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Gambia president-elect fears for safety as current leader won't leave office

By Allen Cone
Gambia president-elect fears for safety as current leader won't leave office
Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh on Friday rejected the result of the country's presidential election earlier this month, in which he lost to challenger Adama Barrow after 22 years in power. Barrow said Sunday he fears for his safety. File photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI | License Photo

BENJUL, Gambia, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow said Sunday he fears for his safety as the current leader, Yahya Jammeh, refuses to leave office in the tiny west African nation.

"My security is a concern and what is happening in Gambia is not normal," Barrow told the Financial Times by phone from a private house outside the capital, Banjul.

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Jammeh, who has ruled for 22 years, went on state television Friday saying last week's election had been flawed. He said he spotted "unacceptable abnormalities" and demanded a new vote.

Barrow won 45.5 percent of the vote to Jammeh's 36.7 percent. They are both 51 years old.

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The president-elect said he hasn't been able to reach Jammeh.

"I don't have guards at the moment. I have no protection from the army, no protection from the police. I'm just using my local security," he said, adding his security personnel were unarmed.

Barrow, who served as treasurer of the United Democratic Party, said he "never talked about" prosecuting the president for alleged human rights abuses and corruption. "I said that he was the president for the past 22 years and he is a Gambian. He has the right to stay as a private citizen."

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He urged international powers to pressure Jammeh to step down.

"We didn't expect this abnormality to happen ... we are now saying that we want the international community to intervene," he said. "We are calling on them to open all diplomatic channels and come with a strong team."

The United States opposes Jammeh's decision.

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"The United States strongly condemns the decision by President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to ignore the will of the Gambian people in calling for the Dec. 1 election to be nullified," the White House said in a statement Sunday. "It is imperative that President Jammeh, who previously accepted the results of the election, retract his call for a new vote and pledge to facilitate a peaceful and democratic transition to President-elect Adama Barrow."

The United States called on "all Gambians to reject violence and seek a peaceful resolution that upholds the will of the Gambian people and advances the promise of a freer, more democratic, and more prosperous Gambia. We call specifically on Gambia's security services to uphold their sacred duty to protect all Gambians and reject any instruction to suppress peaceful expressions of dissent."

The population of Gambia is 1,882,450, according to the 2013 census.

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