World, Africa

Gambia's opposition unites behind single candidate

7 parties select election opponent to President Yahya Jammeh

Gambia's opposition unites behind single candidate

By Alieu Manneh

BANJUL, Gambia

Seven opposition parties came together late Sunday to form a coalition to challenge President Yahya Jammeh in December’s election.

A national convention saw 308 out of 490 delegates give their support to Adama Barrow, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), as the main candidate to face Jammeh in a presidential poll on Dec. 1.

The 51-year-old businessman became UDP leader in September after his predecessor Ousainou Darboe was jailed for three years following rallies calling for electoral reform.

Barrow said he was “overwhelmed” by the support and pledged to work to make Gambia “a better place for all of us”.

It was the first time the opposition had selected a sole candidate during Jammeh’s 22-year rule. Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang, who chaired the convention, said the opposition aimed to form an “inclusive coalition which will move Gambia from bondage and slavery to justice and development”.

She added: “Our nation is going through a tough time… Many people, who have stood up for democracy, have either been killed, jailed or suffered some harassment.”

Barrow has agreed to serve as a transitional president for three years if he wins the election before standing down ahead of a fresh election that he will not contest.

Jammeh, who recently pulled Gambia out of the International Criminal Court, has been accused of serious human rights violations. In April and May, around 50 electoral reform protesters were jailed. The deaths of two UDP members in prison in August led to calls for an investigation from the U.S. and UN.

Independent Isatou Touray and Mama Kandeh, leader of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress, have also said they will stand but Touray later released a statement to say she would “stand in solidarity with the opposition”.

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