• Current Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh
  • President-elect of Gambia Adama Barrow

What – After originally accepting the results of the general election were announced on December 1, current Gambian president Yahya Jammeh retracted his acceptance of the election results and demanded that fresh elections be held. He is contesting the results of the election in the Gambian Supreme Court.

When – December 9, 2016

Why – The Gambian electoral commission revised the results of the election on December 5 after it discovered that ballots for one region were counted incorrectly, reducing the margin of victory for Barrow from 9% to 4%. Jammeh cites this abnormality as an example of why there should be fresh elections in the country. However, the Electoral Commission has stated that this error “has not changed the status quo” of the result of the election.

General Background – Yahya Jammeh seized power in Gambia in a military coup against former-President Dawda Jawara on July 22, 1994. The coup was mostly without bloodshed and was met with little resistance. Since then, Jammeh has been re-elected four times since taking power (September 1996, October 2001, September 2006, and November 2011). These elections have all been plagued with instances of corruption and government intimidation. In addition, the first two elections were not deemed to be free and fair elections. 

During his terms, Jammeh has been accused of human rights abuses, suppression of the press, and political suppression through jailing or exiling political opponents. This includes the judiciary, the Supreme Court of which currently has no judges because they have been either exiled, fled, or jailed for rulings which the government did not agree with. Jammeh has also called for anti-gay legislation and encouraged violence against gay and lesbian Gambians.

What’s Next – Under Gambian law, a candidate has ten days from the announcement of the election results to challenge the result in court, meaning Jammeh has until Tuesday to finalize his challenge. The Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), the political party which Jammeh chairs, has stated that it was preparing the legal challenge. However, since there is no sitting Supreme Court in Gambia, four judges must be hired in addition to a current chief justice, who is Nigerian, to accommodate the challenge. Rights watch groups claim that Jammeh has strong influence on the judicial system.

If the election result is overturned, there will mostly likely be new elections held.

One of the biggest questions is whether Jammeh will succeed in gaining the loyalty of parts of the military which would heighten the threat of a civil war. The leader of the Gambian army has pledged allegiance to Barrow and thus far, the challenge by Jammeh has been peaceful.

Update 1: Jammeh’s APRC succeeded in the motion to challenge the results of the election on Tuesday, threatening to overturn the narrow victory of Jammeh’s opponent, Adama Barrow. Most significantly, security forces loyal to Jammeh seized control of the Independent Electoral Commission, where all of the original polling records are being kept. Meanwhile, neighboring countries are supposedly considering removing Jammeh by force.

The president has 60 days to hand power to the next president. However, it seems that as of now, that will not occur as planned. (http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN1422GZ-OZATP?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true)

Update 2: West Africa’s regional group, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has signaled that Jammeh must step down when his term expires in January or risk currently-undescribed punishment from the organization. Measures could include sanctions against the country, which would severely hamper the economy since Senegal, a member of ECOWAS, is Gambia’s only neighbor. The APRC election challenge to its Supreme Court has not changed. (http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN1460HJ)

Update 3: Members of ECOWAS now plan to send forces into Gambia next month if Jammeh does not step down as president. Senegal has been chosen as the leader of any such intervention, which would occur after January 19 when Jammeh’s term officially ends.


Update 4: With 3 days until the official swearing in of the newly-elected president, Adama Barrow, current-President Jammeh continues to refuse to concede defeat, with his political party filing a request for an injunction to the Supreme Court. The hearing for this injunction is supposed to being today, January 16, but doubts about whether the judges will appear signals the court may not meet again until May. Barrow is currently staying in neighboring Senegal but, according to sources, plans to return to Gambia for the inauguration. Meanwhile, ECOWAS countries are seeking permission to send troops into Gambia should Jammeh refuse to step down when his term ends on January 18. So far, all talks have failed although Nigeria’s lower house of parliament has offered Jammeh asylum should he need it after his term ends.




Update 5: Jammeh has agreed to step down as president and go into exile, ending his reign as leader of Gambia. He is being hosted by Equatorial Guinea. Barrow is Gambia’s new president, ending Jammeh’s 23-year rule.