Gambia: Government Website and Pro-Jammeh News Site Taken Offline

Yahya Jammeh
Incumbent Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (center) before voting in the country's presidential election, Banjul, December 1. Human rights groups have accused Jammeh of overseeing sustained abuses during his 22-year presidency. MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty

Gambia's government website and the site of a newspaper favorable to outgoing President Yahya Jammeh went offline over the weekend, hours after Jammeh announced that he rejected the results of the country's election.

The tiny West African country voted December 1 to oust Jammeh after 22 years in power. Adama Barrow, a property developer who headed up a seven-party opposition coalition, was elected in a surprise result: Jammeh has exerted huge influence across state institutions and won four previous elections since seizing power in 1994.

Jammeh initially accepted the result of the election and said he intended to retire to his farm in his home village of Kanila in southern Gambia. The chair of the opposition coalition, Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, has indicated that the incoming government would seek to prosecute Jammeh after decades of alleged human rights abuses.

But Jammeh said on state television Saturday that he would file a petition to the country's Supreme Court contesting the result. The outgoing president said that he annuled the election and that the country would hold a fresh election under an electoral commission that is "independent... and free from foreign influences."

The Gambian State House website, as well as the website of the Daily Observer newspaper—which had backed Jammeh prior to the elections—remain out of action. The former website carries the message: "Website is under construction!!!" The Observer's website is also unresponsive and has been substituted by a message reading: "This website is currently undergoing updates and will return soon." The Observer's Facebook page has also not been updated since Friday.

No group has taken responsibility for the websites going down, although Gambian media outlet Jollof News said that "unknown hackers" uploaded a picture of President-elect Barrow to both websites before they went offline. The picture had the tagline: "A luta continua vitória é certa," a Portuguese phrase meaning: "The fight continues, victory is certain."

Barrow won 43.3 percent of the vote in the election, ahead of Jammeh, who won 39.6 percent and third-party candidate Mama Kandeh, who took 17.1 percent, according to the electoral commission. The commission revised the results after an error in adding the ballots from one area was discovered; the mistake had given Barrow an increased margin of victory of 9 percent, which dropped to around 4 percent once corrected. The error also resulted in the other candidates getting extra votes added to their tally before the totals were revised on December 5.

The United Nations, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) released a joint statement Saturday, condemning Jammeh's rejection of the election results and calling on the Gambian government to ensure the security of Barrow. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that America "strongly condemned" Jammeh's decision, calling it a "reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately."