December 10, 2016 at 10:49 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-gay Gambian president rejects election results

International LGBT news

Vehemently anti-gay Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has rejected the results of this month’s presidential elections in which he lost to an opposition candidate (White House photo public domain)

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Friday announced that he no longer accepts the results of his country’s presidential elections.

The Associated Press reported Jammeh said in a televised speech there were voting irregularities in the Dec. 1 election.

Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission said Adama Barrow, an independent candidate who represented the United Democratic Party, a coalition of eight opposition parties, defeated Jammeh by a 45-36 percent margin. Jammeh told Barrow in a telephone call that Gambian television broadcast that he would accept the election results.

“I hereby reject the results in totality,” said Jammeh on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

Jammeh also called for new elections.

Fatou Camara, a journalist who was Jammeh’s press secretary before she was accused of trying to undermine his government, on Saturday reported that Barrow has described himself as “the legitimate elected president of Gambia.”

The State Department on Friday “strongly” condemned Jammeh for rejecting the election results.

“This action is a reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of the Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately,” it said a statement.

“We call upon President Jammeh, who accepted the election results on Dec. 2, to carry out an orderly transition of power to President-Elect Barrow in accordance with the Gambian constitution,” added the State Department.

Jammeh threatened to slit throats of gay Gambian men

Jammeh came to power in the small West African country during a 1994 coup.

The Obama administration and the Human Rights Campaign, among others, have sharply criticized Jammeh over his government’s anti-LGBT rights record.

A 2015 Human Rights Watch report notes Gambian police and officials with the country’s National Intelligence Agency “rounded up” dozens of people “on suspicion of their sexual orientation” after Jammeh signed a law in 2014 that sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.” A Gambian man with whom the Blade previously spoke said he was among 18 people who were arrested at a birthday party for “promoting homosexuality.”

Jammeh, who owns a $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Md., in 2015 said he would slit the throats of gay Gambian men. Jammeh has also described homosexuality as one of the three “biggest threats to human existence.”

Yahya Jammeh, Gambia, gay news, Washington Blade

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Obama administration in 2014 announced Gambia was no longer eligible to take part in a duty-free trade program that allows countries in sub-Saharan Africa to access U.S. markets. The European Union that year also delayed a 150 million Euro ($158.41 million) aid package to Gambia after Jammeh’s government failed to repeal his country’s death penalty and implement other democratic reforms.

Vanguard Africa is a Washington-based group that has sharply criticized Jammeh’s LGBT rights record. The organization also worked with Barrow and the United Democratic Party ahead of the election.

“On December 1, the Gambian people spoke unequivocally and stood bravely by voting in droves against 22 years of tyranny and dictatorship,” said Vanguard Africa Executive Director Jeffrey Smith in a statement his group released on Friday. “We encourage all Gambians, regional leaders and the United States government in particular to remain vigilant and to not allow democracy to be hijacked. We also urge Gambian citizens to document attempts at intimidation and violence and report them to Vanguard Africa.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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