Gambians will go to the polls on December 4 to choose the country’s president, in a race that will see five challengers seeking to topple incumbent President Adama Barrow.
The country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) this week disqualified 15 of 21 candidates – including Marie Sock, the only candidate – for failing to meet constitutional requirements. About half of them were running on independent platforms.
The presidential vote will be the first since Gambia’s longtime leader Yahya Jammeh fled the country in early 2017 after a six-week standoff over his decision to challenge the outcome of an election won by Barrow.
As the country prepares for its high-stakes presidential election, here’s what you need to know about the top candidates.
In the December 2016 polls, a relatively unknown Barrow, acting as the arrowhead of an opposition coalition, beat Jammeh against all odds.
Jammeh refusing to give in, Barrow was sworn in as president in January 2017 in a ceremony held at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, the capital of neighboring Senegal.
The outgoing president, 56, was supposed to serve as transitional leader for three years, but instead decided to end his term.
In 2019, he broke ranks by registering a new party, the Popular National Party (NPP) in search of a second term.
Just three months ago, the NPP signed a controversial alliance with Jammeh’s party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), to attract more votes – a move allegedly rejected by Jammeh.
Now, Barrow’s critics fear that the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) set up to fight human rights violations by his predecessor, and which has yet to release its findings despite the conclusion of the hearings, is only ‘a masquerade.
For two decades, Darboe was Jammeh’s nemesis as leader of the United Democratic Party, the country’s largest opposition political force.
But his role in street protests against the death of an activist led to his detention by the Jammeh government and a three-year prison sentence.
In his absence but with his signal support, the UDP appointed Barrow, who had resigned as party treasurer to run as an independent, to be the candidate of an opposition coalition.
Darboe, 73, served as foreign minister and one of three vice presidents, but was sacked in March 2019 after falling out with Barrow for refusing to approve his candidacy for a second presidential term.
Although Barrow has pledged to pull him off, Darboe remains his biggest challenger. For his part, Darboe, who was the first contender to declare his assets, challenged the president and others in the race to follow suit.
Mama Kandeh, who came third in the 2016 polls, was a former APRC lieutenant until his expulsion that year led to the formation of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC).
Under the aegis of the APRC, he won a seat in Parliament by defeating Barrow in the latter’s first major political foray, in 2007.
Kandeh hopes to capitalize on grievances from supporters of the APRC No Alliance Movement, a splinter group within the former ruling party formed after the APRC’s partnership with the NPP gravitating towards his candidacy.
Three other candidates are vying for the highest office in The Gambia: Essa Mbye Faal, who resigned as chief prosecutor of the TRRC to run as an independent candidate; former aviation chief Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh, another independent; and Halifa Sallah, member of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).