Gam­bia op­po­si­tion to field One pres­i­den­tial can­di­date

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Gam­bia’s op­po­si­tion par­ties an­nounced Fri­day they would unite around a sin­gle can­di­date for De­cem­ber’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, in an un­usual show of unity as Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh seeks a fifth term in power. At a meet­ing in Banjul, the groups agreed to pick a sin­gle con­tender at a con­ven­tion on Oc­to­ber 30, just weeks ahead of the elec­tion slated for De­cem­ber 1.

The sig­na­to­ries of the mem­o­ran­dum said they were “putting our dif­fer­ences aside, in pur­suance of the supreme na­tional in­ter­est”, with the aim of oust­ing Jam­meh from power. They in­cluded the United Demo­cratic Party (UDP) — the coun­try’s prin­ci­pal op­po­si­tion move­ment-along with sev­eral smaller group­ings and the Gam­bia’s first ever fe­male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, de­vel­op­ment ex­pert and women’s rights cam­paigner Isatou Touray. Jam­meh came to power in a 1994 coup, and has ruled The Gam­bia with an iron fist ever since.

Be­fore the na­tion’s last pres­i­den­tial vote in 2011, the 15-na­tion Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States (ECOWAS) said Jam­meh’s con­trol of the me­dia and in­tim­i­da­tion of vot­ers meant the elec­tion could not be free and fair. The strong­man took 73 per­cent of the vote. The Gam­bia’s newly ap­pointed In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion as­sured po­lit­i­cal par­ties last month the vote would not be rigged, de­spite fears that an op­po­si­tion crack­down is al­ready un­der­way.

Com­mis­sioner Alieu Mo­mar Njie told re­porters in Banjul: “The stakes may be high, and temp­ta­tion may be great to achieve vic­tory through il­le­gal or morally ques­tion­able means in some coun­tries. “I stand here to­day to pro­nounce to you that, as far as our con­certed ef­forts are in play, this will never be the case in our dear coun­try.” UDP party leader Ou­sainou Dar­boe-the run­ner-up in 2011 — is among sev­eral op­po­si­tion fig­ures serv­ing three-year sen­tences for or­ga­niz­ing a peace­ful rally over two party mem­bers’ deaths in cus­tody.

The UN, France, the US and hu­man rights watch­dogs have all voiced con­cern over the deaths and called for an in­de­pen­dent probe. Cam­paign­ing for the elec­tion be­gins on Novem­ber 16. Since in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1965, the Gam­bia has had just one other leader: Dawda Jawara, who served un­til the cur­rent pres­i­dent top­pled him in the 1994 coup. —AFP

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