Gambia’s defeated leader faces ultimatum to step down
Africa | West African forces remain on standby to remove him, if needed
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 1/20/17, 11:17 am
The presidents of Guinea and Mauritania arrived in Gambia’s capital today in a final effort to persuade defeated leader Yahya Jammeh to peacefully step down.
Yesterday, West African regional leaders set a noon Friday deadline for Jammeh to leave before troops force him out. The regional military force remains on standby as the final mediation efforts continue at the State House. Some forces already moved into the capital, Banjul, yesterday.
Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, said Guinean President Alpha Conde will offer Jammeh the option of going to Guinea.
“It’s out of the question that he stays in place,” de Souza said.
President Adama Barrow was sworn into office yesterday at the Gambian embassy in Senegal. In his inaugural speech, the new president called on Jammeh to respect the will of the people and step down.
“Our national flag will fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world,” he said shortly after taking the oath of office.
Barrow won the country’s Dec. 1 presidential elections, putting an end to Jammeh’s two-decade rule. Jammeh initially conceded defeat, but rejected the election results a week later. Following Barrow’s inauguration, Jammeh dissolved his cabinet and said he would announce new ministers later.
The United Nations Security Council yesterday unanimously approved a resolution to allow military intervention if Jammeh refuses to concede defeat. Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana contributed troops to the regional intervention efforts. The UN refugee agency said about 45,000 people have fled Gambia for Senegal since January, fearing a looming political crisis in the country.
“The next few days will be critical and more people may leave the country if the current situation is not resolved peacefully soon,” the agency said in a statement.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.