President-elect Adama Barrow has announced that he would be sworn in today at the Embassy of The Gambia in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. The constitutional term of office of former President Yahya Jammeh elapsed at midnight yesterday (18 January).
“I would like to inform you that the Inauguration Ceremony is going to take place at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal,” the president-elect said on his social media accounts. “My dearest Gambians — the presidency of Yahya Jammeh is officially over. The new era of Gambia is here at last.”
Jammeh, who caused his rubber-stamp parliament to declare a 90-day state of emergency on Tuesday, has refused to vacate power and hand over to the winner of the 1 December election.
Jammeh now faces imminent military action by ECOWAS troops to remove him from office and restore Barrow in power in the West African country.
Senegalese troops increasingly joined by their colleagues from Ghana and Nigeria are amassing at Senegal’s border with Gambia, say media reports.
A military commander with the regional ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) announced that troops were positioning along Gambia’s borders with Senegal.
“The mandate of the president is finished at midnight,” declared Seydou Maiga Moro, speaking on Senegalese radio station RFM yesterday, 18 January. “All the troops are already in place,” he added, saying they were merely waiting to see whether Jammeh would give in to international pressure to vacate the State House in Banjul to Barrow.
Nigeria has confirmed that a warship was heading towards Gambia and RFM radio reported that Nigerian military personnel and equipment had begun arriving in Dakar. Ghana has also pledged to contribute troops.
A last-minute diplomatic effort by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to defuse the crisis yesterday failed. He had met Jammeh in Banjul leaving shortly before midnight and flying to Dakar, where he conferred with President Macky Sall. Expectations that Jammeh would make a statement after the exit of Aziz failed to materialise as he is said to have insisted that he would remain in office.
Analysts say after his swearing in ceremony, President Barrow can now officially invite ECOWAS to help him dislodge Jammeh from the State House in Banjul and provide security for him as the legitimate and internationally recognised leader of the country.
The UN Security Council will vote today on a motion brought by Senegal to back the ECOWAS military intervention in Gambia, but diplomats said if Barrow requested help after his inauguration such approval would not be needed.
Most observers say the countdown to the end of the Jammeh era has begun. Jammeh (51), who first seized power in a 1994 coup, initially conceded defeat after the 1 December vote, but after reports emerged suggesting he could face criminal charges linked to his rule, he reversed himself a week later.
Jammeh said voting irregularities invalidated the results, and his party went to court seeking a new election. The case has stalled because the Supreme Court currently only has one sitting judge while it needs a minimum of five to form a quorum.
Banjul and other towns are said to be eerily calm but thousands of Gambians have fled the country, including some former cabinet ministers who resigned in recent days.
Moreover, hundreds of foreign tourists continue to be evacuated on special charter flights. Witnesses spoke of chaos at the country’s airport. Gambia is a popular beach destination in winter, especially for tourists from Britain, the former colonial power.