The Gambia has voted out its dictator who ruled for 22 years and once said that he will “rule for 1 billion years if God wills it”.
Who is Adama Barrow, the next President of Gambia?
Born in 1965 in small village near the market town of Basse, eastern Gambia Moved to London in the 2000s, reportedly working as a security guard at Argos department store in north London while he completed his studies. Returned to Gambia in 2006 to set up his own property company 51-year-old wins nomination to lead coalition of seven opposition parties against President Jammeh Criticises the lack of a two-term limit on the presidency and condemns the jailing of opposition politicians Promotes an independent judiciary, freedom for media and civil society Says he will introduce a three-year transitional government made up from members of the opposition coalition if he wins
About the Gambia
The Gambia is one of Africa's smallest countries and, unlike many of its west Africa neighbours, it has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence.
President Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has ruled with an iron fist ever since.
Stability has not translated into prosperity. Despite the presence of the Gambia River, which runs through the middle of the country, only one-sixth of the land is arable and poor soil quality has led to the predominance of one crop – peanuts.
Tourism is an important source of foreign exchange, as is the money sent home by Gambians living abroad. Most visitors are drawn to the resorts that occupy a stretch of the Atlantic coast.
Some articles from before the election
Young Gambians ready to vote out dictatorial Yahya Jammeh regime : With high unemployment among its youthful population driving people to flee to Italy, Gambia goes to the polls this week in a climate of dissent
Background on the Election "Gambian Opposition Unites".
On December 1, Gambians will vote in their country’s most consequential election since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. For the first time, a unified political coalition will challenge Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s longtime dictator, only months after the most vigorous protest movement in the country’s recent history.
The upcoming election could usher in a new period in Gambia’s political development, which so far has been marked by two distinct phases. The first period began in 1965 with Gambian independence and ended in 1994 with the overthrow of Dawda Jawara, the country’s first popularly elected president. Over those three decades, Gambia’s economy performed relatively well compared to its counterparts in West Africa, ranking third overall in GDP per capita in 1994; the country also became a popular tourist destination, earning the moniker the “Smiling Coast of Africa.” Jawara was widely applauded for advancing human rights and for his bold attempts to improve Gambia’s economy. Thanks in part to his government’s record, in 1989, the newly created African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) chose to establish its secretariat in Banjul, Gambia’s capital.
In the early 1990s, Jawara began to face growing internal criticism and calls for change—in particular, for failing to curb corruption and provide basic services. Throughout the early 1990s, civil society groups, university students, and working Gambians took to the streets to express their discontent. Yet Gambia was hardly an outlier in a region that was experiencing a host of post-colonial troubles.
Gambia’s situation took a dramatic turn for the worse in July 1994, when Jammeh, then a 29-year-old junior military officer, seized power in a bloodless coup. (He had recently returned from a military training course in the United States.) Under Jammeh’s rule, which marks the second period in Gambia’s independent political history, the country has earned a reputation as a human rights pariah due to the rampant killings, disappearances, and torture of journalists, activists, and members of the political opposition. Gambia is now the only country in West Africa with a per-capita GDP that is lower today than it was in 1994, and it has the region’s second-lowest per-capita GDP in the region overall. It’s no wonder that Gambia’s most notable export is its own citizens. This year, they made up the fourth-largest group of migrant and refugee arrivals to Italy, despite the fact that Gambia has one of the smallest populations in Africa. Perhaps in an attempt to shield himself and his regime from potential prosecution for their myriad crimes, Jammeh recently withdrew Gambia from the International Criminal Court. (The chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, is a Gambian citizen and was once a legal adviser to Jammeh.) As for the ACHPR, African observers have called for its relocation to a country with a better human rights record.
Since 1994, Jammeh has systematically deprived ordinary citizens of their rights to free speech and has verbally lashed out against most segments of society, threatening, for instance, to “slit the throats” of gay men living in the country and vowing to “bury” the political opposition “nine feet deep.” But Gambians are not the only targets of Jammeh’s unhinged ire: in May, for instance, he told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Amnesty International to “go to hell” after Ban and Amnesty voiced their concerns about the death of Solo Sandeng, an opposition youth leader who was arrested, beaten, and reportedly tortured to death while in state custody.
In the run-up to the December 1 election, Jammeh and his inner circle have ratcheted up their incendiary rhetoric, which has at times amounted to hate speech and incitement to violence. In June, Jammeh labeled the country’s nearly one million ethnic Mandinka “vermin” and went on to exclaim: “I will kill you like ants, and nothing will come out of it.” Soon afterward, Gambia’s top diplomat at the United Nations was caught on tape endorsing the shooting of peaceful protesters. And in the second week of November, the government arrested and detained incommunicado three Gambian journalists (one has since been released).
In recent months, however, there have been signs that Gambia’s climate of fear is beginning to dissipate. In April, Gambians took to the streets in the most sustained act of public defiance against Jammeh since he seized power over two decades ago. The authorities suppressed the burgeoning civic movement with characteristic brutality, arresting more than 90 opposition activists and handing down three-year jail sentences to 30 people, including the president of Gambia’s main opposition party. The crackdown led to the deaths, apparently by torture, of at least two opposition party supporters held in state custody.
Instead of withdrawing into their corners, in October, Gambia’s opposition united behind a single presidential candidate, a businessman and former London security guard named Adama Barrow.
The impressive union backing Barrow includes most of Gambia’s main opposition parties and has drawn the support of Isatou Touray, a prominent human rights activist who has been at the forefront of efforts to achieve social change in the country for several decades.
What implications does this have for other autocrats on the Continent? Can Mugabe be the next to go in 2018?