As the hotly contested presidential elections are ongoing in Gambia, the authorities has reportedly shut down access to the internet and blocked all international calls into the small West African State as part of security measures, The Independent has reported.
According to reports, analysts say chances are high that Gambian voters will vote out the president who has spent 22 calendar years on the throne and unwilling to relinquish his hold on power.
Yahha Jameh came to power in 1994 via coup d'etat and has refused to leave power ever since but instead amended the constitution to remove presidential term limits.
Former London security Guard, Adama Barrow , is slugging it out with Yahaya Jameh backed by an of no fewer than eight opposition parties clamoring for regime change. “He is not going to be re-elected - his era is finished,” Mr Barrow said on Thursday.
However , reason cited for cutting communication into and out of the tiny West African nation of about 1.9 million people is to reduce the risk of civil unrest . Fears are that with communications intact , the unified opposition may cash in on it and mobilize which outcome could lead to a possible breakdown of law and order.
The Independent further reports that, ''Human Rights Watch report released last month, activists said Mr Jammeh had used state resources and dominated state media to ensure a political advantage in the election, while authorities “threatened, arbitrarily arrested jailed, and tortured members of opposition political parties”.
The report said that from April to November, more than 90 opposition activists were arrested for participating in peaceful protests, 30 of whom were sentenced to three-year prison terms. It added that two opposition activists have died in custody.
Such activities had “all but extinguish[ed] hopes for a fair election,” said Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.
Mr Jammeh and the Gambian government - who did not respond to the Human Rights Watch report - have denied all similar allegations in the past.
As the polls opened on Thursday, voters made their choice by placing marbles into green, silver or purple drums. The third option in the election was former ruling party deputy Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress, the only opposition party not in the coalition.
The African Union has sent a handful of observers to the country, but not nearly enough to oversee a representative sample of stations from across the country. There were no observers present from the EU or the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
The President remains the favourite to win, and has himself said that his victory is all but assured by divine intervention.
“This will be the biggest landslide in the history of the country,” Mr Jammeh said after voting with his wife in the capital.
He was met with cheers as he walked toward his car and refused to comment when asked whether he would concede in the event of defeat.
Either way, he has vowed not to allow any protests when the result is announced. He described public demonstrations as “loopholes that are used to destabilise African governments”.
Omar Amadou Jallow, leader of the coalition member the People's Progressive Party, said he believed the opposition could still win despite the clampdown.
“For 22 years we have realised that Gambia has been turned into a prison; the arrests, the tensions, the torture and many of our people have gone into exile ... That shows the tyranny of the regime," he told the Associated Press news agency.
“We are going to give people their freedoms, their liberties. That is more important than anything else.”
But others still support the country’s long-time President, and said they cannot imagine an opposition victory. "He has built the airport, schools, medical facilities and buildings," said 50-year-old Pinta Manneh. She added: “He will be angry if he loses.”