Paramilitary police set up a checkpoint between the Kombo Coastal Road and the Trans-Gambia Highway to detour opposition leader Adama Barrow’s convoy on Monday.
Barrow was coming from a cross-country tour after becoming the opposition UDP’s presidential nominee, the first in 20 years since the party’s inception in 1996.
The police said the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh was heading to Banjul from his native village of Kanilai and had to use the Trans-Gambia route to arrive in Banjul at a time set by his security detail.
Barrow was accompanied by thousands of supporters heading towards the Kanifing Municipality and an altercation ensued between his supporters and the security forces.
The paramilitary police said they were there to escort the convoy and ensure safety before the traffic diversion attempt started some half an hour after their arrival. Hundreds of supporters were waiting for the UDP presidential candidate in Tallinding, some nine miles from Yundum, where authorities tried to change the planned convoy route.
The paramilitary officers were armed and blocked the convoy for some minutes before letting them continue on the Trans-Gambia route, forcing President Yahya Jammeh’s motorcade to use the Kombo Coastal Road to Banjul.
Paramilitary police force left after the UDP supporters did not budge. Streets lights were temporarily turned off but were later back on.
President Yahya Jammeh is faced with a heavily declined popularity after jailing UDP leader Ousainou Darboe and killing two leading figures of the UDP party this year. He is seeking a fifth mandate in the country’s upcoming December general elections.
UDP is The Gambia’s largest opposition group and is taking part in unity talks with the hope for a coalition to oust President Yahya Jammeh and install a new government. Barrow said this week he is hopeful that opposition leaders will be able to agree on a coalition agenda and is set to be part of a group of opposition leaders that will be holding talks on Friday in Banjul.