Gambians return home after longtime leader Jammeh flies into exile

Yahya Jammeh goes to exile
Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at the airport before flying into exile from Gambia, January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Gambians were returning to the capital Banjul on Sunday (January 22) after former leader Yahya Jammeh flew into exile overnight.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) said about 45,000 Gambians, mainly children, have fled to Senegal since Jan. 1.

Jammeh, who is accused of serious rights violations, led his country for 22 years and had refused to accept defeat in a December election won by Adama Barrow.

Jammeh flew out of Banjul late on Saturday night (January 21) as a regional military force was poised to remove him.

Jammeh denies allegations of torture and killing opponents while in power. But his rule and a flagging economy saw thousands flee across the Sahara and Mediterranean to Europe each year.

West African leaders did not agree to immunity for Jammeh during negotiations that convinced him to flee into exile, Senegal’s foreign minister said on Sunday.

The peaceful end to the impasse will allow opposition figure Barrow, who was sworn in as president at Gambia’s embassy in neighbouring Senegal on Thursday, to take office.

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