At least 4,000 people may need urgent care in about a dozen cities if post-electoral violence erupts in The Gambia, according to the Red Cross. Citizens of mainland Africa’s smallest nation are heading to the polls on December 1 months after rare protests for electoral reform were violently suppressed.
The Gambia Red Cross has put in place contingency and operation plans to target identified hotspots areas at risk of election violence. Key cities including Serrekunda, Brikama, and Basse were identified as high-risk.
According to electoral data, violence had occurred in these cities in all elections since 1996. West Coast Region, home to the country’s President Yahya Jammeh has high tribal sentiments with Jammeh this summer threatening genocide towards the majority Mandinka ethnic group. Reports say there were delays in campaigns in the Upper River Region where Jammeh’s convoy stayed an extra day leading to the near meeting of the convoy of the coalition opposition with the ruling party’s.
The Basse region this year presents two of Jammeh’s challengers: former parliamentarian Mama Kandeh and the coalition-backed Adama Barrow.
These areas are very stronghold of the opposition; they also have the previous history of election violence since 1996. The region also is the region of the incumbent with tribal sentiments,” a document from the Red Cross stated. “Basse this year produced two opposition leaders, opposing the incumbent, the coalition party, and the GDC Party. This means the greater support for the incumbent will be affected as natives of the town are voting the opposition.”
The Gambia had witnessed a wave of pre-electoral violence in April and May. The UN said at least two people have died after riot police used excessive force to suppress rare opposition protests. Red Cross said since April, there have been incidences of arrests and disappearances and the UN rights commission said opposition detainees are being denied urgent medical care. Security sources confirmed many detainees were tortured, leading to the death of a senior opposition member.
“There were incidents of clashes between the security forces and the major opposition party. Many people were beaten, arrested and some died in the state custody. Since then, the political situation in Gambia has remained volatile,” according to the Red Cross.
The following cities have been identified as a high-risk area for violence: Serekunda, Bakau, Tallinding, Bundung, Brikama, Sukuta, Gunjur, Lamin, Siffoe, Sanyang, Brufut and Basse.