Gambia's presidential vote

Coming from the lips of a President with an incredible number of on-the-whim moves and declarations, President Yahya Jammeh’s declaration on the 12th of December that his little West African country was now an Islamic state may have passed by without much immediate ado or reaction.

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh was the 29-year-old chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) who instigated and successfully executed a coup on the 22nd of July 1994 after which they suspended the constitution, sealed the borders, and implemented a curfew.

Yahya Jammeh ran for elections in 1996 under the  Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (a party which he founded) and won. He was re-elected in 2001, 2006 and 2011 racking up a total of 20 comfortable years as the elected president of Gambia so far. For a man who had vowed to stay in power for a billion years if God wills, it would seem that he does have some inroad on God’s will.

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In 2007 President Yahya Jammeh claimed to be able to cure AIDS and infertility with herbal remedies, in 2008 he promised to behead gays, in 2013 he pulled Gambia out of the commonwealth to cut its ties with colonialism, in 2014 he said the country would drop English as its official language without pin-pointing which of the country’s indigenous tongues would replace it and in 2015 he declared that his country is an Islamic state also to decolonize it, so you see why a lot of people just let it slide by?


The fact that the Gambia is made up of up to 90% Muslims ensured that President Yahya Jammeh was not heavily contested in this declaration and it must have also helped that he promised that his government would be fair to minority groups (read as Christian). Already the non-Muslim community is getting agitated, especially as an executive order was leaked on January 4th requiring that all female civil servants should have their hair covered.

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Whatever President Yahya Jammeh aimed to achieve by declaring the Gambia an Islamic state, there have been some speculations, one being that he wanted new allies internationally, mostly the Arab Gulf states and another that he is securing a good run for the 2016 elections among the 90% of Muslims. Whichever may turn out to be true, we just hope that he’ll keep his promise to the minority group and ensure the safe transition of Gambia into a full-blown Islamic State or Republic.