Drama in Dakar as Barrow sworn as Gambia President
THE Gambia’s President Adama Barrow was sworn-in at the Gambian embassy in neighbouring Senegal yesterday as West African troops prepared to back him in a showdown with defiant incumbent Yahya Jammeh.
The real-estate developer-turned-politician was sworn by the President of Gambian Bar Association, Mr Sheriff Tambadou, at exactly 07:56 pm East African time at a ceremony attended by almost all United Nations Security Council states.
Reached for comment yesterday, Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, said he had no latest information regarding the situation in the West African country.
“I am currently travelling from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam and hence I have no latest information.
I will be in a position to comment on the matter tomorrow (today),” Dr Mahiga told this newspaper in a telephone interview.
The swearing in of Mr Barrow yesterday could trigger a military push into Gambia by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc, which has said it is ready to remove Mr Jammeh by force if he refuses to yield to Mr Barrow, winner of the presidential election in December.
In the most senior loss yet, Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy, who has been in the role since 1997, quit on Wednesday, a government source and a family member told Reuters.
A number of cabinet ministers in addition to chairperson of the election commission have deserted him and fled to Senegal.
President Jammeh who has been in power since a bloodless coup in 1994, initially conceded to Mr Barrow before he then back-tracked, saying the vote was flawed and there had to be a re-run.
Talks to convince him to stand down failed.
“We have confirmation.
It is very important to us that he will be sworn in today (yesterday).
Then we can make arrangements for him to go back to Gambia,” said Isatou Toure, a senior aide to Mr Barrow said.
There was a heavy security presence at the embassy yesterday afternoon. Embassy staff climbed onto the roof to replace the faded Gambian flag with a new one.
It was not clear how Mr Barrow will travel to Gambia. The capital, Banjul, was largely quiet yesterday with several military checkpoints in town and police circulated in trucks.
Shops, market stalls and banks remained closed.
ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) have said they will recognize Mr Barrow, not Mr Jammeh, from yesterday.
Senegal has deployed hundreds of soldiers to its shared border with Gambia while Nigeria has pre-positioned war planes and helicopters in Dakar, and sent a navy ship to the region.
It was unclear what Mr Jammeh’s next move would be.
He now faces almost total diplomatic isolation and a government that has all but collapsed from defections.
Senegal’s army had said on Wednesday it would be ready to cross into its smaller neighbor, which it surrounds while Ghana has also pledged troops for the operation.
However, a senior Nigerian military source told Reuters that regional forces would only act once Mr Barrow had been sworn in.
“What the Senegalese said about the midnight deadline was to put pressure on Jammeh. It was a show of muscle,” a diplomat in the region told Reuters.
The United Nations said at least 26,000 people fearing unrest have fled to Senegal and tour operators have sent charter jets to fly hundreds of European holiday makers out of the country. Jammeh, who once vowed to rule for “a billion years”, has so far ignored pressure to step aside and offers of exile.
He says the electoral commission was under the influence of “foreign forces”, and has challenged the result in the Supreme Court - which currently lacks the judges necessary to preside over it.
Gambians celebrated in the streets when Jammeh unexpectedly conceded to Barrow, a real estate developer who once worked as a security guard at an Argos store in London.
But a week later, the president changed his mind and security forces have cracked down on critics.
It was the latest in a long line of eccentricities from a leader who had said only Allah can remove him from office, claimed to have a herbal cure for AIDS that only works on Thursdays and threatened to slit the throats of homosexuals.
The Army Chief who pledged the loyalty of his troops to Jammeh earlier this year has said his troops will not fight any ‘invaders’ – as in the much talked about ECOWAS troops pooled from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.
“We are not going to involve ourselves militarily. This is a political dispute,” Ousman Badjie is reported to have said in Banjul on Wednesday night.
I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men,” he is quoted as having said.