Pres­i­dent bans all protests ahead of elec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY CARLEY PETESCH

BANJUL, GAMBIA | Gambia’s pres­i­dent of more than two decades is warn­ing that even peace­ful protests will not be per­mit­ted af­ter Thurs­day’s elec­tion, a move that comes as peo­ple are for the first time speak­ing out more freely against Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh’s rule.

The 51-year-old Mr. Jam­meh, who took con­trol of this small West African coun­try in 1994, raised his hands in the air be­fore thou­sands of singing and danc­ing sup­port­ers at his fi­nal cam­paign rally late Tues­day.

Mr. Jam­meh has said his vic­tory is all but as­sured with di­vine in­ter­ven­tion, and warned the op­po­si­tion against protest­ing.

“Our elec­tion sys­tem is fraud-proof, rig-proof, you can­not rig our elec­tions,” he said. “There is no rea­son that any­body should demon­strate.”

Demon­stra­tions will not be al­lowed “be­cause those are the loop­holes that are used to desta­bi­lize African gov­ern­ments,” he said.

The Gam­bian vote comes in a year of strain for many of the con­ti­nent’s democ­ra­cies, with long­time pres­i­dents cling­ing to power in coun­tries such as Cameroon, Uganda and Zim­babwe, while elec­tions re­sults have sparked protests and in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism in coun­tries such as Bu­rundi, Gabon and Zam­bia.

Mr. Jam­meh’s sup­port­ers praise his ef­forts to boost eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the tiny coun­try that is de­pen­dent on tourism and agri­cul­ture.

“He has built the air­port, schools, med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and build­ings,” said 50-year-old Pinta Man­neh, smil­ing with ex­cite­ment for the man she was cer­tain would be re-elected for a fifth term. She couldn’t imag­ine an op­po­si­tion vic­tory. “He will be an­gry if he loses,” she said.

Mr. Jam­meh came to power in a coup in 1994, and then swept elec­tions in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, af­ter a 2002 con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment re­moved pres­i­den­tial term lim­its.

On Thurs­day, more than 880,000 reg­is­tered vot­ers will head to more than 1,400 polling sta­tions around the coun­try. The sliver of a coun­try, sur­rounded by Sene­gal and a small At­lantic coast­line, has a pop­u­la­tion of about 1.9 mil­lion.

Mr. Jam­meh faces off against Adama Bar­row, a for­mer busi­ness­man and United Demo­cratic Party leader, who emerged as the can­di­date for an al­liance of eight op­po­si­tion par­ties. For­mer rul­ing party deputy Mama Kan­deh is run­ning for the Gambia Demo­cratic Congress, the only op­po­si­tion party not in the coali­tion.

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