Gambia's Internet Cut As 'billion-year' Leader Faces Challenge

Gambia's internet cut as 'billion-year' leader faces challenge

BANJUL, Gambia, Dec 1, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 01st Dec, 2016 ) - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh faced his strongest electoral challenge in 22 years despite pledging to govern for a billion years, as voters went to the polls Thursday, braving an internet blackout. After an unprecedented two-week opposition campaign that has energised his rivals, Jammeh rumbled into the capital's cricket ground in a 4X4 and after casting his vote predicted his best score ever.

"By the grace of the Almighty Allah, there will be the biggest landslide in the history of my elections," said Jammeh, sporting his usual white robes and sunglasses, and carrying a staff and Koran. Some 890,000 Gambians were voting -- with marbles -- in the west African nation long accused by rights groups of suppressing freedom of expression. The winner in the three-way race will serve a five-year term in the tiny former British colony known for its pristine beaches which occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal.

"Jammeh is my president, and he's been doing a lot of development for this country," said former Gambian international footballer Alhaji Momodo Nije voting at a cricket association in Banjul. Jammeh is running for a fifth term in office with his ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). He faces previously unknown businessman Adama Barrow, chosen as a flagbearer by a group of political parties who have joined forces for the first time and won unprecedented popular support.

Before heading to vote, Barrow told AFP by phone he was confident of victory. "It's very clear, the writing is on the wall that I'm going to win." "If he loses, let him concede defeat. And we know he is going to lose," Barrow told AFP later in the day. A third candidate, former ruling party MP Mama Kandeh, is also standing for the Gambian Democratic Congress (GDC). All three men are 51, born in 1965, the year The Gambia won its independence from Britain.

At his final rally on Tuesday night, Jammeh said he was looking forward to ramping up development but he also warned that protests over the election result would not be tolerated. The Gambia's unique voting system, which sees citizens vote by dropping a marble into a coloured drum for their candidate, could not be rigged, he added, meaning "there is no reason for anybody to protest." Rights group Amnesty International urged the authorities to ensure that the election and post-electoral period "are held in a climate that is free from violence and which fully respects the right of all people to freely express their views."