The Gambia’s independent presidential aspirant Dr. Isatou Touray said the West African nation faces a dire situation with the regime of the country’s iron-fist ruler, President Yahya Jammeh. The country’s first ever female presidential candidate is now seeking the support of her fellow citizens in her quest to bring the groundnut producing nation out of isolation.
Touray has vowed to serve only one term, build democratic institutions and reform the constitution to safe guard rights.
President Yahya Jammeh has infamously vowed to serve a billion years but now faces a strong opposition from Touray, whose emergence brought about a paradigm shift.
In a country where religion and tradition are deeply rooted, Dr. Isatou Touray defended the rights of women, especially against harmful traditional practices facing conservative religious leaders, who saw her as “uncultured.”
After decades, she emerged victorious having many circumcisers dropping the knife, and pushing the way to a legislation supported by President Jammeh, who was previously reluctant to talk about an FGM ban.
But President Jammeh is known for being repressive – a human rights violator notorious for extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture of journalists, political opponents and rights defenders – with no consequences and regard to Gambian lives. His government has been accused of interfering with judicial processes and suppressing the rule of law.
“Too much power is in few hands, and those in power are not accountable,” Touray said.
Her campaign says she would build strong institutions and pave the way for free and fair elections in which the political field is even for all parties to participate without the exisiting disparities and intimidation.
Analysts say with the backing of all the opposition parties, Touray can go down in history as the first woman to oust a “dictator” through the polls.
President Yahya Jammeh came to power as a young military lieutenant in a “bloodless coup,” ending the three-decades democratic and civilian rule of President Sir Dawda Jawara.
Jammeh’s government has failed in reforming parliamentary structures and processes, institutional arrangements for civic education, reform of the legal and judicial processes, public management and administrative reform, decentralization of powers and ensuring popular political participation.
Jammeh’s newest opponent Dr. Isatou Touray ran a project encouraging women participation in politics. Nearly two dozen women ran for political office afterward and about fifteen of them got elected.
Optimism for democracy under President Jammeh faded as many started disappearing and going to jail. Jammeh’s rule revolved around deep military authoritarian rule. He survived at least eight coups.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting by Alhagie Jobe; Contribution and Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)