Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s long-serving president conceded defeat to Adama Barrow, a former security guard at a British catalogue retailer, Argos, in the United Kingdom, in a shock turn of events in the tiny African nation days after Jammeh declared he would rule for ‘a billion years’.
The unexpected concession by Jammeh ends his 22-year old stay in power, which he took through a military coup in 1994.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Adama for his victory. It’s a great victory. I wish him all the best and I wish all Gambians the best. As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty Allah I will never question Allah’s decision. You Gambians have decided,” The Guardian quoted Jammeh in a televised address to the West African country on Friday.
Jammeh added that he is open to work with Barrow towards the transition, set for January.
Barrow, the coalition of opposition parties candidates, said that Jammeh had called him over the phone to concede defeat and congratulate him on his victory.
The outgoing leader garnered 212,099 votes while Barrow won 263,515 votes, in Thursday’s shock election result, BBC reported.
The tiny West African nation erupted into joy after Jammeh’s defeat. There were fears that Jammeh would hold onto power, following a decision to ban international calls, internet, arbitrary arrests and deaths of opposition activists in police custody and threats to crush any demonstrations after Thursday’s poll.
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“We are free. We won’t be slaves anymore,” Reuters quoted jubilant Gambians in the streets of Banjul, the capital.
Jammeh known for his authoritarian leadership which oversaw torture of his political rivals and a crackdown on media freedom, once threatened to behead gay people and claimed to cure HIV/AIDs, only on Mondays and Thursdays.
The U.S led the international community in congratulating the controversial leader, for accepting defeat in a continent where most of its long-serving leaders have been accused of election rigging and opposition intimidation to stay in power, Daily Mail reported.
In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the opposition and international community condemned President Joseph Kabila’s move to stay in power beyond the end of his term this month, after the country’s polls body delayed the election to 2018, citing logistical challenges.
Violence erupted in Gabon in September, after Ali Bongo’s disputed re-election even after the opposition claimed victory in the August presidential election.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda used security agencies to violently attack his rival Kizza Besigye and forced the country into an internet blackout ahead of his controversial re-election in February.