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Gambia's losing presidential candidate calls for calm as opposition contests election result

By David Coffey with RFI
Gambia © RFI/Paulina Zidi
DEC 7, 2021 LISTEN
© RFI/Paulina Zidi

The runner-up in Gambia's presidential election has called on his supporters to remain calm as he prepares to challenge the results of the weekend polls in court, if it is necessary to do so.

This comes as police fired tear gas to disperse supporters of losing presidential candidate Ousainou Darboe outside the capital Banjul.

Saturday's vote is a seen a crucial test for Gambia's fledgling democracy, with the final results showing President Adama Barrow winning re-election after his first five-year term. His term, in turn, brought an end to 22 years of dictatorship.

However, his rivals looking to challenge the results of the vote, which European Union observers said marked "democratic headway" even if there were some flaws.

The country's electoral commission announced Sunday that political veteran Ousainou Darboe came second with 27.7 percent of the vote, far behind Barrow's 53 percent.

Darboe addressed dozens of his supporters gathered outside his home in the capital Banjul on Monday, telling them to "have lunch and disperse."

"This country is a peaceful country and I don't want to see any violent behaviour from anyone. I ask all of you to keep the peace," he added. 

 Barrow's victory

As a lawyer Darboe often represented the opponents of dictator Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994 and ruled with an iron fist until he was beaten by Barrow in a 2016 election.

The 73-year-old rights activist Darboe previously ran against Jammeh several times and was seen as Barrow's main challenger.

He and two others of the six candidates have challenged the election results, saying they have launched investigations but not detailing specific complaints.

Election turnout was 87 percent, which was monitored by both Gambian and international observers.

Protesters dispersed with tear gas

Meanwhile, Gambian police fired tear gas to disperse Darboe's supporters when they took to the streets outside the capital Banjul on Monday.

Hundreds of protesters had gathered in the community of Serekunda, 12km from Banjul, saying they would not accept Barrow's re-election. 

Police reportedly intervened with tear gas when the crowd started scuffling with Barrow supporters. 

The office of the Inspector General of Police has also urged all Gambians to remain calm.

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