Gambia’s President Jammeh concedes defeat

The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has conceded defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer who once worked as a security guard in London, Adama Barrow.

Jammeh had kept the tiny west African country under an iron grip for more than two decades, and there were fears that the eccentric 51-year-old would use violence or fraud to maintain power. Instead he became a rare dictator to accept defeat in a democratic election, agreeing to hand power to challenger Adama Barrow, a soft spoken businessman who previously had little public profile. The father of five used his lack of political baggage to woo voters desperate for change, claiming 45.5% of the vote to Jammeh’s 36.7%. If Jammeh sticks to his word, Barrow will become only the third Gambian head of state since the country’s independence in 1965.

In a televised statement, Jammeh said the vote had been “the most transparent election in the whole world,” adding that he would not contest the result. Barrow said he was confident Jammeh would stand down. “Power belongs to the people. It’s the people who have spoken. He cannot hang on,” he said. “We won the election clearly so there’s nothing he can do about it.”

The streets of the capital, Banjul, were in a celebratory mood; with cars screeching their horns and blasting out music. Children sang, men stripped off their shirts and punched the air, and others went online to celebrate using the hashtag #gambiadecides. Several said the historic change had moved them to tears.

Barrow said his priority was to name a cabinet. “I’m very, very happy and excited. I’m happy that we won this election.”

- Amit Kumar Agarwal