Gambians will go to the polls on December 4 to elect the country’s president, in a race in which five challengers will try to oust the established Adama Barrow.
The country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) this week disqualified 15 of the 21 hopefuls – including Marie Sock, the only female aspirant – for failing to comply with constitutional requirements. About half of them used on independent platforms.
The presidential vote will be the first since Gambia’s longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh fled the country in early 2017 after a six-week stalemate following his decision to contest the outcome of an election won by Barrow.
While the country is preparing to hold its presidential election with great interest, here is what you need to know about the key contenders.
In the December 2016 polls, a relatively unknown Barrow, who acted as the pivot of an opposition coalition, defeated Jammeh by all means.
With Jammeh refusing to concede, Barrow was sworn in as president in January 2017 during a ceremony held at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, the capital of neighboring Senegal.
The current president (56) was intended to serve as a transition leader for three years, but instead decided to complete his term.
In 2019, he broke ranks by registering a new party, the National People’s Party (NPP) in pursuit of a second term.
Just three months ago, the NPP entered into a controversial alliance with Jammeh’s party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), to garner more votes – a move allegedly rejected by Jammeh.
Now Barrow’s critics fear that the Truth, Reconciliation and Repair Commission (TRC) set up to address human rights violations by its predecessor, and which has yet to make its findings known despite closing hearings, may just be a charade.
For two decades, Darbue Jammeh’s arch-enemy as leader of the United Democratic Party was the country’s largest opposition political force.
But his role in street protests against the death of an activist led to his detention by the Jammeh government and a three-year prison sentence.
In his absence, but with his reported endorsement, the UDP nominated Barrow, who resigned as the party’s treasurer to participate as an independent, to be the candidate of an opposition coalition.
Darboe, 73, served as foreign minister and one of the three vice presidents, but was fired in March 2019 after falling out with Barrow for allegedly refusing to endorse his bid for a second presidential term.
Despite Barrow promising to retire, Darboe remains his strongest challenger. In turn, Darboe, who was the first aspirant to declare his assets, challenged the president and others in the race to follow his example.
Mama Kandeh, who came third in the 2016 polls, was a former APRC lieutenant until his expulsion that year led to his founding of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC).
Under the APRC umbrella, he won a parliamentary seat by defeating Barrow in what was the latter’s first major political invasion, back in 2007.
Kandeh hopes to capitalize on the grievances of supporters of the APRC No Alliance Movement, a splinter group within the former ruling party formed after the APRC’s partnership with the NPP draws to its candidacy.
Three other candidates are vying for the highest office in Gambia: Essa Mbye Faal, who has resigned as the TRC’s chief prosecutor to run as an independent candidate; former aviation chief Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh, another independent; and Halifa Sallah, MP from the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).