Africa

Defeated anti-gay strongman demands Gambian revote

Rabidly anti-gay Gambian strongman President Yahya Jammeh has reversed course, declaring his “total rejection” of the results of the Dec. 1 election that he lost decisively. He called for a new vote “free from foreign influence.”

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (Photo courtesy of AFP and Senenews.com)

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (Photo courtesy of Senenews.com)

On Dec. 2, Jammeh had accepted his defeat and congratulated the winner, businessman Adama Barrow, in a televised speech on Gambian state television. Barrow won 45.5 percent of the vote to Jammeh’s 36.7 percent.

The Guardian reported:

Troops have been deployed to the streets of Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, after the autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, unexpectedly rejected his defeat ….

[Despite his Dec. 2 speech] few observers expected Jammeh to give up control of the small west African country.The election result – and Jammeh’s acceptance of defeat – was widely seen as a moment of democratic hope on the continent and prompted widespread celebration in the Gambia and elsewhere.

But in an announcement on state TV on Friday, Jammeh said he had changed his mind and wanted “fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission”.

The Guardian published this photo of Gambian army troops last week patrolling the streets of the capital, Banjul.

The Guardian published this Reuters photo of Gambian army troops patrolling the streets of the capital, Banjul.

Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 military coup, has targeted gays for torture, along with political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders  and religious leaders. In 2014, his regime arrested 16 allegedly gay men in an anti-homosexuality crackdown.

In the past, Jammeh called homosexuals “vermin” and said the government would exterminate them like malaria-carrying mosquitoes. He threatened to slit gay men’s throats and declared that the letters LGBT must stand for “leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis.”

The Fatu Network, founded by Fatou Camara, a former Gambian official who fled the Gambia to avoid arrest by Jammeh’s regime, reported:

In a speech on state television GRTS TV, Jammeh said that investigations since the Dec. 1 vote have revealed a number of voting irregularities that he called unacceptable.

He said some figures in the results had been transposed and that voter turnout had been suppressed.

“After I accepted the results without any query, the IEC called all parties at the headquarters and told them that there was error. That is not acceptable,” he said.

He added: “Our investigations reveal that in some cases voters were told that the opposition has already won and that there was no need for them to vote and, out of anger, some of them returned home. I hereby reject the results in totality,” he said in his address that aired late Friday. …

Under Jammeh’s rule, the country surrounded almost entirely by Senegal has become notorious for its abysmal human rights record as well as the president’s erratic behavior. …

He also has increasingly isolated Gambia, whose economy has long been dependent on tourism. In 2013 he exited the Commonwealth, a group made up mostly of former British colonies, branding it a “neo-colonial institution.” And in October, Jammeh said Gambia would leave the International Criminal Court, which he dismissed as the ‘International Caucasian Court.’”

President-elect Adama Barrow of the Gambia (Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail)

President-elect Adama Barrow of the Gambia (Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail)

The Guardian reported:

Babatunde Olugboji, deputy programme director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the organisation was “deeply concerned by reports of belated objections to the Gambian election results raised by President Jammeh”.

Olugboji called on “the international community, notably Ecowas [the Economic Community of West African States] and the African Union” to “loudly protest against any unlawful attempt to subvert the will of the Gambian people”.

Jammeh’s defeat and resignation led to euphoria in the Gambia last week. The country is suffering a severe economic crisis, triggering an exodus of young people across the Sahara in an attempt to reach Europe. It is increasingly isolated diplomatically.

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One thought on “Defeated anti-gay strongman demands Gambian revote

  1. Pingback: ‘Hope for change’: Gambian voters oust anti-gay strongman | 76 CRIMES

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