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Gambian Opposition Leader Disputes President's Re-Election


Opposition groups in The Gambia are refusing to accept the results of Friday's presidential election. They say the campaign leading up to the vote was not free or fair.

Official election results give Gambian President Yahya Jammeh 67 percent of the vote. That is 40 points more than his nearest opponent, human-rights lawyer Oussainou Darboe.

International observers say voting was peaceful. But Darboe says Mr. Jammeh's lopsided victory points to a government campaign of intimidation against his supporters as well as manipulation of the voter rolls.

"Outside of The Gambia we would believe that any government, any state that shares the same values of democracy as we do, will not countenance this type of regime," said Oussainou Darboe.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh came to power in a military coup in 1994.

In Friday's elections, he won a third five-year term as president. Parliamentary Deputy Fatumata Jahumppa Ceesay is a member of the ruling party. She says Mr. Jammeh wins elections not by trickery, but by making good on campaign promises.

"There are a lot of success stories that Jammeh has told," said Jahumppa Ceesay. "If you look at health, we now have a university and very soon we are going to have Gambians graduating as doctors in their own country. And we have schools in the rural areas. We have not had that."

Gambian Press Union President Madi Ceesay says Mr. Jammeh may be popular, but he limits press freedom. Ceesay says this recent election campaign was no exception.

"There is some degree of intimidation, because coming toward the presidential elections there have been a lot of arrests of journalists in this country, detentions and media houses closed down and things like that," he said. "That climate of intimidation was really there."

In his first news conference since his re-election, President Jammeh told reporters he would not hesitate to close down more newspapers in the future. The 41-year-old president has also said he plans to rule The Gambia for another 30 years.

The Gambia is a tiny country on Africa's Atlantic coast, surrounded on three sides by Senegal. It subsists mainly off tourism and exporting nuts.

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