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Gambia’s longtime leader Jammeh agrees to step down

21 January 2017 12:31

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Gambia’s longtime leader Yahya Jammeh has declared that he would step down as West African forces invaded his country to remove him following his refusal to cede power to president-elect Adama Barrow.

“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation,” Jammeh said on state television on Saturday.

Jammeh, who lost the vote by a slim margin to Barrow, first accepted the defeat in December’s election but then changed his mind and said there were irregularities in a recount.

He said his decision to step down was taken in the national interest, urging the Gambian people to work together as one nation.

The 51-year-old Barrow was sworn in on Thursday inside Gambia’s embassy in neighboring Senegal, where he had been remaining after Jammeh refused to endorse the results of the presidential election.

Later on Thursday, military forces from regional states, unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council, entered the country to exert pressure on Jammeh to hand power to Barrow.

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz headed to Gambia’s capital of Banjul on Friday to allow Jammeh one last chance to leave peacefully.

Troops from five African nations are deployed on the tiny west African nation’s borders in the event Jammeh refuses to cede power.

Jammeh had seized power in a coup in 1994. His reign was denounced for torturing and killing perceived opponents to gag dissent.

Barrow will take over from Jammeh as soon as his safety can be guaranteed.

The new president hailed the “victory of the Gambian nation” and demanded loyalty from his armed forces in his swearing-in speech.

Gambia’s army chief Ousman Badjie said foreign troops would be welcomed “with a cup of tea” rather than gunfire if they intervene to ensure Jammeh stands down. Police chief Yankuba Sonko and customs boss Momat Cham also swore allegiance to Barrow.

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