The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced plans to send in troops to oust Gambian President Yahya Jammeh should he refuse to leave office on January 19th, 2017. According to the BBC, the Chairman of ECOWAS, Marcel Alain de Souza, said Senegalese troops will lead an ECOWAS intervention team in removing Jammeh from office by force if he refuses to step down.
“The deadline is January 19th when the mandate of Jammeh ends. If he is not going, we have stand-by forces already alerted, and these stand-by forces have to be able to intervene to restore the people’s wish.
“Senegal has been selected by its peers to lead the operations, but we do not wish to start a conflict. If he loves his people, he has to be able to negotiate an exit door calmly. If it doesn’t happen, the most radical means will be used.”
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After 22 years in office, Jammeh lost the December 1st presidential election to his main opposition challenger, Adama Barrow, of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who was backed by a coalition of seven political parties. At the announcement of the official election results, Jammeh initially conceded defeat, but then the following week he rejected the results, saying that the polls were marred with irregularities.
Gambia is bordered on three sides by its much larger neighbor, Senegal, and over the years, relations between the countries two have suffered repeated strains, mainly due to Jammeh’s open disregard for democratic institutions and his blatant non-observance of the law.
Last week, a delegation of West African heads of government, including Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, visited Gambia to urge Jammeh to accept the election result, respect the will of the Gambian people, and step aside.
Jammeh has equally responded by bashing the ECOWAS planned intervention, describing it as a clear violation of the organization’s principle of non-interference. In a speech delivered to the African Bar Association on Tuesday, he pivoted towards a nationalist posture.
“Who are they to tell me to leave my country? I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure justice is done.
“I’m a man of peace, but I cannot also be a coward. I am a man of peace, but that does not also mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country and defend my country courageously, patriotically, and win.”