Authorities in the West African nation of The Gambia have shut down the internet and international calling a day before citizens head to the polls.
Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh has issued an executive directive, according to officials.
Jammeh, 51, is facing an unprecedented challenge to his 22-year iron-fist rule of The Gambia. At least one opposition leader, Adama Barrow is being backed by a coalition of seven opposition parties; the first in the country’s half a century political history.
U.S. Diplomat Tom Malinowski urged The Gambia’s government not to shut down important platforms for free expression this week.
Jammeh is facing his toughest challenge and it is the first time that the internet and the international calling gateway have been shutoff during elections in The Gambia.
Growing number of outspoken youths, most of them first-time voters and supporting opposition coalition leader Adama Barrow show that Mr. Jammeh losing his grip on power and analysts say social media has played a major role in taking the youth vote from the once popular African strongman.
“Suspending the internet will not prevent the people from voting the dictatorship out,” says youth activist Sait Matty Jaw. “Our people are committed to this democratic process and we will not relent until sanity comes back to our beloved country.”
Many of the country’s youths are said to be determined, but President Yahya Jammeh has warned that no election will end his rule and will not allow any post-electoral protest.
Jammeh is said to have the backing of the military. A day before elections, he presented 14 vehicles to the armed forces. Citing of armed military officers were reported in major cities across the country. Opposition activists say it is part of a large intimidation propaganda by the incumbent.