BreakingNews 21/1/17 - Gambia: Despotic Yahya Jammeh Steps Down

[ Masterweb Reports ] - The drawn out electoral crisis in The Gambia has finally ended. Yahya Jammeh has stepped down and President-elect Adama Barrow is expected to take office shortly. The last hours were fraught with tension. It was Friday afternoon in Gambia's capital Banjul. The streets in front of the State House were empty.

 

Suddenly several cars arrived in a convoy. Two Rolls-Royces were there and in them sat the presidents of Mauritania and Guinea. They had come to negotiate with Yahya Jammeh for the last time. He was the owner of the Rolls-Royces. His name was even engraved in the headrests of the car. He was the "owner" of the country, some Gambians said mockingly. He was the man who did not want to resign after 22 years in office, despite suffering electoral defeat.

 

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had asked Jammeh to resign by 1200 hours, adding that if he failed to step down, troops would enter the country and remove him by force. Thousands of soldiers from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana were ready to fight, some already on Gambian soil. The deadline expired.

 

'We are not idiots'

 

At 2:30 p.m, there was sudden movement two streets away. Dozens of men exited a mosque after Friday prayers. Among the men was Ousman Bargie, head of the Gambian armed forces. He was in a very good mood. Young men snapped selfies with him and Bargie made the peace sign with his fingers.

 

"There will be no war," he told DW. "We're not idiots. I love my soldiers and Gambians."

 

Bargie spoke about Jammeh as an ex-president for the first time and said that he was looking forward to a possible military intervention.

 

"If our brothers are sent here, we will welcome them with a cup of tea," he said. The people around him cheered.

 

"This is definitely good news, thank God," said a man nearby. "A peaceful solution is, in my opinion, the best," he added.

 

Just a few hundred yards away, Jammeh had been fighting to hold onto power. In December 2016, he surprisingly lost the presidential election despite years of intimidating the opposition and massive human rights violations. At first he accepted the result and congratulated the winner, Adama Barrow. But a few days later he called for new elections based on claims of irregularities and insisted that a decision must come from the supreme court of the country.

 

However, the court had only one judge, who was unable to decide alone, after Jammeh fired all the other judges over the last years. Jammeh was planning to stay in office until Nigeria and Sierra Leone could send judges, which would only possible in May, at the earliest.

 

Shrinking circle of friends

 

So Jammeh continued to push his luck, declaring a state of emergency and dissolving his cabinet. Many observers believed he wanted to negotiate a better amnesty deal for himself, and above all for his confidants from ECOWAS. But his circle of friends was getting smaller and smaller. Several ministers had already thrown in the towel, as well as his vice-president and his lawyer.

 

He had also long since lost support from abroad. His counterparts at ECOWAS were almost all long-time opposition leaders who had been democratically elected, including Mohammadu Buhari in Nigeria, Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast, Macky Sal in Senegal and Nana Akufo-Addo in Ghana. His fate was most likely sealed when he broadcast a private phone call with ECOWAS Chairperson, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on state TV. His last supporters were Mauretania's Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, who also gained power through a coup, and Guinea's Alpha Conde, one of the few critics of  military involvement in The Gambia.

 

The red carpet

 

At 4:00 pm the next deadline had passed. At Banjul airport, the military orchestra stood up, the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania were expected. On the other side of the airport, the last tourists boarded two Thomas Cook planes for their flights back home. Thousands of tourists had been flown out over the last few days, basically decimating the local tourism industry overnight.

 

The musicians held their instruments at the ready, but only two Guinean diplomatic vehicles appeared, then luggage was unloaded from a private plane. The plane flew off empty, soldiers rolled up the the red carpet again and the band packed up. Yet, Jammeh still remained in the country.

 

Night fell as the final details were negotiated. Rolls Royces commuted back and forth between the State House and a local hotel. Shortly after 2 am, Jammeh delivered a speech on state television. It would be his last. Bloodshed would not be necessary, he said.

 

The streets of Banjul remained quiet, with no celebrations. The Gambia is exhausted after the long period of uncertainty and tension. Many Gambians want to save their celebrations for when Jammeh is out of the country and President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia.

 

*Photo Caption - Yahya Jammeh

 

 

 
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