The leader of Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UPD) has described as illegal the celebration of the coup d’état that brought President Yahya Jammeh to power 16 years ago Thursday.
Ousainou Darboe, who is also a human rights attorney, condemned the planned celebration saying it sends the wrong signal to the country’s security forces that there is a virtue in taking up arms to overthrow a constitutionally-elected president.
“Our party’s position is that, today, [Mr.] Jammeh will again be celebrating an illegality. He will be celebrating a rape on the Constitution of The Gambia. And, he will be sending a very wrong signal to other members of the security forces that there is virtue in staging coups d’état. And, I do not think that is right,” he said.
Mr. Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, but was later elected three times. He is also set to run for a fourth term in next year’s general election.
Gambia’s local media quoted President Jammeh recently as saying that “whether you like it or not, no coup will end my government, no elections can end my government. By God's grace, I will rule this country as long as I wish and choose someone to replace me.”
Supporters of the Gambian leader have reportedly arrived in the capital, Banjul, to participate in the coup d’état celebration.
But, critics say these “supporters” were either forced against their will or bribed to be part of the celebration, an accusation the government denies.
Opposition leader Darboe described the celebration as an insult to law abiding citizens and called on Gambians to boycott Mr. Jammeh’s coup d’état celebrations.
“We are in a democratic dispensation [and] we should be celebrating everything that is democratic, but we should not be celebrating undemocratic events. Our party has condemned it in the past and, today, again we condemn it and we will continue to condemn it as long as he continues to celebrate it,” Darboe said.
In a televised address last year, President Jammeh said he will supervise the killing of anyone who aims to destabilize the country. He also warned human rights groups to stop interfering in The Gambia’s internal politics, warning citizens not to cooperate with them.
Mr. Jammeh recently expelled two U.N. officials without any explanation. The opposition claims the president’s death threat is a calculated ploy to silence any dissent.