Gambia: Unpredictable Jammeh relinquishes generation-long grip

BANJUL – He vowed to rule Gambia for “a billion years”. But Yahya Jammeh, who ran the nation of 1.8 million for a generation after seizing power in 1994, was forced out by regional military forces this week after refusing to accept his defeat in a Dec. 1 election.

True to his reputation as one of Africa’s most unpredictable leaders, Jammeh defied deadlines to leave power but then said on Saturday he was stepping down as West African troops closed in.

Jammeh denies allegations of torture and killing opponents while in power. But his rule and a flagging economy saw thousands flee across the Sahara and Mediterranean to Europe each year.

Hours before Jammeh’s announcement, new President Adama Barrow, who was sworn in in neighbouring Senegal last week, dared not believe that his opponent had finally given in.

“We are skeptical because he is so unpredictable,” Isatou Touray, a senior Barrow aide, told Reuters.

The concerted way in which West African leaders rounded on Jammeh after his election defeat showed his isolation, which had worsened as his behaviour grew increasingly bizarre.

He claimed to have a herbal cure for AIDS that only worked on Thursdays and advocated slitting the throats of homosexuals. In 2009, he arrested hundreds of people for witchcraft.

Source: Angola Press News Agency