A year without Yahya Jammeh: Gambia remembers last political impasse

Friday, January 19, 2018

This Sunday January  21 will be exactly one year since Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh went into exile in Malabo, Equitorial Guinea following his defeat by President Adama Barrow in the country’s last Presidential Elections in Dec. 2016.

Before his going into exile, Mr. Jammeh first refused to cede power leading to an impasse in the country and President Barrow was flown out of the country to attend France-Africa Summit in Mali and then later to Senegal by negotiators from the West African regional bloc, Ecowas where he was sworn-in as Gambia’s third president at the country’s embassy in Dakar.

There was a wave of panic and uncertainty following former president Yahya Jammeh’s stubborn refusal to relinquish power to Barrow.

The country’s electoral commission announced Mr. Barrow as winner on December 2, which was first accepted by Mr. Jammeh until he made a telephone call to congratulate the then president-elect Adama Barrow. “This is the most transparent election ever conducted in the country,” Mr. Jammeh was quoted saying in the telephone conversation with Mr. Barrow on the national television on the night of December 2, 2017.

A week later, Jammeh had changed his mind to step down, saying he had rejected the election results in ‘totality’ after the election commission’s rectification of some counting errors emanating from the country’s farthest Upper River Region.

In this special edition, The Point’s reporters conducted interviews to gauge the opinion of people about how they had perceived things during a month political impasse that gripped the Africa’s most peaceful nation.

Below is the reactions of Gambians over the said political impasse:

Adama Bah, student: “Jammeh feared that he was going to lose his property that was why he refused to cede power to President Adama Barrow.

Muhammed Mamudou, businessman: “I was receiving very low return from my business during the political impasse because my daily sale was reducing.”

Gilleh Thomas, Medical Research Council Gambia: “Everything was stressful during the political impasse but now there is improvement in the country.

Mamadou Lamin Singhateh, Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute: ‘In my opinion former President Jammeh would have been a national hero if he had stood by his acceptance of the election result. But unfortunately, a week later he went and turned things in a negative way and disappointed the entire Gambian people.”

Adama Marong, Lecturer Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute: “When former President Jammeh insisted to hand over power, everyone feel insecure fearing war is coming to the country. We were all scared that the country will be turning into a war zone like what happened in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burundi.”

Mamadou Ceesay, Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute: “I was very worried and confuse when Jammeh insisted to hand over power. My main concern was that I never want to be a refugee anywhere because the country I know is Gambia and I want to remain in The Gambia.”

Parra Jarju and Mariama Kuyateh, students at The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute: “Some of our family members had to go to the provinces for fear of security when former president Jammeh insisted.”

Gaston Jarjue: “I stayed during the impasse with the hope that God that has made the coalition win the election is the same God that will find a solution to our problem”.

Modou Bojang, a phone credit vendor: “I during the political impasse, stayed with my family without going anywhere with the hope that things will be better as the country is a peaceful country.”

Momodou Salieu Jallow, a shopkeeper: “My family fled to Guinea but I stayed with my mother here in the country since we all cannot depart leaving our shop. Honestly the impasse has caused a lot of loss in revenue to us and put everyone in fear.”

Papa Njie a welder: “Most of my neighbors fled but I did not. Is not because I didn’t get the money but I have no relatives in the neighboring countries. So I decided to stay with my family and believe in Allah than sleeping at the borders like others”

Namory Trawally, a Gambian journalist: “It was a sad day when Yahya Jammeh’s term expired and he refuses to relinquish power. In fact, it was a shock to our democracy. I was sad that day but I was optimistic that Gambians voted for change and for democracy and whatever should happen the will of the people must be respected.”

Kaddy Jaiteh, Kololi:  “Gambians will never forget about that day. Firstly, I never expect Yahya Jammeh will lose in an election.”

Modou Sabally, artiste: “Gambians were gripped by during the political impasse and it was sever because young people like me never experienced such in my life. But I came happy when Yahya Jammeh finally left the country.”

Ebrima Camara, Busumbala: “It was a big blow from Jammeh because when people voted you out you should step down and respect their decision.  Jammeh’s refusal to step down was a disrespect and insult on Gambian peoples’ decision.”

Laurence Gomez, Kotu: “We feel very disappointed and insecure when Jammeh’s time expired and he refuse to step down. We also feel it was not the right thing to do at that point in time. Everybody was paranoid and the whole country was in chaos. Businesses stopped and physically, everything ceased.”

Haddy Corr, Pipeline: “All we were praying for was for Jammeh to peacefully step down and thank God he did that.”

Mamadou Jallow, Tabokoto: “We were really scared when Jammeh’s time expired and he did not step down. I had to relocate my family to North Bank Region knowing it was closer to Senegal. As someone who always expressed his love for The Gambia, i did not expect such from him but in the end we were happy he peacefully stepped down and left the country.”

Report by: Njie Baldeh, Fatou Cham, Momodou Jawo, Lamin Darboe and Cherno Omar Bobb