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Gambian Opposition Leader Critical of Bid to Make President Jammeh 'King'

  • James Butty

Ousainu Darbo of the United Democratic Party says those leading the campaign know President Jammeh cannot win re-election in 2011

The leader of Gambia’s opposition United Democratic Party told VOA no leader can change Gambia from a republic to a monarchy without first going to a referendum.

This comes as reports say a number of tribal chiefs are rallying support throughout the country to give President Yahya Jammeh the title of king.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh

Opposition leader Ousainu Darbo said those seeking to make President Jammeh a king are doing so because they know the president cannot win next’s election.

“There’s not a single government official who has condemned their so-called campaign to convert the president of The Gambia to king of the Gambia or to convert the Gambia from a republican state to a monarchy. The majority leader (of the Gambian parliament) did say that the constitution is not the holy Koran; it can be changed. But, we know that this is not possible without going to a referendum,” he said.

Darbo described as averted thinking that, in this age and time, an African leader can be thinking of converting himself from president to an absolute monarch.

The Gambian president’s current titles include “His Excellency the President Sheik Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Jammeh.”

Darbo said if President Jammeh is allowed to get his new title of king, or His Majesty, it would lead to a Jammeh family dynasty in the Gambia.

“Obviously, when that happens, you will have a dynasty, a ruling dynasty and it would be from Yahya Jammeh to his son, and it is a pathetic. First of all, the sycophants in this country could say that, ‘Mr. President, we want you to rule until at such time when you are ready to hand over power to your son who is not even six years old,’” Darbo said.

The chiefs reportedly said they wanted to give President Jammeh the title of king to reward him for bringing development to the Gambia.

But, Darbo said President Jammeh has given nothing but hunger and poverty to the people of the Gambia.

“What he has done is to deprive the Gambians of what they deserve. He is everything. He’s into butchery, he’s into poultry, he’s into animal husbandry, he’s into all sort of business that should be left to ordinary Gambians, and he has killed economic activity in this country. And now, he is trying to kill political plurality in this country,” Darbo said.

Darbo criticized the Gambian leader for also assuming the title of university professor.

“I have never heard in my life of somebody being made a professor. I think people work hard to become professors in universities,” he said.

He said those seeking to make President Jammeh a king are doing so because they know the president cannot win next year’s election.

“I strongly believe that President Jammeh knows that there’s every likelihood that the opposition will get together and that he will be flushed out of power in 2011, and he thinks that this a way of keeping himself in power,” Darbo said.

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