By Alhagie Jobe
The head of The Gambia’s electoral commission (IEC) has declared opposition candidate and coalition leader Mr Adama Barrow as the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
The results were: Adama Barrow – 263,515 votes; Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh – 212,099 votes and Mama Kandeh – 102, 969.
President Yahya Jammeh has reportedly conceded defeat in a recorded message to the nation which is to be aired shortly on the national television, GRTS.
Mr Jammeh has rule the small West African nation for the past 22 years.
The chairman of the electoral commission, Alieu Momar Njai declaring the final results described the election as free, fair and transparent saying the incumbent President Yahya Jammeh has conceded defeat prior to final results.
“It’s really unique that someone who has been ruling this country for so long has accepted defeat” he said.
Meanwhile, prior to the announcement of the results, Mr Jammeh’s Gambia’s minister of external affairs and Inspector General of Police (IGP) appeared on national television calling for calm.
Mr Jammeh’s defeat comes as a huge surprise. Despite a surge of support for an opposition broadly united behind one candidate, most people expected the status quo to prevail.
Hopes weren’t high for a peaceful transfer of power, with a crackdown on opposition leaders months before the polls, the banning of international observers or post-election demonstrations and then the switching off of the internet on eve of election day.
But in a place where glass beads act as ballot papers it seems the marbles have spoken.
The unseating of an incumbent president is not the usual way politics goes in this part of the world – but it’s becoming popular in West Africa at least. The news of the opposition victory came as the internet came back online.
Yahya Jammeh, 51, seized power as a young army officer in a 1994 coup and has maintained his control over Gambia in four subsequent elections despite growing international concern over his government’s deteriorating human rights record.
Long known for his eccentricities, including a snap decision last year to declare Gambia an Islamic republic, international attention has increasingly focused on the repressive nature of his rule.
Mr Jammeh has rejected outside criticism and last month announced Gambia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, a body he says is biased against Africans and which his spokesman dubbed the “International Caucasian Court”.
In April, small protests in Banjul calling for electoral reform led to dozens of arrests, including that of the leader of the main opposition party, UDP, Mr Ousainu Darboe.
Two other UDP members have since died in custody while others remain in jail, but the almost unheard of act of defiance has helped galvanize Jammeh’s opponents.
Who is Adama Barrow?
- Born in 1965 in small village near the market town of Basse, eastern Gambia
- Moved to London in the 2000s, reportedly working as a security guard at Argos department store in north London while he completed his studies.
- Returned to Gambia in 2006 to set up his own property company
- 51-year-old wins nomination to lead coalition of seven opposition parties against President Jammeh
- Criticises the lack of a two-term limit on the presidency and condemns the jailing of opposition politicians
- Promotes an independent judiciary, freedom for media and civil society
- Says he will introduce a three-year transitional government made up from members of the opposition coalition if he wins .