ADVISORY: Yahya Jammeh's rejection of democracy in The Gambia

Vanguard Africa raises concern about latest developments in The Gambia

On the evening of December 9, exactly one week after the Gambia’s momentous election, which saw long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh concede defeat to opposition challenger Adama Barrow, the country’s democratic trajectory has been thrown into doubt. This evening, sitting President Yahya Jammeh announced live on state television that he “decided to reject the outcome of the recent election.” Citing unspecified “abnormalities,” Jammeh demanded “fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission.”

This turn of events in the Gambia is deeply troubling and opens the lid on long-simmering tensions in the country and deepens concern over pre-election fears of state-led mass killing. Under Yahya Jammeh’s rule, the Gambia became notorious for its rampant human rights abuses and the type of unaccountable leadership that prompted Gambian citizens to vote in droves against him last week. Following the entirely peaceful elections, Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat to President-elect Barrow live on national television. This sudden change of course clearly violates a host of international and regional legal conventions, in addition to the Gambia's own rules that govern presidential transitions, of which this was a historic first. 

“On December 1, the Gambian people spoke unequivocally and stood bravely by voting in droves against twenty-two years of tyranny and dictatorship,” said Vanguard Africa’s executive director, Jeffrey Smith. “We encourage all Gambians, regional leaders and the United States government in particular to remain vigilant and to not allow democracy to be hijacked. We also urge Gambian citizens to document attempts at intimidation and violence and report them to Vanguard Africa.”

This week, the people of Gambia spoke resoundingly in favor of democratic governance and in favor of a brighter and more prosperous future. In the lead up to and during the Gambian election, the international community, including major media outlets, answered the call and helped to shed a much-needed spotlight on the country. It is time to do so again.