Yahya Jammeh Devout and erratic ex-leader of The Gambia

Jammeh lost the vote to outsider Adama Barrow, but had refused to recognise the results.

  • Published: , Refreshed:
Former president Yaya Jammeh (C), the Gambia's leader for 22 years, waves from the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 in Banjul play

Former president Yaya Jammeh (C), the Gambia's leader for 22 years, waves from the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 in Banjul

(AFP)
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who finally left his country Saturday after threats of possible military intervention to force him to step down, seized power and clung to office for 22 years with a blend of severity, mysticism and iron-clad self-belief.

"No matter what people say about me, I am not moved... I don't listen to anybody because I know what is important," he said before December 1 elections in which he was seeking a fifth consecutive term at the helm of the small west African nation.

Governing, he said, "is between me and God Almighty."

Jammeh lost the vote to outsider Adama Barrow, but had refused to recognise the results.

He then announced a state of emergency, saying it was necessary because of interference by foreign powers in the election.

The Senegalese army said it was ready to intervene in its neighbour failing a solution to the crisis, and Nigeria regional powerhouse sent 200 troops as well as fighter jets to Senegal as part of a regional force to enforce the result of the vote.

A deeply devout Muslim, Jammeh was born in the western village of Kanilai in 1965, the year that The Gambia, a long east-west sliver of land bordered by Senegal, gained independence from Britain.

This photo taken on September 8, 2000 at the United Nations in New York shows Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addressing the United Nations Millennium Summit play

This photo taken on September 8, 2000 at the United Nations in New York shows Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addressing the United Nations Millennium Summit

(AFP/File)

His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen joined the army in 1984.

Ten years later, Jammeh mounted a coup with fellow army officers against Dawda Jawara, who had ruled the country since independence, pledging to root out corruption and hold elections.

After giving up his rank of colonel to allow him to contest elections as a civilian, Jammeh swept the vote in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, following a 2002 constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits.

Rights abuses

Now 51, Jammeh had attracted worldwide attention for declaring The Gambia an Islamic nation, withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court, and claiming he had concocted a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS.

The longtime ruler has woven a shroud of mysticism around himself using religion and rumours of secret powers.

Never seen without his Koran, sceptre and prayer beads, Jammeh's billowing white robes are rumoured to hide a bulletproof vest, the legacy of several coup attempts by his own guards.

In the last few years, a crackdown on journalists, opposition figures and anyone deemed disloyal within the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), had intensified.

He promised to bury critics "nine feet deep" and told the former UN secretary-general to "go to hell" after Ban Ki-moon called for an investigation into an activist's death in custody.

This photo taken on December 1, 2016 in Banjul shows incumbent Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (C) gesturing before casting his marble in a polling station in a presidential pol play

This photo taken on December 1, 2016 in Banjul shows incumbent Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (C) gesturing before casting his marble in a polling station in a presidential pol

(AFP/File)

But in another moment he urged his supporters to restrain themselves from violence and allow last month's election to go ahead peacefully.

Rights groups allege that those who defy him end up in the country's notorious Mile Two prison, where the UN in 2014 said it had obtained evidence of torture and executions by the country's National Intelligence Agency, which reports directly to Jammeh.

This was supplemented by "interference with the independence of the judiciary, denial of due process, prolonged pretrial and incommunicado detention," Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns said.

"The security forces are his tools, and he uses them to control Gambia by arresting people who don't share his views," a prominent opposition figure told Human Rights Watch.

Isolated

Gambia's diplomatic relations have also been precarious of late. In December 2014, the EU cut off 13 million euros of funding, and threatened to block another 150 million euros in response to the country's poor human rights record.

International criticism followed the introduction of an "aggravated homosexuality" law in October 2014 that imposed life sentences for a series of new offences.

And the presidential vote was carried out without the presence of EU or ECOWAS observers.

Former president Yaya Jammeh (C), the Gambia's leader for 22 years, walks towards the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 at Banjul airport play

Former president Yaya Jammeh (C), the Gambia's leader for 22 years, walks towards the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 at Banjul airport

(AFP)

Relations with neighbouring Senegal have also reached an all-time low while the state of the economy has pushed many young Gambians to take the "Back Way", or migrant route across the Sahara to Libya, where they board boats bound for Italy.

But others remain grateful for investment in education and the health system, which were severely neglected under Jammeh's predecessor.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Ghana?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +233507713497, Social Media @pulseghana: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.com.gh.

Recommended Articles

Recommended Videos





Top Articles

1 Fraud Three Ghanaians arrested over £5million romance fraudbullet
2 Ghana Armed Forces GAF announces date for 2017/18 recruitment screeningbullet
3 Adult Content We will continue showing porn on TV - Ice TVbullet
4 Freemasonry Here are prominent Ghanaians who are also freemasonsbullet
5 Volta Region FDA says Kpando residents knew consuming Pufferfish...bullet
6 Ghana Police Service IGP reshuffles top officersbullet
7 Sex Workers Chinese prostitutes invade Wassa Akropong;...bullet
8 Ghana Police New IGP makes first shake-up in Police...bullet
9 National Service New allowance will be paid after 2017...bullet
10 Assault OccupyGhana demands justice for lady stripped...bullet

Top Videos

1 Video Four suspects arrested for Captain Mahama's deathbullet
2 Prophecy Hundreds will die in floods in 2017 – Prophet revealsbullet
3 WATCH Kennedy Agyapong dances wildly to hip hop song in hilarious videobullet
4 Watch Video I lick my wife before going to preach - Kumchacha...bullet

News