More details of the peaceful battle to restore democracy in The Gambia became known yesterday.
After days of stand-off, former President Yahya Jammeh suddenly agreed to quit office, yielding to last-minute pressure from Guinean President Alpha Conde and his Mauritanian counterpart Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, who were with him between Friday and Saturday.
After agreeing to leave and save The Gambia from a major crisis, Jammeh was confronted by big challenge – how to fly out.
The leaders, according to The Nation reports, reached out to All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who authorised his private aircraft to be used to fly Jammeh out of Banjul, sources said.
Jammeh’s exit paved the way for the return of President Adama Barrow to take office after he was sworn in on Thursday in Dakar, Senegal.
Tinubu’s VP-CBT Falcon Jet had been with President Conde, who is a close friend of the leading politician.
It was not until late on Saturday night that Jammeh agreed to go. Sources said Tinubu was contacted to allow the use of his jet to fly Jammeh out of Banjul.
He reportedly gave a condition: it should only be used “if it will facilitate the quick exit of Jammeh and lead to the restoration of peace and democracy in The Gambia”.
The plane eventually flew out with Jammeh, his wife, mother and President Conde on board.
Senegal, it was learnt, insisted on knowing those on board before allowing it to overfly its airspace. This wish was granted. Jammeh was flown to Equitorial Guinea where he will be on exile
Jammeh arrived at the airport amid a large convoy of vehicles and throngs of cheering supporters.
He stood on a small platform to hear ceremonial music performed by a military band and then walked down a long red carpet, surrounded by dignitaries.
He climbed the steps to the plane, turned and kissed and waved a Qur’an at those assembled.
It was an emotional farewell. Many soldiers, supporters and dignitaries were crying. Others in The Gambia were glad to see the end of a 22-year dictatorship which had little respect for human rights and freedom of speech.