ECOWAS Troops ready to enter Gambia as president Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down

Yahya Jammeh
Yahya Jammeh

A midnight deadline has passed in the Gambia, leaving the African country in flux with two presidents and West African troops massed on the border.

Gambia faces the prospect of military intervention by regional forces after a last-ditch attempt to convince Yahya Jammeh to step down as president failed.

The Gambia’s President-elect has hailed a “new era” for his country.

“My dearest Gambians – the presidency of Yahya Jammeh is officially over,” Adama Barrow wrote on Twitter. “The new era of Gambia is here at last.”

His message was posted shortly after midnight, when Senegalese forces had threatened to enter the country if outgoing President Jammeh had refused to step down.

Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, had said forces were ready to “step in” if no solution to the political unrest in the country was found.

Political tensions have been escalating in Gambia since December, when President Jammeh lost the leadership election to Adama Barrow but refused to leave office, citing irregularities in the vote.

His official mandate ended at midnight and President-elect Barrow had vowed to take office regardless of Mr Jammeh’s position.

“We are ready and are awaiting the deadline at midnight. If no political solution is found, we will step in,” Col Ndiaye said.

Gambia’s army chief, Ousman Badjie.
Gambia’s army chief, Ousman Badjie. Photo credit: BBC

 Gambia’s army chief, Ousman Badjie, has said he would not order his men to fight other African troops if they enter the Gambian territory.

He spoke on Wednesday, January 18, as Senegalese and other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) troops are stationed on The Gambia’s borders.

“We are not going to involve ourselves militarily. This is a political dispute,” Badjie said, after eating dinner in a tourist district close to the capital, Banjul.

He continued: “I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men, we are not going to involve ourselves militarily. This is a political dispute… I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men.

“If they (Senegalese) come in, we are here like this,” Badjie said, making a hands up to surrender gesture.

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