Former President Jammeh (left) welcoming President Buhari of Nigeria to his office in Banjul in December 2016. Jammeh refused the entreaties of regional leaders to relinquish power peacefully until it became certain that a military showdown was imminent / Photo: NAN

Gambia: Yahya Jammeh was ready to die, reveals military commander

One of the commanders of the ECOWAS Military Intervention in the Gambia (ECOMIG) force has revealed the reason why ex-leader Yahya Jammeh finally decided to leave the country after weeks of obstinacy, which allowed the newly-elected president, Adama Barrow, to take office.

The commander of the Nigerian Air Force’s contingent deployed in The Gambia to secure the nation’s presidential transition has revealed that the ousted long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh was ready for war to prolong his stay on power.

Air Commodore Tajudeen Yusuf, who leads 77 airmen and 20 officers, said if not for the intimidating air power deployed by the subregion, ex-president Jammeh would have refused to step down and put up a fight.

Jammeh left the country after refusing for weeks to recognise his electoral defeat to Adama Barrow at the 1 December election.

An operational team of the Nigerian Air Force planning their flight over The Gambia on 19 January in Dakar, Senegal. It was the show of air power that sent the message that ECOWAS was ready to use overwhelming force to remove Jammeh that finally made him to yield / Photo: NAF

“What they saw at the State House in Banjul and Jammeh’s private residence in his home village of Kanilai clearly showed that he was ready to die and even cause the death of innocent people,” Commodore Yusuf told reporters in Lagos on Thursday.

“When we gained access to the State House, from what we saw, Jammeh was prepared for war. But for the airpower that we showed, as we were the first country to show up in the Gambia, he would not have stepped down”.

Yusuf also talked about the future of The Gambia and the duration of the ECOMIG’s Operation Restore Democracy in the country.

“For now, we have won the battle but it’s left for the political leaders to win the peace and stabilise the country. The forces we left there are to basically stabilise the Gambia,” he explained.

“They will continue to be there until stability is achieved and the ECOWAS leaders decide that all security forces of other nations stand down.”

President’s Barrow’s immediate task is to get a handle over the security situation, according to analysts. And the task is not an easier one because many in the security forces are still considered very loyal to Jammeh.

Meanwhile, Barrow is currently carrying out a careful reform of the security sector without causing mass disaffection among the officers and men of the armed forces, say his supporters.

Ken Kamara with agency reports

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