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Gambia: Sudden Hope in a Small Country
December 6, 2016 (161206)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The bells of freedoms are ringing in the four corners of the
Gambia. We are free at last and the thousands of Gambians who were
forced into exile can now return home and help rebuild their
country. We shall no longer be afraid to hold political discussions
in the open. We can now sleep peacefully at night without the men in
black breaking in our homes and take us away in front of our
children. We are indeed really free. ... Alhamdulillah, change has
happened in the Gambia." - Jollof News editorial, December 2, 2016
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a round-up of short articles
following the surprise election victory of opposition candidate
Adama Barrow and the even more surprising concession speech by
strongman Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 22 years. The
first is the editorial from JollofNews quoted above. Others are from
the Guardian (UK), African Leadership Magazine (UK), Daily Maverick
(South Africa, and Foreign Policy (USA)
Also of particular interest are three short articles from
Quartz Africa, the first of which features a video of Jammeh's
concession phone call to the victor, shown on state television.
Quartz Africa, December 2, 2106 "One of Africa's longest-serving
strongmen has conceded victory to his opponent live on state TV"
http://tinyurl.com/zj5396b - Includes video of the concession phone
"Africa's long-serving strongmen are conspicuously silent on
Gambia's democratic ouster of its 22-year leader", Quartz Africa,
Dec. 5, 2016 - http://tinyurl.com/zc35xt4
Quartz Africa, "The updated chart of Africa's longest-serving rulers
if these two step down in 2017 as promised," Dec 3, 2016
http://tinyurl.com/hbawut6 - includes list of ten, after subtraction
of Jammeh of Gambia, and dos Santos of Angola, who has said he will
retire next year.
For background and continuing news, AfricaFocus recommends:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13376517 (Gambia Country
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This is the last regular AfricaFocus Bulletin for 2016.
Regular publication will resume in mid-January 2017. AfricaFocus
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++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Gambia 2016: Celebrating The End Of Tyranny
by Jollof Media Network
Editorial December 2, 2016
https://jollofnews.com - direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/hmv8lme
(JollofNews) -- We begin by praising Almighty Allah for giving us
the patience and the strength to effect a peaceful change of
government in the Gambia.
It has not been an easy road and many Gambians who stood up against
tyranny and injustice have been killed and buried six-feet deep,
arrested, tortured or exiled.
Many families have been left orphaned and many parents were left
childless. Their pain was immeasurable.
It was a painful journey never experienced before in the history of
the Gambia, yet no matter how terrible the pain was, Gambians never
allowed the devil to get the better of them. They remained patient
22 long years and prayed to their Lord for help.
That help finally came a few months ago when their Lord like in the
Biblical scripture gave them a previously unknown man as their
leader. The new leader gave them courage and inspired them.
He made them believe that they can slay the monster that has
tormented them for over two decades peacefully without shedding
their blood again if they rise and exercise their democratic rights.
Some had doubted him at the beginning but he has made the
unthinkable happen. The Mighty Professor Sheikh Yahya Babili Mansa
Jammeh has been slayed and will soon disappear into his Kanilai
Kingdom or somewhere far, far and far away.
The bells of freedoms are ringing in the four corners of the Gambia.
We are free at last and the thousands of Gambians who were forced
into exile can now return home and help rebuild their country.
We shall no longer be afraid to hold political discussions in the
open. We can now sleep peacefully at night without the men in black
breaking in our homes and take us away in front of our children. We
are indeed really free.
The locks of Mile Two Prisons shall be broken and all political
detainees languishing in mosquito infested cells and surviving on
watery stew will be welcome back to Gambian society not as former
prisoners but as freedom fighters and heroes.
Never again shall we allow monsters like Jammeh to govern the
Gambia and hold the people captive.
For Yahya Jammeh and his cronies, we should show them forgiveness
and mercy even though they don't deserve it.
A lot of blood has already been spilled in our God blessed country
and we shall not resort to the same barbaric style of governance
that we have fought against in the first place.
The Gambia belongs to all of us and the new administration should
use their mandate to unite the country and provide a better and
prosperous Gambia that we all yearn for.
Let's say a big thank you to the chairman of the Independent
Electoral Commission, Alieu Mommar Njai for providing us the means
to slay the monster.
Alhamdulillah, change has happened in the Gambia.
The Gambia's President Jammeh concedes defeat in election
Incoming president, Adama Barrow, says Jammeh called him offering
his congratulations after shock result
Ruth Maclean in Banjul and Emma Graham-Harrison
The Guardian, 2 December 2016
The Gambia's autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a
"billion-year" mandate to rule, has conceded defeat after a shock
election loss to a real-estate developer who once worked as a
security guard in London.
'Fear has faded': Gambian election could finally end dictator's grip
Jammeh had kept the tiny west African country under an iron grip for
more than two decades, and there were fears that the eccentric 51-
year-old would use violence or fraud to maintain power.
Instead he became a rare dictator to accept defeat in a democratic
election, agreeing to hand power to challenger Adama Barrow, a
softly spoken businessman who previously had little public profile.
Barrow told the Guardian that Jammeh had called him to concede
defeat with the words: "Congratulations. I'm the outgoing president;
you're the incoming president."
The father of five used his lack of political baggage to woo voters
desperate for change, claiming 45.5% of the vote to Jammeh's 36.7%.
If Jammeh sticks to his word, Barrow will become only the third
Gambian head of state since the country's independence in 1965.
In a televised statement, Jammeh said the vote had been "the most
transparent election in the whole world," adding that he would not
contest the result.
"I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Adama for his victory.
It's a clear victory. I wish him all the best and I wish all
Gambians the best. As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty
Allah I will never question Allah's decision. You Gambians have
decided," he said.
The prerecorded message then cut to a shot of Jammeh phoning the
"Hello, are you hearing me?" Jammeh asked Barrow, grinning widely on
his mobile. "I wish you all the best. The country will be in your
hands in January. You are assured of my guidance. You have to work
with me. You are the elected president of The Gambia. I have no ill
will and I wish you all the best."
Barrow said he was confident Jammeh would stand down. "Power belongs
to the people. It's the people who have spoken. He cannot hang on,"
he said. "We won the election clearly so there's nothing he can do
Barrow said his priority was to name a cabinet. "I'm very, very
happy and excited. I'm happy that we won this election."
Even the head of the electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, seemed
stunned by Jammeh's rapid concession.
"The president is magnanimous enough to accept that he had lost the
election, and he will call the new president to congratulate him as
well as to pray for peace and tranquility," he said after announcing
preliminary results. "It's very rare that this present situation
now, in Africa, that this happens." .
Internet and international phone services cut off for "security"
during the poll were restored soon after Njai's announcement and, as
news of the election result spread, the country erupted into
The streets of the capital, Banjul, deserted until that point, began
to fill with cars screeching their horns and blasting out music.
Children sang, men stripped off their shirts and punched the air,
and others went online to celebrate using the hashtag
#gambiadecides. Several said the historic change had moved them to
One Twitter user, Muhammad Sanu Jallow, said: "I couldn't hold back
the tears. I'm almost 30, and I've known only 1 President this whole
time. Good time to be alive. #GambiaDecides 11:13 AM - 2 Dec 2016"
Gambians abroad joined the celebration, with several saying they
were planning to return or expected friends and relatives to head
The country's poverty and repressive political climate means many
Gambians live overseas, particularly in Europe, even though it is
one of Africa's smallest states with only 2 million people.
Casting his vote on Thursday, Jammeh said he was confident of
winning "a bigger landslide" than the Gambia had ever seen, and
refused to say whether he would concede if he lost.
This year's election was the first time since 1994, when Jammeh
seized control of the country in a coup, that he faced a serious
challenge to his rule. Over that period he consolidated power in a
series of presidential elections, and skilfully exploited tribal and
other divisions among multiple opposition parties.
Opposition politicians, journalists and activists were arbitrarily
arrested, thrown into jail, tortured and killed during Jammeh's
Njai had been about to announce the latest batch of results when he
received a call on his mobile phone. He told waiting observers and
press that the president knew the result and was ready to concede.
The interior minister, sitting in a magnolia office cubicle and
trembling behind his sunglasses, called on all to remain calm.
"Keep the peace and tranquility," Modou Bah said. "People should go
for their lawful businesses. We should not allow politics to divide
Meanwhile, those hosting the live broadcast of election results on
state television could not hide their astonishment.
"Have all the people loyal to the president migrated?" asked Malick
Jones, presenting an all-night broadcast of Gambia Decides, when he
realised Jammeh had lost the capital.
Outside Barrow's house, crowds gathered, some celebrating and some
in shock. Anger at Jammeh for his decades of repression bubbled up
"We'll put him in jail. We want him to go to the [international
criminal court]," said Adama Faye, an 18-year-old student. "He
killed my father – I promise you, he did. Since I was born, I
haven't felt this kind of happiness."
Jubilant crowds sang, whistled, cheered and stormed Barrow's
compound in celebration trying to get in and shake his hand, as a
man with a basket-hat and a posse of bouncers tried to keep them
Inside, the first lady-elect, Fatou Bah, the first of Barrow's two
wives, arrived in a blue dress and large gold earrings and was
blessed by a close family friend, Catholic priest Bruno Toupan.
Barrow is a devout Muslim, and Toupan said his decision to call a
Catholic to bless the family was proof that he would be a president
for all Gambians.
"We have great hope in the Gambia," he said. "It's a great relief,
as Jammeh was planning to bring in sharia law. I would have been a
Cheering crowds also gathered outside the home of Ousainou Darbo,
the opposition leader who was sentenced to three years in prison in
April, giving rise to Barrow's candidacy.
His court hearing will be on Monday and the crowds were calling for
his release. Amnesty International added its voice to these calls.
"An immediate first step for this new government is to release
political prisoners and those who have disappeared," Sabrina
Mahtani, from Amnesty International, said.
"We've seen how important the rights of freedom of information and
freedom of assembly are over the last few weeks – it's important
that the new government reforms repressive laws."
From Being a Security Guard to President. Meet Gambia's New
President, Adama Barrow [Brief History]
December 3, 2016
African Leadership Magazine
Adama Barrow, a successful property developer who has never held
public office, has defied the odds to score a shock victory in The
His victory in the small West African nation's presidential poll is
arguably an even bigger shock than that of fellow property mogul in
the US, Donald Trump.
Mr Barrow's opponent Yahya Jammeh, had ruled the country for more
than two decades, but said if God willed it, his presidency could go
on for "a billion years".
Before the 51-year-old was chosen in September as the candidate to
represent seven Gambian opposition parties at the election, he had
spent 10 years working in property, having started his own estate
agency in 2006.
In the early 2000s, he lived in the UK for several years, where he
reportedly worked as a security guard at the Argos catalogue store
in north London, while studying for his real estate qualifications.
British media have even reported that while guarding the shop on
Holloway Road, he made a citizen's arrest on a shoplifter, which
resulted in a six-month jail term.
It was also during that period that Mr Barrow is thought to have
followed in the footsteps of millions of other African football
fans, choosing to support Arsenal FC, at that time his local club.
He was born in 1965, the same year his country gained independence
from British colonial rule, in a small village near the market town
of Basse in the east of the country.
Throughout his campaign, he pledged support for an independent
judiciary, as well as increased freedom for the media and civil
Property developer Adama Barrow has scored the unlikeliest of
Six things about Adama Barrow:
- Member of the Fula ethnic group, born in 1965, the year of Gambian
- Reportedly worked as a security guard at Argos in the early 2000s
while studying in UK
- Returned home in 2006 to set up property business
- Supports English Premier League football team Arsenal
- Nominated as the candidate for coalition of seven opposition
parties, promising greater respect for human rights
- A devout Muslim who is reportedly married with two wives and five
He described his opponent as a "soulless dictator" and promised to
undo some of Mr Jammeh's more controversial moves.
"We will take the country back to the Commonwealth and the
International Criminal Court (ICC)," he told the Anadolu Agency.
A devout Muslim, he also criticised the lack of a two-term limit on
the presidency and condemned the jailing of political opposition
Speaking to the BBC three days before the election, Mr Barrow said
that Gambians "had been suffering for 22 years" and were ready for
He scorned the achievements of his opponent, who boasted of having
brought The Gambia out of the stone age with his education and
The hospitals President Jammeh had built had "no drugs… or quality
doctors", the schools "no teachers, no chairs… no good educational
materials", he said.
They were "white elephant projects".
Although he became treasurer of the main opposition United
Democratic Party (UDP) party in 2013, Mr Barrow was not a household
name in The Gambia, described as "little-known" even by one of the
local media outlets supporting him.
Mr Barrow, who has two wives and five children – according to the
Gambian newspaper The Point, was especially popular among young
voters – who have been badly hit by the country's struggling
Many thousands of Gambians have made the perilous journey to Europe
in search of jobs.
So The Gambia's new leader has great expectations on his shoulders –
as he makes history in a country which has not had a smooth transfer
of power in his lifetime.
The Gambia: Jammeh's defeat shows voting does count, and dictators
Daily Maverick, 04 Dec 2016
The shock defeat of Gambia's would-be president-for-life Yahya
Jammeh sent shock waves through the region, and caused wild
celebrations in Banjul. But for one Gambian journalist-in-exile, the
news has far more personal implications.
Friday, December 2, was a very good day for Sanna Camara.
Camara, 35, is from the Gambia, Africa's smallest country. He is not
popular with his president, who takes a dim view of a free press,
and regularly imprisons or intimidates journalists who try to do
their jobs properly. Camara is one of those journalists – he runs
the blog Gambia Beat – and in August 2014 was forced to flee the
country. He had already been arrested three times.
Camara left behind his wife and three children in Banjul, the
capital, and snuck across the border into Senegal, where he has been
working ever since.
When I met with him, last week, he wasn't sure when, or if, he would
see his family again. President Yahya Jammeh has been in charge of
the Gambia for 22 years, and showed no sign of loosening his grip on
power – despite a resurgence in support for opposition parties, and
an upcoming election that looked too close to call.
But Camara knew the script. Jammeh would fiddle the numbers. His
security forces would threaten recalcitrant voters. He would cling
to power, no matter what, because that is what dictators do –
especially dictators who claim that they are ready to rule for "one
On Thursday, Gambians went to the polls, casting their marbles –
yes, marbles – for their preferred candidate. And then, on Friday,
someone ripped up the script.
In extraordinary scenes, the head of the Gambia's electoral
commission read out the results of the vote:
"Having received 263,515 votes out of the total votes cast in the
election, I hereby declare Adama Barrow newly elected to serve as
president of the republic of the Gambia," said Alieu Momarr Njie,
looking a little nervous. He knew that the Gambia was suddenly in
Jammeh had lost.
As campaigner Jeffrey Smith explained to Foreign Policy: "Jammeh
faced such a surprising groundswell of support for the opposition
that they couldn't fudge the numbers to the point where they could
make it credible that they won."
After the shock results went public, Jammeh called president-elect
Barrow to formally concede. "Allah is telling me that my time is up
and I hand over graciously, with gratitude to the Gambian people and
gratitude to the almighty Allah, to you," Jammeh is reported to have
said. He also told Barrow he would be around to advise if necessary,
but intended for now to retire to his farm.
For Camara, the news was momentous. It wasn't just about the future
of his country, which suddenly looks so much brighter – and freer,
and more transparent, and more democratic – than it did last week.
It was also about his own future.
Camara can go home. His exile is nearly over. "I can't wait to be
with my family again, and continue my work from there, after being
away for two years and four months," Camara told me.
Presuming the handover goes smoothly, Barrow should be a very
different proposition to his predecessor. A real estate tycoon, he
ran on a platform of change, promising to revive Gambia's stagnant
economy and put a two-term limit on the presidency.
"I'm very happy because everybody thought that it was impossible,
and the impossible became possible… A new Gambia is born. We want
everybody on board now. This is Gambia, politics is over," Barrow
said in an interview with AP.
But not even Barrow really expected the impossible to happen. As the
BBC reported, the president-elect "seemed bewildered" by the result.
As was almost everyone else. This was an unprecedented defeat for a
sitting dictator, and one that will send shock waves throughout the
Never mind that the Gambia is tiny, and almost completely powerless
in the grand scheme of things. The message sent by the people of
Gambia last week – that voting really counts, that the dictator can
fall, that power can change hands peacefully – will resonate far
beyond its borders.
"It is true that Gambia is a small country of only two million. But
Yahya Jammeh was not a trivial figure. Due to his extreme
eccentricities, he had drawn wide attention and become a symbol of
the suffering a self-anointed president-for-life, with no clear
economic plan, can inflict on his people… The club of dictators will
be losing more than a bit of sleep in the next few months,"
concluded Kenyan columnist Murithi Mutiga.
Camara, meanwhile, plots his return home. But he's not booking the
first flight to Banjul just yet. "I have some considerations prior
to return, one of them being that the new government takes charge
and is able to contain Jammeh," he said. Hundreds of thousands of
other Gambian exiles, refugees and economic migrants – many of whom
have made the long, dangerous journey to Europe – will be making
similar calculations, just as soon as they have stopped celebrating.
The Biggest Election Surprise of the Year May Actually Be in West
By Robbie Gramer
Foreign Policy, The Cable, Dec. 2, 2016
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh once vowed to rule his country for
"one billion years." He was only 999,999,978 years off. On Friday,
Jammeh lost his country's general election to opposition leader
Adama Barrow after 22 years in power.
The defeat comes as a huge shock -- not only because an unlikely
opposition leader ousted an authoritarian president with a penchant
for coups, but also because the president accepted the loss. "It's
really unique that someone who has been ruling this country for so
long has accepted defeat," Gambian electoral commission chief Alieu
Momar Njie told reporters.
Barrow earned 45.5 percent of the vote, while Jammeh trailed with
36.7 percent, according to the BBC. The surprise win by an
opposition figure -- and Jammeh's even more surprising acceptance of
his loss -- is a historic moment for the tiny West African nation,
which hasn't had a smooth power transfer since gaining independence
Jammeh has ruled Africa's smallest nation with an iron fist since
first wresting power in a coup in 1994. His repressive regime
impoverished an already underdeveloped country; the poverty rate
that has hovered around 50 percent for years, according to the World
Bank. Since taking power, he's unleashed his security forces to
torture, intimidate, arrest, and suppress dissenters to keep his
grip on power, according to Human Rights Watch.
Instances of dictators losing their own 'window dressing' election
are rare. But there was a perfect storm of various factors that
turned the tide in Gambian opposition's favor, said Jeff Smith,
founder of Vanguard Africa. [See http://vanguardafrica.com/about/
for more background on the role of Vanguard Africa."]
"First, the opposition was unified and energized in a way that they
had never been before," Smith told Foreign Policy. The government's
brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in April and May
garnered international scrutiny and galvanized various opposition
factions. "It was the longest and most defiant act of public
disobedience the country witnessed since Jammeh came to power,"
Then there's Europe's refugee crisis. "Gambia plays an outsized role
in the crisis," Smith said. "It's the fourth largest 'exporter' of
refugees to Italy this year, despite being one of Africa's smallest
countries." This raised Europe's awareness of the plights of
Gambians and ratcheted up international scrutiny on Jammeh's regime.
And then, there's the enigmatic dictator himself. Jammeh's brutal
and bizarre antics have drawn an international media spotlight that
both enraged his people and energized the opposition over the years.
It starts with his public proclamations. He led state-sanctioned
'witch hunts and threatened to personally slit the throats of gay
men in a public speech.
He also isolated Gambia abroad. When he won reelection in 2011 in
results that many international observers questioned, he told
critics to "go to hell." In 2013, he withdrew from the Commonwealth,
the 54-nation group of former British colonies, after the United
Kingdom's Foreign Office released a report charging Gambia with
human rights abuses. Jammeh also pulled Gambia out of the
International Criminal Court for alleged bias against African
nations; one of his ministers called it the "International Caucasian
Court" when explaining the government's decision to withdraw.
Suffice it to say, Gambians were clearly ready for change. And
facing a wave of popular dissent and international pressures, he had
"Jammeh faced such a surprising groundswell of support for the
opposition that they couldn't fudge the numbers to the point where
they could make it credible that they won," Smith said. That hasn't
stopped dictators before, but international pressure made have
tipped the scale, particularly pressure from his own neighborhood of
relatively successful West African democracies. "For a number of
years, the regional leaders have become fed up with Jammeh," Smith
said. "He's a black eye on a region that's performed overwhelmingly
well writ large."
The United States and European Union also made clear an intent to
slap sanctions on the country if Jammeh stole the elections again,
as did neighboring countries like Senegal, which surrounds the tiny
sliver of land that comprises Gambia. This, coupled with a
determined and unified opposition, convinced the president to accept
Jammeh, to defend his dictatorial cred, did try to make things
difficult for the opposition as his country headed to the polls. In
a classically authoritarian move, his regime banned internet and
international phone calls when the country took to the polls. He
also barred EU election observers from monitoring the process. But
it didn't deter Gambians from voting him out.
His successor is a relatively new and inexperienced figure in
Gambian politics. Adama Barrow is a real estate manager with little
government experience (though he was reportedly a former retail
store security guard in London before he threw his hat into the ring
of Gambian politics.) He wasn't supposed to be the face of the
opposition, but Jammeh threw many other would-be frontrunners in
jail. "He was thrust into this position because the leaders of party
he's a member of, the United Democratic Party, are all in prison,"
When Barrow takes office, he has a tough road ahead. The first item
on the agenda is healing a nation that has suffered a traumatic
dictatorship for over two decades. And then there's the
"Jammeh ran Gambia as a mafia state," said Smith. "The state does
not exist without him, so there's a huge void that Barrow has to
fill." He said there's little economic opportunity but Gambians are
hopeful for the change new leadership could usher in.
That void is a particularly deep and bizarre rabbit hole, starting
quite simply with Jammeh's resume. Officially, it painstakingly
lists some 80 awards he's received as president, ranging from the
"Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska" (yes, that one
is real) to an "Honorary Degree in Herbal and Homeopathic Medicine"
from Belgium's Jean Monnet European University, to the "Most Student
Loving and Innovative President in Africa" award to the "Kentucky
Colonel Award" from the governor of Kentucky.
Oh, and don't forget that Jammeh can cure asthma and (at least, he
claims) AIDS -- but don't think that makes him a witch. "I am not a
witch doctor, and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are
either a witch or a doctor," he said, when his purported medical
miracles came to light.
And if titles alone won elections, Jammeh would have clinched a win;
his formal title is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor
Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa. (He added Babili Mansa, meaning
'conqueror of rivers,' to his title in 2015).
A 2014 coup attempt adds another strange layer to his story. The
coup ringleaders were a Texan real estate developer and a Minnesotan
computer studies teacher who served 10 years in the U.S. Army.
Because of course. The FBI later arrested the two men, both U.S.
citizens of Gambian descent.
None of Jammeh's awards, strange antics, or his ability to dodge
coup attempts, curried favor with his people, as the voters showed
Friday. It's an upset few -- including Barrow himself -- expected.
But international scrutiny on the bizarre and brutal dictator may
have been the final nail in the coffin of Jammeh's reign.
"For years, the opposition struggled and put their lives on the line
without anyone taking note," Smith said. But when international
media shed light on the Gambian leader, they also brought the plight
of his people to light.
"The opposition wouldn't back down," Smith said. "This time, they
knew the world was watching."
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