By Margaret Besheer….
The United Nations Security Council has recognized new Gambian leader Adama Barrow as that country’s legitimate president, despite longtime leader Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to give up power.
At least two international news agencies quoted a Senegalese army spokesman who said troops entered Gambia Thursday afternoon after Barrow took the oath of office in neighboring Senegal.
The 15-nation Security Council unanimously backed a Senegalese-drafted resolution condemning “in the strongest possible terms” attempts to prevent a peaceful and orderly transfer of power from Jammeh to Barrow, who is the recognized winner of the December 1, 2016 presidential election.
The president of the council, Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, said he spoke to President Barrow just before the meeting and told him that he has the full support of the Security Council.
The resolution we have just adopted gives political endorsement by the Security Council to the commitment of [West African bloc] ECOWAS and the African Union to ensure that the outcome of election is respected,” Skoog told reporters.
Skoog said the council’s message to Jammeh is that the will of the Gambian people and the Gambian constitution must be respected.
“It is our strong hope now that the former president Jammeh will now peacefully cede power to the democratically-elected president; his 5-year term is over,” he added.
Council members Egypt, Uruguay and Boliva stressed that the resolution in no way authorizes military force to install Barrow as president. However, as Barrow is now the legitimately-recognized president, he can request military assistance from ECOWAS without Security Council authorization.
Troops at the border
ECOWAS troops were positioned Thursday on the Senegal-Gambia border, as it appeared that regional mediation efforts to get President Jammeh to leave peacefully had failed.
ECOWAS and the African Union Peace and Security Council have called in separate communiques for “all necessary measures” to be taken to respect the will of the Gambian people regarding the election outcome. In diplomatic language, that often means the use of military force.
Liberia is the current ECOWAS chair and Liberian Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told VOA that military force is always the last resort, but that all options are on the table.
“ECOWAS’ position is very clear, that the mandate of the Gambian people … as expressed in the election … must be respected,” Nagbe said. “On Thursday, President-elect Barrow will be inaugurated and he will be recognized not just by ECOWAS but also by the African Union and the rest of the world.”
Gambian troops stand down
Inauguration in Exile
“The new era of Gambia is here at last,” Barrow said on Twitter ahead of his swearing in.
His inauguration was moved to the Gambian Embassy in neighboring Senegal, instead of in the Gambian capital, in the wake of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh’s repeated refusals to give up power.
“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget,” Barrow said at his inauguration. “This is the first time since the Gambia became independent in 1965 that Gambia have changed their government through the ballot box.”
Barrow won the country’s December 1 election. Jammeh, who once vowed to rule Gambia for “a billion years,” initially accepted the results, but changed his mind citing alleged voting irregularities.
On Twitter, the chairperson of the African Union, Dlamini Zuma, was among the first to congratulate Barrow as “the new President of The Gambia.”
A Nation on Edge
Gambian army chief Ousman Badjie told the French news agency Wednesday that his men will not resist other African forces if they cross the border.
“This is a political dispute,” he said. “I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight.”
President Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, retained his office in a series of elections until last month’s ballot.
Many Gambians say they are more than ready for a change in leadership.
Amnesty International and other major human-rights groups accuse Jammeh of having little tolerance for dissent; they say he has killed or jailed many opponents. He also has threatened to murder homosexuals and once ordered the kidnapping more than 1,000 villagers accused of being witches.