As 12am Gambian time, I watched the news to see what outgoing President Yayha Jammeh might do. Would he stand down to let newly elected President Adama Barrow take over or would he resist? Would Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) forces intervene and, if so, when?
Mainstream Australian media, indeed most English language Western media, coverage of Africa is very poor. There is a distinct gradient in which Latin American and then Africa are at the bottom of the pile, with Africa very much at the bottom. The reason for that is very simple. There is very little knowledge of Africa. It has, indeed, become the dark continent.
It is no secret that I am older. I grew up in a world in which British Empire and Commonwealth were still real entities. I actually studied some African history at school, was exposed to coverage of African events if through an arguably distorted lens. That may give me a distorted perspective from the viewpoint of my African friends, but at least I know something!
To try to monitor what was happening in Gambia, I went to the BBC. Nothing. Frustrated, I switched to Twitter following the #Gambia tag. I was quite sucked in. There was the usual misinformation, late discoverers repeating earlier stuff, brief comments expressing opinions, in all a raw stream including lots of garbage.
This video shows Ecowas troops entering Gambia. It was first posted on Twitter before the news flashes appeared on the BBC.
This was followed by scenes of celebrating crowds in the Gambian capital Banjul including a shot later of the head of the Army dancing with the crowds.By now, it was pretty clear that President Yayha Jammeh was totally isolated.
Bloodshed was still possible. There was a real feeling of impatience, of wanting to get things over. Here the West African leaders seemed to be playing with a cool head, seeking a graceful exit with no violence. As I write, it seems that President Yayha Jammeh will go peacefully into exile, although there is still a degree of uncertainty. Whatever the result, the matter seems to have been well handled.
And Twitter has proved its worth.
@MichelSow Confirmation by Flight Tracking: #Jammeh left 9:12pm #Gambia, no longer on its ground, 1000s feets high in air!!
Just before departure: