Longtime ruler of Gambia Yahya Jammeh announces he is stepping down as president to avoid bloodshed.
BANJUL, GAMBIA (JANUARY 21, 2017) (GRTS) – Gambia’s longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh, who refused to accept his election defeat last month, announced in the early hours of Saturday (January 21) that he was stepping down as leader after 22 years at the helm of the tiny West African nation.
Appearing on state television channel GRTS, Jammeh said he wished to avoid dragging the country into a conflict as regional armies amassed to enforce rival Adama Barrow’s election win.
“As a Muslim and a patriot I believe it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed. Since the beginning of this political impasse that our dear nation is going through, I promised before Allah (subhanahu wa taala – almighty) and the entire nation that all the issues we currently face may be resolved peacefully. I am thankful to Allah (subhanahu wa taala – almighty) that up to now not even a single casualty has been registered. I believe in the importance of dialogue and in the capacity of Africans to resolve among themselves all the challenges on the way towards democracy, economic and social development. It is as a result of this that I have decided today, in good conscience, to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians, women, children, youth and men, and friends of the Gambia who have supported me for 22 years in the building of a modern Gambia,” he said.
Jammeh asked his supporters and supporters of the new president Barrow to work together.
“I am proud and honoured to have served our country, the Gambia. While thanking all of you – men, women and children, members of the armed and security services, humble citizens and all those who have supported me and who were against me during this period. I implore them all to put the interests of our nation – the Gambia – above all partisan interests and endeavour working together as one nation to continue to preserve the highly-cherished achievements of the country its sovereignty, peace, stability and integrity as well as the economic achievements realised during these years,” he added.
Regional armies, who entered Gambia late on Thursday, were meanwhile poised to remove him by force if required, as even his army chief, who had stood beside the former coup leader, recognised his rival Barrow as commander-in-chief.
West African leaders Alpha Conde of Guinea and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz travelled to the capital Banjul on Friday to allow Jammeh one last chance to cede power peacefully.
“I can assure you that he has agreed to leave,” Mai Ahmad Fatty, Barrow’s special advisor, told Reuters in Senegal’s capital Dakar. He could not say where Jammeh would go into exile.
Barrow, who won the Dec. 1 poll by a slim margin, was sworn into office at Gambia’s embassy in Dakar on Thursday and immediately called for regional and international support.
ECOWAS says its intervention, dubbed Operation Restore Democracy, involves 7,000 troops backed by tanks and warplanes. Its forces entered Gambia from the southeast, southwest and north.
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.