Gambia President Jammeh declares states of emergency in refusing to hand power to rival
West African countries prepare military intervention to push Jammeh out
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, state television said, after refusing to hand power to opposition leader Adama Barrow who won an election on December 1.
The terms of the state of emergency and its implications for Barrow’s inauguration on Thursday were not immediately known.
But the declaration appears to represent a hardening of Jammeh’s position. Opposition leaders say an emergency could allow the government to cancel or postpone Barrow’s inauguration.
“I...hereby declare a state of public emergency throughout the Islamic Republic of Gambia,” the declaration said.
Jammeh took power in a coup in 1994 and his government gained a reputation for torturing and killing of perceived opponents. Pro-democracy activists across Africa welcomed his defeat and his refusal to step down has provoked a test of mettle for regional leaders.
Nigeria and other West African countries are preparing to intervene militarily and the ministers of finance, foreign affairs, trade and the environment have resigned from the government, according to ministry sources and state television.
In addition, hundreds of Gambians have fled into Senegal, Gambia’s only neighbour. Gambia has had just two presidents since independence from Britain in 1965.
“The chiefs of defence staff of West African countries met yesterday (Monday) to discuss strategies on the best way to get Yahya Jammeh out,” a senior Nigerian military source said.
“Some West African countries will be contributing troops, including Nigeria, for the operation,” said the source, adding that the United Nations and African Union had offered support to regional body ECOWAS for the plan.
State television said on Monday that Finance Minister Abdou Kolley was being replaced by Benjamin Roberts, the Minister of Tourism. Finance ministry sources said on Tuesday Roberts had also resigned.
Ministry sources said other government figures, including Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, had left the government and the country. The mayor of the capital Banjul has also resigned, according to sources at the city council.
The departures follow the resignation of the communications minister last week.
Hundreds have crossed into Senegal, fearing for their safety because of the turmoil, and Senegalese authorities have increased security.
“We are scared. There are soldiers with guns all the time,” said Awa Sanneh, 25, from Birkama in Gambia, who was leaving with two children and 24 other family members.
The Senegalese town of Diouloulou, 12 kms (7 miles) south of the border point of Seleti, has seen 650 Gambians cross since Christmas and the flow has increased in recent days, the mayor’s office said.