.

 In 2009, ECOWAS suspended Niger from ECOWAS after Mamadou Tandja successfully changed the constitution to permit him to run for office for a third term, and went ahead with elections which were boycotted by the opposition. When the army staged a coup against Tandja claiming to protect the constitution, ECOWAS swiftly negotiated a return to civilian rule and the holding of democratic elections. After 14 months of transition, the military junta in Niger formally handed over power to newly elected President Mamadou Issoufou as promised.

 In 2010, when Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire lost a presidential election to Alassana Quattara but refused to vacate office, ECOWAS threatened to remove him by force and faced opposition from many sections of Africa including SADC heads of state. In the civil war that ensued, they maintained their position insisting on recognising Quattara as the legitimately elected leader. As the then Ghanaian President John Kufour stated “if Gbagbo [had been] allowed to prevail, elections as instruments of peaceful change in Africa [would have] suffer[ed] a serious setback.”

 Earlier this year, when former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade decided to stand for an election against the spirit of the new Constitution limiting presidential terms arguing that the constitutional provisions did not apply retrospectively, Senegalese citizens protested this decision. The violence that erupted could have gone out of hand and led to a civil war but the maturity of the Senegalese people themselves as well as the heavy involvement of ECOWAS through political talks allowed for a relatively peaceful transition of power through an election in Senegal. Today Macky Sall stands the democratically elected leaders of the Senegalese Republic.

 ECOWAS condemned the recent coup of 21 March 2012 in Mali led by Amadou Haya Sanogo and swiftly took action. They suspended Mali from ECOWAS, applied an embargo on Mali, froze access to finance from the regional bank in Dakar and began discussions for a negotiated plan to return to civilian rule. Their intervention resulted in an agreement by the military junta to restore constitutional order by handing over the reigns to the Speaker of the National Assembly today as a first step towards returning to democratic rule. They also considered the possible deployment of the regional Standby Force, should the rebels refuse to observe a ceasefire and engage in dialogue.

 Surely this record speaks volumes to the regional bloc’s seriousness and commitment to see democratic rule where the people’s choices and voices are respected and to restore peace and security. ECOWAS continues to reiterate the regional bloc’s commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and their opposition to unconstitutional transitions of power.

 The Southern African Development Committee (SADC) on the other hand has increasingly displayed its inadequacy to address similar issues. In 2008 when Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe lost an election to Morgan Tsvangirai and the subsequent runoff was marred by horrendous violence, SADC did not make a firm decision to respect the people’s choice. Instead they negotiated a power-sharing deal which was not only unconstitutional but in violation of the demands of a minimum democracy where the ruler must be instated at the choice of the people, chosen by the people and his term of rule exhibit governance patterns that respect the will of the people. Despite many violations of the negotiated deal that SADC negotiated, the regional body has largely failed to ensure that these terms are respected and that democracy is served.

 In 2009, when Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar was ousted out of power by Andry Rajoelina in a coup staged by the army which then ceded power to Rajoelina as its leader, SADC failed to take decisive measures to ensure a swift return to civilian rule. Since then, the High Transitional Authority, a negotiated deal by the African Union in collaboration with SADC setting up a leadership authority comprising the members of the Ravalomanana and Rajoelina camps has been in power and the people of Madagascar’s right to choose their own leadership continues to be undermined.

 Yes, SADC believes it is being strategic diplomatically when it pursues the non-interventionist policy towards resolving regional governance issues. In the end it is us the citizens who are being done a disservice. Such precedents where the bloc is placating undemocratically elected individuals to enjoy power and continually denying SADC citizens the right to choose who they want to lead them are unsustainable. Maybe we ought to learn a thing or two from ECOWAS or better still, borrow them the next time we have similar crises. Bottom line, SADC needs to act decisively, with consistency and with one voice in the face of such blatant disregard to the will of the people.