Pressure on Gambia mounts
Push to ensure newly elected president takes power
WEST African troops are gathered at Senegal’s border with Gambia, poised to intervene to ensure president-elect Adama Barrow takes power as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on a resolution authorising a military operation.
Barrow had said on Twitter that he would be sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal at 4pm local time yesterday. Nigeria and Ghana committed troops and aircraft to join forces from Senegal, which surrounds Gambia on three sides.
The UN Security Council was scheduled to vote yesterday on a resolution that would authorise the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to use all necessary means to enforce the outcome of last month’s elections in which Barrow defeated Yahya Jammeh.
Jammeh, who has been in office since 1994 and once vowed to rule for a billion years, surprised the nation of fewer than 2million by acknowledging he lost the vote, before changing his mind and casting doubt over the results.
“If Ecowas does not intervene, its ability to maintain political order among its member countries would lose credibility,” said Adeline van Houtte, Africa analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“And if Mr Jammeh manages to cling to power, it would also damage the credibility of so-called democratic elections in the region.”
Thousands of Gambians have fled to Senegal, piling their belongings on taxis crossing the border, with the Senegalese government estimating that almost 30 000 people had arrived.
Travel company Thomas Cook said it was flying back about 1000 UK customers. Gambia depends on tourists from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands for most of its revenue.
The regional states decided to take the action after Jammeh, 51, declared a 90-day state of emergency late on Tuesday. The AU has said it would no longer recognise Jammeh as president as of yesterday.
“The regional body Ecowas has reiterated its determination to take all necessary measures to ensure the transfer of power to president-elect Barrow,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, asserting the UN’s support.
The Nigerian Air Force said on its Facebook page that it is deploying 200 men, fighter jets, transport aircraft and a helicopter to Senegal for the operation. Ghana sent more than 200 troops to bolster the intervention force, presidential spokesman Eugene Arhin said.
The US embassy closed all its non-emergency services on Wednesday.
Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh.