An African President who has ruled his people for 22 years after seizing power through coup has left many in shock as he contests for another election.
Controversial Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh
The sickness plaguing many African leaders has come to play again as Gambians go to the polling station on the 1st of December to elect another head of state. Sadly, a man who has clung to power for 22 years will be contesting to extend his rule on the people.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and has maintained it ever since with a mixture of severity, mysticism and iron-clad self-belief, AFP reports. He has been campaigning vigorously for re-election. But, how one person can rule his people for over 22 years and still want to retain power has made many observers filled with disgust.
That is the sad reality of most African leaders who can do anything to die in power.
“No matter what people say about me, I am not moved… I don’t listen to anybody because I know what is important,” Jammeh said while depositing his candidacy for this week’s presidential election.
Governing, he said, “is between me and God Almighty.”
Jammeh is a deeply devout Muslim who grew up in the western village of Kanilai in 1965, the year that The Gambia.
He loves his retinue of titles that’s why he doesn’t play with it. He is known as Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen in his country. He joined the army in 1984 before he took power through a coup in 1994 and has since ruled his people.
Just like every other military coup, he had pledging to root out corruption and hold elections after seizing power from Dawda Jawara who ruled the country since independence.
Since he successfully removed the presidential term limits through a 2002 constitutional amendment, he has won in the elections he contested sweeping the votes in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
Now, he wants to extend it more by running for the fifth time and continue to dominate his people.
Jammeh is not without drama though, AFP reports that the 51-year-old has attracted worldwide attention for declaring The Gambia an Islamic nation, withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court, and claiming he had concocted a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS.
The longtime ruler has woven a shroud of mysticism around himself using religion and rumours of secret powers.
More importantly, Jammeh is never seen without his Koran, sceptre and prayer beads. He has promised to bury critics “nine feet deep” and told the UN Secretary-General to “go to hell” after Ban Ki-moon called for an investigation into an activist’s death in custody.
AFP further reported that Rights groups allege that those who defy him end up in the country’s notorious Mile Two prison, where the UN in 2014 said it had obtained evidence of torture and executions by the country’s National Intelligence Agency, which reports directly to Jammeh.
Jammeh controls several businesses in the country and has in the past seized them without warning, discouraging foreign investment.
The state of the economy has pushed many young Gambians to take the “Back Way”, or migrant route across the Sahara to Libya, where they board boats bound for Italy.
But others remain grateful for investment in education and the health system, which were severely neglected under his predecessor.
“He has totally changed the life of the Gambian people,” said Yankuba Colley, a key Jammeh campaign organiser. “The future of The Gambia lies in his hands.”