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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh holds up a Koran while speaking to the media after casting his ballot in the presidential elections in Banjul September 22, 2006. Voters in the tiny West African nation of Gambia went to the polls on Friday in a presidential election widely expected to extend the iron-fisted rule of incumbent Jammeh for a third elected term.
Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly
Keep the faith.

Muslim leaders are asking Gambia’s Muslim president to respect democracy and step down

By Lily Kuo

Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has so far been unmoved by calls from fellow African leaders, the United Nations, and others to acknowledge his electoral defeat of earlier this month. The latest petition, by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), may get the attention of the longtime leader who often portrays himself as a devout Muslim.

The OIC, a 57-member organization that exists to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world,” issued a statement today calling on Jammeh to “fully respect the results” of the Dec. 1 election that showed him losing to property developer Adama Barrow. The OIC has been funding projects in Gambia, a Muslim-majority country, for years.

Jammeh, who has been president of The Gambia for the last 22 years, originally conceded the election held on Dec. 1 to his rival. A week later, after the new ruling coalition promised to prosecute Jammeh, the longtime leader said that he rejected the results. He has called for a recount, led by a “God-fearing” electoral commission. (After Barrow’s win and Jammeh’s concession, the OIC had issued a statement expressing its “profound satisfaction” with the peaceful and democratic elections that had taken place.)

Now, the OIC may have some sway on the president, who is often photographed carrying a Koran. Jammeh declared Gambia an Islamic republic last year as a way to further separate the country from its colonial past. Under his watch, female government workers were also reportedly banned from wearing their hair uncovered at work. He once said that he would rule for “one billion years” if “Allah says so.”