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World

Longtime Gambian Ruler Refuses to Step Aside

Gambia's ruler of more than 22 years announced late Friday that he no longer accepted defeat in country's presidential election

H.E. Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh President of the Republic of The Gambia, poses with the Presidential Couple in New York on Sept. 23, 2009, photo: Wikimedia
9 months ago

DAKAR, Senegal  — Gambia’s ruler of more than 22 years announced late Friday that he no longer accepted defeat in country’s presidential election, reversing course a week after he conceded to his rival.

In a speech on state television, President Yahya Jammeh said that investigations have since revealed a number of voting irregularities that he called unacceptable.

“I hereby reject the results in totality,” he said in his address that aired late Friday. “I will not accept the results based on what has happened.”

Only one week ago, a jovial Jammeh was filmed on state television calling opposition candidate Adama Barrow to wish him the best.

“You are the elected president of The Gambia, and I wish you all the best,” Jammeh told Barrow at the time. “I have no ill will.”

The dramatic about-face was certain to spark outrage among the opposition and the tens of thousands of Gambians living in exile abroad. Already in the week since he had been defeated, several dozen political prisoners had been released on bail.

A tiny country of 1.9 million people surrounded almost entirely by Senegal, Gambia has become notorious for its abysmal human rights record as well as the president’s erratic behavior.

The Jammeh regime has long been accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing its opponents, according to human rights groups. He also has issued increasingly virulent statements against sexual minorities, vowing to slit the throats of gay men.

In 2007, Jammeh claimed to have developed a cure for AIDS that involved an herbal body rub and bananas. Alarming public health experts, he insisted patients stop taking antiretroviral medications so his remedy could have an effect.

He also has increasingly isolated Gambia, whose economy has long been dependent on tourism. In 2013 he exited the Commonwealth, a group made up mostly of former British colonies, branding it a “neo-colonial institution.” And in October, Jammeh said Gambia would leave the International Criminal Court, which he dismissed as the ‘International Caucasian Court.'”

KRISTA LARSON

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