Report by Demba Baldeh Associate Editor
Gambia’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh has departed Banjul for Mauritania after days and weeks of intense pressure and negotiations for him to hand over power. Mr. Jammeh the erstwhile dictator who has ruled the Gambia with iron fist for 22 years finally agreed to relinquish power after West Africa’s regional body ECOWAS insisted that he hands over power to the new president Adama Barrow or face military invasion.
Mr. Jammeh defied all calls for him to peacefully transition power before his mandate ended on January 19th 2017. Jammeh insisted on pursuing a legal challenge of the election results at the supreme court which did not have the proper structure in place to hear his petition. West African leaders made several trips to Banjul to try to convince Jammeh to respect the will of the Gambian people.
In an unprecedented move, ECOWAS leaders evacuated the President-elect Barrow in pretext to invite him to a meeting in Bamako last week only to recognized him as the legitimate President of the Gambia. The brilliant diplomatic maneuver by ECOWAS first of its kind may have dealt a blow to Jammeh’s resistance to handing over power. President Barrow was later taken to Senegal to be inaugurated at the Gambian Embassy should Jammeh refused to step down by the January 19th. As anticipated ECOWAS went ahead and swore President Adama Barrow at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar. President Barrow was then recognized by the UN and the International community as the new President of the Republic of the Gambia.
Despite President Barrow’s swearing in ceremony in Senegal, former President Jammeh still insisted on pursuing the legal case in court and in the interim had the house of parliament extend his mandate in office for three more months. Jammeh seeing half of his cabinet ministers resigning and fleeing the Gambia abruptly dissolved his cabinet and pledged to appoint a new cabinet on Monday. Some ECOWAS leaders namely President of Guinea Alpha Conde and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz asked for ECOWAS to halt its invading force to give peace one more chance to negotiate with Yahya Jammeh. This last minute attempt to prevent war in tiny Gambia yielded results and Yahya Jammeh finally agreed to step down but with certain conditions. ECOWAS encouraged the new president to agree to negotiate with the outgoing president.
An agreement which terms have not been disclosed to the media were reached and Jammeh agreed to depart Banjul the following day. It is on those basis that Yahya Jammeh Gambia’s former dictator departed Banjul this evening for Mauritania and possibly Guinea Conakry to live in exile. Gambians and the world are relieved that Jammeh has finally agreed to leave giving peace a chance. Several thousand Gambians had fled the country to escape any possible military conflict. This evening Jammeh departed the airport after bidding farewell to his supporters. Gambian military in the meantime refused to defend Jammeh which may have contributed to his early departure.
Gambia has finally witnessed peaceful transfer of power to the new president Adama Barrow. Mr. Barrow is due in Banjul on Sunday to take over power. Gambians across the world are jubilant and gratefully welcome the new administration in Banjul. ECOWAS leaders without a doubt has done an incredible job peacefully addressing a political impasse that could have led to bloodshed in this tiny African nation regarded as the Smile Coast of Africa. The new President has called on Gambians to return home and give peace a chance. He pledged to constitute a truth and reconciliation commission to get to the truth of what had happened in Jammeh’s 22 years in power in an effort to heal the wounds and unite the nation. For now a new Republic is dawned in the Gambia.