Gambia's President Contests Election Results After Conceding Defeat

Dec 14, 2016
Originally published on December 14, 2016 10:27 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The West African nation of Gambia has been on a political rollercoaster for the last two weeks. A December 1 election handed a stunning defeat to the sitting president, a dictator who's ruled the country for 22 years. He publicly conceded defeat to the leader of the opposition coalition and pledged his support. Then he made a political U-turn, plunging Gambia into uncertainty and a post-election crisis. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton rolls back the clock.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: When Gambians longtime leader, Yahya Jammeh, acknowledged he'd lost the election to the president-elect, there was euphoria and surprise listening to Jammeh can see to Adama Barrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YAHMA JAMMEH: You are the elected president of the Gambia, and I wish you all the best. I have ill will, and I wish you all the best.

(APPLAUSE)

QUIST-ARCTON: Elation turned to despair as Jammeh changed his mind. Now his party is taking the matter to court. The president blames the Independent Election Commission for alleged irregularities, saying it made mistakes in the final vote tally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMMEH: I want to make it very clear. I hereby reject the results in totality.

QUIST-ARCTON: There has been swift global condemnation of Jammeh's about-turn by the U.N., the U.S., the African Union, the West African Union, ECOWAS and others. Yesterday, at the same time as a regional mediation team of four West African presidents sat down with their Gambian Jammeh ordered troops to blockade the election commission's headquarters - a move denounced as an outrageous act of disrespect and defiance by outgoing U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon. His spokesman Stephane Dujarric...

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

STEPHANE DUJARRIC: The secretary general reiterates his call for a peaceful, timely and orderly transfer of power in full respect of the will of the Gambian people, as expressed in the presidential election. Those found responsible...

QUIST-ARCTON: President-in-waiting Adama Barrow, a real estate developer propelled to the top job, is appealing to outgoing president Jammeh to put Gambia first.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ADAMA BARROW: Let him know that leaders come and go. I order him to change his position for the sake of the Gambia, our homeland, whose people deserve peace and freedom and prosperity. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

QUIST-ARCTON: West African leaders are scheduled to discuss the Gambian crisis again at a summit in Nigeria this weekend. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.