(JollofNews) – Soldiers stood watch on the streets of the Gambia’s capital, Banjul, on Sunday as most residents went about daily life despite concerns after the president, Yahya Jammeh, said he would not accept election results that would force him to step down after 22 years in power.
International and regional bodies and governments joined together over the weekend to call for a peaceful transition in the west African country of about 1.9 million people.
Jammeh initially conceded defeat after Gambians voted in the president-elect, Adama Barrow, on 1 December. However, Jammeh announced on Friday that he no longer accepted the election results and called for another vote, saying there were irregularities.
Jammeh’s ruling APRC party said on Saturday that it would follow up the president’s rejection of the election results by filing a petition to the supreme court. By law, election results can be contested up to 10 days after the vote.
Barrow said on Sunday that he had moved to a safe house for his security.
On the quiet streets of Banjul, there has been an increased military presence since Jammeh made a televised appearance saying he rejected the election result. Soldiers piled up sandbags and propped up machine guns on them but merely waved people through checkpoints.
In Serrekunda, the largest urban centre in The Gambia, armed soldiers stood on many street corners as people went about their business.
Some Gambians thought that Senegal, the UN or other international powers should come to their aid.
“We don’t want him any more and we need help from the world because he said he won’t move,” said Maju Tunkara, a seller of phone credit.
Assan Njie, a former Jammeh supporter who changed his mind when the president threatened his Mandinka tribe, said people were too afraid to demonstrate. “They have guns. We don’t have guns,” he said. “We cannot go out because he will kill us.”
Halifa Sallah, a member of the coalition, said: “We must help Jammeh have a steady mind. Jammeh must decide on what side of history he wants to be.”
Barrow said on Saturday that Jammeh had no constitutional authority to invalidate the vote or to call for a new one. He called for a smooth transfer of power in the interest of the country’s peace and stability.
Senegal’s foreign ministry, the UN security council, west Africa’s regional bloc and the Gambia’s diaspora community have all called on Jammeh to respect the people’s choice and urged security forces and others to exercise restraint, remain calm and avoid violence.
by Ruth Maclean in Banjul and agencies
Courtesy of The Guardian