Former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh ignored a warning from President Adama Barrow not to campaign for an allied candidate in the country’s upcoming presidential elections on Thursday, speaking from a distance at a rally for the opposition candidate from foreground Mama Kandeh.
Jammeh had previously endorsed Kandeh as his choice for the presidency. So far, six candidates, including Barrow and Kandeh, have registered for the election, which is due to take place on December 4.
Jammeh, who was President of The Gambia from 1996 to 2017, remains a very polarizing figure in the country. His erratic twenty-two-year rule over The Gambia has been widely condemned abroad for its brutality, use of extrajudicial methods of control and disregard for human rights, and Jammeh has been accused of robbing millions of the country’s treasury and having used it for personal gain.
Jammeh’s reign came to an end after his loss in the December 2016 presidential election to Barrow. Instead of conceding, Jammeh indicated he would not recognize the result and demanded Barrow’s arrest, which led Barrow to flee to neighboring Senegal. The following month, the Economic Community of West African States launched a joint military intervention by The Gambia, overthrowing Jammeh and installing Barrow as president of the country.
The former dictator has lived in Equatorial Guinea since 2017 as a guest of the Equatorial Guinean dictator Teodoro Obiang. In exile, he and his wife were sanctioned by the US government under the Global Magnitsky Act, used to seize US assets from alleged human rights abusers.
While many Gambians oppose Jammeh, a number continue to support him, and others have been alienated by the actions of Barrow, who initially insisted he would only play a transitional role in the country’s politics and would not stand for election before changing course. . While Jammeh’s political party, the Alliance for Reorientation and Patriotic Construction, allied with Barrow, Jammeh did not support Kandeh, Barrow’s most important challenger.
In his remarks on behalf of Kandeh, Jammeh claimed that Barrow stole the 2016 election and “destroyed the country” during his five-year tenure. He vowed that Gambians would receive free education and medical care if they voted for Kandeh, implausibly claiming that he would become “one of the most developed countries in the world” under Kandeh’s leadership.
Jammeh’s involvement in Kandeh’s campaign infuriated the Barrow government, although it was unable to point to a specific law banning support for the former dictator.
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.