Gambia’s president Yahyah Jammeh finds himself out of power this morning following the wild result of a tumultuous 2016 election that saw him upset by businessman Adama Barrow.
During his election campaign, Barrow had promised to make extensive changes to reform Gambia’s level of corruption, troubling economy, and subsequent exodus of a number of citizens to European and other African countries.
It was Jammeh, who Reuters noted had “seized power in a coup” in 1994, that most expected would continue to rule Gambia after all 2016 votes were counted. Jammeh, after all, had promised that he would rule the West African country for “a billion years.”
As it turns out, his reign lasted 22 years before bending to the will of Gambia’s citizens in a free election.
According to Reuters, Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission found that Barrow had 45.5 percent of the country’s popular vote to Jammeh’s 36.7 percent of the 2016 election’s 263,515 votes.
“I hereby declare Adama Barrow newly elected to serve as president of the Republic of Gambia,” announced Commission president Alieu Momarr Njai to the media, noting to reporters that Gambia’s former leader Jammeh would soon concede the 2016 election.
“There will be celebrations [and] there will be disappointment,” continued Njai in his address, in which the high-ranking official called for a time of respect, acceptance, and tolerance.
“We are all,” Njai added, “Gambia.”
Meanwhile, the news of Barrow’s stunning 2016 election victory saw thousands of Gambia citizens hit the streets in the country’s capital of Banjul to celebrate, Al Jazeera reported, as “confused soldiers looked on.”
As of this morning, Jammeh has yet to make an official statement conceding the surprising turn of events for his regime in the 2016 election.
Earlier in the week, of course, Gambia’s former president made reference to his firm Muslim beliefs when he revealed, also per Reuters, that his “presidency and power are in the hands of Allah” and noted that “only Allah can take [Gambia’s presidency] from me.”
Jammeh’s crushing 2016 presidential election defeat, meanwhile, also helps lend credence to the belief of many citizens that Gambia was ready for a change.
For years, Gambia came off as if it was intimidated into keeping Jammeh in power, having voted him as president in four prior elections since the then 29-year-old army officer seized control in a violent revolution.
The surprising news also comes in the wake of an Internet and international telephone blackout, as well as the sealing of Gambia’s borders, that many believed came in response to Jammeh trying to turn the tide of the 2016 election’s momentum back in his favor.
The former president’s alleged attempts to sway voters this election cycle, however, are considered to be the least of the now-former Gambia leader’s faults.
“Voting against Jammeh was a rare show of defiance against a leader human rights groups say routinely crushes dissent by imprisoning and torturing opponents,” said Reuters writer Chiekh Sadibou Mane.
Among Jammeh’s many previous sins, Mane noted were his arresting of “hundreds of people on suspicion of being witches or wizards” and threats to torture and kill those believed to be homosexual.
It was this perceived climate of fear upon which Barrow capitalized for his 2016 presidential election campaign.
For his part, Barrow – with the backing of what Al Jazeera called “eight opposition parties united behind [him]” – focused on helping to unite Gambia, restore its sluggish economy, and end the human rights violations that many believe ran rampant during Jammeh’s long, 22-year tenure atop Gambia’s government.
Barrow also pledged that he would, upon achieving these goals, step down after three years to further encourage democracy in Gambia.
And with that promise alone, Gambia’s new presidential administration begins on a positive note.
[Featured Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]