Gambia's first female presidential candidate calls on Jammeh 'to go'

2016-09-03 20:33
Yahya Jammeh (File: AFP)

Yahya Jammeh (File: AFP)

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Banjul - Gambia's first-ever female presidential candidate on Friday said it was time for President Yahya Jammeh "to go", promising to rejoin the Commonwealth community and set the country on a path to prosperity.

Isatou Touray, a development expert and campaigner against female genital mutilation, railed against the "lavish" lifestyle she said Jammeh enjoyed while ruling one of Africa's poorest nations, and accused him of sowing division between communities.

Jammeh is expected to win a fifth-term at the helm of the poor west African nation in the December election.

"(Jammeh's) style is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross," Touray told a press conference announcing her candidacy. "It is time for him to go."

She said she would stand as an independent candidate in the polls, and would "steer the Gambia towards a direction that will enable it to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people", by focusing on welcoming back the Gambian diaspora and creating jobs.

On foreign policy, Jammeh's decision to declare the Gambia an Islamic state and to leave the Commonwealth community of former British colonies have isolated it internationally, she said, pledging to reverse both decisions.

Now in her sixties, Touray has had a colourful career, winning a US State Department award for empowering Gambian communities in 2008 but arrested in 2010 over corruption allegations when she was deputy director of the Gambia's development institute.

She was acquitted of all charges.

Touray is currently executive director of leading women's group the Gambia Committee against Harmful Traditional Practices, which fights to stop female genital mutilation.

'Common cause'


Meanwhile on Thursday, the United Democratic Party (UDP) - the country's principal opposition movement - named relatively unknown businessman Adama Barrow as its presidential candidate.

Several of the party's leading figures are currently serving jail time for holding public protests, catapulting the UDP acting treasurer into the spotlight.

Barrow, a 51-year-old native of the rural Upper River Region, called for opposition unity to help him "salvage" the country at a press conference in the capital, Banjul.

"I wish to appeal to all Gambians, particularly leaders and members of other sister parties, to get together and unite around the common cause... remove this government in the polls and create a government truly of the people and by the people," he said.

The father-of-five with two wives, as permitted under Gambian law, went on to describe Jammeh as a "soulless dictator".

The current president came to power in a 1994 coup, and has ruled the Gambia with an iron fist ever since.

Two UDP members have recently died in custody following anti-government protests, prompting the UN, France, the US and human rights watchdogs to voice concern and call for an independent probe.

UDP party leader Ousainou Darboe is among several members serving three-year sentences for organising a rally over one of the deaths, while another group is awaiting trial for similar offences.

The candidates must deposit the sum of 500 000 dalasis ($12 500) in November when the Independent Electoral Commission invites parties and candidates to declare.

Two other presidential hopefuls, Lamin Bojang of the National Convention Party and Halifa Sallah of the People Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism, have also declared their intention to run.

Campaigning begins on November 16.

Since independence from Britain in 1965, the Gambia has had just one other leader: Dawda Jawara, who served until the current president toppled him in the 1994 coup.

Read more on:    yahya jammeh  |  gambia  |  gambia 2016 elections  |  west africa

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