“Allah elected me, and only Allah can remove me,” thought President Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia’s authoritarian ruler notorious for killing, imprisoning and torturing political opponents, human rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners and journalists, not Gambian people.
“Only Allah can remove from office. No election, no military, and no foreign power can remove me from power,” Jammeh said two weeks before heading to the polls to seek a fifth mandate. He denied he was campaigning and sarcastically asked: “do I look like a loser?”
Jammeh was so certain of winning, and his loss has shocked him as much as it did the world. But Jammeh was abusive, even to the people with the power of the marble.
“Are Gambian people crazy to vote me out. If they do, they must be mad,” Jammeh retorted.
This was not his tone as he took the world by surprise to concede defeat.
Jammeh has threatened genocide towards the Mandinka ethnic group, declared the country an Islamic Republic and took a monopoly of businesses. It angered Gambians, who decided to teach him a lesson that the power to end his 22-year repressive rule lay with them.
Gambia has a unique voting system. Citizens drop a marble into a metal box that is filled with sawdust at the bottom. Each vote cast would make a sound like a bicycle bell. It explains why bicycles are prohibited on elections day.
Gambian opposition has always been deeply divided. They united for the first time after Jammeh violently crushed opposition protests in April and May. Two people have died – one denied medical care and the other tortured to death – during the rare occurrence.
“We are able to free the Gambian people from the clutches of dictatorship, and we are now going to make sure Gambia becomes a bastion of peace and reconciliation. Our foundation will be based on national reconciliation,” said Omar Jallow, the leader of the PPP, one of the seven opposition groups that formed the coalition.
The 30 year PPP government was ousted by Jammeh in 1994. When Jammeh came to power, he faced sanctions from the EU and Western nations. He relied on Libya’s Moammar Ghadaffi, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Taiwan’s Lee Teng-hui to get funding for his administration and development projects.
Jammeh would say he gets money from Allah’s bank. Gambia’s economy depleted and for the most part, insolvent. Allah’s bank got liquidated and so did his one vote from Allah he was relying on.
Allah choice the people, screamed the people as they celebrated on Friday.
For Jammeh, who marginalized the country’s Christians, his attempt to reassure them that their rights as citizens are secured came too late. During the month of Ramadan, police officers marched into churches and stopped them from drumming, and the council of clerics that hail and support Jammeh as mystic Islamic sultan attempted to close a Christian cemetery at the entrance of Banjul.
In the end, all the money from Allah’s bank and mighty one vote of Allah could not save Jammeh from having the second-coming this soon.