From military fatigues to traditional robe, Gambia’s longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994, announced he was stepping down under pressure from West African armies which entered the country following his refusal to concede an election defeat to President Adama Barrow.
On July 22, 1994, he deposed the regime of Dawda Jawara, who had ruled since independence from Britain in 1960.
It was a sudden rise for a quiet man with little education who once grew tomatoes and lettuce in rural Gambia.
Old footage showed him, a junior army officer in military fatigues, saying: “We have no plans to stay long. All we are here for is to set a just system and to put up structures that can show that what happened in the past 30 years would never happen again.”
“As soon as those structures are in place we will return back to the barracks,” he added.
Over time, the latter took centre stage as Gambia morphed into a police state that tortured opponents, rights groups say.
International human rights group accused him of torturing and killing perceived opponents.
In 2013, he announced Gambia would withdraw from the Commonwealth, the 54-member grouping including Britain and most of its former colonies, branding it a “neo-colonial institution”.
He declared Gambia an Islamic Republic in 2015 and announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court in October last year.
He claimed to have a herbal cure for AIDS that only worked on Thursdays. He invited hundreds of women to State House where he administered another herbal remedy for infertility.
In 2009 he arrested hundreds of people for witchcraft.
Gradually, terrified citizens became bolder in expressing dissent, even after hundreds were arrested for protesting in April to May this year.
He first accepted his defeat, a sharp turnaround for a man who had vowed to rule the tiny West African nation of 1.8 million people for “a billion years”. But a few days later he rejected the outcome of the election.
Barrow took refuge in neighbouring country Senegal and was sworn-in on Thursday (January 19).