A new era for the Gambia as Jammeh steps down
As we recently reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, former president Yahya Jammeh drew widespread condemnation when he tried to usurp the will of the Gambian people by ignoring the results of election in early December. Having lost the election, Jammeh's refusal to step-down eventually prompted a regional military intervention to force him to go. As a joint West African force of 7,000 troops were ordered to halt their approach towards the capital, Banjul, Jammeh finally stepped down on 20th January. A day earlier on 19th January, President-elect, Adama Barrow was inaugurated in neighbouring Senegal, in anticipation of Jammeh's removal from power. The outgoing president was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea as part of a last-minute deal.
In the final days of his tenure, President Jammeh attempted to quell the opposition to his leadership. In the three weeks after 31st December, at least six people were arrested and detained for wearing t-shirts with the logo #Gambiahasdecided on them. The closure of three private radio stations on 1st January by security forces formed another part of Jammeh's final attempts to curtail freedom of expression and cling to power. In a recent statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch noted that:
'The targeting of the #Gambiahasdecided movement and the closure of private radio stations threaten the rights of Gambians to express their opposition to Jammeh’s attempt to stay in power.'
Despite the recent restrictions on civic freedoms, Jammeh's removal has raised hopes that his successor will usher in a new era of enhanced protections for civic freedoms in the Gambia. In an encouraging first step, incoming president Adama Barrow has pledged to release all political prisoners in Gambia:
'Political prisoners will be released, all of them. If it's politics, you are released.'