US embassy cable - 96BANJUL2394

GAMBIAN ELECTION WRAP UP

Identifier: 96BANJUL2394
Wikileaks: View 96BANJUL2394 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Banjul
Created: 1996-10-01 15:59:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV KDEM GA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 011559Z OCT 96
FM AMEMBASSY BANJUL
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3758
INFO ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
USDAO DAKAR SG
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE//ETCC//
UTAIS RAMSTEIN AB GE//INOW//
USEU BRUSSELS 0388
USMISSION GENEVA 
AMEMBASSY DAKAR 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANJUL 002394 
 
 
DEPT FOR AF/W 
ALSO FOR AID 
DAKAR PASS TO PRAIA 
DAKAR FOR RSO, POLOFF 
LONDON FOR YOUNG 
PARIS FOR MORAN 
USEU FOR NAHAS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/30/01 
TAGS:  PREL, PGOV, KDEM, GA 
SUBJECT:  GAMBIAN ELECTION WRAP UP 
 
REFS: A) BANJUL 2383; B) BANJUL 2377; C) BANJUL 2373; 
      D) BANJUL 2362; E) BANJUL 2277 
 
1. CLASSIFIED BY CHARGE DOUGLAS ROHN FOR REASONS 
1.5B&D. 
 
2.  (C)  SUMMARY: CHAIRMAN YAHYA JAMMEH WON THE 26 
SEPTEMBER GAMBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WITH A 56 
PERCENT MAJORITY.  PRIMARY CHALLENGER OUSAINOU DARBOE 
RECEIVED 36 PERCENT, AND TWO MINOR CANDIDATES SPLIT 
THE DIFFERENCE.  THE ELECTION PROCESS AS PLANNED AND 
MANAGED BY THE PIEC WAS PEACEFUL, CALM, AND 
EFFICIENT, A FACT WHICH PLEASES MANY GAMBIANS.  THE 
PRE-ELECTION PERIOD WAS MARKED BY A POLICY OF 
INTIMIDATION AND HARASSMENT BY GOTG SECURITY FORCES 
THAT PROBABLY INFLUENCED THE VOTE.  THE GOTG BELIEVES 
THAT IT HAS MET THE WEST'S REQUIREMENT FOR AN 
ELECTION, AND WILL TAKE A VERY SOUR VIEW OF ANY 
CRITICISM OF THE JUST CONCLUDED ELECTORAL PROCESS. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  (C)  THE ELECTORAL PROCESS:  AS DESCRIBED IN REF 
B, ELECTION DAY IN THE GAMBIA WAS QUIET, CALM, AND 
PEACEFUL.  ACCORDING TO ANDREW LADLEY, A NEW ZEALAND 
LAW PROFESSOR WORKING WITH THE PROVISIONAL 
INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION (PIEC), ASIDE FROM A 
FEW INCIDENTS, THE MOST SERIOUS OF WHICH WAS THE 
MOSQUE AFFAIR NOTED IN REF B, THE ELECTION WAS A 
MODEL OF EFFICIENCY AND TRANSPARENCY. IN HIS VIEW, 
THAT FACT ALONE HAS ADVANCED THE CAUSE OF DEMOCRACY 
HERE. HE WAS PARTICULARLY PLEASED WITH THE SUCCESS OF 
THE ONE-DAY PRE-ELECTION COOLING OFF PERIOD. 
 
4.  (C)  VOTING PATTERNS:  THE CHAIRMAN WON WITH A 56 
PERCENT MAJORITY.  HE DID WELL IN MOST PARTS OF THE 
COUNTRY.  JAMMEH PAINTED DARBOE AS THE MANDINKA 
CANDIDATE (DARBOE AND FORMER PRESIDENT JAWARA ARE 
MANDINKA, AS ARE ABOUT 45 PERCENT OF GAMBIANS). 
JAMMEH, WHO HAD BASED MUCH OF HIS CAMPAIGN STRATEGY 
ON CONDEMNING AND OVERCOMING MANDINKA TRIBALISM AND, 
INDEED, TRIBALISM IN GENERAL, DID WELL AMONGST THE 
MANDINKA, WINNING UP TO 30 PERCENT OF THE VOTE IN 
HEAVILY MANDINKA AREAS. HE CAPTURED MORE THAN 75 
PERCENT IN AREAS DOMINATED BY HIS NATIVE JOLA TRIBE. 
 
5.  (C)  THE PIEC:  THE COMMISSION ADMINISTERED THE 
ELECTION WELL.  EFFECTIVE SAFEGUARDS WERE IN PLACE TO 
ENSURE THE FAIRNESS OF THE VOTE AND THE COUNT.  ON 
THE TECHNICAL SIDE, THE PIEC DESERVES KUDOS.  WHEN 
CALLED UPON TO CONTROL VARIOUS GOTG ABUSES, HOWEVER, 
THEIR PERFORMANCE WAS SIGNIFICANTLY WEAKER.  THEY DID 
PROTEST THE GOVERNMENT MEDIA'S OBVIOUS SUPPORT FOR 
JAMMEH (REF E), AND THEY TALKED TO THE ARMY, POLICE, 
AND NIA ABOUT DEMONSTRATIONS OF SUPPORT FOR JAMMEH. 
WHEN THE OPPOSITION CONTINUED TO BE BANNED FROM THE 
MEDIA AND AS THE SECURITY FORCES CONTINUED TO SHOW 
OBVIOUS SUPPORT FOR JAMMEH, NO FURTHER ACTION WAS 
TAKEN.  AS VICE-CHAIRMAN BISHOP JOHNSON SAID AT THE 
21 SEPTEMBER, PRESS CONFERENCE, "WE SHOWED THE YELLOW 
CARD, BUT NOT THE RED."  HE EXPRESSED HIS FEAR THAT 
TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON THE GOTG, "WOULD RESULT IN 
CHAOS." 
 
6.  (C)  INTIMIDATION AS A POLICY - WE HAVE SPOKEN TO 
NUMEROUS GAMBIAN CONTACTS AND WITH ZOE TEMBO, THE 
ZAMBIAN DIRECTOR OF THE AFRICAN CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY 
AND HUMAN RIGHTS STUDIES, WHO COORDINATED THE 
INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER EFFORT.  BASED ON WHAT THEY 
HAVE TOLD US, AND ON WHAT WE SAW IN THE BANJUL AREA 
THE LAST FEW DAYS OF THE CAMPAIGN, THE GOTG WORKED AT 
INTIMIDATING VOTERS.  ACCORDING TO TEMBO, FOR 
EXAMPLE, SOLDIERS IN JAMMEH'S ENTOURAGE TOLD VOTERS 
IN MANY PLACES THAT, "THERE IS A WAR COMING IF YOU DO 
NOT VOTE FOR JAMMEH."  SHE SAID THAT THE MILITARY 
ESCORT, WHICH WAS LARGE AND ARMED WITH HEAVY WEAPONS, 
TOLD VOTERS THAT, "WE HAVE ONE BULLET FOR EVERY VOTE 
FOR DARBOE."  ON THE LAST DAY OF CAMPAIGNING THE ARMY 
SHOWED UP WITH AN ARMORED VEHICLE AND TWO TWIN FORTY 
MILLIMETER ANTI-AIRCRAFT CANNONS AT JAMMEH RALLIES IN 
THE BANJUL/KOMBOS AREA.  TEMBO ALSO CLAIMS THAT THERE 
WAS AN NIA PLAIN CLOTHES AGENT AT EVERY POLLING 
PLACE, AND THAT THE VOTERS KNEW WHO THEY WERE AND WHY 
THEY WERE THERE. 
 
7.  (C)  TEMBO, A VETERAN OF MANY AFRICAN ELECTIONS 
COMMENTED THAT THE VOTING WENT TOO PEACEFULLY.  SHE 
SAID THAT, "THE PEOPLE ACTED LIKE ROBOTS."  SHE ALSO 
NOTED THE LACK OF REAL JOY AT JAMMEH'S ELECTION AMONG 
NEARLY EVERYONE EXCEPT SOLDIERS AND SOME YOUNG 
PEOPLE.  A PHENOMENON SHE SAID THAT SHE HAD NEVER 
EXPERIENCED IN THE AFTERMATH OF AN AFRICAN ELECTION. 
 
8. (C) JAMMEH'S CAMPAIGN STRATEGY WORKED.  HE HAD 
SPENT TWO YEARS TALKING ABOUT THE CORRUPTION OF THE 
PRECEDING THIRTY.  LAWYER DARBOE HAD DEFENDED SOME OF 
THE MINISTERS TRIED BY THE GOTG FOR CORRUPTION.  THE 
APRC TRIED TO TAR HIM WITH THE BRUSH OF GUILT BY 
ASSOCIATION.  THE PEOPLE DID NOT WANT TO GO BACK TO 
THE JAWARA YEARS.  JAMMEH HAS DONE A LOT IN 
COMPARISON WITH THE JAWARA GOVERNMENT.  HE HAS BUILT 
16 SCHOOLS, IS BUILDING A HOSPITAL AND A NEW AIRPORT 
TERMINAL, AS WELL AS A TRIUMPHAL ARCH.  HE HAS A 
STRONG BASE OF LEGITIMATE SUPPORT. 
 
9.  (C)  ON THE OTHER HAND, THE OPPOSITION, IN A VERY 
SHORT TIME FRAME, WITH ALMOST NO TV OR RADIO TIME, 
AND WITHOUT ACCESS TO THE GOVERNMENT RESOURCES THAT 
JAMMEH SO FREELY USED, RECEIVED FORTY-FOUR PERCENT OF 
THE VOTE. 
 
10.  (C) COMMENT: THE APRC WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE. 
THEY DREW ON EVERY RESOURCE AVAILABLE TO THEM.  THE 
INTIMIDATION AS WELL AS THE VIOLENCE (REF A) AT THE 
END OF THE CAMPAIGN SHOWED THAT THEY WOULD DO 
WHATEVER THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD TO TO WIN.  NOW THEY 
BELIEVE THAT THEY HAVE SATISFIED WHAT THEY SEE AS A 
WESTERN IMPOSED REQUIREMENT TO HAVE AN ELECTION.  THE 
PIEC, INVOKING THE SPECTER OF RWANDA AND OTHER FAILED 
STATES, AVOIDED FORCING THE GOVERNMENT TO EITHER PLAY 
FAIR OR CALL OFF THE ELECTION.  THE GOTG WOULD HAVE 
IGNORED THEM ANYWAY.  GAMBIANS ARE GENERALLY 
SATISFIED THAT THEY HAD A PEACEFUL ELECTION.  THE 
WERE AFRAID, THE GOTG PLAYED UPON THAT FEAR, ANDIT 
WORKED. 
 
11.  (C)  THE GOTG WILL SEE ANY FUTHER COMMENTS FROM 
THE WEST ABOUT AN UNLEVEL PLAING FIELD AND A POLICY 
F INTIMIDATION AS SOUR GRAPES.  NO MATTER OUR 
PROTESTATIONS THAT OUR ONLY GOAL WAS A FREE AND FAIR 
ELECTION, THEY HAVE ALWAYS PERCEIVED US AS SUPPORTING 
DARBOE (REF D).   END COMMENT. 
 
 
ROHN 

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