The Gambia has seen a bitter and hard-fought electoral campaign and the people will have to decide after unprecedented events marked the year’s electoral period.
From tribalism to religious segregation, The Gambia has witnessed an intensely political environment after President Yahya Jammeh set the tone by threatening genocide against the Mandingo ethnic group and unilaterally declaring The Gambia an Islamic Republic.
The country’s first female presidential contender who later joined a coalition of opposition parties rejected Jammeh’s move to make The Gambia the world’s newest Islamic nation.
“I reject the call to turn Gambia into an Islamic State intended to bring division and set us against each other. I will uphold and reinforce the secular republican status of the constitution, where every Gambian will be free to practice his or her religion in accordance with their faith” she said.
But Jammeh’s anti-Mandinka rant showed the true colors of others in the opposition, especially those in the diaspora who had created videos stating the elections is a “fight for Mandinkas at all cost,” forgetting that Gambia is richer and better in its diversity.
The rancorous approach to Jammeh’s many controversial statements has to be seen as an intimidation to some of his supporters on the internet but it not as credible and prevalent as military officers armed with rifles patrolling streets a night before the polls.
“They have been insulting people and not respecting the people’s choices and views,” said Gambian comedian Ebou Bah. “I find it hypocritical, especially if you say you’re fighting for equal rights.”
But the fight to secure the State House was a bitter one even among the opposition camp. A newcomer, Mama Kandeh has been marked as a spoiler for refusing to join the coalition and accused of being sponsored by the incumbent. Kandeh has died the claims and accused the opposition’s old timers of attempting to undermine his new found fame and the euphoria that surrounds his coming.
“…you would have thought the Diaspora has learned its lesson, but the majority is still engaged in the same partisan jockeying, making the same tired blame game, and yes demonstrating the same tendency of either their chosen leader or the re-election of Jammeh,” said Musa Jeng.
Many friends have turned into bitter rivals as President Yahya Jammeh faces his most credible challenge yet. Jammeh as his sarcastic self went from relying on Allah’s bank to finance The Gambia’s budget to relying on only Allah’s one vote to win The Gambia’s elections in which nearly a million citizens are expected to decide if he will get a fifth term or be evicted out of the State House.
Many of The Gambia’s young people want a new president for many reasons. Chief among them is to have a government that will create jobs. Hundreds of the country’s youths have died crossing the Sahara and then the Mediterranean into Europe. Unemployment stands at more than 38% and corruption is rife.
There exist a generation divide between The Gambia’s millennials and the current politicians but the first step to bridging the divide is to vote Jammeh out.