After 22 years at the helm of a tiny West African nation that he has vowed to rule for “a billion years,” Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is facing a strong challenge as he seeks to extend his mandate to a fifth term following Thursday’s vote.
Jammeh, 51, who is known for his outbursts at one point affirmed that “only God could take him away from power”.
Early signs of an attempt to control information are evident in the capital, Banjul, where international communications and internet have been jammed.
Analysts say there is no shadow of doubt that the outgoing president is ready to step down from power.
“(…) the prospects of an exile for a young person like him is not rosy,” said Babacar Justin Ndiaye, a Senegalese political analyst. “He will most likely cling to power.”
Jammeh – who likes to dress in white robes – has in the past made headlines by claiming to have a herbal cure for AIDS that only works on Thursdays.
He has also vowed to make Gambia an Islamic republic and threatened to slit the throats of practising homosexuals.
His main challenger Adama Barrow, who has received backing from Gambia’s opposition parties, says he is 100% sure of winning the election and has advised the outgoing president to accept the will of the people if he loses.
Barrow has promised to revive Gambia’s economy, one of the region’s most sluggish and end wide spread human rights abuses.