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The Gambia’s controversial leader Yahya Jammeh on Thursday submitted his candidacy to seek a fifth term in December’s presidential election, saying he would listen only to God for guidance in governing.
Jammeh, 51, took power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has run the country with an iron fist ever since, surviving successive coup attempts by consolidating his power at every level of society.
After submitting the required documentation to the electoral commission, Jammeh told its chairman: “No matter what people say about me, I am not moved… I don’t listen to anybody because I know what is important.
“It is between me and God Almighty.”
He had harsh words for his critics, or even putative advisors, adding: “You want to listen to everybody and satisfy everybody, you will end up satisfying the evil people.
“Do what is right. Make sure you satisfy the Almighty Allah.”
The president went on to present a policy platform of free education and healthcare for all, adding that his government believed especially in empowering women.
The Gambia has made great progress in the last 20 years in improving literacy and child mortality rates, and the president has in the last year banned child marriage and female genital mutilation.
But his record on civil liberties is less impressive: he has promised to bury critics “nine feet deep” and told the UN Secretary-General to “go to hell” after Ban Ki-moon called for an investigation into an activist’s death in custody.
Intimidation of opposition parties, media repression and politicised security forces have “all but extinguished” the chance of a free and fair election in the Gambia, Human Rights Watch said in a report this month.
Jammeh has attracted worldwide attention for declaring the Gambia an Islamic state, withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court, and claiming he had concocted a herbal cure for HIV/Aids.
Gambian opposition parties have decided to join forces to field a single candidate, Adama Barrow, to take on Jammeh on December 1.
The only other candidate is a former ruling party MP, Mama Kandeh, who has been accused of being used to split opposition votes.