Gambia’s presidential election has been won by opposition candidate, Adama Barrow, 51, ending the reign of long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh.
“I hereby declare Adama Barrow duly elected president of the Republic of Gambia for the next five years,” Alieu Momarr Njai, head of the election commission, announced on Friday.
Barrow was declared the winner on Friday with 263,515 votes, or 45 percent, from Thursday’s balloting.
Jammeh finished second with 36 percent, and a third candidate, Mama Kandeh, received 17 percent of the votes.
Jammeh, who is also 51 years old, had said he would lead the tiny West African nation for “a billion years.” He had seized power in a coup in 1994 and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits.
Critics say those earlier elections were not free and fair.
Voting against Jammeh was a rare show of defiance against a leader who has effectively ruled by decree and who human rights groups say routinely crushes dissent by imprisoning and torturing opponents.
The latest vote was held amid a total blackout of the internet and all international calls, and with land borders sealed.
Barrow, a former businessman and real estate developer, has promised to revive Gambia’s economy, end widespread human rights abuses and to step down after three years in an effort to boost democracy.
“We are happy to be free,” said Omar Amadou Jallow, an opposition leader for the People’s Progressive Party, which joined the coalition supporting Barrow.
“We are able to free the Gambian people from the clutches of dictatorship, and we are now going to make sure Gambia becomes a bastion of peace and coalition. Our foundation will be based on national reconciliation,” he said.
Meanwhile, celebrations took place in the streets of the capital Banjul with people shouting, “We are free. We won’t be slaves of anyone.”
Gambia, with less than 2 million population, is a small country popular among European tourists for its diverse ecosystems, abundant wildlife, and pristine beaches.
The majority of the country are Muslims.