The Chronicle Gambia

When Dictators Use “Democratically Elected” To Claim Legitimacy


The IEC is supposed to ensure that the election process conforms to the principles of freedom to choose and the fairness of the process. The election process is therefore cardinal to democracy because it’s the outcome of the elections that gives credence to the “of the people, by the people” ideals of democracy. Dictators and election thieves, knowing that all it takes to claim legitimacy is saying they were democratically elected, even the vilest of dictators go through a perfunctory election process to claim legitimacy. Some of these dictators are so shameless that they seriously claim 99% victories! That the elections is a sham and a joke that is apparent to the world is only lost on them and their supporters.

Since all that matters for one to claim “we are a democratically elected government” is a favorable election outcome, you’d hear mindless dictator enablers claim legitimacy at every turn to justify the wickedness of the dictator! In their mindless submission to the whims of their master dictator, the PROCESS of the election does not matter at all. For these folks, the end justifies the means. In our Gambia, it does not matter to these sycophants that Yaya chose who he wanted to conduct elections; it does not matter to them that opposition parties were banned from national airwaves while the APRC parroted white elephant projects; it does not matter to them that Yaya was coercing people and telling regions if you don’t vote for me, you’ll not benefit from your own tax money and loans I take in your name; it does not matter to them that he had spineless civil servants campaigning for him; it does not matter to them that opposition parties were ambushed and beaten. And sadly, it does not matter to them that Solo Sandeng saw the unfairness and bastardization of the process and decided he’d had enough. May his soul Rest In Peace. To see some people of UDP today claiming Jammeh’s government was democratically elected breaks my heart for it makes a mockery of all those who died in the 1996 ambush of the UDP. It also delegitimizes the stance of Solo Sandeng who paid the ultimate price for free and fair elections! It’s even sadder to see those who should know better cheering such comments!

It’s important to note that elections are not won or lost on the day people vote. Rather, elections are won way before the first votes are cast. And none masters stealing elections more than Yaya Jammeh and his associates. From registration period, campaign period, actual voting day, there’s not a single process not marred by irregularities! The cheating at the 2011 Presidential Elections was so bad that an “unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power… and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation…” was what ECOWAS observers gave as a reason for not even wasting their time to observe the sham elections.

Yaya was illegitimate from the very first day Sana Sabally and Edward Singhateh (who were the main architects of July 22 coup) gave him the leadership because he was their senior in the military to the last day he loaded his expensive toys in plane and ran off to Equatorial Guinea. So when his minions and stepchildren tell you Yaya was a “democratically elected” president, ask them which elections was ever free and fair or democratic in The Gambia under Yaya Jammeh. Granted, no election process is completely foolproof but that is exactly why the legitimacy of any election outcome is judged by the adherence to basic democratic tenets during the election process and not just the results alone!


Alagie Barrow is a former Captain in the U.S Army and former director of research and investigations at the TRRC. He is currently an independent consultant focusing on Leadership, Investigations, Security and Strategic Communications.

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