January 24, 2017


How Gambia's peaceful transition offers new hope for the rule of law (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, January 24, 2017, The Week)

To recap: In December of last year, Gambia held an election, and the incumbent dictator, Yahya Jammeh, lost. Jammeh's response to losing the election was pretty straightforward: After initially accepting the results, he then decided to shrug them off and just stay in power anyway.

But what happened afterwards is pretty stunning. Jammeh's opposition, along with the U.N., and Gambia's neighboring countries, said, "Oh no you don't."

Regional bodies like the African Union and especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) almost immediately put pressure on Jammeh to step down. Heavyweights like Nigeria and especially Senegal threatened to send in troops, and eventually made good on those threats. Last Friday, Jammeh finally relented and left the country for an ECOWAS-brokered exile, while his rival, Adama Barrow, who had already been sworn in, was ushered in as leader. This was all done with minimal violence.

This is hugely significant.

Even though democracy and the rule of law have been steadily (albeit often with frustrating slowness and setbacks) improving in Africa since the end of the Cold War, a relatively peaceful transition of power is still an important milestone. For Gambia, this is actually its very first democratic transition -- the country experienced one-party authoritarian rule between independence and Jammeh's military coup. That alone is worth noting and celebrating.

But much more significant is how it happened: The country's neighbors reacted with the expectation that norms of peaceful transition of power would be upheld.

Posted by at January 24, 2017 7:09 AM