The Gambia’s Supreme Court was supposed to hold a hearing on a petition to annul the December presidential election, brought by the country’s current President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the election. Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle says that hearing is now postponed until May. Meanwhile, President Jammeh’s term technically ends the evening of January 18th and his successor, Adama Barrow, is supposed to be sworn in on the 19th. Jammeh is using the court case to justify his staying in power. But Thomas Murphy, a Risk Advisory Group analyst working on The Gambia, says that is constitutionally questionable. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Murphy about the latest developments.
The Cipher Brief: Is the current political situation in The Gambia – with President Yahya Jammeh saying he’s not going to step down, even though he lost December’s presidential election – in any way surprising?
Thomas Murphy: No, not really. What was more surprising was first, when Jammeh lost the presidential election and second, when he fairly swiftly conceded defeat in the presidential election. It had been widely anticipated that he would – that the election would be rigged, it wouldn’t be free and fair. There were quite a few international actors that refused to monitor the election, including the European Union (EU). The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – the regional bloc – said it doubted the vote would be free and fair. The U.S. government, the New Democracy Institute, Human RIghts Watch, and other NGOs also issued statements saying the election wasn’t going to be free and fair.
There was a widely held expectation that when the results came out, Jammeh would win quite convincingly, like he has done in all of the other elections that have been held since he took power in 1994. So when he lost, that was quite surprising for most people who were watching it. And then, when he conceded defeat that was even more surprising, especially for a president who has been quite eccentric in how he has conducted himself. For him to just – what looked like – he was going to bow out, go out with grace – that was quite surprising.
When he changed his mind and said no, I don’t accept these results, that was characteristic of the President. And then the subsequent events have been, dare I say, a bit more in character for the President.
TCB: Can you unravel for me exactly what’s happening with the case that Jammeh has brought to the Supreme Court – what he is claiming went wrong in the electoral process, and how is the timing of the case going to work out?
TM: Jammeh is contesting the results based on what he calls counting irregularities in some areas of The Gambia. The electoral commission conceded there were some errors in some of the counting but has rejected any claim that there was fraud or any other issues with the results…
Read the full interview here.
This piece was originally published by The Cipher Brief.