The West African sub region recorded another milestone in her effort at consolidating democracy when The Gambia, Africa’s smallest nation with just a population of about two million last week successfully held its presidential election. The December 1, 2016 poll resulted in a relatively unknown businessman in political circles, Adama Barrow, defeating the longtime president, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, who had been at the helm of affairs in the country for the past 22 years.Jammeh lost in his bid for re-election, according to results made public last Friday, marking a new beginning for leadership in the West African nation. In the result announced by Alieu Njie, the country’s Chief Electoral Commissioner, opposition coalition candidate, Barrow won 263,515 votes representing 45.5% ; while President Jammeh took 212,099 which represents 36.7% of the total vote cast.Though he is relatively unknown, the new leader of Gambia was born in
1965 in a small village near the eastern market town of Basse, The man from a humble background moved to London in the 2000s where was reportedly worked as security guard while studying for real estate qualifications. He returned to his country in 2006 to set up his own property company, which he still runs today.
As fate would have it, the 51-year-old won the presidential nomination this year to lead an opposition coalition of seven parties, the largest alliance of its kind in the country since independence. In the course of his electoral campaign, 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 in crossing the Mediterranean .We are delighted with the maturity which the outgoing Gambia leader took the result of the poll, a development that is gradually becoming the norm in prime elections in West Africa, since Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election. In a concession speech broadcast on state television last Friday night, Jammeh, calmly accepted his defeat.
According to Jammeh, “I told you, Gambians, that I will not question the outcome of the results and will accept it,” adding “I did not wish to contest or find out why they did not vote for me. I leave that with God.” The factors responsible for Jammeh’s fall are not far-fetched. .Several blows had been dealt to the Gambian economy in the last three years, making life close to unbearable for many and sending thousands across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe. A 2013 drought was followed by the region’s Ebola crisis, which despite not affecting the country itself scared off tourists who account for 20 percent of the country’s GDP.
This year the Gambian authorities slapped a huge increase on customs fees for trucks entering its territory from Senegal, causing a blockade and cutting the country off from vital supplies for months. It became obvious that Gambians were weary of their country’s descent into isolation due to their leader’s unpredictable behaviour, including the declaration of an Islamic republic in a country with a history of religious tolerance, and its withdrawal from the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court. Police harassment and impunity by the security services, especially the National Intelligence Agency that reported directly to Jammeh, fed growing resentment among the populace. To worsen an already critical situation, Jammeh in June, made a serious mistake by saying he would “wipe out” Mandinka people the Gambia’s largest ethnic group, who protested against him, adding he would put them “where even a fly cannot see them”. The comment was condemned as “public stigmatisation, and, dehumanisation” by the United Nations Special Adviser on genocide, Adama Dieng, who said it was an incitement to violence.
In past months, Jammeh’s administration had come under increasing scrutiny by Western leaders over the suppression of human rights. The European Union threatened to impose sanctions on the government, and the United States issued statements highly critical of Alhaji Jammeh’s crackdowns on opponents. The rest of the world has been commending The Gambians for the peaceful manner they effected change of leadership. Nigerian leader, President Muhammadu Buhari saluted the spirit of statesmanship displayed by the out-going President of the country, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, in conceding defeat.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari noted that such uncommon gesture was crucial in calming fears of unrest in the West African nation.
While expressing delight at the gallantry shown by Jammeh, President Buhari enjoined President-elect Barrow to be magnanimous in victory.
He also commended Gambians for peacefully exercising their democratic right to freely choose their leader and called on all stakeholders to maintain the peace.
According to him, he looks forward to a smooth transition of power and working with the incoming President of The Gambia to deepen existing cordial relations between both countries. President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also the Chair, Authority of Heads of State and Government, said while addressing newsmen during her two-day official visit to the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.
“This is good news for The Gambia, good news for ECOWAS, for Africa, for the rest of the world.” We cannot agree less with the two West African leaders.
We wish to join the good people of The Gambia for effecting a their desired change of leadership , in place of Alhaji Jammeh who was treading the path of despotism, and display of insensitivity to his people’s economic and social challenges in more than two decades he was in power. The Gambians have proved that democracy remains the best form of government in bringing about the deserved and required change in the polity . The development in the West African nation should serve as great lesson to those despots in the continent, who have entrenched themselves in power, and suffocating their nations and their people economically, socially and politically. For these leaders, their days of reckoning are getting closer.

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