TOn the day after a historic voting day for the young Gambian democracy seeking to overcome its dictatorial past, outgoing President Adama Barrow was officially declared the winner of the presidential election by the electoral commission. It was the chairman of the commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, announcing the results of the last constituencies to the press, who declared Adama Barrow “duly elected to serve as President of the Republic of The Gambia”. The outgoing head of state won more than 53% of the vote, far ahead of his main competitor Ousainou Darboe, who obtained 27.7% of the vote according to the results of this single-round ballot.
“For the moment, we reject the results announced so far”
If the presidential camp began to celebrate the event in the streets of the capital Banjul even before his victory is officially confirmed, the opponents of Adama Barrow are already contesting these results and say they reserve “all means of action”. “For the moment, we reject the results so far announced” by the commission, Ousainou Darboe told reporters, alongside two other of his competitors, Mama Kandeh and Essa Faal. “All the means of action are on the table,” he added, calling on “all Gambians to remain calm and peaceful” while investigations are carried out. The representatives of these candidates present at the time of the counting operations noted “a number of problems”, he said.
Gambians thronged en masse to the voting booths on Saturday and, as a ballot, voted with a ball introduced through a pipe into one of the cans bearing the colors and effigy of each candidate, a process instituted under colonization because of widespread illiteracy. About one of the two million Gambians were called upon to choose from among six candidates, all men, the one who will lead for five years the smallest country in mainland Africa, which is also one of the poorest in the world. Almost 860,000 took part in the vote.
Five years after the end of the dictatorship, the consolidation of democracy is one of the challenges of this election. The fate of former dictator Yahya Jammeh and the economic crisis are others. The international community will be attentive to the acceptance or the contest by the losers of the results formalized by the commission, said a high-ranking foreign diplomat, speaking of “moment capital”. The Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a major player in the post-electoral crisis of 2015 and the forced departure of dictator Jammeh, had urged in a statement “all the candidates to accept in good faith the outcome of this election who will have neither winner nor loser, but only one winner, the Gambian people ”.
Adama Barrow vs. Ousainou Darboe
Five years ago, Adama Barrow, a former real estate developer now 56 years old and then almost unknown, defied the prognosis and beat the dictator Jammeh after more than twenty years of rule characterized by a multitude of atrocities committed by the state and its agents: assassinations, enforced disappearances, rapes, torture, etc. Yahya Jammeh, who refused to acknowledge his defeat, was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea under the pressure of a West African military intervention. The 2021 presidential election is the first without him since 1996.
Adama Barrow calls for the return of freedoms, the construction of roads and markets and the pacification of relations with the international community. Ousainou Darboe, a 73-year-old lawyer, four times second behind Yahya Jammeh in the presidential election, accused Adama Barrow of having failed in all his commitments to stay in power. Indeed, the outgoing president reneged on his initial promise to stay only three years in power. He has toned down his previous commitments to prosecute those responsible for crimes committed under Yahya Jammeh. On the contrary, his newly created party has forged an alliance with that of the former autocrat. None of the institutional and legal reforms promised have been successful. The Gambians therefore voted without having a new Constitution and with electoral laws that no longer correspond to the current context of the country.
Enough to say that there will be many projects for the future head of state. He will have to decide whether or not to follow the recommendations of a commission charged with investigating the Jammeh period, which called for those responsible for the crimes committed during that time to be brought to justice. Many Gambians expressed other concerns. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line. The Gambia has been hit hard by the Covid-19. Apart from agriculture, this country, with its beaches on the Atlantic, lived on tourism, whose flows have dried up. Gambians suffer from unemployment, rising prices for rice, sugar or oil, and lack of access to health care.