A senior aide to President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has told SaharaReporters that the longtime political ruler’s about-face on his country’s presidential election, which he lost, arose from paranoia and fear of political persecution.
Last week, Mr. Jammeh had conceded his loss in a presidential election handily won by opposition candidate, Adama Barrow. However, he reversed course yesterday, citing unsubstantiated irregularities in claiming he had not lost the election after all.
“President Jammeh is very afraid of prosecution. He has been so paranoid since the election that he disconnected himself from everybody for three days,” said the senior official, who asked not to be named. He added, “The president is close to totally losing his mind over the election, and that’s what led to his decision to recant his earlier bold decision to accept the verdict of the Gambian people at the polls.”
The aide alleged that Mr. Jammeh had made himself virtually incommunicado to most of his aides and associates. He said the ousted president feared that even physical contact with some of his aides might lead to his arrest or death.
According to the source, President-elect Barrow's refusal to hold a conciliatory meeting with Mr. Jammeh had caused the out-voted ruler to lapse into depression, isolating himself from most human contact. Opposition leaders had decided against Mr. Barrow’s meeting with President Yahya Jammeh, citing fears that the unpredictable ruler could harm the new president-elect at his residence by poisoning his food.
Our source claimed that several foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama, had tried to speak directly with Mr. Jammeh to no avail. “He has not spoken to any of the foreign leaders because he placed himself out of circulation.
Mr. Jammeh first came to power in a military putsch in 1994, and has remained Gambia’s ruler, winning several elections that critics described as massively rigged.
Our source said Mr. Jammeh had gone back into seclusion after rambling through a prepared speech saying he wanted new elections organized by people with the fear of God.
African Union and Western diplomats in the Gambia have expressed fear that the small West African nation now totters on the edge of a precipice as Mr. Jammeh is reportedly mobilizing soldiers and armed militias from his ethnic group to cause chaos in the country.
Our source said there were speculations that Mr. Jammeh traveled to his hometown shortly after rejecting the result of the presidential election. He recently promoted a number of army officers in an apparent attempt to fortify his hold on power and crack down on massive public protests likely to be provoked by his latest bizarre stance on the election.
SaharaReporters learned that some Mr. Jammeh’s aides had reached out to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Gambian ruler to work toward a smooth transition. One source said the Gambian officials want Mr. Buhari, who is reportedly close to Mr. Jammeh, to offer a safe sanctuary in Nigeria for the Gambian ruler so that his new intransigent rejection of the recent election would not plunge the Gambia into deadly violence or war.