The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has warned his supporters that violence was like “bushfire” that could destroy the country, as he called for peaceful campaigning ahead of highly anticipated elections in which he is seeking a fifth term, AFP news agency reports.

In a speech broadcast on state media, Mr Jammeh said:

Our campaign is focusing on peace and security and not for violence. Violence is like bushfire. You can know where it starts but you won’t know where it will end.

Therefore let us campaign peacefully, vote peacefully and then celebrate our victory.”

Most of the major Gambian opposition parties have picked a single candidate, businessman Adama Barrow of the United Democratic Party (UDP), to run against Mr Jammeh on 1 December.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says the prospect of political change has prompted Mr Jammeh’s government to step up oppression against critics.

It alleges a torture squad, linked to the presidential guard, is terrorising opponents ahead of the election.

On Wednesday, the government released one of three members of the press, photojournalist Alagie Manka, who was arrested last week for taking pictures of the president’s supporters, AFP reports.