After weeks of uncertainty and political tension, the longtime ruler of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, has boarded a plane to fly into exile.
On Dec. 1, Jammeh lost an election to Adama Barrow in a shocking upset. Initially, Jammeh accepted the result — then, a week later, he changed his mind. He issued a state of emergency, and later Parliament extended his term in hopes of easing tensions. Troops from regional powers gathered at the border, prepared to take military action if Jammeh did not step down, and international pressure against him mounted.
As NPR has reported, Jammeh has a dismal human rights record, and is seen as a leader who does not tolerate dissent. Prior to the election, which he assumed he would win, he said “only divine intervention” would remove him from office. After the election commissioner declared victory for Barrow last month, Jammeh ordered that troops seize the commission’s headquarters.
As the political stalemate dragged on in recent weeks, Gambia prepared for a showdown, and foreign intervention. Gambians poured across the border into Senegal fearing unrest and violence — including the president-elect, Adama Barrow. Barrow, a businessman, was sworn in while still in Dakar, Senegal, where he remains while security troops complete a final sweep.
Jammeh’s exile clears the way for Gambia’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power since the nation gained independence in 1965. Jammeh became the leader of the West African nation 22 years ago after staging a coup, and had vowed he would rule for “a billion years.”