President Yahya Jammeh has lost his job last month but continues to be repressive in efforts to assert authority and remain in power. Jammeh is refusing to step down putting the Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest nation, with a population of fewer than two million on the path to a crisis that could be deadly.
Two radio stations confirmed closed, pro-democracy supporters abducted, grassroots campaign billboards for a peaceful transition demolished, activists still being forcefully exiled, dissidents fearing for their lives as Jammeh cracks the whip on unprecedented local resistance for him to go.
The aftermath of the Gambia’s election saw the seed of democracy being sown and it germinated fast. Anti-Jammeh comments were mere whispers. People were scared to speak. They thought even walls could hear them and tell Jammeh’s brutal spies who would come pick them up in the wee hours of the night for torture sessions in secret detention facilities that look like villas.
“Fear no more,” they say now. It has eroded and “ayeegee” meaning for Jammeh to “step down” replaced decades of fear.
Gambians are speaking and loudly too.
It is making it difficult for Jammeh’s loyal forces to arrest like they used to. Activists and pro-democracy supporters refuse to be intimidated and say Mr. Jammeh will not force them into an unnecessary confrontation as a way to declare a state of emergency.
The National Intelligence Agency is a spy agency answerable to only the authoritarian ruler, who has been demoralized by his defeat. The agency is now targeting leaders of campaigns that are asserting pressure for Jammeh to hand over power.
At least two supporters of the campaign were abducted and some of its leaders escaped arrest and in safety.
The more Jammeh intensifies his crackdown, the more his regime crumbles.
But President Yahya Jammeh is allergic to protest. This year two opposition activists died in detention, one of torture. Amnesty International says Jammeh’s rejection of the election results and his statement that he will not tolerate protest risks leading to instability and possible repression.
Dozens of detained opposition supporters were only freed after Jammeh lost elections, but the brutal crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest has now intensified as Jammeh clinches on to power.
Jammeh’s regime has been accused of committing serious human rights violations against perceived critics and political opponents, perpetuating a climate of fear and repression that he hopes will keep him in power.
Jammeh has until January 18, to either exit peacefully or be declared a rebel by the new government. The president-elect Adama Barrow, a businessman has vowed to swear himself and behind him is the international community, especially West African leaders who have all pledged to attend his inauguration.