Yahya Jammeh: What Made The Embattled Ex-President Step Down

Yahya Jammeh signed the deal which had major input from ECOWAS, AU, UN, as well as Presidents of Mauritania and Guinea…

It would be right to say that the seemingly unending drama regarding The Gambian political crisis, is finally over. Some however, do not know what exactly transpired or what got the ousted President to finally change his mind by relinquishing power to make way for the reign of his opponent, Adama Barrow.

After several attempts, a deal was finally reached for ex dictatorial Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power and go into exile. Yahya Jammeh struck a deal with leading African bodies like ECOWAS, UN, AU and other notable African leaders.

Gambian President Adama Barrow
Gambian President Adama Barrow

Before we delve into details of the deal, find out in a nutshell, what brought about the averted political crisis in The Gambia.

Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia for as long as 22 years before he lost elections in December 2016. President Adama Barrow was set to take over power from Jammeh, having won Gambia’s December 1 elections. However, Jammeh refused to concede defeat citing electoral fraud.

Jammeh maintained his stand despite significant pressure from regional powers and the UN, sparking a political crisis. The ex President maintained there were irregularities in the electoral processes, including the turning away of some supporters from polling stations, and errors made by the electoral commission.

Jammeh’s refusal to relinquish power to now President Adama Barrow, drew lots of attention from political stakeholders in Africa and beyond. Several attempts towards persuading the embattled President to concede defeat had proved futile. This caused the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to resort to deploying military troops from its member states to The Gambia, to effect a forceful transition of power amid Jammeh’s tantrums.

Adama Barrow Declared Gambian President in Senegal

Winner of the December elections, Adama Barrow who fled to Senegal following Jammeh’s refusal to step down; was on January 19, sworn in as President of The Gambia, at the country’s embassy in Darkar, Senegal. Barrow delivered his inaugural speech in Dakar, where he took shelter on January 15.

Jammeh's Opponent, Adama Barrow declared Gambian President in Senegal
Jammeh’s Opponent, Adama Barrow declared Gambian President in Senegal

“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget…This is the first time since the Gambia became independent in 1965 that Gambias have changed their government through the ballot box,” Barrow told a crowd of officials and diplomats.

According to reports, while Adama Barrow was inaugurated in Senegal, adamant Jammeh was still at State House in The Gambia where he was working to make a last-minute deal to ease his way out.

ECOWAS’ Intervention

Few days before Mr. Barrow’s swearing-in ceremony, military troops from Nigeria, Ghana and some other West African countries touched down in The Gambia to make a strong statement, about ECOWAS’ decision to involve military force.

As troops from some of ECOWAS member states threatened to intervene, Jammeh finally succumbed to the diplomatic pressure to hand over power to his opponent Barrow.

Jammeh Relinquishes Power

After weeks of refusal, the embattled President finally agreed to step down, making way for the rule of his opponent, Barrow. The planned military operations were then suspended, in favour of the final diplomatic push to convince Jammeh to exit peacefully.

“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians,” he said in a statement broadcast on state television.

Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh finally left Banjul, the country’s capital, on January 21, to go into exile after signing a deal. The ex President left on a chartered plane leased by the national leader of Nigeria’s leading political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.

Yahya Jammeh flies out of Banjul airport into exile
Yahya Jammeh flies out of Banjul airport into exile

Jammeh’s Deal

Elaborate details of a deal signed by Yahya Jammeh, before agreeing to step down on January 21 have emerged. The deal had major input from ECOWAS, the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) as well as  Presidents Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania and President Alpha Conde of Guinea.

As part of the agreement reached on Saturday for him to step down, ECOWAS, AU and UN assured Yahya Jammeh, his family and aides of safety, security and rights.

Also, the international bodies will “prevent the seizure of assets and properties lawfully belonging to former President Jammeh or his family and those of his Cabinet members, government officials and Party supporters, as guaranteed under the Constitution and other Laws of The Gambia.”  Part of the 14-clause agreement stated that,

ECOWAS, the AU and the UN will work with the Government of The Gambia to ensure that former President Jammeh is at liberty to return to The Gambia at any time of his choosing in accordance with international human rights law and his rights as a citizen of the Gambia and a former head of state.

A major highlight of the deal was the declaration by ECOWAS to halt any military operations in The Gambia for the sub-regional body, to continue the pursuit of the peaceful and political resolution of the crisis. According to the deal, Jammeh is at liberty to return to The Gambia at any time of his choosing in accordance with international human rights law.

Adama Barrow Returns Home

The New Gambian President Adama barrow has finally returned to the country. A massive crowed on January 26, thronged the Banjul airport in excitement, to welcome the president who was forced to flee to Senegal when Jammeh refused to step down. Barrow, who was accompanied by his two wives and some of his children, was welcomed by military officials and senior members of his coalition government.

Things have returned to normal in The Gambia. About 26,000 people had fled Gambia for Senegal since the start of the crisis, as a result of massive fear of political unrest. Many world leaders however, have hailed the African leaders and pan-African bodies who saw to the forestalling of a long-term civil war.