Gambia presidential crisis continues as Trump prepares for office

Gambia presidential crisis continues as Trump prepares for office
2 min read
20 January, 2017
Defeated President Yahya Jammeh has been told to cede power or face military action by a UN-backed regional force now massing inside the country having crossed from Senegal on Thursday
Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down from power [AFP]
As Donald Trump prepares to take office in the United States, the president-elect will be hoping for a smoother transition than currently taking place in Gambia.

West African officials said early on Friday that President Yahya Jammeh must cede power by noon or face being forcibly removed from power by a UN-backed regional force.

This deadline has been extended to allow for last-ditch talks with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania in the Gambian capital, Banjul. 

A West African regional force moved into Gambia on Thursday following the inauguration of the country's new president, Adama Barrow, in a signing-in ceremony held in neighbouring Senegal.

A UN Security Council vote has approved military intervention by regional forces.

The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) - a regional group of sixteen countries, founded in 1975 - has said that military action would follow if Jammeh refuses to cede power.

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Speaking in Dakkar, the Senegalese capital on Thursday, Barrow called on members of Gambia's armed forces to remain in their barracks - while ECOWAS has said that its troops have faced no resistance entering Gambia.

Gambian presidential elections took place on 1 December 2016 with Barrow's victory considered a surprise at that time. 

Jammeh initially accepted defeat before changing tone and declaring a state of emergency, citing irregularities in the electoral process. He has since vowed to remain in power until new elections are held. 

The outgoing Obama administration on Thursday expressed support for regional military intervention in Gambia.

"We support it because - and we're in touch with officials in Senegal - we support it because we understand that the purpose is to help stabilise a tense situation and to try to observe the will of the people of The Gambia," said State Department spokesperson John Kirby.

Around 45,000 people have fled Gambia to Senegal this year, according to the UN refugee agency, amid the ongoing crisis. 

Jameh took power in a 1994 military coup, has ruled Gambia for 22 years, and faced accusations of committing serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture against opponents of his rule.