World Bulletin / News Desk
However, hopes for peace and prosperity are under threat from the decision of its outgoing president to reject recent election results endorsed by the UN, the African Union and regional economic bloc ECOWAS.
Gambians went to the polls on Dec. 1 but, after initially accepting his loss, the country’s strongman, Yahya Jammeh, rejected the result in their “totality”, plunging the country into crisis.
Despite Jammeh’s reaction, President-elect Adama Barrow told journalists that his inauguration will be held on Jan. 19, when Jammeh’s 22-year rule is due to expire. Regional leaders have pledged to use force should the outgoing president refuse to step down.
Since the stand off began, fear and uncertainty have taken grip and the economy has started to feel the pinch.
Amadou Bah, 59, who runs a shop at the biggest market in coastal Serrekunda, the country’s economic capital, said he had seen a slowdown in sales amid an atmosphere of apprehension.
“In my 30 years in the Kombo, I have never seen the state of fear that I am seeing today,” he said, referring to Gambia’s urban areas. “People are taking their families to rural areas and some Senegalese are going home.”
Apart from a narrow strip on the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal surrounds Gambia and many Senegalese live and work within the borders of their smaller neighbor, which has enjoyed relative stability since independence in 1965.
Nationals from Guinea and Guinea-Bissau have also started leaving and Gambians in towns and cities are sending their families to the countryside, fearing possible violence.