Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh finally left Banjul with his wife on Saturday, flying aboard the plane of President Alpha Conde of Guinea.
Jammeh had announced on state television that he would step down, saying that he believes it is “not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed” among the Gambian people as President Adama Barrow begins his term in office.
“We’re very pleased to see ex-President Yahya Jammeh step down and leave The Gambia in a bloodless transition,” said Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission, in a social media message.
“We look forward to the triumphant return of President Adama Barrow to Banjul,” and to his continued leadership, she added. Dlamini Zuma thanked West Africa’s regional authority ECOWAS, the United Nations, and the Gambian people for their commitment to democracy.
Jammeh, who until now had refused to accept the results of a December 1 election that Barrow won, was given an ultimatum to leave office by noon Friday. He spent the day in final talks with Conde and Mauritanian President Mohamed Abdel Aziz, while a spokesman confirmed to media that he had agreed to step down and was preparing his message.
In his speech, Jammeh affirmed the importance of dialogue, and the capacity for Africans to resolve their conflicts and challenges among themselves.
“It is as a result of this that I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation,” Jammeh said, “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 government.”
Barrow took his oath of office in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday in a ceremony that was moved from a Banjul stadium for security reasons. His legitimate right to lead was supported by ECOWAS, which was prepared to use military action to remove Jammeh, as well as the AU, many African heads of state, and the wider international community.