Friday, November 12, 2010

King Me

Elections are troubling things for the world's dictators – on one hand there's always the chance you could lose, a troubling prospect for any dictator; then there's merely the indignity of allowing the people a chance to weigh in on your all-powerful rule in the first place, yet the global community tends to insist on countries holding the things and takes a dim view on those who name themselves President-for-Life. The old-school solution to this problem was to hold a rigged election that you were sure to win either by having loyalists stuff the ballot boxes with votes for you, or by intimidating the political opposition into dropping out of the race entirely (see Zimbabwe for this tactic in action); the downside to either approach though is that they are relatively easy for the global community to monitor and criticize. The newer approach has been instead to stock the country's electoral commission with your people, thereby ensuring that the votes in your favor are counted, the ones that are against you are not and that all of this is done with the veneer of legality – after all the electoral commission certified the results...

But The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh is taking a different approach to the whole electoral problem – he's angling to be crowned King of The Gambia. Jammeh has ruled this thin sliver of a nation, which runs along the banks of the namesake Gambia River in Western Africa, for 16 years since taking power in a military coup. He has since been “elected” president three times, though Jammeh's rule is basically absolute in The Gambia – he controls the media and all branches of the national government. I happen to know someone from The Gambia, now living in exile after running afoul of Jammeh's policies, which makes me believe that the stories of his total control of the nation are not being overblown.

That also makes the story that tribal chieftans in The Gambia are pushing for Jammeh's coronation as thanks for all of the great things he's done for the country seem pretty dubious – more likely they're pushing for his coronation because they were told to do so since Jammeh seems tired of standing for elections – even sham ones that he is sure to win. The push for coronation could also be part of Jammeh's mania for collecting self-aggrandizing titles, which earlier this year also included being named an admiral in the “Nebraska Navy”. Jammeh apparently wasn't aware that landlocked Nebraska has no navy and that the title is a sort of inside joke among Cornhuskers.

His push for Kingship however is not.
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