Former London Argos security guard Adama Barrow elected new president of Gambia

It is understood Mr Jammeh, who had previously vowed to rule for "a billion years", will be releasing a statement to concede leadership of the West African nation.

Mr Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, has conceded, said electoral commission chief Alieu Momar Njie.

Barrow had seven opposition parties unite behind his presidential-run.

Thursday's vote proceeded relatively peacefully, although the government closed the country's borders and shut off internet access and global calls.

Voting against Jammeh was a rare show of defiance against a leader human rights groups say routinely crushes dissent by imprisoning and torturing opponents.

According to him, he looks forward to a smooth transition of power and working with the incoming President of The Gambia to deepen existing cordial relations between both countries.

'It was unusual, and singular, to see Jammeh recognizing his electoral defeat, after having controlled Gambia for a long time, ' said Momarr Njai.

Mr Barrow, 51, who has never held political office, won Thursday's election with 45.5% of the vote.

No professional global observers were on the ground for the vote, diplomats confirmed, but a small team of African Union experts monitored events along with Banjul-based United States and European delegations already present in the country.

Born in Basse, Gambia in 1965, Barrow is a man of humble beginnings. he worked as a security guard in London for a couple of years before returning to his homeland in 2006 to set up his own business.

The biggest test of this ambition comes in three years' time: Barrow has pledged to step down by then to open up newly democratic Gambia's political space.

The Gambia, a tiny country with a population of fewer than two million, is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and has a short Atlantic coastline popular with European tourists.

Social media users were posting scenes of jubilation, as supporters of the opposition candidate took to the streets to celebrate.

Jammeh's defeat has been greeted with astonishment in The Gambia, where most people expected him to win.

A peaceful change of power in Gambia would be a welcome surprise for African democracy at a time when numerous continent's leaders have been rigging polls, fiddling with constitutions to extend their terms in office and cracking down on peaceful protest.

  • Jon Douglas