On 1st December 2016, Gambia had what some might call its first “real” presidential election. A strong and united group of opposition parties, led by Adama Barrow, was able to defeat the incumbent autocrat, Yahya Jammeh, who had sat in power since 1994. While initially accepting the results, Jammeh would change face and dispute the results, triggering a constitutional crisis that was only thwarted following military and political pressure from several countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The result was cheered by international commentators and Gambians alike. The result was of particular significance for those Gambians who had fled to Europe during the past 20 years in an attempt to flee persecution under Jammeh’s rule. Many see Barrow’s victory as a critical juncture in Gambia’s future.
Aid channels that had been previously shut during the last few years of Jammeh’s rule – either by the humanitarian organisations of Jammeh himself – have slowly started to reopen. Political prisoners have been released from jails, and press freedoms have been greatly increased.