... stopping to pose for selfies with admirers. “If they [Senegalese] come in, we are here like this,” Badjie said, making a hands up to surrender gesture.Sounds about right, from my modest experience of this strange little country on business 18 months ago. (This boosted my stock of crazy third-world anecdotes, which I may relate in some future Saturday post if it's quiet one week.) His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh Babili Mansa - el presidente for a few more hours perhaps - was always a bit flaky, e.g. his recent declaration that The Gambia was going to become an economic superpower a few years from now. His electorate were evidently sceptical about this; and to be fair, there were no outward and visible signs of superpower-type things happening. Or anything, really.
I couldn't help noticing that the locals in this longtime British Commonwealth country spoke English and French equally, and the explanation I was given (plus a glance at the map) makes it obvious enough. The lengthy border with francophone Senegal is totally porous and bears no relationship to the tribal boundaries: people drift in and out between the two countries all the time. Not a propitious basis for armed resistance against the local heavyweights of the country that surrounds them on three sides, plus Nigeria.
The majority of the population are Muslim in an easygoing sort of way (hey, for years before ebola it was a major-league holiday destination for scantily clad, boozy westerners); but there is no shortage of Christians either. The entertaining local newspapers devote the front page to obsequious coverage of the president's latest witterings, but inside the crime reports are colourful, and a page each is given to an Imam and a Catholic priest, from which columns I learned several worthwhile doctrinal points.
Jammeh has been offered exile in Nigeria, but at the time of writing he hasn't taken it up. The whole of the dark continent is watching this one closely as it might still represent an exceptionally rare event - an African dictator giving up power without bloodshed. And with a strategic position as weak as the one conveyed by the map, I think we must assume that'll be the eventual result. Hopefully so - for all concerned.