Gambia's government says President Yahya Jammeh has withdrawn his bid to chair the African Union amid protests from civil society groups.
Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara made the announcement on Radio France International from an AU meeting in Ethiopia Friday. He did not give any reasons.
Benin's president is expected to be elected as AU chairman on Jan. 29.
Jammeh has drawn international criticism for his brutal suppression of opposition and claim he can cure AIDS with an herbal body rub and bananas. Jammeh first took power after a 1994 coup. He won re-election in 2011 in a poll that critics say was unfair.
Civil and human rights groups in Gambia said in a petition of protest that Jammeh's candidacy would "strengthen his hand in further stifling the freedoms of the Gambian people."