Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh said he’ll step down after losing this week’s presidential election in a remarkable about-face that prompted thousands of Gambians to celebrate the departure from office of a leader who had vowed to rule for a billion years. “Gambians have decided that I should take the backseat,” Jammeh said Friday on state television, hours after the election commission declared that opposition leader Adama Barrow, a virtual unknown six months ago, emerged as winner of the Dec. 1 poll. “You have voted for someone to lead our country. This is our country, and I wish you all the best.” Barrow obtained 263,515 votes, while Jammeh got 212,099, according to the election commission.
Gambians took to the streets on Friday and celebrated the surprise outcome by brandishing flags and campaign posters as police patrolled in the capital, Banjul. “This is really extraordinary,” said a young woman who gave her name as Mariam. “We were never able to celebrate like this.”
Barrow took over as head of the United Democratic Party after its founder, Ousainou Darboe, was sentenced to three years in jail in July for organizing a rare protest march. Barrow, 51, was backed by seven other opposition parties.