Why Gambia’s election chairman is a true African hero

The first we heard from this good man was on the 28th of November when he boldly expressed his disappointment at the ECOWAS boycott of the Gambian elections which held on the 1st of this month. The ECOWAS had complained about the political field being unlevel and as such refused observer status.

For a country on the verge of determining its own fate at the polls after 22 long years of being ruled by one individual – Yahya Jammeh – it was truly disappointing that under any circumstance, the bloc caters to the West African region would refuse to observe the elections.

But the elections organised by Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission under the chairmanship of Mr. Alieu Mamar Njai still held and it was largely peaceful and fair. It returned the coalition’s candidate, Adamu Barrow as the winner.

It was a successful election for all on all accounts especially as President Yahya Jammeh – a man who became President as a result of a coup 22 years ago and had once promised that he’d rule the country for a billion years if God willed – had called the President-elect to congratulate him. It was certainly successful.

That is until President Jammeh started to deny the elections last Friday. His reasons? Voter irregularities. Yahya Jammeh alleged that over 300,000 voters had not voted on election day and so he called for new elections.

One week, and election recount and a Banjul intervention consisting of four African Presidents after, President Yahya has only become more resolute in his denial of an election that successfully ousted him.

While African leaders are considering the option of military option after the intervention talks that held on Monday failed, President Jammeh has already taken over the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission—the IEC election house, denying access to IEC workers, including Chairman Alieu Mamar Njai. His armed guards have also taken over the building.

Speaking to the press about the lock down today, the electoral chairman has shown himself to be even more resolute than the ousted President.

“Nothing can change the outcome of the elections. Adama Barrow, is the winner. The results have been certified and signed by all the political contenders. It has circulated around the world. The soldiers taking over the election house will not change the outcome of the election. Even if the place caught on fire, or set on fire, that will not change the status quo.”

As regards Yahya Jammeh’s purported petition to a Supreme Court that has not been constituted for over a year, Mr. Njai said: “The results can only be challenged after six months of Barrow’s Presidency. As far as we are concerned, there is no irregularities in the elections. We acted within the purview of the law. No law has been broken as far as the elections are concerned.”

In a country where a despot threatens to bring everything that stands in his way down, when a man stands his ground in this manner he stands for the entire country and should be called what he is – a hero.

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