Gambia's Shocking Election Result Means This Man Can Finally Go Home After Years In Exile

"Never thought I would see this day."

After 22 years of authoritarian rule, Gambia voted to topple Yahya Jammeh, a dictator who prevailed over the country with an iron fist since a coup in 1994. In his decades in power, Jammeh has been accused of threatening and murdered dissidents, including students and journalists. He has thrown people in prison for alleged witchcraft, threatened to decapitate gay people, calling homosexuality "anti-god, anti-human, and anti-civilization," and claimed that he can cure AIDS. Jammeh also insisted that people address him by his full title: His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh.

On Dec 1, Gambians finally decided they had enough of a dictatorship that would seem curiously bizarre if it weren't so cruel. In an election that many were warily hopeful about, Gambia voted for Adama Barrow, a real estate agent and former security guard who promised change, as their next president. 

The result came as a shock to citizens of the small West African nation. Many were dubious of whether Jammeh would concede, but BBC reported that he confirmed he would step down. 

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When Mbye Njie first found out about the election results, he was in his apartment in Atlanta, Georgia, unable to contain himself. "I was overcome with emotions I have never felt in my life before," he told A Plus. "I started screaming and crying at the same time."

Njie has lived in exile away from his family for almost a decade, after a family member discovered he was put on a government list for certain posts on social media. But they weren't his, he said; his uncle, who has the same name as him, was the one posting online. "If I entered the country I would be detained and questioned," he added. "My father refused to let me return until the president was out." 

Njie, a CEO of Legal Equalizer, a company that created an app to help people know their rights in police encounters, also described a sense of relief when the results were announced. Another uncle was the president of the Independent Electoral Commission of Gambia, and Njie said he was happy he was safe. "Never thought I would see this day," he said.

Gambia's election resonated far beyond its borders, setting an example for its neighbors of the power of the ballot box. 

For Gambians themselves, Njie said that the election results "finally gives us hope for our future as a country and as individuals." He described how Jammeh's tyrannical rule impacted every facet of Gambian life, from the education to the economy. He also noted that Gambians made up a good number of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe, among them his younger brother who is currently stranded in Libya.  

"Human rights record in the country has been absolutely a disaster under him," Njie said.

But Gambia's stunning election result has transformed the country overnight.

"If Gambia can have a democratic election in which they can peacefully oust a dictator of 22 years," Njie said, "then anybody can."

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