Senegal troops move into Gambia as new president inaugurated

Senegal troops move into Gambia as new president inaugurated
3 min read
20 January, 2017
Senegalese troops entered Gambia on Thursday in support of its new President Adama Barrow, after the country's army chief vowed his men would not fight the advancing African forces.
Jubilant crowds took to the streets after Adama Barrow was sworn in [AFP]
Senegalese troops entered The Gambia on Thursday in support of its new President Adama Barrow, who took office demanding loyalty from his own armed forces in a tense standoff with his defeated rival.

Barrow was sworn in at The Gambia's embassy in Dakar, although longtime leader Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down despite international pressure following his December election loss.

Celebrations erupted in the Gambian capital Banjul, with the country’s army chief taking part after vowing that his men would not fight African troops approaching the capital.

Dressed all in white, 51-year-old Barrow waved to crowds at the ceremony that anointed him, seeking to end the 22-year rule of Jammeh, who has not been seen but is believed to be still in Banjul.

"This is a victory of the Gambian nation. Our flag will now fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world," he said.

Shortly after the inauguration, the UN Security Council unanimously backed efforts by the regional bloc ECOWAS to force Jammeh to hand over power, without formally authorising military action.

"I command the chief of defence staff and officers of high command to demonstrate their loyalty to me as commander in chief without any delay," Barrow said at his inauguration.

"I command all members of the armed forces to remain in their barracks, those found wanting or in possession of firearms without my order will be considered rebels."

A Senegalese army spokesman confirmed on Thursday that his country's troops had crossed the border, after Nigerian jets overflew The Gambia

Barrow, an opposition coalition candidate, defeated Jammeh, who had ruled the former British colony since taking power in a coup in 1994, in a surprise election win on December 1.

A Senegalese army spokesman confirmed on Thursday that his country's troops had crossed the border, after Nigerian jets overflew The Gambia.

Shops had stayed shuttered and streets were quiet in and around the capital Banjul before the inauguration.

Tour operators had continued to evacuate hundreds more tourists from the tiny country's popular beach resorts.

But Barrow supporters on Thursday evening took to the streets of Banjul, where soldiers were seen but did not intervene.

In off the cuff remarks, army chief Ousman Badjie insisted his soldiers would not get involved in a "political dispute" or prevent foreign forces from entering the west African nation.

Barrow, a real-estate agent turned politician, flew to Senegal on January 15 after weeks of rising tension over Jammeh's stance.

The incumbent initially acknowledged Barrow as the victor but later rejected the result.

He then attempted to block Barrow's inauguration with a court ruling and by declaring a state of emergency this week.

A senior member of Barrow's opposition coalition, Isatou Touray, welcomed the army chief's declaration.

"That's a very positive outlook from him, given that Jammeh's regime is done," Touray told AFP.

"We don't have to risk the lives of innocent citizens."