Gambian president in bid for fifth term

Yahya Jammeh has ruled Gambia for 22 years.

Gambians are due to head to the polls to choose a president with Yahya Jammeh seeking a fifth term in office.

Most of the main parties have united behind estate agent Adama Barrow to challenge Mr Jammeh.

Human rights groups have accused Mr Jammeh of harassing the opposition ahead of the poll but he has dismissed the charges.

The Gambia has not experienced a democratic transition of power since independence from the UK in 1965.

Observers from the European Union (EU) and the West African regional bloc Ecowas are not attending the vote.

Gambian officials expressed opposition to the presence of Western observers, but the EU says it is staying away out of concern about the fairness of the voting process.

The African Union however has despatched a handful of observers to supervise the vote.

The Gambia, with a population of less than two million people, is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and has a short Atlantic coastline, which is popular with European tourists.

The results of the election are not expected to be announced immediately.

Mr Jammeh took power in a 1994 coup.

Ahead of the vote, rights groups expressed concern over a possible flare-up of violence.

However, campaigning passed off almost smoothly without a major incident.

At his rallies, Mr Jammeh touted his development record, claiming he took The Gambia “from stone-age to a modern country” and he should win.

“Ninety-eight percent of students in universities are on scholarships,” he said.

“You can’t walk 25km [15 miles] without reaching a major health centre,” he stated.

But Mr Barrow said that Gambians had been suffering for 22 years and now was the time for change.

“Voters know that [I am] genuine and ready for change and that’s why they should trust me,” Mr Barrow said.

On Tuesday Mr Jammeh warned his rivals against contesting the outcome of the vote.

“Our election system is fraud-proof, rig-proof, you cannot rig our elections,” he said.

“There is no reason that anybody should demonstrate. [Demonstrations] are the loopholes that are used to destabilize African governments.”

Mamma Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress is also in the race.