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African press review 3 December 2016

An election surprise in Gambia. And efforts to curb child marriage in Nigeria.

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We start in Gambia this morning.

As you may have heard, Yahya Jammeh, the authoritarian President who ruled the country for 22 years, has confirmed he will step down following the election victory of property developer Adama Barrow.

Barrow, who's 51 and has never held political office, won Thursday's poll with 45,5 per cent of the vote.

His victory is regarded as one of the biggest election upsets West Africa has ever seen.

The Gambian paper Daily News reports the news dispassionately, saying Jammeh conceded defeat yesterday morning in a national television broadcast, promising to hand over power in January as the constitution dictates.

"President Jammeh might have committed some wrong doings here and there but the fact that he conceded defeat is worth commendation," the paper comments.

It certainly is, given the lamentable record of more than a few African countries where a bloodless transfer of power after free and fair elections is as rare as hen's teeth.

"What follows next will soon be seen," says the Daily News.

Freedom newspaper reports the news more breathlessly, headlining the story: "Breaking News: Gambian Real Estate Developer Defeats Longtime Dictator Jammeh In Gambia’s Presidential Elections."

And, in a story headlined “Coup in the making,” the paper voices more than a little anxiety about what happens next.

“What was General Saul Badjie doing around the vicinity of GRTS on Tuesday night?,” wonders the paper.

“His conduct was suspicious,” it says. “He was sitting idly watching his soldiers beating the alliance supporters. Someone out there is trying to manipulate the fragile peace to hijack the oppositions’ victory.”

“General Badjie is a disgruntled office,” claims the Freedom paper. “Now that the country is at crossroads, he is being groomed by the foolish dictator to hijack the oppositions’ victory. Jammeh is going to use and abuse him in the process. Just watch!”

Rest assured, we'll be watching.

In Nigeria, the Daily Independent leads with the news from Gambia - noting that outgoing President Jammeh, once said he would govern for a billion years if God willed it.

The paper quotes the chairman of the country's electoral commission as saying: “It’s really unique that someone who has been ruling for so long has accepted defeat.”

Maybe not unique, but certainly out of the ordinary.

Aside from this, the coverage elsewhere is fairly thin. It’s said that all politics is local, which may also be true of news that really engages readers.

 

For example, the Sun - which bills itself “the Voice of the Nation”, devotes its editorial to the contentious issue of child marriage.

The paper says it is cheering news that Nigeria has signed up to the campaign to end child marriage, thereby becoming the 16th country on the continent to join the campaign by the African Union.

The Sun believes Nigeria has made notable advancement in ending the phenomenon of child marriage through the enactment of the Child Rights Act.

However, the paper cautions that only 24 states out of 36 have adopted and not all of these are committed to its enforcement. This shows there is still a long way to go in ending what it calls “the odious tradition.”

It’s misleading to think that the problem is only in the Muslim North, the paper says.

It is nationwide, especially in the rural and remote areas of the country, where civilisation and government are far removed.

The Sun acknowledges that it is very difficult to persuade those who see child marriage as the only route out of poverty not to engage in it.

The elimination of want, hunger and disease from our society is a task that the government and all others concerned must take very seriously.

That's hard to argue with. But, it seems about a likely as a chicken in every pot.

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