Gambian lawmaker Sidi Njie was the least pleased when the country’s first female presidential candidate called The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh a ‘dictator,’ during an information sharing session with the African Union pre-electoral mission.
Touray said, “it is time to change this dictatorial regime” while highlighting the West African nation’s restrictive political environment. Touray reiterated her stance saying “Gambians have had enough of the dictatorship,” and calling for elections to be free, fair and transparent.
The independent candidate informed the AU delegation of the repressive nature of the regime, highlighting the government’s crackdown on opposition supporters ahead of polls.
The Gambia’s democratic sphere has been tightly controlled by President Jammeh and the ruling APRC party with activists saying the government’s reprisal towards its opponents leave little to no space for constitutional change.
MP Njie, however, denied that the ruling party is repressive and said elections in the country are free and fair.
ECOWAS in 2011 ruled that The Gambia’s presidential polls were not as Njie puts it. The sub-regional blog said there was an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by President Yahya Jammeh and his ruling party with the opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.
The Gambia’s political climate has been tense ahead of polls. Protests erupted in and around the capital in April and May leading to the arrest of many opposition supporters including the leader of the country’s largest opposition party and his entire executive.
At least two senior opposition members have died in custody and those tortured were denied medical care.
The African Union mission said it will only send observers to Banjul if invited by the country’s electoral commission. The mission urged political parties to amicably settle their difference and said concerns raised are domestic issues and should be addressed as such.
Civil society leaders and rights groups say the violent crackdown on political opponents require international attention unless the African Union wants to wait “until it is time to send peacekeeping troops” to curb post-electoral violence.
The Gambia’s electoral commission chief Alieu Njie has promised free, fair and transparent polls and announced instant counting of ballots at polling stations.
Opposition parties in The Gambia are engaged in unity talks to form a coalition and secure a single candidate to end President Yahya Jammeh’s rule. Jammeh has been accused of rights violations and abusing his power. His rule of the tourist destination has not been as bloodless as the coup that brought him to power.