Has The Gambia’s gamble paid off?

When Yaha Jammeh seized power in 1994, he vowed to rule for "a billion years" but 22 years later, the tiny West African nation has a new president.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

President-elect Adama Barrow has promised to step down from power after three years, in order to boost democracy in the West African nation.

Updated Jan 4, 2017

Who’s been ruling The Gambia?

The Gambia has been under the control of "His Excellency Sheikh, Professor, al-Haji, Doctor Yahya AJJ Jammeh" since the past 22 years.

Yaha Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and vowed to rule the tiny West African nation for "a billion years".

Jammeh said he had invented a herbal cure for AIDS that only works on Thursdays. (Reuters)

He was handed a shock election defeat on Friday.

What is so shocking about losing an election?

Voting against Jammeh was a rare show of defiance by Gambians - an unusual act against a leader who human rights groups say routinely crushed dissent by imprisoning and torturing opponents.

On top of that, Gambians voted on Thursday during a total Internet blackout. All international calls were blocked, and land borders sealed.

This landmark election was the first serious challenge to Jammeh since he seized power in 1994.

How was Jammeh defeated?

Most of the opposition groups united to back a single candidate. A man named Adama Barrow.

Barrow has promised to revive the economy, whose sluggishness pushes thousands of Gambians to flee to Europe in search of a better life.

Instead of using ballots to cast votes, each registered Gambian gets a single marble, which they place in a metal canister plastered with the picture of the nominee. (Reuters)

He has also promised to end human rights abuses and to step down after three years as a boost to democracy.

After 22 years, will Jammeh step down?

In an address broadcast by Gambian state-owned radio on Thursday evening, Jammeh said he would not contest the poll results showing opposition candidate Barrow had won, which had been announced earlier in the day.

"If (Barrow) wants to work with us also, I have no problem with that. I will help him work towards the transition," Jammeh said, before later saying that he planned to move to his farm after leaving office following a handover in January.

Earlier this week, he said that his "presidency and power are in the hands of Allah and only Allah can take it from me," and on another occasion Jammeh also said that he would remain in office for "a billion years".

Jammeh's decision to step aside has also been greeted with shock.

"I never in my dreams believed he would concede. It almost feels too good to be true," said Ramzia Diab, an opposition member who fled to Senegal after getting death threats.

Supporters of president-elect Adama Barrow have been celebrating the landmark win. (Reuters)

The electoral commission head declared Barrow president-elect on state television, with 45.5 percent of the vote against Jammeh's 36.7 percent.

"Having received 263,515 votes out of the total votes cast in the election, I hereby declare Adama Barrow newly elected to serve as president of the republic of the Gambia," Alieu Momarr Njai said.

​What are some other interesting things about Jammeh?

He previously said he had invented a herbal cure for AIDS that only works on Thursdays.

Jammeh has arrested hundreds of people on suspicion of being witches or wizards.

He has threatened to decapitate or slit the throats of homosexuals.

Jammeh's supporters deny abuses and he has often criticised Western powers for meddling in African affairs.



TRTWorld and agencies