Gambians vote in 1st post-Jammeh presidential election

Dec 4, 2021, 7:32 AM | Updated: 11:56 am
People line up to cast their ballot for Gambia's presidential elections in Bakau, Gambia, Saturday,...

People line up to cast their ballot for Gambia's presidential elections in Bakau, Gambia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Gambians vote in a historic election that will for the first time not have former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years, on the ballot. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambians showed up to vote in high numbers Saturday for the first presidential election in decades that does not include former dictator Yahya Jammeh as a candidate, a milestone seen as a test of democracy in the West African country.

Lines of voters snaked out of doors and around corners through the day, showing up at polling stations before the sun rose and continuing to turn out in steady streams into the bright afternoon.

Nearly 1 million voters were expected to drop marbles into one of six ballot bins, each adorned with the face and name of a candidate.

The candidates include incumbent President Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in 2016 while running as the candidate for an opposition coalition.

Barrow’s challengers are former mentor and head opposition leader Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party; Mama Kandeh of Gambia Democratic Congress; Halifa Sallah of People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism; Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh of the National Unity Party; and Essa Mbye Faal, former lead counsel of Gambia’s truth commission, who is running under an independent ticket.

“We will never lose this election” Barrow said after voting in Banjul. “I am a leader who is focused on development, and that development will continue in this country. I know in the next 24 hours my people will be celebrating in the streets.”

Barrow stressed the Independent Electoral Commission must remain impartial in its oversight of the election.

“If they are neutral, it makes it very easy for all of us, the players, and if they are neutral, it’s easy for people to accept the final results,” he said.

Darboe, the United Democratic Party candidate, voted in Fajara, a neighborhood in Bakau, near the capital, using a walker to vote due to health problems.

“Our hope is that a lot of people will come and cast their votes because we believe that if the majority of the people cast their votes, the United Democratic Party will stand up its chance of wining” Kemo Bojang, national secretary general of UDP’s youth wing said.

Touring polling stations across the Serrekunda area, Independent Electoral Commission Chair Alieu Mommar Njie expressed satisfaction with the voting process. He said election results would be announced by Monday.

“There is no system in the world better than us,” Mommar told reporters.

All the presidential candidates have vowed to strengthen the country’s tourism-dependent economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic so fewer Gambians feel compelled to travel the dangerous migration route to Europe.

While the 2016 election that removed Jammeh from power after 22 years saw Gambians go from fear to elation, many are still not satisfied with the progress the nation has made.

“Since President Barrow came to power, the prices of food commodities kept rising. The average Gambian lives in poverty, so we want a candidate to be elected to address this problem,” Kebba Gaye, 23, said in the town of Wellingara. “We youths want to elect a leader that will respect and value our votes. A leader that will create employment for us (young people), road constructions, as well as build quality hospitals across the country.”

In a nearby neighborhood, Marietou Bojang, 24, agreed on the need for change, saying people don’t have enough to eat.

“I am voting because myself and other women are suffering silently. A bag of rice has drastically gone up,” she told The Associated Press.

She also complained of corruption, saying not enough has been done to address the issues in government.

Many Gambians want certainty that the new leaders will bring the tiny West African nation of about 2.4 million toward peace and justice.

Despite Jammeh’s departure the nation continues to suffer from the effects of his rule, including rights abuses and funds taken from state coffers.

“As a country, we cannot heal without justice,” Gambia Bar Association President Salieu Taal told The Associated Press.

Jammeh left Gambia in 2017. His two-decade rule was marked by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and summary executions that were revealed through dramatic testimony during Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission hearings that lasted for years.

Last week, the commission handed its 17-volume report to President Barrow, urging him to deliver on expectations in ensuring that perpetrators of human rights violations are prosecuted. Barrow said he would ensure justice is done.

Still, a Barrow reelection is uncertain as many Gambians feel betrayal after his National People’s Party reached a deal with the top figures of the former ruling party, despite Jammeh’s split with that party.

Omar Amadou Jallow, an emblematic figure of the People’s Progressive Party, threw his weight behind Barrow.

“Let’s vote and return home peacefully,” he told reporters Saturday. “This election is going to be transparent.”

Jallow said party supporters should not be fighting each other, calling on Gambians to remain open.

“We are equal under the law. This is democracy. We want peace in this country,” he added.

Links to Jammeh are not only an issue for the current president, however. Opposition candidate Kandeh has been supported strongly by a breakaway political faction that Jammeh formed during his exile in Equatorial Guinea.

While Kandeh has maintained silence about Jammeh’s possible return to Gambia, his allies are unequivocally saying that Jammeh would come back if they emerge victorious from the election.

Jammeh, who seized power in 1994 in a bloodless coup, was voted out of office in 2016. After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted, and a six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries prepare to send in troops to stage a military intervention. Jammeh was forced into exile and fled to Equatorial Guinea.

Of the other candidates, Sallah and Darboe are established politicians, but they face challenges from newcomers such as Faal and Ebrima Jammeh, who are making waves in urban areas.

Gambians, used to violence surrounding polls, worry about a possible confrontation between Barrow and Darboe supporters, as the years have seen a great divide between the two leaders who were once close.


Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal. AP reporter Mustapha Jallow in Banjul contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - In this July 11, 2021, file photo the Virgin Galactic rocket plane, with founder Richard Bra...
Associated Press

New Mexico may tax tickets to space on Virgin Galactic

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Pity the poor space flight passenger: Flying up up and away from Earth could get even more expensive as New Mexico lawmakers consider taxing the tickets on Virgin Galactic. A bipartisan bill introduced in the state Legislature seeks to close a loophole that excluded spaceflight passenger tickets from gross receipts […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Trevor Noah arrives at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, at L.A. Liv...
Associated Press

Kamala Harris art, ‘Daily Show’ lead Anthem Awards finalists

An art installation inspired by Vice President Kamala Harris, The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” as well as charitable programs from Airbnb, Google, PayPal and the National Football League, are among the finalists for the inaugural Anthem Awards announced Tuesday. The awards — presented by The International […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Health care workers transport a COVID-19 patient, in Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic, Thursday, M...
Associated Press

Hospitalized with Covid rising amid record omicron surge

PRAGUE (AP) — The number of COVID-19 patients in the Czech Republic has begun to grow amid a record surge of infections driven by the highly contagious omicron coronavirus variant. According to figures released by Health Ministry, the number of hospitalized jumped to 1,695 on Monday, up from 1,537 the previous day. It had been […]
6 hours ago
Florida Sen. Lauren Book stands for the Pledge of Allegiance during a legislative session, Tuesday,...
Associated Press

Florida senator fights back over nude images stolen from her

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — State Sen. Lauren Book often has told the story about how she was sexually abused by her nanny for six years when she was a child. She channeled the pain into a lifetime of helping other abuse survivors. Now after years of working hard to heal herself and restore her life […]
6 hours ago
Johnson's brand moisturizing oil, left, and soap, right, by Johnson & Johnson, sit together, Wednes...
Associated Press

J&J tops 4Q earnings forecasts but misses on revenue

Johnson & Johnson edged past Wall Street’s fourth quarter earnings expectations, helped by growing pharmaceutical sales, but revenue fell short. The world’s biggest maker of health care products also debuted a strong 2022 forecast of per-share earnings between $10.40 and $10.60. That’s better than the $10.35 Wall Street had been projecting, according to FactSet. The […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: Just how passive is passive income?

The opportunity to make money while we sleep is one few of us would turn down. And passive income, at face value, suggests we can do just that. Social media is chock-full of influencers telling us how to make passive income. And while many of those content creators do actually earn money even when they’re […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

HVAC upkeep in Arizona saves money, keeps families prepared in the long run

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Arizona State University

Gain insights on next year’s trends at 58th Annual Economic Forecast Luncheon

Employment is recovering from the severe contraction induced by the pandemic, but it is still way below levels at the start of 2020. Can it fully recover in the coming year?

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
Gambians vote in 1st post-Jammeh presidential election