By Demba Kandeh
Equatorial Guinea’s leader has landed in Banjul to attend activities marking 48 years of so-called self-governance in the tiny West African nation, The Gambia.
Gambians will on Monday, 18th February 2013, celebrate 48 years since the lowering of the Union Jack in the tiny West African state. The Gambia gained independence from Great Britain on 18th February 1965, becoming the last of the four British West Africa territories. Others are Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
In 1979 Obiang seized power from President Francisco Macias Nguema, who was the leader at independence and whose rule prompted a mass exodus and thousands of deaths. The former leader was tried and executed.
President Macky Sall of Senegal is also expected in Banjul on Monday against the will of Gambian dissidents abroad, who have sent a letter to the Senegalese president requesting him to turn down the invitation.
Historians believe The Gambia was the first African nation to be colonized by the British.
The country attained independence from Britain in 1965 and Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara became the first president.
The Gambia under President Jawara was generally seen to be democratic compared to most of other post-independence African states. During his rule, The Gambia maintained an enviable track record of human rights and good governance. However, in July 1981 while attending the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana, he was nearly overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat attempted by Kukoi Samba Sanyang. The coup was eventually suppressed with the intervention of Senegalese troops.
Jawara reportedly wanted to resign during one of the annual Mansa Bengho (rulers meeting) held at Mansakonko in 1992. He was literally begged by his Progressive People’s Party militants and other state elders.
He was finally dislodged in a bloodless coup in July 1994 led by Yahya AJJ Jammeh. Jawara and went into exile in the United Kingdom until 2002 when he returned to Banjul. He now lives in The Gambia as an elder statesman and is accorded VIP treatment under the Office of the Former President. Jammeh has led the tiny West African country with an iron fist. He led the country as a soldier through the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) for two years and he resigned from the army and contested elections under a new party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). Under the APRC he has been re-elected four times, the latest was in September 2011 when he swept polls with over 70%. ECOWAS had criticized the elections and refused to send an observer mission arguing that the elections will not be free, fair and transparent.
In his independence message, President Jammeh is expected to lambast the West in general and the European Union in particular. Recently, Jammeh dismissed EU proposal for a political dialogue to better the country’s worrying human rights situation.