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Gambia: Can Soldiers Make Democracy Work?

January 24, 2017
Plain English Version
Former president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, leaving the country.

Former president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, leaving the country.

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa. Many just call it Gambia. It has fewer than two million people. It is a poor nation. Many flee the country for a better life elsewhere.

For the last twenty-two years, Yahya Jammeh was the president of Gambia. He was a dictator. Gambians went to the polls in December 2016 to elect a president. Jammeh thought he would win. He lost. Adama Barrow beat him. Jammeh said he would leave his post. Then he changed his mind.

Gambia mapWhat to do? Senegal surrounds Gambia. Other African countries joined Senegal in trying to find a solution. The answer was to bring armed forces to the border of Gambia. The threat of troops started a discussion with Jammeh.

The threat worked. Jammeh has left. Last Friday, Adama Barrow became the new Gambian president. He was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Now he is going to Gambia to establish his government.

He vowed to bring the people together.

This kind of outcome does not happen very often. Sometimes elected officials become dictators. Russian President Vladimir Putin is one example.

Why would countries want to appear to be democracies? In part, leaders who do not have their support of their people are always in danger. They try to find ways to keep their people in line. Sometimes, the country even has a parliament or congress to represent the people. Sometimes, giving people a voice is a sham. Take a look at North Korea or Russia or China.

Can Gambia become a democracy? The first job for President Barrow may be dealing with “peace and

Adama Barrow, the new president of Gambia.

Adama Barrow, the new president of Gambia.

justice.” The former president ruled for many years. Gambians say former President Jammeh is a criminal. They say he abused human rights. They say he stole millions of dollars.

Can a country go forward and not deal with its past? It is a big issue. It is a test for Gambia.

Source: The Wall Street Journal January 23, 2017

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