The clownish president of the Gambia has announced that he will step down from office—for the second time—since losing that country’s December 2016 election, potentially avoiding yet another coup in the African country.
President Yahya Jammeh initially came to power in a 1994 coup. He won two “elections”—dismissed by international observers as corrupt—before facing an attempted coup against him in 2006. After arresting the coup plotters, Jammeh went on to win another two “elections.”
In the months leading up to the most recent “election,” President Jammeh locked up a number of opposition leaders, saying that they were “opportunistic people supported by the West,” and that he would only “bow to Allah and my mother. I will never tolerate opposition to destabilize this country.”
To everyone’s surprise, Jammeh was defeated in the election by Adama Barrow, a newcomer to politics who used to work as a security guard at a retail store in Britain before returning to the Gambia.
Initially, Jammeh said he would not contest the result, but on December 9, he announced that “unacceptable abnormalities” meant that he had annulled the result and was ordering a new vote.
He then applied to the Supreme Court of the Gambia to contest the result—a move dismissed as fraudulent, considering he had just recently appointed six new judges to hold office in that court.
The election winner meanwhile had to flee to neighboring Senegal for his personal safety, where he was sworn in as new president of the Gambia by supporters.
Back in the Gambia, Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency, prohibiting “acts of disobedience” and “acts intended to disturb public order.”
Chaos spread as government ministers resigned and fled, while neighboring Senegal and other West African states mobilized armies on the borders, threatening to invade unless Jammeh stepped down.
On January 18, the country’s parliament then voted to extend Jammeh’s term by three months, and the following day, Senegalese troops entered the Gambia.
By January 20, new talks had opened to discuss Jammeh’s resignation, and as a result, Senegal halted its offensive.
Finally, in the early hours of January 21, Jammeh announced on state television that he was once again stepping down from the post of president.
There were no details of the deal that Jammeh had reached with foreign negotiators, including the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania, who spent hours at the State House, or presidential residence, on Friday trying to persuade Jammeh to leave.
He at one point asked for amnesty for any crimes that he had committed while in power—a request that was rejected, according to Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Jammeh’s rule of the African state has been deadly—and comical.
In 2007, he announced that he could cure AIDS and other diseases with a mix of herbs.
“I can treat asthma and HIV/Aids … Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative,” he told the BBC. “I am not a witch doctor and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor.”
In 2008, Jammeh added that he would “cut off the head” of any homosexuals.
In 2010, he announced that he had been awarded two prizes from “President Barrack [sic] Obama — a “Platinum Award” and a “President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award.” In addition, he claimed also to have been awarded an “Honorary Vocational Bacherlors’ [sic] Degree” from the “Printers and Publishers Guild of Northern Germany,” and the “Admiralship of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.”
Ironically, the only one of these awards which actually exists—but was never given to him—is the Nebraska award, which is that state’s highest honor for its residents only, and has nothing to do with ships or navies.
In May 2015, Jammeh announced that he personally would “slit the throats” of all homosexuals.
“If you do it [in Gambia] I will slit your throat,” Jammeh said. “If you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Gambians invaded Italy in 2016 after crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Gambia is also currently the fifth-largest source of refugees in all of Africa, despite having one of the smallest populations.