The leader of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has finally bowed to local and international pressure to announce that he has stepped down.
Gambian leader, Yahya Jammeh
At long last, Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh said Saturday he would step down to keep peace in his country after 22 years in power, following last-chance talks with west African leaders before a military intervention, reports AFP.
He reached the decision after spending long hours with Guinea and Mauritania’s presidents on Friday in Banjul, where agreement was reached that he would hand power to Adama Barrow, the declared winner of elections last month.
“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians,” Jammeh said in a statement broadcast on state television.
Jammeh stated that the decision to leave office was not because of international pressure or threats but out of his own volition. It is still yet known where his next destination will be.
“My decision today was not dictated by anything else than the supreme interest of you the Gambian people and our dear country,” Jammeh said in his speech, thanking Gambians for their support.
“At a time when we are witnessing trouble and fears in other parts of Africa and the world the peace and security of the Gambia is our collective heritage which we must jealously guard and defend,” he added.
It would be recalled that troops from five African nations are stationed on the tiny west African nation’s borders in the event Jammeh does not keep his word, and it was thought Conde would stay into Saturday to iron out remaining disagreements.
Jammeh made the decision public in a state televised event. It is believed he will not be in the Gambia while President Adama Barrow presides over the affairs of the country to avoid any clash of interest.
“Jammeh has accepted he will leave power. The discussions revolve around where he will live in exile and the conditions around that,” a Mauritanian source close to the delegation in Banjul told AFP.
A highly-placed Guinean source said the country of exile had to be far enough away to stop Jammeh interfering in his country’s affairs.
The Guinean source mentioned Equatorial Guinea as a possible option, while diplomats discussed the possibility of Morocco.
Gambia’s army chief Ousman Badjie said foreign troops would be welcomed “with a cup of tea” rather than gunfire if they intervene to ensure Jammeh stands down.
“Why should we fight?”, said Badjie, a former Jammeh loyalist.
“This is a political misunderstanding. There is no military solution to a political problem, let me tell you. We are not fools. I love my soldiers. I love the Gambian people. Nobody is going to be hurt here.”
The political turmoil forced about 45,000 people to flee.