Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Billion Year President

The Gambia's Yahya Jammeh is a man who obviously has never heard of term limits.  After winning re-election as president in a vote widely condemned by regional authorities as unfair, Jammeh said that he was ready to rule for “one billion years”, if God wills it, of course.

Jammeh has long been accused of political oppression since taking over as leader of this tiny West African state following a coup in 1994.  On a personal note, I happen to know someone who had to flee The Gambia after his organization ran afoul of the Jammeh government, so the claims of oppression are real.  The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders notes that journalists who question the government are often arrested, while in their piece, the BBC discusses the case of Deyda Hydara, editor of a private newspaper in The Gambia who was murdered in 2004, a murder blamed on Jammeh's security forces and still officially unsolved.

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, refused to send observers to monitor the presidential election because they said the opposition had been effectively silenced, making the vote inherently unfair.  For his part, Jammeh says that his critics can “go to hell”, and that he does not fear an Arab Spring-style uprising in his country.

It is hard to imagine what the world would be like at the end of Jammeh's billion-year rule, but thanks to our friends at NASA, we at least have an idea of what things might be like at the 250 million-year mark.  According to computer projections, continental drift will carry West Africa to the northwest, placing The Gambia on a latitude roughly equal to present-day Alaska and pressing it up against northern Canada.  Jammeh might want to start planning for the changes in location and environmental conditions now.   

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