On April 14, on the outskirts of Banjul, the capital of the West African country of Gambia, a small group of young men and women gathered on a street corner, carrying banners calling for the resignation of President Yahya Jammeh (left), the autocrat who has ruled the country for more than 20 years. The protesters were members of the United Democratic Party (UDP), and their frustration at Jammeh’s brutal and corrupt regime had reached a tipping point, Sidi Sanneh writes for Foreign Affairs:
Since seizing power in a military coup in 1994, Jammeh has presided over one of Africa’s most repressive dictatorships. He has stifled independent media, used paramilitary groups to intimidate critics, and targeted political opponents and LGBT activists. Jammeh rules by fiat, and takes advice from no one except for a close circle of business associates on matters that affect his sprawling commercial empire. His cabinet takes orders from him alone…..
Civil society organizations are challenging Gambia’s electoral laws in the court of the Economic Community of West African States, arguing that they impede the promotion of democracy, a key mission of the regional body. Although the court lacks the power to fully enforce its rulings, it can order punitive measures that include suspending or expelling Gambia from ECOWAS. Such moves would increase the pressure on Jammeh to consider reform.