But the most salient lesson to be learned from the crisis is the importance of prudence (or, in this case, how potentially damaging lack of prudence can be) in dealing with precarious political transitions. Jammeh’s initial acceptance of the election results, was met with bewildering statements on the part of the victorious leaders of the opposition coalition vowing to prosecute the defeated president. Those were extremely irresponsible and shortsighted pronouncements that set off the alarm in Jammeh’s already paranoid mind. What made the opposition’s declarations and prematurely triumphalist posture even more reckless was the very real risk of a conflict along ethnic lines that hung over the nation. Indeed, Jammeh didn’t waste any time to stoke those sentiments by attacking the Mandinka majority, and soon divisions started to appear in the military.
Yahya Jammeh was a brutal and deeply corrupt dictator who has amassed considerable personal wealth during his 22 years of rule, and Gambia will be a better place without him. Yet, sometimes it is best to sacrifice justice, or, at least, defer the day of reckoning, in the interest of peace.