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Defeated Gambian Dictator Agrees To Step Down After Troops Enter Country

Yahya Jammeh has ruled Gambia for 22 years, but lost a reelection bid last year. He said Friday he would step aside, reversing his previous attempts to hold onto power.

Posted on January 20, 2017, at 9:54 p.m. ET

Yahya Jammeh in Bikama on Nov. 24, 2016.
Marco Longari / AFP / Getty Images

Yahya Jammeh in Bikama on Nov. 24, 2016.

Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled the West African nation for 22 years, announced his decision to step aside while facing intense international pressure and possible military conflict, the Associated Press reported Friday.

"I think it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed," Jammeh reportedly said on state television.

Jammeh lost his reelection bid on Dec. 1 to Adama Barrow, a real estate developer who has never held office. Barrow's victory was a surprise; Jammeh has held onto power for decades, claiming he had a divine mandate to rule “for a billion years.”

In the past, Jammeh has also threatened to “cut off the head” of gay people, and claimed he could cure a long list of maladies — from erectile dysfunction to a herbal mix that could cure HIV if applied on Thursdays. Human rights abuses also piled up.

After his surprise loss to Barrow, Jammeh initially conceded. However, a week later, he reversed himself and said the electoral commission made a mistake.

"I hereby reject the results in totality,” Jammeh said in an address. “Let me repeat: I will not accept the results based on what has happened.”

As a result, Barrow was sworn in as president in neighboring Senegal — leaving Gambia with two presidents.

Adama Barrow on November 29, 2016.
Marco Longari / AFP / Getty Images

Adama Barrow on November 29, 2016.

After the election, neighboring African nations also began pressuring Jammeh to turn cede the presidency to Barrow. Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana all offered troops for a possible conflict, and on Thursday, Senegal's army said that “troops have entered Gambia in effort to get longtime leader Yahya Jammeh to step down.”

News that Jammeh had once again agreed to give up power began circulating Friday night, with officials in several neighboring nations saying he would leave Gambia, the AP reported. The decision reportedly came after hours of discussions, though details about any agreements involved in the transition were not immediately available.

It was also not immediately known when Barrow would come to Gambia to take power.

BuzzFeed News reporters Monica Mark and Hayes Brown contributed to this report.


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