“There is a feeling that the huge Senegal attacked the little Gambia. But without external intervention, the situation could get bloody,” – said the newspaper VIEW leading researcher of the Institute of African studies Anatoly Savateev, commenting on the sudden onset of a new war in Africa. In the night of Sunday it was all over, but by itself this transient operation is much more important than it might seem at first glance.
The political crisis in the small African country of Gambia, where the loser of the elections, the President Yahya Jammeh has tried to retain power by force, could have extremely negative long-term consequences for the whole of West Africa. Jammeh almost openly sympathized with radical Islamic groups, and in the last year of his reign, declared the Gambia to the Islamic Republic. The prospect of a hotbed of extremism in one of the poorest countries in the world forced to respond to neighboring Senegal after entering in the Gambia, the Senegalese troops Jammeh was forced to recognize the election results and left the country, heading for exile in Equatorial Guinea.
“Jammeh will never stand on ceremony with their opponents – put them in prison, executed, and generally behaved completely hooligan”
Formally, the operation in the Gambia was held under the auspices of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), representing 15 States. In addition to solving purely economic tasks, the organization not for the first time asserting itself as an arbiter in regional conflicts. For example, in 2012, ECOWAS announced its readiness to send 3,300 soldiers to restore the territorial integrity of Mali, which was previously the Northern part of the country was under the control of Islamist groups, including “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”.
For operation in the Gambia were mobilized even more numerous contingent of about seven thousand people, most of which represented the army of Senegal, a much more developed country than the Gambia (GDP of Senegal is 945 dollars a year per capita, the GDP of the Gambia – $ 435). Intervention is a compelling argument for Yahya Jammeh, on January 21 he was ready to retire after 22 years of rule, and on Sunday night left the Gambia. Shortly before the UN Security Council unanimously (including Russia) voted for the transfer of power in the Gambia, the new President Adam barrow, won the elections at the end of last year.
According to a leading researcher of the Institute of African studies doctor of historical Sciences Anatoly savateeva, a political crisis in the Gambia has demonstrated above all the willingness of African countries to independently decide, without recourse to the former metropolises (before Gambia was a British colony, Senegal – French). What was the background of military operations in the Gambia and what does this crisis has LIH*, he said in an interview with the newspaper LOOK.
OPINION: How the situation in the Gambia is typical of Africa? Can it be viewed in the context of previous episodes, when individual African States have had to take on the role of arbitrator in order to avoid worsening of the crisis at the neighbors?
Senior research fellow, Institute of African studies Anatoly Savateev (photo: from personal archive)
Anatoly Savateev: Cases so fruitful intervention of an African state in the Affairs of another with the use of the armed forces was very little. As a rule, to interfere were forced former mother country – Britain or France. In my opinion, the reaction of Senegal on events in Gambia were quite justified, although at first she looked wildly, given the difference in territory and population – have the feeling that a huge Senegal attacked the little Gambia. But it is quite obvious that without external interference, the situation in the Gambia could get bloody. In Africa quite often the losing party challenged the election results, and the consequences were very sad.
From this point of view, the situation in the Gambia began to spiral out of control. The more that Mr. Jammeh, Gambia proclaimed an Islamic Republic in politics was human, not sinless. He came to power in a military coup, and though the man he overthrew, was not a virtue, Jammeh never stand on ceremony with their opponents – put them in prison, executed, and generally behaved completely badass. Despite the fact that Jammeh lost the election, he planned to use for a possible confrontation with the new elected President and his supporters of groups of mercenaries of the Revolutionary front of Charles Taylor from Sierra Leone and it is known to be vicious thugs. Obviously, just like J. J. Jammeh, the government would not have given, he trampled on all the laws.
You need to take into consideration the fact that Jammeh was warned about the consequences of their actions. Tuesday to the Gambia to talk to him came the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and then went to Senegal, where he was elected President of the Gambia Adam barrow, and said that pessimistic look at the development of the situation in connection with the actions of a loser President.
OPINION: Why events in the Gambia intervened primarily Senegal?
A. S.: Senegal is historically responsible for what is happening in the Gambia, because this country for it is actually an enclave, “Fox tail” extending into the territory of Senegal. In relations between these countries were different times. In 1981 the Senegalese side have had to use force with respect to Gambia, and then from 1982 to 1989 there was the so-called Confederation Senegambia, but it disintegrated.
In the current situation, there is another aspect which has allowed Senegal to intervene. The southern part of the Gambia and the surrounding territory of Senegal, the Casamance region inhabited by the diola people, who regularly demands of secession from Senegal. Separatist movements exist there for a long time, since 1970-ies, then fading, then excited. It is possible that the Jammeh regime, these movements are supported.
But the intervention of Senegal was not a unilateral decision, it was authorized by the organization Economic community of the countries of Africa. In addition to the military and military-air forces of the army of Senegal, in the operation in the Gambia took part, for example, Ghana. Thus, it was international intervention – of course, wore a punitive character, but it has become a manifestation of the inner will of the African States. They sought aid from France or, even worse, Britain, which can hardly be called friends of African countries. In addition, the operation in the Gambia, ECOWAS is pre-announced to the UN Security Council by sending a request to receive appropriate sanctions.
OPINION: TO what extent the current situation in the Gambia is the consequence of the overthrow of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, who regarded that country as a zone of its influence?
A. S.: it’s hard to say who Gaddafi is not helped in this part of Africa – from the construction of mosques and universities to the development of the project of supply of the countries of the Sahel water due to groundwater reserves. Although Libya Gambia, of course, was not in the top priorities. A small country, the economy is weak, mainly tourism (the Gambia has beautiful beaches) and the export of peanuts.
OPINION: Why Jammeh is simply not enough money to create an efficient army? It is reported that in the Gambia armed forces numbering several hundred people.
A. S.: as far As I know, the army of the Gambia consists of 2,500 soldiers, although that number might be a part of the police. In any case, to compete with the Senegalese army, they can not. But Jammeh probably thought that in case of aggravation of the situation someone will help him, and maybe hoped that the neighbors would not dare to intervene – for example, will not allow the UN, and I will continue to rule. But this time, as they say, not hire.
After the decision of ECOWAS have Jammeh had little time left – he had to attend to his destiny: to sit on a plane and fly to a place where he can count on the shelter. But even in the Arabian Peninsula, in some of the Gulf countries it is not particularly expected. One thing these exiles, like the Shah of Iran, and quite another – the type of characters Jammeh: the Royal families of the Arab countries led to friendship with such personalities is not too solid.
OPINION: What is the role of “Islamic factor” in the recent events in Gambia?
A. S.: And Senegal, and the Gambia – the country’s predominantly Islamic. But Yahya Jammeh, Gambia proclaiming the Islamic Republic, stressed the radical nature of Islam in the state, and for good reason. It is obvious that Jammeh had serious sympathy for those groups that now are fighting a war in the vastness of Iraq and Syria, i.e. ISIS. This is only the Senegalese and not enough. They are in the country tranquility situation, which is largely driven by the powerful influence of the Muslim spiritual orders – Meridia born on Senegalese land, Tigania and Kadiriya. Senegalese tariqahs long fight with Islamist organizations. Based on this fact, the extra concern of the Senegalese authorities to anything. Surely they had reason to suspect that in the Gambia, in addition to several hundred mercenaries from Sierra Leone, will be used and people from radical Islamist organizations.
* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”