Gambia’s Jammeh loses to Adama Barrow

Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia’s authoritarian president of 22 years, has suffered a surprise defeat in presidential elections.

He will be replaced by a property developer, Adama Barrow, who won more than 45% of the vote.

Mr Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, has not yet spoken since the results were announced.

Electoral commission chief Alieu Momar Njie Njie has appealed for calm as the country entered uncharted waters.

The West African state has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

Mr Barrow won 263,515 votes (45.5%) in Thursday’s election, while President Jammeh took 212,099 (36.7%), according to the electoral commission. A third party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 102,969 (17.8%).

“There will be celebrations, there will be disappointment, but we all know we are all Gambia,” Mr Njie said, after announcing the results on Friday.

Born in 1965 in a small village near the eastern market town of Basse, Mr Barrow moved to London in the 2000s where he reportedly used to work as a security guard at an Argos catalogue store, while studying for real estate qualifications.

He returned to The Gambia in 2006 to set up his own property company, which he still runs today.

The 51-year-old won the presidential nomination in 2016 to lead an opposition coalition of seven parties – the largest alliance of its kind since independence, according to the AFP news agency.

On the electoral campaign, Mr Barrow – who has never held public office – promised to revive the country’s economy, which has forced thousands of Gambians to make the perilous journey to Europe.

He has criticised the lack of a two-term limit on the presidency and says he would introduce a three-year transitional government made up from members of the opposition coalition.

President Jammeh’s defeat comes as a huge surprise. Despite a surge of support for an opposition broadly united behind one candidate, most people expected the status quo to prevail.

Hopes weren’t high for a peaceful transfer of power, with a crackdown on opposition leaders months before the polls, the banning of international observers or post-election demonstrations, and then the switching off of the internet.

But in a place where glass beads are used in place of ballot papers, it seems that the marbles have spoken.

The unseating of an incumbent president is not the usual way politics goes in this part of the world – but it’s becoming popular in West Africa at least, with Muhammadu Buhari unseating Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria just last year.

Former businessman Adama Barrow now has his chance to tackle the poverty and unemployment which drives so many young Gambians to join the Mediterranean migrant trail every year.


Source: BBC