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Africa Towards a new notion of Sovereignty: The Cases of The Gambia and Sudan

The wind of political change in Africa is blowing. The so-called fourth wave of democratisation is affecting sub-Saharan Africa challenging authoritarianism and tyrannical rule. This article will investigate new conceptions of sovereignty where absolute powers in the hand of the executive have been superseded by people power. I will focus on the Gambian and Sudanese cases.  I will look at the Gambia during Jammeh’s era and his final removal. It will also examine how Al-Bashir was removed and the agreement recently reached between the Military Council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

Sovereignty from absolutism to legitimacy

Some of the early notions of state sovereignty are reflective of a centralised power. The conventional sovereignty relates to the idea that states are internationally recognised territories that cannot be violated, and that non-intervention is hardly challenged. However, power must be situated in a form of legitimacy in order to have stability. Legitimacy transforms power into rightful authority. Sovereignty gets its authority and legitimacy from the people. This was presented by Rousseau in his Social Contract, highlighting the need to develop institutions for promoting equality among citizens.

The Gambian case

The Gambians have made history by organising a successful convention. This convention brought together the major political parties and an independent to form a coalition to unseat the incumbent through an electoral process. This was extended to the fact that the outgoing President Jammeh conceded defeat to Adam Barrow. This declaration of defeat by Jammeh was greatly appreciated nationally and abroad. However, the celebration and jubilation evaporated when Jammeh reversed on his earlier decision and challenged the results of the election on claims of anomalies. The new dawn effectively ended the self-imposed isolation of the Gambia for more than two decades.
The Gambians confronted Yaya on the moral, judicial, political and religious grounds to ensure that the democratic process was not derailed. In the interim, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were shuttling in and out of Banjul to have a peaceful resolution and to facilitate the smooth transfer of power to incoming President. Barrow was sworn in at the Gambia Embassy in Dakar on 19th January 2017. He arrived in Banjul on 27th January 2017 and was warmly welcomed by the Gambians.

The Sudanese Case

The constitutional declaration agreed between the Military Council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change is an important turning point in Sudan. This event heralds the beginning of a new dawn that has effectively ended thirty years of dictatorship. It has ended self-perpetuating rule and exploitation of religion for self-aggrandizement at the expense of the poor people of Sudan.  Under his misrule, Southern Sudan declared independence. Other regions such as Darfur, Kurdufan and Blue Nile all waged war against the central authority of the state because of disparity. During the 30 years of dictatorship millions of Sudanese were either internally displaced or migrated. Sudan is a rich country with a potential to transition into a state characterized by good governance and the rule of law. Above all, Sudan is endowed with intellectuals and abundant resources if used judiciously the country can be transformed dramatically. Now that the agreement has been reached, the transitional government headed by a Prime Minister has the mammoth task of injecting life to the already stagnant economy and to rebuild dysfunctional state intuitions. During the transition, a new Constitution will be drafted to guide Sudan and delineate the different powers. The main challenges are ending war in regions and to include them in the new political process. The transitional government reached agreements with warring factors to give the new political dispensation a chance.  This will ensure that peace and justice are achieved through a comprehensive package. 

The  collective endeavour by the Gambians and Sudanese to defeat dictators and force the former into exile without any bloodshed and the latter sent to prison, sends a strong message that Africa like other regions cannot anymore condone tyranny behind the traditional notion of sovereignty. 

By Basidia Drammeh 

4P International

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