Bishop James Odico of The Gambia has expressed thanksgiving for a peaceful outcome after the tensions surrounding a Presidential election in December. The poll marked the first change of presidency in The Gambia since a military coup in 1994. Bishop James said the Christian community resorted to intense prayer after the election result was challenged by the incumbent Gambian leader, Yahya Jammeh, a week after admitting defeat to Adama Barrow.
In a statement, Bishop James recalled the period of political turbulence; when Mr Jammeh was trying to maintain power, Bishop James says Christian leaders met with him : “His Excellency decided to summon the religious leaders to a meeting at state house; the Roman Catholic Bishop declined, but the Methodist Bishop and the Anglican Bishop decided to go and listen to what the President had to say. He pleaded with the religious leaders to go and preach reconciliation and peace – as the people listen to us more than politicians. For the first time ever both the Muslim and Christian religious leaders told His Excellency that as he had conceded defeat at first he should maintain that decision in order to preserve the good work he had already done.”
Bishop James said the Christian Community intensified its prayers particularly during the week of prayer for Christian Unity in January. “We thank God for his love and deliverance and pray that His peace will dwell in our hearts as we strive and work to jealously guard the peace that our beloved Gambia cherished so much. We pray that He will give knowledge, wisdom and understanding to HE Adama Barrow and his coalition team and guide them as they lead the nation” he wrote, adding : “We thank all our mission and development partners for their prayers and support throughout this testing time of our nation.”
After the election result, tension was high in Gambia over concerns that the political conflict would escalate into violence. The anxiety sparked an exodus of thousands of Gambians including senior politicians heading for Senegal. Tourists were left stranded and had to be evacuated on emergency flights amid scenes of chaos at Banjul airport.