Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia for over two decades following a coup in 1994. He lost the election this December to Adama Barrow, but refused to accept the results.
Backed by the United Nations, ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) sent a Senegal-lead coalition marching south last Thursday to force him out. Such a decision is rare for this serious and sober organization, and it sends a strong message to all of Africa that ECOWAS is ready to protect democracy with military force.
The effort was successful. The details of the agreement are still unknown, but we do know that Jammeh met with the presidents of Mauritania and Guinea before making the decision to go into exile.
Supporters cheered and wept this weekend as Jammeh boarded a plane bound for Guinea. “Many others in The Gambia are glad to see the end of what they considered a dictatorship, where there was little respect for human rights or freedom of speech,” reports BBC News.
Jammeh, who once bragged that he would rule for a billion yeEXOars, said he had decided “in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians.”
Jammeh is the first Gambian president to give up power without a fight since 1965.
Barrow, who was inaugurated Thursday during a ceremony at the Gambian embassy in Senegal, plans to investigation allegations of human rights abuses during his predecessor’s time in office.
Editor’s note: ECOWAS is an outstanding institution that has helpt West Africa maintain peace and democracy to an extent far beyond what would occur naturally. In the early 90’s, I was witness to its actions in helping to quell the violence during the Liberian civil war, listening to ECOMOG (military operations group) comms as they calmly but forcefully overcame resistance and forced their way into the port and set up peace keeping operations that saved lives and let to a more stable Liberia.
The people of Gambia are lucky to have ECOWAS, it deserves a lot more credit than it gets.
Perhaps we should think of them as the Jedi Knights of West Africa?