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Gambian leader finally agrees to step down amid military pressure

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By Seamus Kearney
Gambian leader finally agrees to step down amid military pressure

A political crisis in the Gambia appears to be over, with the country’s leader finally agreeing to step down.

Yahya Jammeh had refused to concede defeat to President Adama Barrow after elections in December.

In a televised address, Jammeh said: “I believe in the importance of dialogue and in the capacity of Africans to resolve among themselves all the challenges on the way towards democracy, economic and social development.

“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”.

But experts say Jammeh really had no choice but stand down, with thousands of soldiers from Nigeria and Senegal entering the country on Thursday to remove him.

People celebrated on the streets after hearing the news.

One man said: “I want to see some justice and I want to have some form of closure.”

Another said: “Thank God he agreed to step down. Wherever he moves to we follow him there and grab him, take him and take him to The Hague and prosecute him and send him down to the prison.”

Barrow won the election amid complaints that Jammeh, who had been in office since a coup in 1994, had become increasingly authoritarian.

The African Union and the UN Security Council supported the military intervention by Nigeria and Senegal, which came under the auspices of the regional bloc ECOWAS.

Jammeh’s departure will come as a relief for officials who saw the crisis as a test of West African diplomacy.

Guinea and Mauritania had also played a key role in convincing Jammeh to leave office peacefully.