10 October 2012

Gambia: Quit Within 30 Days, Opposition Exiles Tells Yahya Jammeh

Photo: Gambia Statehouse
President Jammeh gestures as he begins a speech.

An exiled Gambian opposition group has given President Yahya Jammeh 30 days to give up power.

In a Paris press conference on Wednesday, the National Transitional Council of the Gambia (CNTG) said Jammeh must give up power to make way for a political transition.

"The CNTG should now be recognised as the legitimate government of the people of the Gambia," CNTG member Yankuba Darboe told RFI.

The CNTG says it intends to lead the political transition and organise elections as well as the drafting of a new constitution. But they did not say what would happen to Jammeh should he ignore their ultimatum.

"Jammeh has never faced this kind of opposition before," says Darboe, who acts as "minister of justice" for the CNTG. "We are challenging Jammeh over his most precious prize - the presidency of the Gambia."

The CNTG is modelled on the transitional councils set up in countries such as Libya during the Arab Spring. But there is no armed struggle going on in the Gambia.

Darboe believes they can do it another way. That's why they are starting their campaign for international recognition.

"If an armed struggle starts, the world will have already heard that it is our moral duty and our legitimate right to end dictatorship in our country," he says.

The CNTG does not have clear support from Gambian opposition parties. When asked about Gambia's United Democratic Party and United Front party, Darboe is evasive. He says opposition figures such as Ousainou Darboe or Hamat Bah cannot publicly endorse the CNTG because of safety concerns. At the same time, he adds, they have not opposed it.

Darboe, a lawyer working and living in the UK, says they have promises of money and help with logistics but claims that they cannot disclose details for the moment.

He is also evasive about support from the Gambia's neighbour, Senegal. "We can't say whether we have support from the Senegalese government or not," he says.

A credible movement against Jammeh is only going to emerge from the diaspora, according to Darboe. He says Gambians at home are fearful of publicly recognising their group. But he believes that, if they return to the country, "hundreds of thousands" of his compatriots will take to the streets.

The formation of the CNTG was announced in Dakar on 13 September. It is led by Sheikh Sidia Bayo and claims to have support from some members of the Gambian armed forces.

Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup. He recently drew international criticism for reintroducing capital punishment. Nine prisoners were executed before he announced a moratorium contingent on either an increasing or decreasing rate of violent crime.

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