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A President Just Got Inaugurated Outside His Country And Here's Why

After a tense few weeks, and the threat of a small war, the longtime dictator who said that he'd secretly cured AIDS negotiating for more time after his successor was sworn in.

Last updated on January 20, 2017, at 2:12 p.m. ET

Posted on January 19, 2017, at 1:28 p.m. ET

Back in December, the future seemed pretty clear for Gambia, a tiny West African country ruled for the last 22 years by a man who once said he secretly cured AIDS.

Marco Longari / AFP / Getty Images

President Yahya Jammeh was running for a fifth term in power and everyone, both inside and out of the country, assumed that it would be smooth sailing for him, given his dictatorial control. Far from being just an eccentric, rights groups accuse his government of being behind an untold number of cases of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and enforced disappearances.

BUT PLOT TWIST! Jammeh didn't win!


Instead this guy, Adama Barrow, pulled a surprise victory in the final results.

Seyllou / AFP / Getty Images

Barrow is a real estate developer who has never held any sort of political office, which may sound a little familiar. But regardless, the country's election commission declared him the winner soon after the polls closed.

Even more surprising: Jammeh initially accepted the election results, giving his opponent a call on national television and saying that he would leave power.

And the people of Gambia went wild.

Marco Longari / AFP / Getty Images

But one week later, Jammeh abruptly changed his mind, declaring the election results invalid and calling for a new vote.


He also declared a "state of emergency" that would conveniently last until April.

Jammeh took his complaints to the Gambian Supreme Court, most of which he appointed, and gallantly offered to stay in power while they rule on the case.


Small detail: The court's members were appointed by Jammeh and haven't heard a case in years. The Chief Justice did, however, refuse to issue an injunction preventing Barrow from being sworn in, according to the BBC, saying that "he must recuse himself from any case that could affect his own position."

Jammeh's change of heart hasn't stopped Barrow though, who shifted his plans for inauguration to the Gambian embassy in neighboring Senegal.

Meanwhile, a group of West African states have warned Jammeh that should he not step down, he could face being removed through military force.

Columbia Pictures

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Wednesday gave Senegal the green light to lead a mission to remove Jammeh if he refused to step down at midnight. Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana have all offered troops for the possible conflict. The UN Security Council was poised on Thursday to vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force.

If it comes to that, it will be an even bigger intervention than the one proposed when another electoral crisis gripped the Ivory Coast in 2011.

Sia Kambou / AFP / Getty Images

President Laurent Gbagbo lost the election in December 2010 and refused to cede power to his opponent. After the UN and ECOWAS failed to broker a deal, outright fighting broke out between Gbagbo's supporters and those of now-president Alassane Ouattara in spring of 2011, leading to scores of deaths. Gbagbo was forced from power and now awaits trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.

Jammeh's support among the 2,500-strong Gambian military is a little shaky right now, but BuzzFeed News previously reported that he's been looking to hire mercenaries.

Seyllou / AFP / Getty Images

"This is a political dispute. I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men," Army Chief Ousman Badjie told the AFP. But Badjie doesn't control Jammeh's personal guards or the people that the longtime president has hired.

ECOWAS's deadline has come and gone and there's no word from Jammeh about what he's going to do.

New Line Cinema

But after giving him most of the day, a spokesperson for Senegal's army said on Thursday evening that "troops have entered Gambia in effort to get longtime leader Yahya Jammeh to step down."


So for the moment Gambia now has two presidents: one of them is recognized by the international community and one not so much, a situation that clearly can't last for long.

AP Images

Botswana was the first country to officially declare that it would only recognize Barrow as legitimate. So who knows what will happen next as yet another deadline for Jammeh to exit power looms and the country's chief of defense has pledged loyalty to Barrow.


President Jammehh, as of Friday at 2 p.m. ET, has not yet officially ceded power. A previous version of this article briefly cited an unverified Twitter account that alleged that was the case.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.