Gambia’s president-elect set to be sworn in neighboring Senegal

World Today

Gambia PoliticsIn this Saturday Dec. 3, 2016 file photo, Gambian President elect Adama Barrow sits for an interview with the Associated Press at his residence in Yundum, Gambia. Barrow waits to take up the reins of power, as Gambian President Yahya Jammeh clings to power Wednesday Jan. 18, 2017, after more than two decades governing the west African country. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Gambia’s president-elect said Thursday he will be sworn into office at the Gambian embassy in neighboring Senegal, while there was no word from longtime leader Yahya Jammeh on the day that his mandate expired.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts for Adama Barrow, run by his staff, said his inauguration would take place Thursday at 4 p.m. in Gambia’s embassy in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

Senior members of Barrow’s political coalition could not be immediately reached to provide details of the ceremony.

Jammeh was at his official residence in Banjul, State House, and intended to stay there, said an official close to the administration who was not authorized to speak to reporters. If the West African regional force is going to arrest Jammeh, it will have to be at State House, he said.

Many of Jammeh’s loyalists at State House will resist, the official added.

But Gambia’s army of an estimated 900 soldiers is divided over its loyalties to Jammeh, and those not sympathetic to him will not leave until they are invited by the new government, the official said.

The U.N. Security Council was expected to vote Thursday on a draft resolution endorsing the West African regional force’s “all necessary measures” to remove Jammeh.

Barrow won the December election, defeating Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994. Jammeh initially conceded defeat but then changed his mind and said he would not accept the results, saying the election was marred by irregularities.

Jammeh has resisted strong international pressure for him to step down and allow Barrow to take office and allow a peaceful resolution to Gambia’s crisis. His mandate expired at midnight, and troops from Senegal and other countries in West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, have positioned themselves on Gambia’s border with the intention of forcing Jammeh out if he doesn’t agree to leave.

African nations began stepping away from Jammeh, with Botswana announcing it no longer recognized him as Gambia’s president. His refusal to hand over power “undermines the ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance” in Gambia and Africa in general, it said.

The African Union earlier announced that the continental body would no longer recognize Jammeh once his mandate expired.

The streets of Banjul were quiet Thursday, with few cars and scattered groups of men gathered on roadsides chatting under trees. Shops were closed and gasoline petrol was in short supply. Very few tourists remained in the resorts.

Jammeh declared a state of emergency this week, but there were no signs of military activity and fewer checkpoints than in previous days.

Thousands of Gambians have fled the country, including some former cabinet members who resigned in recent days. Hundreds of foreign tourists, including many from Britain and the Netherlands, were evacuated on special charter flights.

In Banjul, many residents said they are waiting for news of Barrow’s inauguration in neighboring Senegal.

“We are behind Barrow. We are not scared,” said taxi driver Boto Sane. “When we hear that everyone can go out (to celebrate safely), that he has returned, we will. For now we are calm.”

Another resident said the regional forces would be welcomed if it leads to peace.

“We welcome ECOWAS. We like that they are coming,” said taxi driver Tata Saidy. “We are waiting to hear that now, at this moment, the president is Barrow.”