Tensions rise in The Gambia

Tensions rise in The Gambia

Gambia’s Adama Barrow was supposed to assume office on Thursday, but no longer. Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who’s ruled Gambia

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Gambia’s Adama Barrow was supposed to assume office on Thursday, but no longer.

Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who’s ruled Gambia for 22 years, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, citing ‘foreign interference’ in the Dec. 1 election he lost. On Wednesday, the country’s parliament extended the state of emergency and Jammeh’s presidential term by 90 days.

Previously, Adama Barrow insisted he’d go ahead with his inauguration ceremony regardless of the incumbent president’s intransigence, but Wednesday’s developments make this unlikely.

Jammeh’s refusal to stand aside is concerning for the country of 1.9 million. West African bloc ECOWAS has repeatedly called for the president to resign to head off political violence. On Wednesday, it appeared regional powers had begun ratcheting up the pressure.

Nigeria confirmed it had put hundreds of troops on standby and sent a warship towards Gambia for a “training” exercise. The US says it backs the ECOWAS position and refused to rule out providing military and logistical support to any potential regional intervention.

Thousands of tourists and non-essential business people have begun evacuating to neighbouring Senegal in recent days, as have many Gambians. If political protests break out in the coming days, expect violence to flare in the self-styled “smiling coast of Africa”.