Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has said he rejects the outcome of last week’s election that he lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow and called for fresh elections.
The announcement made on state television throws the future of the West African country into doubt after an unexpected election result that ended Mr Jammeh’s 22-year rule and was widely seen as a moment of democratic hope.
“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” Mr Jammeh said.
“I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission,” he said.
Mr Jammeh’s announcement presents an unexpected and severe challenge to the incoming Barrow administration, which was already grappling with how to take the reins of power and deal with the army that for two decades was loyal to the president.
“We are consulting on what to do, but as far as we are concerned, the people have voted,” Mai Ahmad Fatty, the head of President-elect Barrow’s transition team, told Reuters. “We will maintain peace and stability and not let anyone provoke us into violence.”
Human rights groups have long accused Mr Jammeh’s government of having detained opponents and used violence against them during his rule – although the government have denied such allegations.
In 2007, Mr Jammeh claimed to have developed a cure for AIDS that involved an herbal body rub and bananas. Alarming public health experts, he insisted patients stop taking antiretroviral medications so his remedy could have an effect.
He also increasingly isolated Gambia, whose economy has long been dependent on tourism. In 2013 he exited the Commonwealth, a group made up mostly of former British colonies, branding it a “neo-colonial institution.” And in October, Jammeh said Gambia would leave the International Criminal Court, which he dismissed as the ‘International Caucasian Court.“’
Official election results from the electoral commission gave Mr Barrow, a real estate developer who once worked as a security guard at retailer Argos in London, 45.5 per cent of the vote against Mr Jammeh’s 36.7 per cent. Mr Jammeh’s defeat sparked wild celebrations – but some people also said they doubted whether he would accept defeat.
Mr Barrow is set to take over in late january following a transition period.