By ABDOULIE JOHN and CARLEY PETESCH, Associated Press
BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Lines of voters snaked round corners exterior polling stations in Gambia’s capital Saturday because the nation holds a presidential election that for the primary time in a long time doesn’t embody former dictator Yahya Jammeh as a candidate.
Polls opened to excessive turnout, with many individuals lining up on the capital’s Independence Stadium earlier than dawn. Nearly 1 million voters had been anticipated to drop marbles into one in all six poll bins, every adorned with the face and title of a candidate.
They embody incumbent President Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in 2016 whereas working because the candidate for an opposition coalition.
Barrow’s challengers are former mentor and head opposition chief Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party; Mama Kandeh of Gambia Democratic Congress; Halifa Sallah of People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism; Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh of the National Unity Party; and Essa Mbye Faal, former lead counsel of Gambia’s fact fee, who’s working underneath an impartial ticket.
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They have all vowed to run underneath an agenda for change and a stronger economic system in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic so fewer Gambians really feel compelled to journey the damaging migration path to Europe.
While the 2016 election that eliminated Jammeh from energy after 22 years noticed Gambians go from concern to elation, many are nonetheless not glad with the progress the nation has made. They need certainty that the new leaders will carry the tiny West African nation of about 2 million towards peace and justice.
Despite the nation continues to undergo from the consequences of his rule, together with rights abuses and funds taken from state coffers.
“As a rustic, we can not heal with out justice. We can not have reconciliation with out justice,” Gambia Bar Association lawyer Salieu Taal informed The Associated Press.
Jammeh left Gambia in 2017. His two-decade rule was marked by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and abstract executions that had been revealed via dramatic testimony throughout Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission hearings that lasted for years.
Last week, the fee handed its 17-volume report back to President Barrow, urging him to ship on expectations in making certain that perpetrators of human rights violations are prosecuted.
“I guarantee them (victims’ households) that my authorities will make sure that is justice is completed, however I urge them to be affected person and permit the authorized course of to take its course,” Barrow informed commissioners upon receiving their closing report.
Still, Barrow reelection is unsure as many Gambians really feel betrayal after his National People’s Party reached a cope with the highest figures of the previous ruling occasion.
Ndey Sambou, a dealer at Brikama market, informed The Associated Press that the president ought to clear the air over the content material of the memorandum of understanding signed between his occasion and the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), which finally cut up with Jammeh.
Sainey Senghore who survived gunshot wounds throughout an April 2000 crackdown on peaceable college students demanding justice for a rape sufferer made it clear that victims’ expectations shall be forefront as they head to the polls Saturday.
“This authorities got here to put with loads of guarantees. At the tip, they’re sidelining the victims, working in line with the perpetrators,” he stated, calling Barrow’s rapprochement with APRC “very disheartening, and really disappointing.”
Similar sentiments had been echoed by Abdoulie H. Bojang, whose son was killed in the course of the violent crackdown on pupil protesters.
“We want justice to have the ability to have closure in this ongoing tragedy,” he stated.
The links to Jammeh will not be solely a problem for the present president, nevertheless. Opposition candidate Kandeh has been supported strongly by a breakaway political faction that Jammeh shaped throughout his exile in Equatorial Guinea.
While Kandeh has maintained silence about Jammeh’s potential return to Gambia, his allies are unequivocally saying that Jammeh would come again in the event that they emerge victorious from the election.
Jammeh, who seized energy in 1994 in a cold coup, was voted out of workplace in 2016. After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted, and a six-week disaster noticed neighboring West African nations put together to ship in troops to stage a army intervention. Jammeh was pressured into exile and fled to Equatorial Guinea.
Of the opposite candidates, Sallah and Darboe are established politicians, however they face challenges from newcomers similar to Faal and Ebrima Jammeh, who’re making waves in city areas.
Gambians, used to violence surrounding polls, fear a few potential confrontation between Barrow and Darboe supporters, because the years have seen an incredible divide between the 2 leaders who had been as soon as shut.
Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.
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