2016 was not a great year for politics. And for The Gambia, the smallest country on the mainland who has been run by an authoritarian leader for 22 years, no one expected a surprise in the election. It’s been a year where many long-standing presidents throughout the continent managed to stay in power without too much effort.
Yahya Jammeh first took power at the age of 29 in 1994 after a coup and was then re-elected for four consecutive mandates. Jammeh’s repressive regime led many to flee the country in fear of violence or imprisonment. In 2015, Jammeh declared The Gambia as an Islamic Republic, promising his anti-gay laws would be tougher than those in Iran.
On election day, the internet, mobile networks and electricity were shut down.
The day following the election, rumour had it that President Jammeh could be on his way out. On social media, the #GambiaDecides began to trend although people were being careful, waiting for official sources to confirm it.
In the early afternoon following election day, the electoral commission’s president declared that President Jammeh, who was running for his fifth mandate and had declared that he would stay in power for a ‘billion years’ had indeed lost to Adama Burrow, the man chosen by seven parties to be the opposition’s champion.
People on Twitter had a hard time believing the election results.
For many, the election result was like a new independence day.
For the Gambian diaspora, this is a long-waited opportunity to come home.
Some observers noted that Gambia just gave a ‘How To’ lesson in getting rid of authoritarian presidents to the rest of the continent… not bad for such a small country.
As it turns out, 2016isn’t all that bad.