By Enyeribe Ejiogu
The erstwhile president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has gone into exile in Guinea after officially stepping down following a nationwide broadcast announcing his decision.
Jammeh, who had for several weeks defied calls by ECOWAS Heads of State to honour the outcome of the December 1, 2016 presidential election, which he lost to Adama Barrow, the opposition candidate, finally threw in towel when faced with the resolve of the ECOWAS Heads of State to remove him from office by military means once his 22-year rule expired midnight on Thursday.
West African mediators spent several hours in talks with him on Friday after military forces of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stopped actions to remove him by force to allow last-minute negotiations.
Jammeh, however, on state TV yesterday, announced that he would step down in the interest of the Gambian people.
His words: “My first preoccupation as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and a patriot is to protect at every instance and in every circumstance the lives of Gambians. And this is a duty I hold sacrosanct. “I have always strived for peace and security of our nation and Africa. During this entire time that Allah Subhuana Wa Ta Allah in his infinite wisdom has permitted me to exercise power, and throughout the time that the sovereign people of The Gambia have put their confidence in me, my primary preoccupation has been to uphold the dignity of our people and the sovereignty of this great nation. “As a result of all the numerous sacrifices that we and those before us have made as a nation, The Gambia has affirmed its desire to deepen its own future and destiny. This is a cause I have always been ready to defend, and even with my life. All the actions we have taken towards building this nation up to this point have distinguished us among the comity of nations and given us a pride of place in history.
“All this while, as a Muslim and a patriot, I believe it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed. Since the beginning of this political impasse that our dear nation is going through, I promised before Allah Subhuana Wa Ta Allah and the entire nation that all the issues we currently face would be resolved peacefully.
“I am indeed thankful to Allah Subhuana Wa Ta Allah that up till now, not a single casualty has been registered. I believe in the importance of dialogue and in the capacity of Africans to resolve among themselves all the challenges in the way towards democracy, economic and social development.
“It is as a result of this that I have decided to, in good conscience, relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians – women, children, youth and men – and friends of the Gambia who have supported me for 22 years in the building of a modern Gambia. Above all, the independence of the free and proud people of the Gambia, and I will always, together with you, defend this independence that we so dearly fought for and worked for. “Our decision today was not dictated by anything else but by the supreme interest of you, the Gambian people and our dear country, taking into consideration, my prayer and desire that peace and security continue to reign in the Gambia. At a time when we are witnessing trouble and wars in other parts of Africa and the world, the peace and security of the Gambia is our collective heritage, which we must jealously guard and defend.
“I am proud and honoured to have served our country, The Gambia. While thanking all of you, men women and children, members of the armed and security services, humble citizens and all those who have supported me or were against me during this period, I implore them all to put the supreme interest of our nation, The Gambia, above all partisan interests, and endeavour to work together as one nation to continue to preserve the highly cherished achievement of the country, its sovereignty, peace, stability and integrity as well as the economic achievements realised during these years. I pray that the Gambia continues to be united and prosperous for the welfare of each and everyone of us and be the pride of all.”
In his speech, Jammeh did not give any inkling of his immediate plans, however, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a report stated that soon after the broadcast, he left the State House and joined President Alpha Conda of Guinea for a ride to the airport, to begin a new life in exile.
Meanwhile, the newly sworn-in President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow yesterday said he was returning to his country following Yahya Jammeh’s announcement to step down as president. Barrow on his twitter handle, @adama_barrow, said: “As Yahya Jammeh has officially stepped down from office, I will be returning to my homeland, the Republic of The Gambia. #NewGambia.”
Barrow also told the Associated Press in an interview that he would enter Gambia once a security sweep had been completed.
He told Gambians who had fled the country that they now had “the liberty to return home.”
Barrow on Thursday took the oath of office as Gambia’s new president. He was sworn-in about 5p.m. Senegalese time at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar, Senegal, to succeed Yahya Jammeh.