The Gambia controversial president who threatened to send his military to kill peaceful demonstrators in April and May is now advocating for peace and violence-free polls ahead of the West African nation’s presidential elections.
President Yahya Jammeh was speaking at the start of his presidential campaign during a stop in Essau, a small trading city in northwestern Gambia, and had earlier this month insisted he would refuse to vacate the presidency even after losing polls. Before preaching peace, Jammeh who had survived at least 12 coups said no military, foreign power or elections can remove him from power.
“We campaign for peace and stability but not violence. Tribalism is ungodly especially to you the young ones because it will take you backward. I will not compromise the country’s peace and security irrespective of who is involve. My party has been campaigning peacefully,” the Gambian leader said.
Jammeh faced a backlash from the UN after threatening to kill “like ants” the majority Mandinka ethnic group and “no white person can do anything about it,” referring to the U.S., UN and European Union. UN warned the 51-year-old former military officer, who came to power through a coup some 22-years ago to desist from threatening genocide. It is not the first time that Jammeh made such threats, according to right campaigners, accusing members of the ethnic group of attempting to violently overthrow his regime.
Jammeh presents himself as a self-proclaimed Islamic Sheikh but has been accused by rights group of killings, torture, and arbitrary detention of his political opponents. At least two people have died in pre-electoral protests in Banjul. One of the dead is Ebrima Solo Sandeng, a senior member of the opposition UDP, who led a handful electoral reform protesters. Sandeng was tortured to death in custody and his remains have not been returned to his family.
Jammeh refused calls from the international community to open an independent investigation into Sandeng’s death in July.
“People die in custody and that is normal. I am not going to open an investigation. Ban Ki Moon and Amnesty can go to hell. Who are they to ask me to investigate….. If anyone dares me, let them go out and demonstrate and I will not send the police, I will send the military to wipe you out and no one can do anything about it,” said Jammeh.
The International Criminal Court has been assessing the situation in the country since with the Gambia refusing to grant permission to the African Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Commission to conduct fact-finding missions. UN said Monday that the ICC will no longer have jurisdiction over the small West African nation as of November 2017. The Gambia is among three African nation withdrawing from the Rome Statute.
The Gambia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Samsudeen Sarr in September threatened an independent presidential hopeful and supported Jammeh’s call to use the military to “open fire on protesters and kill them all.”
President Jammeh is facing a united opposition seeking to deny him an extension of his 22-year rule. he is facing his toughest challenge with disgruntled members of his ruling APRC party turning to a newly formed opposition GDC party. Jammeh is convinced he will win saying “because for 22 years if you Gambians don’t know what is good for you then is up to you.”
“I put my everything in Allah and the votes for my victory is with Allah. Let’s worship Allah and follow his preaching. Let’s know that there is something more important that election and that is to do what is right,” Jammeh said.