Banjul, Gambia – The spotlight on Gambia continues today as the country wakes up to a tense military showdown between African nations perpetuated by the country’s now defunct out-going leader, Yahya Jammeh who refused to step down last night and desperately clings to the last vestiges of power. Jammeh who had been Gambia’s president for over 22 years, lost an election to political newcomer and former businessman Adama Barrow in a landslide victory in December. Jammeh refused to step down maintaining that the election had been tampered with by international influence, then declared a 90-day state of emergency in which he would retain overall control of the government earlier this week. In response to Jammeh’s defiance, the regional 15 nation concern known as The Economic Community of West Africa, or ECOWAS gave Jammeh and his loyalists till the stroke of midnight Thursday to yield his illegal control of the Gambian nation to President Elect Barrow or face swift military intervention.
The ECOWAS ensured Jammeh understood they were serious and Senegal which shares the majority of Gambia’s borders along with Nigeria quickly formed a ‘joint force’ of West African troops with Ghana, Mali, and Togo committing a small contingent as well. The Nigerian government redeployed one of its navy warships from Lagos to just off the coast of Gambia in an overt show of force then sent Nigerian troops and aircraft to Senegal to support the Senegalese military already enroute to the border of Gambia. With all the military pieces in place, the West African coalition of the willing stood fast at the borders and waited for Yahya Jammeh to make his decision.
As most of Jammeh’s cabinet resigned or fled to Senegal, the former leader stayed defiant. And in a final push for a peaceful solution, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania flew to the Gambian capitol of Banjul to broker an asylum deal with either Mauritania or Morocco. Social media was rife with rumors that Jammeh had taken the deal and had snuck out of the country on President Aziz’s plane. These hopeful rumors were wrong however as Jammeh refused the asylum deal and President Aziz went home empty-handed.
The streets of Banjul were dead quiet as the midnight deadline came and went, residents braced for an impact that never came. Eight minutes past the deadline, General Ousman Badjie, Gambia’s Chief of Defense stated that his forces would not engage with the ECOWAS coalition saying “I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men.” General Badjie felt this was a political fight and his soldiers did not need to be involved. It is unclear how many Gambian forces Jammeh has in his corner. Most West African analysts claim the more than 80% of the 2,500 strong force will not take up arms for Jammeh. Most of Jammeh’s loyal forces are mercenaries and a small band of his security forces with no substantial Gambian military force to speak of.
Senegal, which leads the ECOWAS coalition, wanted to make the military intervention official. Early this morning Senegal drafted an emergency resolution and presented it the United Nations Security Council, requesting a vote on approving ECOWAS to remove Jammeh from power militarily. The U.N. Security Council released a statement today that they will be holding an emergency meeting which the members will vote on, whether or not ECOWAS may enter Gambia and end this political temper tantrum. The U.N. Security Council is expected to give its full support and adopt the ECOWAS resolution, stating that their intent is to provide “full support to ECOWAS in its commitment to ensure the respect of the will of the people of Gambia as expressed in the results of 1st December elections.” That vote is expected to take place later today.
Gambia and its President Elect Adama Barrow are moving forward however, and decided to have the presidential swearing in ceremony at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal. President Elect Barrow confirmed the plan on social media saying that the inauguration will take place as scheduled, but in the embassy in Senegal. Tensions are still high within the small country of Gambia still as they enter into yet another day of waiting. The fate of Gambia rests solely on the shoulders of Yahya Jammeh and his band of cohorts, as the world waits for the U.N. to vote on intervention and whether or not Gambia will turn into another conflict zone.
Feature Image courtesy of: DailyMail