GAMBIAN strongman Yahya Jammeh has agreed to step down from power, following a day of protracted talks with leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
According to a social from in-coming President Adama Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, Jammeh has agreed to hand over power and leave the country. Jammeh himself has not spoken out yet, and it is not certain that a deal has been reached.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz arrived in the Gambian capital Banjul early Friday for last-ditch talks with Jammeh after Ecowas had given him a deadline of midday to step down and hand over power to Adama Barrow, or face military action.
Jammeh’s term expired January 19, according to The Gambia constitution, and his successor was supposed to take over on the day.
In early December Barrow, heading up an opposition coalition, defeated Jammeh, who had ruled The Gambia mostly with an iron fist since he took power in a coup 22 years ago.
Jammeh had conceded electoral defeat on December 3, but did a u-turn a week later, claiming election irregularities.
ARMY CHIEF BACKS BARROW
Meetings with Ecowas leaders failed to resolve the stalemate. Barrow, fearing for his life, left Gambia last Friday with Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari and other West African leaders who had again returned to the country to try and persuade Jammeh to step aside.
On Thursday Senegalese troops entered the tiny country at the head of UN-backed regional forces.
The troops, numbering nearly 7,000, were told to halt their advance until the midday deadline passes. Ecowas said that its forces, ranged against a Gambian effective fighting force of about 1,000, had encountered no resistance on entering the country.
Gambia’s army chief General Ousman Badjie, previously a Jammeh loyalist, Friday told Reuters news agency that he saw Barrow as the new commander-and-chief and would not fight the Ecowas force.
Jammeh’s prospects for clinging on started to fall apart dramatically early in the week with mass resignations from his government.
On Thursday Jammeh fired what was left of his cabinet, declared he would oversee all ministries himself.
The UN Security Council Thursday also voted to recognise Barrow as the legitimately elected president of The Gambia, and backed efforts to transfer power to him.
As his world seemed to collapse, Jammeh fired all his cabinet by Ecowas to remove Jammeh by force is supported by the 15-member UN Security Council,
On Friday he asked Ecowas for an extension of the midday deadline for him to leave power until 4 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), but that too passed without any indication of whether he would.
Barrow, was sworn in as the new Gambian president on Thursday at the country’s embassy in neighbouring Senegal. He has been recognised internationally as The Gambia’s new leader.
On Friday, the Senegalese presidency posted photographs of him and President Macky Sall at Friday prayers.
Jammeh’s departure could mark the end of an era. ECOWAS comprises 15 member states. Of these only Gambia had in Jammeh the last leader who came to power through a coup.