Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Paul Obi and Alex Enumah in Abuja with agency reports
Senegalese troops, leading the Economic Community of West African States Military Intervention in The Gambia (ECOMIG), have entered The Gambia to ensure Mr. Adama Barrow assumes power as the country’s new president, a Senegalese army spokesman has said.
According to the BBC, the development came shortly after Barrow took the oath of office at The Gambia’s embassy in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
Although Barrow has been recognised internationally, the former president, Mr. Yahya Jammeh, has refused to quit and he is backed by parliament.
West African leaders had threatened to remove Jammeh by force. The UN had also backed their support for Barrow.
The 15-member Security Council stressed yesterday that this should be pursued “by political means first”.
Senegalese army spokesman, Col. Abdou Ndiaye was quoted by news agencies as saying the country’s troops entered The Gambia yesterday afternoon.
Nigeria said earlier in the day that its “armed reconnaissance air force are over Gambia”, AFP reports.
“They have the capacity to strike,” Nigerian Air Force spokesman, Ayodele Famuyiwa, told the news agency.
West African military forces have made it clear they are ready to enforce a transfer of power in the country, a popular beach destination among European holidaymakers.
Mr Barrow took oath at the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
In his inauguration speech, he ordered all members of The Gambia’s armed forces to remain in their barracks.
“Those found illegally holding arms will be considered rebels,” he warned.
Western ambassadors to Senegal, the UN envoy for West Africa and officials from the regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) attended the ceremony, while hundreds of Gambian expatriates gathered outside the compound.
Meanwhile, Jammeh’s term in office has been extended for three months by a two-thirds majority in parliament. Some experts say he still has a legitimate claim to be called the country’s president.
Gambian Information Minister, Mr, Sidie Njie, told the BBC yesterday that Jammeh would not leave his office.
Barrow received congratulatory messages yesterday from the ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations.
In a joint statement by the trio, they congratulated the people of The Gambia for their patience, discipline, maturity and resolve to defend their popular will, as expressed in the 1st December, 2016 presidential election and during the post-electoral crisis.
Also not left out in the congratulatory messages are the Electoral umpire, political parties, and the leadership of ECOWAS with its mediatory team whom they noted have all contributed in no small way in ensuring that democracy is sustained in The Gambia as well as the region.
“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations once again commend the independence, professionalism and commitment of members of the Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia and all political parties for exercising the needed restraint that paved way for the peaceful conduct of the 1st December, 2016 presidential election,” they said in the statement.
They commend the leadership and commitment demonstrated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia who is also the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government; Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and former president John Dramani Mahama of Ghana.
While they urged the new president to take all necessary steps to promote the unity and peace of the country, they however appealed to the security forces to observe neutrality and stand for the peace, stability and development of The Gambia.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Dan Ali yesterday gave more details of Nigeria’s role in the efforts to resolve the impasse, saying the Nigerian military’s involvement was based on the resolution of ECOWAS leaders to maintain democracy in The Gambia.
“Additionally, it will also protect and sustain the democratic norms in the sub-region. This will also forestall the breakdown of law and order in the Gambia and the sub-region in general,” the minister stated.