Gambia: Reflections on July 22 Part (1)

by Basidia Drammeh

When a group of young junior officers of the Gambia National Army put an abrupt end to the 30-year-long rule of president Dawda Jawara’s PPP regime in 1994, a sense of euphoria and optimism filled the atmosphere, as Gambians had enough of the old man who led the country to independence. The military took over amid a growing sense of disgruntlement with the status quo that remained in place since the country gained independence in 1965. In short, the country was stagnant and the people thought the PPP regime was too entrenched to uproot in an election. The Gambian people’s insatiable desire for change was equally understandable.

Led by then 29-year-old Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, the junta justified the move, arguing that the decision to topple the democratically elected Government was triggered by what it termed as rampant corruption, cronyism, nepotism and favouritism and that the action was necessary to rectify the situation and would return to the barracks in six months. Jammeh accused the old regime of “exploiting the country’s riches for a privileged minority while the vast majority of Gambians lived in poverty for the last 30 years.”

In order to win hearts and minds, the Junta immediately embarked on the implementation of mega infrastructural projects, such as a brand-new terminal building, an Arch, and a new TV station for the first time in Gambia’s history. Tertiary education was initiated through a university extension program and schools were built. Street lights were installed in certain main intersections. Dazzled by the rapid developments on different fronts, the population fell in love with the new regime, which clearly reflected the success of the junta’s overtures. The military authorities seized the opportunity by subtly but keenly seeking to entrench itself.

A national consultative committee was set up to consult people on the way forward. The commission reported that the people have allowed the junta a 2-year transition program during which general elections should be held in order to restore civilian rule. Subsequently, a new constitution was drafted, which was meant to herald in the Second Republic. With his eye firmly set on the seat of power, Jammeh took off his military fatigues to contest the 2016 election. He won.

To be continued..

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