Gambia's president of more than 22 years conceded defeat Friday in the country's presidential election, vowing to step down after results showed him with a surprising loss.
State media broadcast a phone call in which President Yahya Jammeh told opposition candidate Adama Barrow that he wanted to hand over power graciously and vowed not to contest the results.
Jammeh congratulated Barrow for his "clear victory" and praised the elections as "transparent" and "rig-proof." He also said, "Allah is telling me my time is up," and added he would move to his farm after leaving office in January.
Reporter Alpha Jallow told VOA that crowds of people gathered to dance in the streets of the Gambian capital, Banjul, Friday in celebration of Barrow's victory.
Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission announced earlier Friday that Barrow won 263,000 votes, or 45 percent of the total, while Jammeh took 212,000 votes, about 36 percent. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17 percent.
Barrow, 51, represents a coalition of seven opposition parties that challenged Jammeh in Thursday's election.
Ruled since 1994
Jammeh, also 51, has ruled the tiny West African nation since taking power in a military coup in 1994. He won four subsequent elections that critics said were neither free nor fair and supported a 2002 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. He once said he could rule Gambia for "a billion years."
Rights groups have often accused Jammeh of having political opponents and journalists either arrested or killed.
Amnesty International said in a statement Friday that the new administration would have an obligation to "transform the human rights situation in Gambia, freeing political prisoners, removing repressive laws and entrenching newly found freedoms."
Gambia is a former British colony that occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal. About 880,000 Gambians were eligible to vote in Thursday's poll, which took place under a complete communications blackout, including social media platforms.
The president, who had predicted he would win the vote, had said that no protests would be allowed after the election.