African Democracy: Is Gambia an Exception or a Turning Point?
In a series of dramatic events, former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has headed into political exile, ending a 22-year authoritarian reign and a post-election political standoff that threatened to provoke a regional military intervention. The adviser to new president claims the exiled ruler shipped out luxury vehicles by cargo plane and stole 11 million dollars from the country.
After over two decades in power, Mr Jammeh was defeated in December’s election by Adama Barrow but went on to challenge the results. The former president stepped down peacefully after West African troops had been sent to Gambia in support of Mr Barrow, with the threat of military action from regional states looming.
The transfer of power in The Gambia has been celebrated as a democratic coup, with many urging other leaders across the continent– including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Zimbabwe – to follow the “Gambian example” rather than clinging on to power after their constitutional term limits expire. Was it an exception, or proof that African leaders are increasingly willing to demand — and enforce — democracy in the region?
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Jerome Starkey was The Times‘ Africa correspondent for five years from 2012 until he was deported from Kenya last year. His last assignment was in Gambia to cover the military showdown when President Yayha Jammeh refused to step down. Before that he lived in Afghanistan, from 2006-2012, initially as a freelancer and later as a stringer for The Times. He was appointed countryside correspondent in February.
Ludovica Iaccino is an international news reporter at IBTimes UK covering foreign affairs and news in regions such as Africa and the Middle East. She has previously reported from Malawi, Rwanda, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon. Ludovica is the author of The Silence of Nyamata, a historical novel on the 1994 Rwandan genocide. A photojournalist, she also collaborates with the websites IecoAfrica and Words in the Bucket
Murtala Touray is Senior Africa Analyst, Economic and Country Risk at IHS