(JollofNews) – Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow said on Sunday that he feared for his safety and urged the international community to get the democratic transition back on course by persuading Yahya Jammeh to leave office as he had initially promised.
“My security is a concern and what is happening in Gambia is not normal,” Mr Barrow told the Financial Times by phone from a private house outside the capital, Banjul.
Mr Jammeh, who has ruled for 22 years, threw the tiny west African nation’s future into doubt on Friday evening when he went on television to claim that last week’s election had been flawed and that he would not stand down.
“I think it’s a coup, basically,” said Alex Vines, Africa director at Chatham House, who said Mr Jammeh had been frantically promoting members of the armed forces who were loyal to him.
Mr Barrow, who won 45.5 per cent of the vote to Mr Jammeh’s 36.7 per cent, now has to work out how to secure his electoral mandate in a dictatorship where the armed forces have been involved in every transition of power since independence in 1965.
He said he had not spoken with the army chief of staff since last week, when the general “assured the support of the army” for the newly elected president.
The president-elect said he had tried to contact Mr Jammeh to discuss the impasse, but without success. Although he said he enjoyed a big popular mandate, making his position “very strong”, he conceded his vulnerability.
“I don’t have guards at the moment. I have no protection from the army, no protection from the police. I’m just using my local security,” he said, adding that they were unarmed.
Mr Barrow said that Mr Jammeh’s sudden change of heart had taken him by surprise and that he had “never talked about” prosecuting the president for alleged human rights abuses and corruption. “I said that he was the president for the past 22 years and he is a Gambian. He has the right to stay as a private citizen.”
Some members of the opposition had discussed the possibility of prosecuting Mr Jammeh. Mr Barrow had said he would reverse a decision to quit the International Criminal Court, membership of which could open Mr Jammeh to prosecution from outside the country. Analysts speculated that fear of prosecution had triggered Mr Jammeh’s sudden determination to scrap the election.