Event

The sole candidate for the opposition coalition, Adama Barrow, unexpectedly defeated incumbent Yahya Jammeh in the 1 December election, a shock result which initially prompted worldwide cheer. Yet, a week after accepting his defeat on state television, Jammeh nonetheless declared he wanted to stay in power and claimed ‘serious and unacceptable election abnormalities’. Barrow’s proclamation of reversing Gambia’s withdrawal from the ICC, which would open the way for prosecuting the authoritarian president for human rights abuses, might have encouraged Jammeh to change his mind. Jammeh deployed hundreds of soldiers in the capital Banjul, even though army support for Barrow was previously assumed. The United Nations, the African Union, the EU and the US demanded that President Jammeh accepts his defeat and steps down. What’s more, the West African regional grouping ECOWAS warned it will send troops to oust Jammeh if he refuses to step down by the end of his term on 19 January, which Jammeh subsequently called ‘a declaration of war’. 

Impact on country risk

Gambia has never experienced a peaceful power transfer since its independence. The erratic president Jammeh seized power in 1994 and was known for his rash policies, intolerance of criticism and fierce repression of opponents. Together with high unemployment rates, this has been driving young people to leave the country by mass. A delegation of regional heads of states (Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia) acted unusually firm against the despot but did not manage to strike a deal for the time being. It remains to be seen whether ECOWAS will actually perform a military intervention after 19 January and how this would unfold. The political situation remains highly tense, with security forces closing down private radio stations and critics getting detained. Moreover, the stalemate is already taking its toll on the fragile tourism-dependent economy and there is a high likelihood for sanctions to be introduced against Jammeh and his ranks. Consequently, there is a negative short-term outlook and further escalation could incite Credendo to downgrade Gambia’s short-term political risk classification from 6 to off-cover category 7. For medium- to long-term political risks, Credendo already classifies Gambia in category 7.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendo.com