An African Example in Gambia, a 'Big Man' President Moves On

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), December 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

An African Example in Gambia, a 'Big Man' President Moves On


Last week's elections in Gambia, one of Africa's smallest countries - resulting in the defeat of one of the continent's most blatant "big men" and potential presidents-for-life - should teach other presidents and peoples a sharp lesson.

Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup d'etat and was in power for 22 years, was fully expected by Gambians and everyone else to stay in power through victory in the elections or otherwise. However, he lost to Adama Barrow, a relatively unprepossessing businessman, by a clear margin. To Mr. Jammeh's credit, he accepted his surprise defeat and conceded graciously.

Gambia consists of a sliver of land, basically both banks of the Gambia River, formerly a British colony, bordered on both sides by Senegal, an ex-French colony. Its population is between 1 million and 2 million. It has few resources, apart from its port and capital, Banjul, and the river. Fans of"Roots," the book by Alex Haley that became a widely watched TV series, will recall that the central figure, Kunta Kinte, was said to be from Gambia.

In recent years, Gambia's reputation has been increasingly damaged by the behavior of Mr. …

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