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Gambia

Gambian opposition: Jammeh 'will stand alone'

Gambia's outgoing President Yahya Jammeh has two more weeks to go, yet he says he is not leaving office, causing increasing tension. DW spoke to Halifa Sallah, the spokesperson for the opposition coalition.

DW: President Yahya Jammeh's move to contest his defeat in the December elections has led to rising tension in Gambia. Since then, media freedom has come under attack with several radio stations closed. Now the head of the electoral commission who declared Adama Barrow the winner has fled the country. Halifa Sallah, what do you make of these developments?

Halifa Sallah: What is very clear at the moment is that the incoming government has told all Gambians that the outgoing government has a mandate of five years. Outgoing President Jammeh is still the president of the Republic, and one does not expect the security forces to simply go there and remove him from office. That would constitute a coup d'etat. What is anticipated is for them to fraternize with the population and wait for January 19, 2017. On that day, the term of office of outgoing President Jammeh will expire. Then they will be expected to show their allegiance to the incoming president, who will be sworn in. We do not see any indication that the Gambian people or the security apparatus will not respect the verdict of the people themselves.

Do you expect the people of Gambia to respect the constitution and remain calm?

Gambia opposition coalition spokesperson Halifa Sallah (Getty Images/AFP/Seyllou)

Halifa Sallah is spokesperson for Gambia's opposition coalition

All indications are that the Gambian people as a whole want peace. They have conducted peaceful elections, they perceive the existing climate of tranquility and would not want to go against that climate. We believe that we will just have a transition and nothing more than that.

The people of Gambia want peace. But that doesn't seem to be what President Jammeh believes. He has maintained that he is not leaving power. What are you going to do?

He has freedom of speech. At the moment he is backed by the constitution because he is in office. But on the 19th, he will not be backed by the constitution, and we believe all institutions will be transferred to be under President-elect Barrow, and he will stand alone. I don't know what he will say at that time, but I don't think he will be able to say, "I am staying in power." Because he will be a private citizen.

How confident are you that on the day of the inauguration, the army and all other security personnel will side with the president-elect?

They are republican forces; they know that leaders come and go - and they go by the will of the people. Anyone of them who refuses to heed the verdict of the people on the 19th will be classified as a rebel. If the outgoing president on the 19th insists on staying in office, he will reduce himself to be a rebel leader. We do not think anybody who has presided over the affairs of the country will ultimately choose to leave a note in the history books that he ended up being a rebel leader.

Should the court judge in favor of the president-elect and should President Jammeh peacefully leave power, what is your immediate priority in addressing the many challenges facing the Gambia at the moment?

The first priority is the stabilization of the economy. At the moment, there is a big gap between revenue and expenditure. The country is living on debt and there is gross fiscal indiscipline. That has to be addressed by increasing the revenue side and of course, with Gambia being a democratic country, investments would increase, revenues would increase, employment is likely to increase.

We believe that by ensuring that there is no detention without trial, violation of the rights of the people, Gambia will be a democratic country that will respect the principles of good governance, human rights, the rule of law, and therefore will be able to attract massive foreign investment, massive donor support to be able to at least in the interim help to increase the GDP of the country and improve the living standards of the population.

Halifa Sallah is the spokesperson for the opposition coalition National Alliance for Democracy and Development. He is also the designated vice president to President-elect Adama Barrow.

Jane Ayeko-Kümmeth conducted the interview.

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