Why tiny Gambia’s political transition holds outsized meaning for many Africans

Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters | Caption

I always like it when a few words convey a lot – in this case, #LessonsfromGambia. From where? The oft-overlooked country – and its neighbors – just sent a loud message to African leaders who hang on too long, and to citizens eager for change. – Amelia Newcomb, International News Editor

JANUARY 25, 2017 No sooner had The Gambia’s outgoing president Yahya Jammeh had left the country Saturday evening, sealing the country’s first transition of power in more than two decades, than a hashtag began trending on Twitter in much of Africa: #LessonsfromGambia.

“Time is up for dictators in Africa #LessonsfromGambia,” wrote one user. “The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power #LessonsfromGambia,” wrote another.

But if the departure of Mr. Jammeh – who had ruled the tiny country buried inside Senegal since taking office in a 1994 military coup – provoked many congratulations, equally exciting for Africa’s Twitterati was how it had happened.

The Gambia’s transition had been made possible in large part by the deft intervention of its neighbors in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who over the past two months have shuffled between negotiations and the threat of military intervention to convince an often recalcitrant Jammeh that he had no choice but to go.

On a continent where regional bodies have often failed – by accident and by design – to shelter democracy, that seemed for many here a watershed moment.

“#ECOWAS set the blueprint that #Africa’s affairs can be solve[d] within #Africa, without unfavourable western conditions #LessonsFromGambia,” commented one Twitter observer. “If regional blocks in #Africa take the same lead as #ECOWAS did in #Gambia, dictatorships will become a thing of the past.”

MORE:   http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2017/0125/Why-tiny-Gambia-s-political-transition-holds-outsized-meaning-for-many-Africans

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