President Yahya Jammeh once predicted that his rule could last a billion years. Now, the fate of his nation is hanging on one more anxiety-filled day. After acknowledging defeat in an election last month, Mr. Jammeh abruptly changed his mind, refusing to step aside for the inauguration of the new president scheduled for Thursday and threatening to drag the nation into a bloody standoff. Mr. Jammeh, who has long been criticized for human rights abuses and grandiose claims like being able to cure AIDS with little more than prayer and a banana, has insisted on a do-over election. He declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, warning the nation not to engage in any “acts of disobedience.” West African nations are preparing to enter the country and force Mr. Jammeh’s ouster if he does not leave. In response, Mr. Jammeh has threatened that his own military is prepared to defend Gambia’s sovereignty.
Senior officials in his government have resigned in protest or left the country. At least 26,000 Gambians have fled to across the border into Senegal, the United Nations says. Hundreds of tourists on beach vacations were also being evacuated. Now, his opponent in the election, Adama Barrow, who has retreated to Senegal but has the overwhelming support of Gambians and international leaders, is forging ahead with plans for an inauguration ceremony on Thursday, throwing continental Africa’s smallest nation into uncertainty.
“What we are simply and rightfully asking for is to return to the polls and allow Gambians to elect who they want to be their president,” Mr. Jammeh told the nation, rejecting the previous vote as riddled with irregularities.
Parliament added to the confusion on Wednesday, voting to extend Mr. Jammeh’s term for three months, state television reported, although it was not clear whether the move was binding.