Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has refused to relinquish power after losing an election last month to opposition leader Adama Barrow.
Jammeh has been in power since 1996 and his rule has included the usual tactics from the dictator’s playbook. It has also contained a couple of bizarre personal flourishes – like claiming he had a herbal cure for HIV/Aids and that he would kill all gays.
While he initially accepted the result of last month’s election, victorious opposition party figures threatened to have him tried at the International Criminal Court. So he did an about-turn and dug in, refusing to leave office.
As the deadline for him to stand down loomed yesterday and as Barrow prepared to be sworn in as the new president there was little sign that Jammeh would leave voluntarily, having ordered an 11th-hour state of emergency for 90 days. High-level negotiations involving regional leaders offering him safe passage have not borne fruit.
A West African military intervention looms. Senegal and Ghana have combat troops on the border while Nigeria has sent a navy vessel to the coast off The Gambia and has air power poised to strike.
Whether these forces are actually deployed, the steel-jawed political resolve behind them appears to be working.
The effect of this unwavering message and the shadow of a military intervention has been significant. Jammeh’s regime has rapidly eroded, with his deputy and key cabinet ministers abandoning his government in recent days. His military leaders have vowed to join the intervention force rather than oppose it.
This is a valuable example to other regional leaders on our continent. Resolve that appears credible and is underpinned by an effective military instrument with the will to deploy it is a powerful combination. Unfortunately, it is a combination too rarely seen.