The president of Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission, Alieu Momarr Mjiar, announces presidential election results in Banjul, Gambia, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

IEC Chair: Gambia’s election should be a lesson to all dictators

The chairman of Gambia’s election commission, Alieu Mommar Njie, who has declared victory against strongman Yahya Jammeh who later rejected the polls, said what happened in the small nation is an “example in Africa and to all dictators.”

Gambians are headed to the polls Thursday, the first major election after the fall of Jammeh, to elect National Assembly members for 53 electoral constituencies.

“We feel that people should be able to express their will without fear or favor,” Njai said.

Gambia’s former president lost elections but rejected the polls a week later claiming the process was tainted with ‘irregularities’ and both the elections chairman and President Adama Barrow had to leave the country for fear of their lives.

Jammeh later conceded defeat and left the country but only after regional bloc, ECOWAS, has already deployed military troops to the country in an attempt persuade the strongman to quit.

Since Jammeh’s fall, the small nation became a center of attention and its current National Assembly elections have more observers than the past presidential elections, Njie said.

Njie said he knew the risks of going against Jammeh given the strongman’s history of repression but he was compelled by principles to declare the results.

“I had to stand my ground. I knew the risk. It got to a point when I had to get my son to bring his car so that when it comes to worst, I can leave the country.

“But standing my ground was worth it even with a dead threat,” he said.

Njie said the threat against him until the time he had to leave the country for Senegal for fear of his life “was persistent all the times”

He said Jammeh has “never had any two minds whether he was going to win. The defeat came as a surprise to him… He could not see himself out of power.”

Gambia’s election authorities have gained huge credibility after upholding the December 1 election results and Njie said that standard will be upheld in the coming parliamentary elections.

The election is the first major political challenge of Barrow’s administration since his coming to power.

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