The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will face a rare challenge from a revitalized and united opposition in a presidential election today as he seeks to extend his 22-year grip on power in the tiny West African nation.
Jammeh, 51, seized power as a young army officer in a 1994 coup and has maintained his control over Gambia in four subsequent elections despite growing international concern over his government’s deteriorating human rights record.
In the final days of campaigning, a grinning Jammeh stared out from the large billboards positioned every few hundred meters along the main roads leading into Banjul, the capital of the nation of 1.8 million people.
“I am the best president that Gambians will ever get,” Jammeh, who once said he would rule his country for “a billion years”, said on Tuesday. “My presidency and power are in the hands of Allah and only Allah can take it from me.”