21 February 2011

Gambia:Yahya Jammeh the archetypal bad autocrat

By The East African

Yahya Jammeh  has been President of the Republic of the Gambia (since October 18, 1996).He rules his country like a personal fiefdom, refuse to hold meaningful elections, spends oodles of money on defence while the Gambian population starves.
Political background: A 29-year-old army captain, Jammeh returned with Gambian forces from Liberia in1994 and staged a bloodless coup against the longtime ruler, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Has since won three controversial rounds of elections. Among Africa’s most bizarre and colourful leaders, he claims mystic powers, such as the ability to cure Aids and asthma with singledose herbal treatments and a banana-rich diet.
His ability to read at a functional level is doubted by some. He has expressed ambitions of territorial expansion. Carries a sword at all times.Successes in 2010: Managed to quash the second coup attempt against his regime in November,this time pinning the blame on the director of internal security in The Gambia’s feared National Intelligence Agency.International observers predict that a successful coup against Mr Jammeh is “only a matter of time,” especially as he maneuvers to crown himself king.

Failures this year: 
After working since 2006 to build relations with Iran, Mr Jammeh watched this diplomatic foray go down in flames.The Gambia had purchased a shipment of arms from Iran, including weapons as large as 107mm rockets.The 13-sea-container shipment, which potentially violates the UN arms trade ban on Iran, marked as “construction materials” was seized at the port of Lagos, Nigeria.After the seizure, President Jammeh severed diplomatic ties with Iran and declared its diplomats personae non grata. He gave them 48 hours to leave the country.

Moment of the year

Notorious for heaping himself with ostentatious titles, the president is gunning for yet another: King of The Gambia.He now goes by the handle “His Excellency thePresident Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh” but appears unsatisfied. Traditional chiefs and tribal elders have been fanning out across The Gambia, building support for a coronation, which could well take place soon.

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