Gambian dictator concedes historic 2016 election


President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has lost the 2016 Gambian election after being in power for 22 years.

Jammeh has ruled over the small West African state since overthrowing its government in 1994. His presidency has been notorious for its harsh crackdown on political dissidents and freedom of the press. He has also been notoriously harsh to the LGBT community of The Gambia. In 2008 he announced that his government would create laws restricting homosexuals which would be “stricter than those in Iran.” In the past, he has called for the beheading of gays in The Gambia, referred to them as being ‘anti-human,’ and, at one point, gave them an ultimatum to leave to the country.

The Gambian press also felt the crackdown on press freedom. He has a record of being critical of free speech and made notable news in arresting Gambian journalist Ebrima Manneh after he attempted to re-publish a BBC article which was critical of Jammeh. As recently as 2014 a Students For Liberty activist and lecturer, Sait Matty Jaw, was detained along with colleagues for their involvement with Gallup, the popular news and polling organization.

Jammeh has also been held responsible for numerous human rights abuses. In 2000, 12 students and a journalist were shot and killed when demonstrating publicly. It is also estimated by some that up to 1,000 citizens had been abducted by the government on the accusation of being linked to ‘witchraft.’

Jammeh’s 2016 voter intimidation was harsh. Political opponents were arrested and some tortured. One prominent opposition member was arrested and beaten to death by the country’s national intelligence agency.

Given his incredibly harsh record of governance, his election concession to opponent Adama Barrow, is a surprising win for Gambians. Too often dictators gain power and do everything to maintain it, but Jammeh’s concession is a different scenario. It is unknown whether the transition of power will be peaceful or if Jammeh has other plans. Regardless, this is result is good news for Gambians and may lead to a new era of freedom.

(Featured image: AFP/BBC News.)