President Yahya Jammeh said he is certain of winning Thursday’s elections and that even peaceful protests will not be allowed after the results are announced.
“No demonstrations not even in the name of peaceful protest will be allowed because those are the loopholes that are used to destabilize African governments,” said Jammeh.
Jammeh, 51, has been in power in The Gambia, a small country in Western Africa surrounded by Senegal on all three sides except for the West that has a short Atlantic coastline, for 22-years.
“Our election system is fraud-proof and rig-proof. You cannot rig our elections,” according to Jammeh. “There is no reason that anybody should demonstrate.”
Previous elections in The Gambia were said to be not free or fair and mostly rigged. But electoral commission chief has raised concerns of voter fraud to Mr. Jammeh and had also put in place an instant voting count at polling stations to address rigging concerns.
Jammeh is facing two other presidential aspirants: a former parliamentarian, Mama Kandeh from his ruling party and a former Argos department store security guard turned realtor, Adama Barrow who is backed by seven opposition groups in an unprecedented move.
Barrow, 51, presents the most credible to challenge to Jammeh’s rule and leaders of his UDP party were arrested in April and jailed for three years for protesting the death in custody of a senior member of their party that was tortured by security officers.
Armed security officers opened fire and threw teargas at protesters in April and May arresting more than fifty opposition activists who were demanding for electoral reform, the resignation of Mr. Jammeh and a stop to the prosecution of opposition leader Ousainou Darboe with his executive.
Military officers armed with assaults rifles have been reported in key cities across the country and the internet and international calling gateway were blocked the evening before polls open.