Gambia’s Jammeh agrees to step down and leave the country

Yahya Jammeh lost presidential elections but ignored multiple deadlines to quit, even as West African armies entered the country on Thursday to support new leader Adama Barrow.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Adama Barrow was sworn in as president in Gambia's embassy in Senegal on Thursday. Barrow, who was in self-imposed exile, was also unable to attend his son's funeral last week.

Gambia’s former leader Yahya Jammeh agreed to cede power to recently inaugurated President Adama Barrow and leave the country, a senior adviser to Barrow said on Friday. Jammeh ruled the country since he led the coup in 1994, ousting Dawda Jawara who had been president of the Gambia since 1970.

Jammeh earlier ignored three deadlines set by the regional West African bloc, which was ready to launch military action codenamed Operation Restore Democracy in support of Barrow. Armed forces entered the Gambia late Thursday, but gave preference to a peaceful transition. 

West African leaders Alpha Conde of Guinea and Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz travelled to the capital Banjul early Friday to allow Jammeh one last chance to cede power peacefully.

"I can assure you that he has agreed to leave," said Mai Ahmad Fatty, head of Barrow's transition team and now his special adviser.

"The rule of fear has been banished from Gambia for good," Barrow told a crowd gathered at a Dakar hotel in Senegal on Friday. "To all of you forced by political circumstances to flee our country, you now have the liberty to return home." Barrow was also sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal, fearing for his safety in his home country. 

Gambia's army chief General Ousman Badjie, who had been perhaps the last remaining pillar of support for Jammeh, said he would welcome, not fight, the regional force.

"We are going to welcome them with flowers and make them a cup of tea," he told Reuters. "This is a political problem. It's a misunderstanding. We are not going to fight Nigerian, Togolese or any military that comes."

The terms of the deal and where Jammeh will seek exile are not clear as yet.

TRTWorld and agencies