Defeated Gambian leader agrees to cede power after talks

Supporters of Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow celebrate outside of the Gambian embassy in Dakar. Picture: Getty
Supporters of Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow celebrate outside of the Gambian embassy in Dakar. Picture: Getty
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Defeated Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has agreed to cede power to the country’s newly inaugurated president, a Senegalese government official confirmed late last night.

Final arrangements were being made to the agreement, the official said.

Jammeh, however, has offered to step aside once before but changed his mind.

The move came as the chief of Gambia’s defence forces pledged his allegiance to the new president, Adama Barrow, and said Gambian forces would not put up a fight.

The leaders of Guinea and Mauritania arrived in Gambia earlier yesterday to persuade Jammeh to cede power in the West African nation, while a regional military force awaited orders to roll into the capital and force him from the office he has held for 22 years.

Barrow, who was elected president last month, was sworn in on Thursday, and the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve the regional military intervention. His inauguration took place at the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring Senegal for Barrow’s safety.

Defence forces chief Ousmane Badjie said Gambia’s security services all supported Barrow.

“You cannot push us to war for an issue we can solve politically,” Badjie said. “We don’t see any reason to fight.”

With the security forces abandoning him and his Cabinet dissolved, Jammeh was increasingly isolated during the last-minute talks at his official residence in the capital, Banjul, with the Guinean and Mauritanian leaders.

The West African regional force, including tanks, moved in without facing any resistance, said Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the West African regional bloc (ECOWAS). At least 20 military vehicles were seen yesterday at the border town of Karang. The regional force included troops from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Mali, and they moved in after Barrow’s inauguration and the UN vote.

Guinean President Alpha Conde was in Banjul with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Mauritania has been mentioned as a possible home in exile for Jammeh. After a first round of talks, they broke for Friday prayers and resumed.

Conde would offer Jammeh the chance to step down peacefully, de Souza said. He said Jammeh had “the choice of going with President Alpha Conde” but, if that fails, “we will bring him by force or by will”.

Jammeh had agreed to step down but demanded amnesty for any crimes he may have committed during his 22 years in power and wanted to stay in Gambia, in his home village of Kanilai, de Souza said. Those demands are not acceptable to ECOWAS, he added.