Gambia: West African Economic Bloc Threatens Military Intervention If Jammeh Stays

By Staff Published: December 24, 2016, 8:50 am
JammehGambian President Yahya Jammeh and his wife, Zineb Jammeh at the White House for the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Photo: Larry Downing/Corbis

Longtime Gambian ruler Yahya Jammeh took power in a coup 22 years ago. He lost the country’s Dec. 1 election, and initially conceded defeat, congratulating opposition leader Adama Barrow for his “clear victory.”

“I will help him work towards the transition,” Jammeh said, according to Al Jazeera.

Then Jammeh changed his mind.

The 15-country Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is threatening military intervention. Its members include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal,Sierra Leone, and Togo.

From Al Jazeera. Story by Carlos Garcia, Reuters

West African leaders will send troops into The Gambia if its longtime ruler, who lost in recent elections, does not step down next month, the president of the Economic Community of West African States said on Friday.

Marcel de Souza told reporters the regional bloc has chosen Senegal to lead any military intervention if President Yahya Jammeh does not hand over power.

“The deadline is Jan. 19, when the mandate of Jammeh expires,” de Souza said. “If he doesn’t go, we have a standby force, which is already on alert. And it’s this standby force that should be able to intervene to restore the will of the people.”

This would not be the first time the bloc has intervened in a regional crisis. De Souza spoke to reporters in Bamako, Mali, even as ECOWAS continues to use diplomacy to get Jammeh to accept his Dec. 1 defeat.

Jammeh at first shocked Gambians by accepting the loss, but announced a week later that he had changed his mind. He said irregularities in the vote count made him question the win of Adama Barrow, a little-known businessman who was the opposition coalition candidate.

Troops seized the office of Gambia’s electoral commission after Jammeh’s later announcement, and he has mobilised troops across the tiny country that is almost completely surrounded by Senegal.

The U.N. Security Council this week urged Gambian security forces to “demonstrate maximum restraint” and again pressed Jammeh to accept defeat.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called the troop deployment “deeply worrying, given the record of human rights violations in Gambia, including excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detention and deaths in custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.”

Read more at Al Jazeera.

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