During last month’s elections in Gambia, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh was defeated by challenger Adama Barrow. Nonetheless, Jammeh has refused to step down, forcing President-elect Barrow to hold his inauguration yesterday at the Gambian embassy in Senegal. It remains unclear whether Jammeh will succeed in cheating the Gambian people out of their democratically-chosen leader.
Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and once stated he had a mandate to rule for a billion years. An erratic leader, Jammeh has claimed the ability to cure AIDS with an herbal concoction, declared that gay people should be beheaded, and imprisoned his political opponents. Barrow, in contrast, is a soft-spoken real estate agent who ran for president only after Jammeh jailed other opposition party members.
The international community has sided squarely with Barrow. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed the Senegalese-led effort of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to peacefully transfer power to Barrow. That same day, Senegalese troops entered Gambia. However, a Senegalese military official has indicated that troops will stand down while an ECOWAS delegation, led by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, attempts to negotiate a peaceful transition.
At least 26,000 Gambians, fearful that Jammeh will not go down without a fight, have fled the country. Halifa Sallah, a spokesman for President-elect Barrow’s political collation, has urged Jammeh to cede power to avoid “dead bodies . . . and blood flowing like a river.”
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