By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Philadelphia
The last week in world politics can be phenomenal; it normally heralds true reflections of your past deeds, legacies and the loss of some your closest people in your political career. For most presidents, they tend to apologize to those that they might have offended and mend fences and for others, their minds and consciences will continue to fight for the wrongs they have done. Though I did not watch the US inauguration, I was told it was smooth, somber, reflective and democratic whereas the African political landscape in the Gambia was chaotic, undemocratic and full of angst. As Barack Obama boarded the US helicopter for his peaceful retirement and the emergence of Donald Trump, I feel for the continent of Africa and The Gambia in particular. It appears democracy in the motherland is still a farfetched dream for some rulers and countries. Whereas Barack Obama will be spending the rest of his life in the United States and around the world in a dignified and respectable manner, most of our African Leaders tend to spend the rest of their lives in exile.
Why do our African leaders like to spend the rest of their lives in exile? It is no hidden secret that most African leaders who have flown to exiles have died in exiles and are buried far away from their motherland. For most of them, their remains have been repatriated, though not welcomed by their countrymen. Does this trend really ring a bell to some of the African leaders who are in power and tend to cling onto power?
In 1991, the Ethiopian Leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam fled Ethiopia after a rebel group led by late Meles Zenawi overran his Red Army. Mengistu fled the country with 50 family and members of his Derg, the country’s supreme ruling body. He was subsequently tried in absentia and sentenced to life in prison.
Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in Ghana and found refuge in Guinea, where his long and trusted friend, the late Sekou Toure, went as far as declaring Nkrumah his co-ruler. Nkrumah died from prostrate cancer in far away Romania, where he had gone for treatment. According to reports, he died a bitter, dejected and frustrated hero who could not have imagined that he would die so far away from his beloved country and continent.
President Joseph Saidu Momoh of Sierra Leone flew to Conakry after the NPRC Khaki boys headed by Valentine Strasser chased him out of power. He languished, suffered and was reduced to a mere ordinary man status before his death. The list is endless……. The former strongman of Liberia, Samuel K Doe refused to abandoned his Krahn’s clansmen in harm’s way, rather he stayed to die for them. He was brutally killed, even when he was offered sanctuary by the United States and other European countries.
Blaise Compaore of Burkina Fasso ruled the country for decades before he was chased out of power. He is presently residing in Ivory Coast where his fate is yet to be determined by the new President of Burkina Fasso.
The comparison between relinquishing power in the United States and the African continent is striking and appalling. Whilst Barack was leaving with respect, dignity and love, The Gambia’s Yayah Jammeh was siphoning the country’s wealth in a Chadian airplane. It is a pity for a man who has served the country for twenty two years to leave his own country for uncertain chattered waters. The negotiations and the route of relinquishing power speak of some countries in the continent still struggling with the tenets of democracy.
Yayah Jammeh served as a host to many Sierra Leoneans who fled the brutality of the RUF and AFRC regimes respectively. His contribution to the ECOMOG contingent that fought and liberated Sierra Leone from the claws of the rebels will linger in the minds of Sierra Leoneans. Jammeh would have been considered a statesman if he had conceded defeat honorably and participated in the smooth transfer of power. But alas, greed, lust for power and personal aggrandizement may have played a major role in his disgraceful exit.
The days of leaders living flamboyant lifestyles in exiles are gone. No matter the pleasantries, the aspect of living in another man’s home always dawns on the minds of the human being. The leadership of ECOWAS has brought honor, dignity to the West African bloc. Thankfully, my president, your president and our president, Ernest Bai Koroma was an integral player in restoring democracy to The Gambia.
Bravo to ECOWAS.