Almost 100 years ago in 1925, my mother became a naturalized US citizen at age 5. People uproot their lives to find hope and create a better life. That was the same year Mussolini addressed the Italian parliament and gave himself supreme power as prime minister, leading to disastrous historical events. My mother used to deal with people firmly but fairly. Working in local government, she lived strong values of respect for others within the confines of laws and human decency. Today much of this seems to be eroding around us. We have leaders who mislead, incite suspicion and even hatred of others. In the middle of these behaviors, it is critical to step away from the noise and review events in history as if you lived in another place, time, persona. Today, we hear leaders denigrate other countries, people. Yet look at where we are, what actions are being taken by whom, and the inaction of many in defense of altered, even arrogant views of ‘liberties’ currently held, demanded. In this article, the author Mamut Jagne presents views on elections in Gambia, Africa as a citizen. He describes a level of deceit, treachery, and questionable practices including violence that plagues many nations. Readers might consider the behaviors of leaders which seem to be patterned and in synchronicity with each other in other places, times, in history. In the US today, voter fraud claims to alter the system has taken hold with laws changing, red-lining, gerrymandering, and all types of ‘legal strategies’ to maintain control with freedoms being undermined. The idea of disparaging others to exalt oneself should be a cautionary tale. …Tout le monde est pays… Tutto il mondo e’ paese…People are the same the world over! Editor’s note by J.Jill
The 2016 Presidential election in Gambia was an interesting debate between the Jammeh-led Government and the series of political parties of the time. After being President of the country for over two decades, it was hard to boot a man such as Jammeh, who was so grounded in the country’s highest echelon of leadership. Jammeh was a brutal dictator, a totalitarian, and therefore, it was hard for a single political party to oppose him and emerge as victor. So, a coalition was formed in 2016 to face Jammeh in the elections.
By Mamut Jagne
After the forming of this coalition, a series of political parties like PDOIS, PPP, GPDP, UDP, GMC, NRP and prominent figures like Fatoumatta Tamabajang and other important personalities here and abroad shook hands together in the crusade to remove the then long-serving dictator at the time. Consultations and a resolution were made that Adama Barrow was to lead the coalition in contesting in the election. Barrow had only three months to campaign before elections. Gambians were so hungry for change as many think they were living in borrowed times under a regime that raped and harassed every citizen in the most brutal way. During the campaign, everyone could sense a wind of change as the lion-share of Gambians rallied behind the coalition against Jammeh’s APRC and Mama Kandeh’s GDC, then a first-timer who refused to join the coalition. The environment created mixed feelings as people both believed the coalition would win. But aware of severe retaliation if they failed to win, Jammeh would act against anyone who opposed his government and tenure.
On December 1, 2016, many Gambians rallied and voted for change. Election results all over the country were read by the Independent Elector Commission (IEC) through the Chairman Alhagie Momar Njie. After 48 hours of a tense and tedious journey in expectation of the results, Adama Barrow was duly pronounced the winner of the election. That same day, Jammeh, on National television, made a clarion call to Barrow and wished him well in conceding defeat. He further expressed his beliefs in “God’s decision” and assured that he would never denounce the will of God. This triggered a lot of cheers and celebration in the country as change finally seemed to arrive. However, after forty-eight hours of celebration, the country froze as Jammeh announced his address to the public. Then, he contested the results, alleged that the election was rigged and refused to hand over power until justice would be served. Soldiers surrounded the country; people were shaken, and it eventually led to a political impasse until ECOWAS and the African Union stepped into the matter as mediators to make sure that peace was restored. Jammeh unwillingly accepted his exile to Equatorial Guinea. Barrow was sworn in The Gambia’s Embassy in Senegal.
At the same time, Adama Barrow who led with the agreement to step down after three years as agreed on paper, refused to honor the agreement, and proceeded to rule for five years and formed his political party “National People’s Party” – NPP. On the December 4th, 2021 Presidential election, Barrow campaigned against five other politicians where a series of campaign assaults on character were made. The most ferocious contender against Barrow’s NPP was Lawyer Darboe’s UDP who did not only want to win the election but also wanted Barrow out of power as they believe he is not promoting enough development in the country. On election day, all candidates went out and voted. Each declared himself the winner at the end of the election in a statement before the media. After 24 hours of voting in large numbers, a massive voter turnout of 89.3% out of the 962,157 registered voters, Gambians decided on who to lead them in the next five years. The Independent Electoral Commission announced that Barrow won with amassing 53% of the votes cast. UDP’s strongest holds were dominated by NPP and the provincial Gambia wasted no time in deciding this year’s election. In fact, when all the total numbers of votes of all other parties combined, Barrow’s NPP garner most votes. Before the final results,the opposition parties UDP, GDC and independent candidate Essa Faal had a short press conference. He threatened to challenge the results through the courts, citing factors doubting the fairness and credibility of the results. They lamented that the results took longer than expected, some of their representatives’ reported matters of misconduct, and they promised to continue investigations while they prepare to take the matter to court.
Meanwhile, this declaration hasn’t stopped the Independent Electoral Commission from announcing results in which Adama Barrow was declared President-Elect. Gambians went out in numbers to celebrate the victory. This was a clear manifestation of Democracy and Rule of Law. Gambians expressed happiness everywhere despite the opposition’s dissatisfaction over the results.
Essa Mbye Faal, the independent candidate who collaborated with UDP and GDC, later withdrew his statement and expressed his acceptance of the results congratulating the President-Elect. Forty-eight hours after the election results announcement, the UDP supporters took to the streets contesting the election of the results. They expressed their dissatisfaction and disagreement with the results. Traffic was blocked, threats of violence increased, and the peace of the country seemed threatened. The Police Unit went out to control the potential unrest from the UDP militants camped at Kairaba Avenue and Brikama. In Brikama, militants clashed with security officers, revolted, and tear gas was released. This incident led to some injuries, but no death is confirmed so far.
The opposition party has yet to file against the election results in the courts within a ten-day period. Peace is in order, tranquility is in the streets, and for now, people have returned to their normal activities at work.