Gambia's Jammeh: "I will rule 1 billion years"

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaks to journalists on November 24, 2011 as he leaves a polling station in the capital Banjul after voting in the presidential elections. The 15 nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) withdrew plans to send observers for the election, saying Jammeh's control of the media and intimidation of voters meant polls in the continent's smallest country could not be "free, fair and transparent."

Gambia's outspoken President Yahya Jammeh said he will rule for "1 billion years," if Allah wills.

He said critics who accused him of winning last month's elections through intimidation and fraud can "go to hell," in an interview with the BBC.

Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, was re-elected with 72 percent of the vote, according to official figures. But voters were "cowed by repression," according to the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). 

The 46-year-old said he does not fear a fate similar to Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak or killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"My fate is in the hands of almighty Allah," he said on the BBC's Focus on Africa program. "I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so."

The November poll was the fourth since Jammeh overthrew Gambia's first post-independence leader Dawda Jawara aged just 29.

Opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe, who won 17 percent of the vote, according to the official results, dismissed the results as "bogus, fraudulent and preposterous."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says there is "absolute intolerance of any form of criticism" in Gambia where the government is accused of death threats, surveillance and arbitrary night-time arrests of journalists "who do not sing the government's praises."

In 2007, Jammeh stirred controversy by claiming that he could cure AIDS with a herbal concoction. Later, he also claimed that he could cure infertility among women. Medical groups denounced him for making such unscientific claims.

Gambia is a tiny West African state that is a popular destination for European tourists because of its tropical climate and sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches.