WEST AFRICAN FORCES ON ALERT IN CASE GAMBIA’S JAMMEH HANGS ON
West Africa's regional bloc has put standby forces on alert in case Gambian president Yahya Jammeh does not step down when his mandate ends on Jan. 19, ECOWAS commission president Marcel de Souza said.
Jammeh has vowed to stay in power despite losing a Dec. 1 election to rival Adama Barrow, raising the possibility that regional powers may intervene to oust him if diplomacy does not succeed in persuading him to leave.
"We have put standby forces on alert if he does not (step down) on Jan. 19 when his mandate ends," De Souza said on Malian state television on Thursday evening.
"No one has the right to oppose the will of the people."
Barrow's surprise victory and Jammeh's initial decision to concede after 22 years in power was seen across Africa as a moment of hope. But the president changed his mind a week later and said again on Tuesday that he would not step down, rebuffing efforts by West African leaders to persuade him.
Jammeh's camp could not immediately be reached for comment, but he has said the electoral count was flawed and that ECOWAS has no right to meddle in Gambia's internal affairs.
The regional bloc has mandated Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari as mediator to offer Jammeh an "honourable exit", but if he does not take it then forces might be deployed, De Souza said.
The BBC quoted De Souza as saying in an interview that Senegalese troops would lead any military intervention. Senegal is Gambia's only territorial neighbour and has a frequently stormy relationship with the country, having sent troops there during a 1981 coup.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK