After keeping the world in suspense for most part of Friday, Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia’s outgoing president, finally agreed to relinquish power following his December 1, 2016 presidential election defeat to Adama Barrow.
After repeated efforts by West African leaders for the 51-year-old to step down on January 18, 2017 when his tenure officially elapsed, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz flew into The Gambia on Friday morning in a last ditch effort to persuade him to quit.
Jammeh, who was initially given a 12:00pm deadline to quit or face military action, asked for a four-hour extension for him to sort himself out but failed to leave at the end of the period. He, however, accepted to step aside shortly after, with Guinea being tipped to be his likely destination.
In a tweet on Friday afternoon, Barrow broke the news to his supporters, calling for prayers for The Gambia as he takes over leadership of the country.
“I would like to inform you that Yahya Jammeh has agreed to step down. He is scheduled to depart Gambia today. #NewGambia,” Barrow had tweeted on Friday from Senegal where he had been taking refuge and eventually sworn in on Thursday at the Gambian Embassy.
France 24, a French news agency, also reported that Jammeh was currently writing a statement where he accepts to leave, in the presence of Guinean officials.
Jammeh, who had ruled over the tiny West African country for 22 years after seizing power in 1994 through a military coup, initially congratulated Barrow after elections results were announced on December 1, 2006 but suddenly made a U-turn eight days later, rejecting the outcome and calling for fresh polls. The move sent panic across the nation, with many citizens and tourists fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety.
The 51-year-old, who once vowed to rule The Gambia for a billion years, rejected offer of asylum from a number of African countries including Morocco before eventually agreeing to quit on Friday.