You will remember that I asked whether West Africa would turn to its armed forces to end President Jammeh’s refusal to step down after losing the election. [See below]
Now it seems that the West African leaders have decided to act.
This is a critical moment for the region and for the African Union’s claim to refuse to allow illegitimate authority.
Gambia crisis: Senegal troops ‘on alert’ if Jammeh stays on
Source: BBC Africa
Senegal’s troops are on alert to intervene in The Gambia if President Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down next month, the regional bloc Ecowas says.
Mr Jammeh initially accepted defeat in the 1 December poll, but later said it was flawed.
The Ecowas chairman said Senegal had been chosen to lead operations “to restore the people’s wishes” if needed.
Mr Jammeh, who has ruled for 22 years, has lodged a case before the Supreme Court to annul the vote after the electoral commission changed some results.
The commission insists the outcome was not affected by an initial error and that property developer Adama Barrow won the poll and should be inaugurated on 19 January.
Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the Ecowas commission, said Mr Jammeh had until that date to comply with its mediators.
“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,” he said.
The Gambia, a former British colony, is surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
“Senegal has been selected by its peers to lead the operations but we do not wish to start a conflict,” Mr de Souza said.
“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.”
The BBC’s Umaru Fofana, who has been reporting from The Gambia, says Mr Jammeh’s defiant comments earlier this week make it clear that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, appointed chief mediator by Ecowas, has a fine line to tread.
Mr Jammeh said that although he was a “man of peace”, that did not mean he would not defend himself and the country “courageously, patriotically and win”.
The stalemate is already taking a huge toll on the economy of the small West African country, which is popular with tourists, with the Chamber of Commerce saying businesses have been badly affected, our reporter says.
The Supreme Court says it will hear a case brought by Mr Jammeh’s party to cancel the result on 10 January.
President Jammeh, 51, seized power in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.
The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.
According to the electoral commission’s final count:
- Mr Barrow won 222,708 votes (43.3%)
- President Jammeh took 208,487 (39.6%)
- A third-party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 89,768 (17.1%)
Results were revised by the electoral commission on 5 December, when it emerged that the ballots for one area had been added incorrectly.
Let’s assume the worst comes to the worst.
President Yahya Jammeh refuses to listen to the United Nations, African Union or his West African fellow heads of state.
instead he digs in his heels and demands that another “improved” election is held.
In other words, he lives up to his pledge to rule for a “billion years.”
The question then is: will the expensive security architecture established under the African Union be brought into play.
This is the African Standby Force (ASF) and its regional components.
This is what the ASF is meant to do:
The ambition is for the ASF to stop conflict, restore peace, prevent crises from escalating and conduct peacekeeping missions. It will also be considered for humanitarian missions.
An important success factor will be the ASF’s rapid deployment capability, with as many as 12 500 trained and equipped military, police and civilian personnel ready for action, anywhere in Africa, within 14 days of a crisis being identified and a commitment made to act on it. This should be followed by a force of up to 5 000 personnel within 90 days, capable of self-sustainment for 30 days.
It seems pretty clear that the Gambian situation is exactly what the ASF was meant to prevent, so what chance that it will be sent into action?