Former President of the Gambia Yahya Jammeh relinquished power to his successor Adama Barrow on Saturday, January 21, saying he would “pass the mantle of leadership … with infinite gratitude to all Gambians.” Jammeh flew to Guinea following the announcement. It is expected that he will continue on to Equatorial Guinea, a non-member of the International Criminal Court, where he will live in exile. In a speech given shortly before his departure, Jammeh called for a peaceful transition and stated that “bloodshed would not be necessary.”
This marks the first peaceful transition of power in the Gambia since the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1965.
Jammeh initially conceded his loss to Barrow in the December 1 presidential election in 2016, marking the country’s first change in executive power since 1994. Days later, however, Jammeh rescinded his earlier statements, citing “electoral irregularities” and declaring a state of emergency on December 9. Since then, ECOWAS, a regional group of West African states, has undertaken both diplomatic and military efforts to ensure the peaceful transition of power.
Barrow, who has been staying in Senegal for his safety, was inaugurated in Dakar on Thursday, January 19. Following his inauguration, Barrow “urged caution” in response to an online petition calling for Jammeh’s arrest. “We aren’t talking about prosecution here, we are talking about getting a truth and reconciliation commission,” the incoming president told the Associated Press.
In his inaugural address, Barrow called on the UN to enforce his victory and “restore [the people of the Gambia’s]sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy.” The UN Security Council responded unanimously with a resolution that called on countries in the region “to cooperate with President Barrow in his efforts to realize the transition of power.” Barrow said he will return to the Gambia as soon as ECOWAS determines it safe for him to do so.
Banjul, the Gambia’s capital, remained quiet after Barrow’s inauguration and Jammeh’s departure. Many want to delay their celebrations until Barrow returns. Indeed, many Gambians have feared unrest throughout the weeks of crisis, and 46,000 have fled to Senegal since the election.