Mr. Editor, undoubtedly, former President Jammeh was a newcomer as far as African regional integration was concerned. This was the man that pampered himself as an illustrious son of Africa and at the same as President, he was the most ignorant as far as African development initiatives are concerned. During his hay days, Yahya Jammeh vehemently criticized the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative and called it “kneepad”. At the time he openly criticized NEPAD, only the then British Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa at the Foreign Office, Baroness Linda Chalker, could be equated to his criticism because she believed that the NEPAD initiative will rely heavily on foreign aid to bankroll it off the ground.
What Jammeh did not realize was that there were other African initiatives before NEPAD all aimed at moving the continent on the path to greater economic development. Prior to NEPAD, the Lagos Plan of Action was drafted in 1980 in Lagos by the African leaders. The Lagos Plan at the time blamed Africa’s problems on the Structural Adjustment Program of the World Bank and the International Monetary fund which the African leaders thought brought more economic problems for the African continent. Notwithstanding, the African leaders including our great former President Jawara at the time argued in the Lagos Plan that the best means of achieving economic development within the continent was to decrease the extraction of raw materials and to ensure that Africa is treated fairly where global trade was concerned. In addition, the Lagos Plan called for more assistance for African countries in terms of aid from developed countries.
Right, at the time such a great initiative was designed, Africa’s self-proclaimed Pan Africanist and illustrious son Yahya Jammeh was in high school so we should not hold him accountable for the ignorance that led him into exile today. Of course, so many years after the Lagos Plan, other African Presidents excluding our exiled Yahya Jammeh came up with the NEPAD initiative aimed at moving the continent from the clutches of poverty and foster in more development. All the time the initiative was in its infant stage, our Pan Africanists Yahya Jammeh was busy organizing wrestling in Kanilai.
Thus, the birth of Jammeh’s widely criticized NEPAD came about as a result of the merger of the Omega Plan for Africa which was championed by former President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Program which was designed by former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasango and former President of Algeria Abdulaziz Boutleflika. The two documents were combined and renamed the New African Initiative by the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in July 2001 and subsequently in October 2001, the NEPAD policy framework was finalized. In general, NEPAD was formed mainly to bring about a socio-economic development in Africa through peace, security, good governance, human resource development, capital inflows, market access initiatives etc.
Well, Yahya Jammeh in his wildest of dreams at the time, believed that NEPAD was a begging bowl and he would not waste his time contributing to an initiative that goes to beg for aid from developed countries because he does not believe in that. He also believed that aid that was tied to good governance could as well be held because he would not succumb to any foreign interference in “his” country. Well, NEPAD has a good governance condition and that works side by side with the peer review mechanism. Since Jammeh will not allow any other African government to tell him to fix his human rights problems, then aid was a far-fetched factor for him.
Quite frankly, at the time I wrote my Masters dissertation on NEPAD as a student at Coventry University way back in 2003, my problem with NEPAD was its silence on the issue of Zimbabwe and the Gambia as far as the peer review mechanism was concerned. I did not say it was principally going to fail as Yahya Jammeh thought. I argued that peer review was going to be huge challenge for NEPAD because some African Presidents do not believe in good governance and Gambia was a case in point.
To crown it all, if Yahya Jammeh was the Pan Africanist he proclaims to be, he would not have gone in exile today in Equatorial Guinea. Take Ghana for instance, all the former Presidents since Jerry Rawlins all live peacefully in the country. Nigeria with all the debacle of military rule still hold their leaders in high esteem. Obasanga was a military ruler and then became a civilian and ruled Nigeria. The present President Buhari was a military ruler and now a democratically elected President. Other former Nigerian Presidents are still living in the country as private citizens. Senegal our neighbor and savior value their former Presidents and they are either in Senegal or elsewhere but very respected citizens.
Unfortunately, our Pan Africanist, illustrious son of Africa Yahya Jammeh had to be forced by other African Presidents to leave his country and is now an asylee in a foreign country. It is sad though, but ignorance led Yahya Jammeh to his ultimate demise. Gambians should not be reminded of Yahya Jammeh with the purported coming back of the APRC party. Yes, the Gambia is a pluralist society but the APRC should be gone from the memory of Gambians once and for all. The choice is with the Gambian people.
Written By: Ebou Ngum – Everett Washington