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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in Banjul, Gambia, on Nov. 29, 2016. (Marco Longari/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

African nations are on the verge of taking an extraordinary step to rescue democracy in a country where its fate is hanging in the balance. The West African regional bloc, known as ECOWAS, is resolutely trying to persuade Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to step down after losing a national election. If Jammeh refuses, the consequences could be serious. Regional leaders have even authorized a military force to intervene in defense of the clearly expressed will of Gambia’s voters.

Africa has never seen anything like it. The African Union, which has been notoriously hesitant to criticize its own members on human rights issues, has stood firmly behind ECOWAS.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gambian president-elect Adama Barrow during an interview in December 2016. Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

The Gambia’s presidential election crisis has been of particular personal interest for me. Between 2013 and 2014 I lived in the country as a law lecturer at the University of The Gambia. The experience was a fantastic one and helped me to understand why the country and its inhabitants are affectionately referred to as the “smiling face of Africa”.

It was a year that moulded and shaped me, but also in some respects shocked me. During one of my lectures I looked up to see an unfamiliar face. Students later informed me that the individual was a member of the national intelligence agency detailed to monitor anti-government sentiment.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Dec. 2, Yahya Jammeh, the dictator of the small West African country Gambia, did something remarkably undictatorial: He agreed to step down after losing an election. But a week later, he reverted to type, appearing live on state television to reject the results.

Mr. Jammeh has been in power for 22 years, a ruthless autocrat throughout. He ran a paramilitary hit squad that, according to human rights groups and one former member I interviewed, assassinated political opponents and dumped their bodies in an abandoned well; he threw lesser enemies in Mile 2, a mosquito-infested prison. In Banjul, the country’s dusty capital, military checkpoints maintained a lifeless calm that dissipated only during official celebrations of Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Yahya Jammeh’s rejection of the election results will test the region’s response to democratic challenges. Although a small player in the region, Banjul is the home of the African Union commission; so it’s response to Jammeh’s claims of foul play will act as a barometer for tolerance of leaders in the region who are unwilling to concede defeat.

Last night I was writing an article about how West African states lead by example, compared to their Eastern relatives, in the transition of power following elections. Senegal, Nigeria and now Ghana, all have shining track records for peaceful transitions of power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters celebrate after Gambian opposition leader Ousainou Darboe, who had been jailed for taking part in a protest, was freed on bail with 18 others on Dec. 5 in Banjul, days after a shock opposition election win. (Seyllouseyllou/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Gambia shocked the world last week when its brutal dictator of 22 years, President Yahya Jammeh, lost a bid for a fifth term in what was widely considered a free and fair election. What is even more astonishing is that Jammeh has conceded the results and is paving the way for the first democratic transition since 1965. Very few would have contemplated such an outcome late last week as Gambian citizens prepared to head to the polls.

Jammeh, after all, has an abysmal record rife with arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearances and severe human rights violations. His grip on power was absolute, and he once boasted, “If I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will.”…  Seguir leyendo »


“We will win the biggest landslide this country has ever seen,” said Gambia’s president, Yahya Jammeh, before the small West African country’s recent election, and he had every reason to be confident. Jammeh had been in power for 22 years, and he knew how to run an election.

There was not the slightest indication that Jammeh was ready to surrender power. He said he was “proud to be a dictator,” promised to bury the “evil vermin called opposition 9 feet deep,” and once declared that he would rule “for 1 billion years if Allah wills it.” But when the marbles spoke last Friday morning, he had lost the election.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Jammeh: known as the ‘Sultan’. Solan Kolli/EPA

Gambians are celebrating on the streets of the capital Banjul after the country’s electoral commission announced its controversial president, Yahya Jammeh, had lost the election to opposition leader Adama Barrow. Jammeh, who has ruled the small West African country for 22 years since seizing power in a military coup, confirmed he would step down and work with the new president-elect to help the transition of power.

Over the last two decades, Jammeh has tightened his hold on power with the help of the National Intelligence Agency, which is charged with protecting state security by conducting intelligence and covert investigations. Human rights have been violated and freedom of speech repressed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Adama Barrow, the Gambia’s new president, had a student job at the catalogue retailer while studying in London. Photograph: Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters

On Friday 2 December, the small west African nation of the Gambia gave the world some hope which, in 2016, has often been in short supply. Election results announced that day revealed a shock win for Adama Barrow, bringing to an end the 22-year rule of president Yahya Jammeh, a man who once said he was prepared to rule for a billion years.

History-making aside, what seems to fascinate the UK press most is the fact that the president-elect once worked as a security guard at Argos, a British retailer. On the surface this interesting titbit further heightens the sense of Barrow’s rise from obscurity.…  Seguir leyendo »