Not quite a billion years in Banjul
December 2, 2016 9:21 PM   Subscribe

The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has conceded defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer who once worked as a security guard in London. "Hello, are you hearing me?” Jammeh asked Adama Barrow, grinning widely on his mobile. “I wish you all the best. The country will be in your hands in January. You are assured of my guidance. You have to work with me. You are the elected president of The Gambia. I have no ill will and I wish you all the best.”
Barrow said he was confident Jammeh would stand down. “Power belongs to the people. It’s the people who have spoken. He cannot hang on,” he said. “We won the election clearly so there’s nothing he can do about it. I’m very, very happy and excited. I’m happy that we won this election.”
This election came after anti-government protests in the spring and summer, and the Gambia joined Burundi and South Africa in withdrawing from the International Criminal Court in late October. In the run-up to the election, observers were particularly concerned about the potential for human rights abuses, made even more salient after the Gambia shut down the internet, social media access, and international phone calls. However, polls were peaceful and hopeful in the first election Yahya Jammeh lost in 22 years.

Jammeh was accused of a number of human rights abuses, including targeting the LGBT population, reporters, and political opponents.

Although the Gambia is a major tourist destination for Europeans visiting West Africa, a disproportionate number of young Gambians migrate to Europe due to poverty, lack of opportunity, and the autocratic and

posted by ChuraChura (39 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There have been a number of really interesting articles about the failed 2014 coup attempt in the Gambia. The one I remember most vividly was in the Atlantic, but the event was strange enough that it has been written up a bunch of times.

I hope the transition proceeds smoothly and peacefully.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:32 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

I've been wondering whether The Gambia's decision to shut down the internet and all international calls from a few days prior to the elections might not actually have had a beneficial impact given the rise in fake news and emotional pandering via ICT these days.
posted by infini at 9:55 PM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

How would we know?
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:24 PM on December 2, 2016

What in the - I'm reading through that Atlantic piece Dip Flash linked and I get to this paragraph

Jammeh won yet another term in 2006, and started leading his country with newfound bravado—and erraticism. He upgraded his Mitsubishi to a black stretch Hummer and tossed biscuits to crowds from its sunroof, sending children scrambling. (Some were hit by the motorcade and killed.) His title grew to “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor.” He unveiled his own herbal cure for HIV/aids, a green paste he rubbed on patients’ skin, and threatened to behead gay Gambians. In 2009, his security forces kidnapped hundreds of people accused of witchcraft and forced them to drink a hallucinogenic potion. That year, Jammeh survived another coup attempt, and two years later, he won a fourth election. He told an interviewer afterward, “If I have to rule this country for 1 billion years, I will.”

and I'm only like a quarter of the way through it. Crazy. Great article.
posted by mannequito at 12:58 AM on December 3, 2016

Talk about your hanging chads.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 3:42 AM on December 3, 2016

Wow! Adama Barrow's stint as a security guard was in a shop I used very regularly at the time. Argos is quite an institution, for those who don't know it, a nationwide chain of catalogue shops which sell household goods. Downmarket but cheap and if you know what you're buying a good place to go. So if you need a saucepan or a torch or a pair of headphones in a hurry and you're near an Argos, it's the default choice.

And I try to say hello to security in shops, so there's a very good chance I've staggered past the president-elect of Gambia under a pile of camping gear for Glastonbury and made some joke or the other about mud and drugs with him.

London. Huh.
posted by Devonian at 5:11 AM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm glad SOMEONE has their electoral shit together.
posted by gusandrews at 9:33 AM on December 3, 2016

Wait until the actual day of power transfer comes, before celebrating.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:17 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great post but none of these articles can answer the question of how this happened. Was the president just so arrogant and delusional that he forgot to rig it? God I hope so.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2016

Opposition parties have for the first time formed a coalition and chosen Barrow, who hails from several of the Gambia’s tribes and hence commands support spanning the divides many say Jammeh has deliberately widened over the course of his rule.

Maybe that's the key.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The two First Ladies
posted by infini at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Full transcript of the conversation Jammeh had with Barrow
posted by infini at 11:33 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just saw a Gambian friend who lives here in Ohio, with sisters and extended family in the Gambia. She has been very nervous about the election and its impact on them. She said they were very scared when all of a sudden they couldn't get through, even on Whatsapp, but then she spent all night dancing with joy! She's just turned 21, so she's literally never experienced the Gambia without Jammeh. She's hoping to go back and start work onec she graduates, now that things will be more free.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

In a surprise twist that has "Africa"* looking on with bated breath, Angola's long time President dos Santos stated he would not run again.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled for 37 years, will stand down before next year's general election, state radio said Friday citing sources in the ruling MPLA party.

"The president will not be a candidate and he already has a successor," Pinto told AFP.

"It will be Joao Lourenco, who will be presented to members of the party on December 10 when we celebrate the party's anniversary."

The updated chart of Africa’s longest-serving rulers if these two step down in 2017 as promised

posted by infini at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

And my favourite on this topic of "African" "democracy" and "elections" , Kagame makes his point.
posted by infini at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well that's disturbing news
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:07 PM on December 3, 2016

I was supposed to be at the African Studies Association meeting this weekend, I'm kicking myself SO HARD for not being around people who are more knowledgeable than me to interpret everything.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

And my favourite on this topic of "African" "democracy" and "elections" , Kagame makes his point.

Interesting. If you have other suggestions for reading Kagame on these topics, please send them. He seems like an interesting leader.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

infini, is freedomnewspaper a reliable source, as far as these things go?
posted by ambrosen at 1:28 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I couldn't believe it when I read this - especially as Jammeh has spent the last few years since the coup locking the country down even tighter. It seemed baffling to me.

I hope the transition is a genuine one, and that it goes well for all the people.
posted by smoke at 1:40 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

infini, is freedomnewspaper a reliable source, as far as these things go?

In as much as it's been listed on the BBC's profile of Gambian media
posted by infini at 1:48 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I rather like Kagame, MonkeyToes, from what I can see* as real changes happening. The Rwandan media will carry stuff like this *if* he does say anything, which tbh isn't all that often. His speeches at various regional events are usually well covered. But then again, I saw Singapore develop from third to first world country.

*twitter offers a peek into ground level reality in real time every day unlike any other news source. for different regions depending on whom you follow, so headlines are one thing but you can always count on someone tweeting a photo or speaking up if the headline was bullshit
posted by infini at 2:09 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Looks as if last night passed OK, thankfully. We can hope that that's a good sign.
posted by ambrosen at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2016

Argos is quite an institution, for those who don't know it, a nationwide chain of catalogue shops which sell household goods.

Argos tweeted a shoutout to Barrow the other day: "Good to see that our staff training continues to pay off... 👮🇬🇲☺️"

(but whenever I hear Argos, I cannot help thinking of Bill Bailey's "Laminated Book of Dreams" bit from Part Troll)
posted by effbot at 12:17 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

So, it's still properly The Gambia? I know that "the" has been deprecated for Sudan and Ukraine, wondered if that was the case here.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:55 PM on December 4, 2016

So, it's still properly The Gambia?

Why do some country names have 'the'? says we're down to two, The Bahamas and The Gambia.

"We do have a letter dated May 1964 from the Gambian prime minister's office which instructed us that it should be The Gambia with a capital T. One of the reasons they gave was that Gambia could be confused with Zambia, which was a new name to the international community at the time."
posted by effbot at 3:57 AM on December 5, 2016

As a footnote to the Argos sidetrack, the G on UK media's obsession with the fact that Barrow worked as a security guard while studying in the UK (after working in sales before, and starting a real estate company after his studies): "The ‘Argos security guard defeats dictator’ headlines say little about Adama Barrow and the Gambia, and much about Britain’s obsession with status."
posted by effbot at 4:05 AM on December 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

"As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty Allah I will never question Allah’s decision. You Gambians have decided,” he said.
I was reading the other day that medieval Islamic scholars were some of the most free-market of all the free-marketeers, since prices were the will of Allah and shouldn't be tampered with by governments even during disasters. Interesting to hear a democratic result interpreted along similar lines. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.
posted by clawsoon at 10:58 AM on December 5, 2016

Here is the Global Voices roundup on the post-election response.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jammeh's revoked his earlier concession of defeat. This just in.

Meanwhile, in Ghana, Mahama congratulates Nana

Akwasi is my man on the spot :) He sweetly replied to my tweet asking for verification of another report, even in the midst of all the busyness
posted by infini at 3:22 PM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, infini--from the BBC: "After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election," Mr Jammeh said.

"I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process.

"I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission."
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:41 PM on December 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

And, from the NY Times...
posted by ChuraChura at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

From Foreign Policy: "The Real Reason Gambia’s President Isn’t Stepping Down." Snippets: "But Jammeh had sacked so many Supreme Court justices over the last year that the body is legally unable to hear the case unless he appoints four new justices. And as the Gambia Bar Association pointed out in a Dec. 12 statement: “Any Supreme Court empanelled by the outgoing President Jammeh for the purpose of hearing his election petition would be fundamentally tainted.” ... By stoking fears that he will not go peacefully, Jammeh may be hoping to bully his way into an offer of amnesty or possibly refuge in a third country. And as distasteful as it is, this option may be the most likely to prevent Gambia from slipping into chaos."
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

And from The Guardian: "Congo braces for violence as president's mandate expires." "Tens of thousands of paramilitaries and policemen have been deployed across the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the vast central African country braces for violent protests and riots when the mandate of the president, Joseph Kabila, expires on Monday....Observers fear the vast central African country, which has never known a peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, could plunge into a prolonged period of damaging, and possibly very violent, instability."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:32 PM on December 18, 2016

Three years of living in The Gambia have taught me that questions about personal “origin” always unleash stories of migration, change and interchange: “We who are surnamed Kebbeh were Fulbe while living in Senegal five generations ago but are now Wolof”; “the families surnamed Cham are Wolof or Mandinka now but were originally Fulbe from Futa Toro”; or, “My father is Mandinka but I moved to my Serahuli grandmother and was raised by her so I guess I am Serahuli now”, and so forth. When Gambians talk about their background in ethnic terms, the stories they tell reveal layers upon layers of social integration across differences of language and tradition. Marriage across ethnic lines is more a rule than an exception. Social mechanisms for integration across “tribe” are everywhere, in notions of equivalent surnames (Juawara and Mbow, Willan and Fofana, Tunkara and Kanteh, Nyang and Sanyang) and in humor.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:38 AM on December 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

The tribalism narrative is chilling.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:30 PM on December 26, 2016

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