Gam­bian pres­i­dent Jammeh con­cedes de­feat

Se­cu­rity forces de­ployed heav­ily

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gam­bian Pres­i­dent Yahya Jammeh has con­ceded de­feat to the op­po­si­tion, the chair­man of the elec­toral com­mis­sion said yes­ter­day, bring­ing a dra­matic end to his 22 years in power. “It’s re­ally unique that some­one who has been rul­ing this coun­try for so long has ac­cepted de­feat,” Alieu Mo­mar Njie told re­porters ahead of the re­sults of Thurs­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Jammeh, who once said he would gov­ern for a bil­lion years if God willed it, was at­tempt­ing to win a fifth term with his Al­liance for Pa­tri­otic Re­ori­en­ta­tion and Con­struc­tion (APRC). Gam­bian state tele­vi­sion told AFP that Jammeh would make a state­ment later in the day to con­grat­u­late op­po­si­tion leader Adama Bar­row, 51. Bar­row, a pre­vi­ously un­known busi­ness­man, was cho­sen as the op­po­si­tion flag bearer by a group of po­lit­i­cal par­ties who have joined forces for the first time and won un­prece­dented pop­u­lar sup­port.

If the con­ces­sion is con­firmed, Bar­row will likely de­cide to serve a three-year term at the head of a tran­si­tion re­form gov­ern­ment in the tiny for­mer Bri­tish colony with pris­tine beaches that oc­cu­pies a nar­row sliver of land sur­rounded by French-speak­ing Sene­gal.

Banjul suc­cess

Jammeh cam­paign man­ager Yankuba Col­ley said he was not aware of the elec­toral com­mis­sion chair­man’s state­ment but said he be­lieved the pres­i­dent would step down if the Gam­bian peo­ple wanted it. “When the Gambians make their verdict, he is some­one who is faith­ful,” he told AFP. “It is a dif­fi­cult re­sult but the man I know will ac­cept what­ever comes.”

Bar­row’s camp con­firmed the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion state­ment. Thurs­day’s elec­tion was marked by an in­ter­net black­out that sparked con­dem­na­tion from rights groups and the United States. But early re­sults yes­ter­day were pos­i­tive for Bar­row as he took the cap­i­tal Ban­jula tra­di­tional Jammeh strong­hold. Bar­row won nearly 50 per­cent of the vote in Banjul’s three con­stituen­cies, ac­cord­ing to the IEC, com­pared to 43 per­cent for Jammeh. Se­cu­rity forces had de­ployed heav­ily in Banjul ear­lier yes­ter­day amid ner­vous­ness over whether Jammeh would ac­cept a bal­lot box de­feat. Be­fore dawn broke, mil­i­tary and po­lice, some cov­er­ing their faces, set up check­points ev­ery few hun­dred me­ters on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal, while ci­ti­zens were in­side sleep­ing or watch­ing the re­sults come in. “Power be­longs to the peo­ple. You can­not stop us and you can­not stop them,” Bar­row said at his fi­nal rally this week. Jammeh mean­while had pre­dicted the big­gest land­slide of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

‘Gen­er­ally peaceful con­di­tions’

The United States said turnout ap­peared to be high and that the vote took place in “gen­er­ally peaceful con­di­tions”, while the IEC hailed “a very suc­cess­ful elec­tion.” The US State Depart­ment and Hu­man Rights Watch voiced con­cern how­ever over the blan­ket cut to in­ter­net and in­ter­na­tional phone calls, as well as claims of voter in­tim­i­da­tion. “The gov­ern­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions cut­off and threat­ened protest ban are only likely to in­crease ten­sions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion groups,” said Ba­batunde Olug­boji from Hu­man Rights Watch. — AFP

SER­REKUNDA: Gambians cel­e­brate the vic­tory of op­po­si­tion coali­tion can­di­date Adama Bar­row in the streets. — AP

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