A massive number of Gambian security forces have been deployed in the capital Banjul, which remained calm hours after a dramatic u-turn by long time ruler Yahya Jammeh who said he will no longer recognize his electoral defeat amid international pressure to step down.
President-elect Adama Barrow called on Jammeh to accept his defeat in the December 1 presidential election, rejecting his request for a new vote, and urged his supporters to remain calm.
Jammeh who has ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years caught many in surprise after he acknowledged his defeat last week after the electoral commission announced Barrow had won the vote.
But he made a brutal turnabout in a television statement on Friday night.
“Just as I honestly accepted the results, believing that the Electoral Commission was independent, honest and reliable, I reject them in their entirety,” Jammeh said, denouncing “unacceptable errors” by the election authorities and called for a new ballot.
Jammeh, a devout Muslim who seized power in 1994 in the former British colony, warned Gambians not to take to the streets to protest his decision.
Latest official figures gave Barrow 43.29 percent of the votes in the presidential election, while Jammeh took 39.64 percent. The turnout was 59 percent.
“I urge him to change his position and accept in good faith the verdict of the people,” Barrow said after an opposition meeting at his home, noting that the outgoing president did not have the constitutional power to convene a new election.
Policemen and soldiers were seen holding checkpoints throughout the capital of this small country in West Africa, that has a population of about 2 million people.
Impact on tourism?
This crisis during the tourist season, one of the main sources of income for the country, worries the population.
Yahya Jammeh “should not say things that will scare tourists,” a fruit juice vendor told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In the tourist area of Banjul, western tourists preferred to stay away from the hustle and bustle of hotels, according to an AFP correspondent who witnessed a noisy altercation between diners who were divided into supporters and opponents of the outgoing president.
In New York, the UN Security Council called on Jammeh to “respect the choice of the sovereign people of the Gambia and to transfer power to President-elect Adama Barrow without undue delay or delay.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “appalled” by Jammeh’s attitude before calling on him to “fully respect the outcome of the election.”
Earlier, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN also called on Gambia’s government to “respect the verdict of the polls and guarantee the safety of President-Elect Adama Barrow and of all Gambian citizens.”
The European Union (EU) has deemed “unacceptable” the rejection of the results of the election, “urging President Jammeh to respect the rule of law and the will of Gambians.”
Amnesty International called on “the security forces to exercise restraint if Gambians decide to exercise their right to protest peacefully.”
The president-elect asserted Thursday the support of the chief of the army, General Ousman Badjie.
General Badjie “said he was loyal to President Yahya Jammeh because he was elected president. He said that now that I am elected by the Gambian people, he would support me,” Barrow said.
But in an apparent attempt to ensure the loyalty of the military hierarchy, President Jammeh promoted some 250 officers and senior officers on Thursday and Friday.