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A former Argos security guard has just toppled an African tyrant

The 22-year-rule of Yahya Jammeh has ended.

Gambians celebrate the victory of opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow.
Gambians celebrate the victory of opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

YAHYA JAMMEH, WHO once said he would govern for a billion years if God willed it, has suffered a shock defeat in the Gambian presidential election.

Opposition candidate Adama Barrow pulled off a stunning presidential election victory, putting an end to Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

Official results showed Barrow, a former migrant to Britain who reportedly worked there as a security guard in Argos, was a political unknown until six months ago.

He comfortably won yesterday’s poll, capping a remarkable rise to prominence.

Jammeh conceded defeat, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said as Gambians began to take to the streets to celebrate the biggest upset in the west African nation since the incumbent seized power in a 1994 coup.

In Westfield, a district near the capital, teenagers piled on top of cars, taking selfies and strumming guitars, while others waved flags coloured the grey of the opposition coalition. A hundred horns honked in unison.

Although the mood was largely ecstatic, some Gambians expressed relief tinged with emotion as they recounted stories of difficult lives spent under constant fear during Jammeh’s rule.

Gambia Election Opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow sits in the Buffer Zone district of Talinding in the outskirts of Banjul. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Barrow won 55% while Jammeh took 37% and third party candidate Mama Kandeh took 18%. Turnout was around 65%.

In his first comments afterward, Barrow acknowledged the nation’s totemic shift.

“It’s time for work. It’s a new Gambia,” he said.

“It’s really unique that someone who has been ruling this country for so long has accepted defeat,” electoral commission chief Alieu Momar Njie told reporters.

Jammeh, who once said he would govern for a billion years if God willed it, was attempting to win a fifth term with his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).

On the streets of Bakau, on the outskirts of the capital Banjul, Gambians began an impromptu street party.

“This man (Jammeh) beat and oppressed us,” a young man who gave his name as Jawara told AFP, choking back tears.

We didn’t have our freedom but definitely Barrow will give it to us.

State television said Jammeh would later make a statement to congratulate opposition leader Barrow, 51.

Gambia Election President Yahya Jammeh ruled for 22 years. Source: AP/Press Association Images

An estate agent who worked as a security guard in Britain, Barrow was chosen as the opposition flag bearer by a group of political parties who had joined forces for the first time, whipping up unprecedented popular support.

Barrow told AFP before the vote was announced that he was “certain” he had won.

If Jammeh’s concession is confirmed, Barrow will likely serve a three-year term at the head of a transition reform government in the tiny ex British colony that occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal and pristine Atlantic ocean beaches beloved by tourists.

Banjul success

Jammeh campaign manager Yankuba Colley said he was not aware of the electoral commission chairman’s statement but said he believed the president would step down if the Gambian people wanted it.

“When the Gambians make their verdict, he is someone who is faithful,” he said

It is a difficult result but the man I know will accept whatever comes.

Gambia Election There have been parties on the streets of Gambia. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The election was marked by an internet blackout that sparked condemnation from rights groups and the United States.

Before dawn broke, military and police, some covering their faces, set up checkpoints every few hundred metres on the outskirts of the capital, while citizens were inside sleeping or watching results come in.

“Power belongs to the people. You cannot stop us and you cannot stop them,” Barrow said at his final rally this week.

Jammeh had predicted the biggest landslide of his political career. His tenure was marked by his surviving multiple attempts to remove him from the presidency.

© – AFP 2016

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