Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has given some 5,000 youths who converged in the provincial city of Basse Santa-Su to renew allegiance to his party ahead of the country’s presidential elections D80,000 with 22 bulls.
The 50,000 man rally was 45,000 less. Youths were expected to be drawn from across the country for the fanfare but the turnout was low.
The youth rally is part of the three main rallies the APRC planned. It already held its women’s rally in Jarra Soma and an elders rally is scheduled to be held in Kanilai.
Some supporters of the ruling APRC party associated the low turn out to “last minute” logistics issues but critics said the government is “broke” and the financial constraints made it impossible for them to even get the millions that President Jammeh always give to his supporters.
Jammeh is fast losing support after 22 years of iron-fist rule. He gained popular support as a young Lieutenant who helped overthrow the 30-year regime of President Sir Dawda Jawara. Mr. Jawara’s government was considered corrupt and flamboyant, but this, opposition supporters say is nothing in comparison to President Yahya Jammeh’s lifestyle, which includes a $3.5 million in the affluent Washington, D.C. suburb of Potomac and a fleet of Royce Rolls.
The low youth turn out is a testament of Jammeh’s dwindling support and a protest for change.
Economic and rights conditions are clouded with the EU withholding more than 30 million Euros in budgetary support. President Jammeh is now forced to turn to equally rights abusing nations like Russia and China for support.
Youths have blamed his government of disregarding their plights and failure to address unemployment. Many of The Gambia’s youths are now forced to journey through the Sahara and crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. The journey is risky with many being kidnapped, subjected to torture and forced labor, jailed across Libya is horrible detention conditions and dying.
Jammeh is facing a divided opposition struggling to form a coalition to challenge him in the December polls. Although he has lost vibrant youth and women support, without the coalition, Jammeh is sure to win a fifth mandate.