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ECOMOG’s Gambian gamble

THE LAST WORD: By Andrew M. Mwenda

The likely dangers of the Western African states’ attempts to impose a solution on The Gambia

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to send a military force (ECOMOG) into The Gambia apparently to achieve three interrelated objectives: first to “protect” the president-elect, Adama Barrow; second to uphold the presidential elections results that President Yahya Jammeh has cancelled; third to ensure that Barrow is sworn in as president. This is a big gamble that is likely to cause more problems than it seeks to solve.

A fundamentalist movement initiated by Western nations and supported by many elites elsewhere and in Africa has swept the world. This movement wants democracy along Western liberal lines to prevail everywhere. It supports the use of supra national institutions to enforce democracy where it is faltering. There are many people in the Western world who believe genuinely that liberal democracy should be spread across the world, even by force, as a one-size-fits-all solution irrespective of context.

This combination of intense religiousity with a militant faith in the application of democracy in every situation has a large cadre of priests. This secular priesthood has come to dominate the mass media, the academia, diplomatic corps, civil society organisations, etc. Today they monopolise public discourse and have successfully channeled the debate to one direction. They have drowned out alternative voices while giving the appearance of free debate.

However, Western powers also have ulterior motives for promoting democracy in poor countries even when they know that such efforts often lead to disaster. . One of them is to please their domestic constituencies. The other is that democracy offers Western powers opportunities to infiltrate and control poor nations. It allows them to hijack the policy-making process in poor countries so that it serves Western rather than domestic interests.

Democracy is much more susceptible to infiltration compared to authoritarianism. Western nations can fund opposition political parties, mass media and NGOs (which they miscall “civil society”) to undermine poor governments that develop nationalistic policies, which may threaten Western interests. Therefore, the promotion of “democracy” in poor countries by Western nations is often driven by a desire to control. Unable to see these machinations, supra national bodies on our continent and many of our elites buy the claims of the big powers on face value.

I believe in liberal democratic ideals. In a perfect world I would love to see them applied everywhere. However, I am also conscious that democracy is not an ideal that can be exported and imposed on a country or society by force. Rather it is a practice that grows within a country or society under very specific circumstances. Indeed the lesson we learn from history is that democratic development grows through feats and starts. It endures when driven by the persons directly affected by it. Democracy fails when it is imposed from outside. Recent experiments to export democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have produced disasters whose consequences are still fresh in our minds.


  1. Tim G Kabaale II

    There is logic in the argument. Nevertheless, the era of sovereignty with non-interference seems to have gone. Ivory Coast is a bit better I assume with Gbagbo out. Jammeh should humble himself and respect the outcomes of the election, ECOMOG will not be in Gambia if he does.

    Africans are tired of authoritarians!

  2. 1.The main goal of ECOWAS is to coordinate Trade amongest member states so when did it become a army unit?African leaders believe that they all have similar social,political and economic problems and any attempt by a fellow African Leader to caution the other is these days taken as familiarity(Kujjoga)Ug outgrew that during FRONSA days we would be summoned to Nairobi now who cares about Nairobi?
    2. Doesnt Jammeh have advisers?why did he in the 1st place even concede defeat i beleive he was still engulfed with spirits.A few African leaders concede defeat e.g Kibaki Vs Odinga ”Things had to be patched up”
    3.Mgt of outcome of elections in Africa have improved (any attempt to practice democracy is now disguised in Law)its now easy for African Leaders who want to rule longer to save face by practicing this:.Jammeh should have simply amended the Constitution lifting term limits thru a referendum or filed for a recount of votes .if he had done this, the air in Gambia would not be thick with confusion and anger.
    4.Naturally its irritating & unconformable for Africans to be reprimanded.
    5.The 6 Billion payment can’t be justified in court coz those who received the money were from 5 different institutions do all those institutions have honorarium in their policy? if yes honorarium is paid after deducting just 20%of one’s salary how did Akol get 200m?(Bambi there is a way M7’s money is tempting and sweet you just cant resit it if you r normal.
    6.I failed to make sense of AG’s mad rush to block discussion about the 6 Billion. lf it was paid in good faith why the fuss at times govt needs to just clarify on small issues.
    7.I know sometimes you need to fight dirty to get clean.What did Kadaga just do?She single handedly caused MPs to strike?she should be in Luzira coz this is a coup: coz (i)no voting was carried out to make the decision to close parliament (never mind they do nothing)(ii) She did not consult her supervisors the Executive.
    8.Winnie was right to have stood as surety for Mathew.
    9.This breed of Acholi MP’s is worrying as if Govt sent Mathew to kill Akena .I wonder why dont t behave like high profile Acholis like;Aliker,Okeny,Olowch William,Otema,Apire Richard,Sue Ochola,Lalobos(obaa there is a differnce btw the Acholi from Gulu and those from Kitgum)
    10. Mathew is being tried in court its like they want him hanged there and then how come they did not cry when Dominic Ongwen was before ICC? Is Mathew worse than Kony?they better stop.

  3. So because you were right about Libya you think you will be right about Gambia. Your arguments are all over the place, They did leave Charles Taylor in power as an “elected president” in Liberia he turned round and played a part in destabilizing neighbouring Sierra-lone. Liberia today is functioning peaceful democracy without him. So yes the ECOWAS intervention did prove to be the right move as it did later in Sierra-lone and Guinea-Bissau. Gadaffi had unresolved issues with the west for years and no you were not the only one who foresaw what would happen. It was a repeat of what happened with Saddam Hussein in iraq, But Libya is not Gambia and West Africa is not the west.

    Jameh was defeated and refused to vacate power, and if he doesn’t want to go he should be removed simple. And since we are now in the business of fortune-telling. Gambia will be just fine thank you.

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