With only three months to go before the Presidential elections, the debate is heating up about the chances of the incumbent to retain his seat as the country is faced with an unprecedented political crisis.
“There is hope for change because Yahya Jammeh is losing ground daily,” the Executive Director of the Banjul-based pro-democracy
group Gambia Concerned for Democracy and Human Rights Fatoumata Tambajang told this reporter during an exclusive interview.
Since April 14, an increasingly volatile political situation has left two opposition activists dead and dozens jailed including United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Ousainou Darboe who is serving a 3-year jail term along with a good number of executive members and supporters. Despite demands made by human rights organizations to release them, Gambian authorities continue to turn a deaf ear to numerous calls for decency.
The emblematic female activist said despite President Jammeh using state machinery, resources and foreign voters, the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) regime will not survive a massive voting by Gambians. She then urged her fellow citizens to come out in their numbers in December 1st and ‘oust him (Jammeh) through massive voting.’
“I am calling on all eligible patriotic Gambians to use vote massively and peacefully,” said Tambajang who was recently elected as an executive member of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF).
Meanwhile, former Gambian Speaker Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay, who spoke to this reporter, is optimistic about the Gambian leader’s chances of winning the next elections. “Gambian women continue to throw their weight behind President Jammeh who has done a lot to promote gender equality,” she said.
She said the last APRC meeting she was invited to attend in Soma, some 150 km away from Banjul, has witnessed a massive turnout. “Women came from the country’s various regions to reaffirm their commitment to the party. The message sent by the APRC female wing was very clear: the 2016 elections are a done deal, ” she stated.
When asked how party members were able to cope with reports of full-scale crackdown on female opposition activists by the APRC regime, she declined to comment.
Last month, human right watchdog ARTICLE 19 expressed concerns about ”the ongoing attacks on civic space, the imprisonment of opposition leader, Ousainou Darboe, two of his family members, and 25 opposition party supporters, and by allegations of torture and violence ahead of presidential elections.”
Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh who seized power in a military coup. Rights groups describe his 22-year rule as being marred by gross human rights violations.