The Gambia’s neighbor Senegal will lead an ECOWAS military intervention in The Gambia to enforce the outcome of the country’s December 1 presidential polls.
Senegal surrounds The Gambia on all three sides except for the West where there is a short Atlantic coastline.
The troops are on alert to intervene, says ECOWAS Commission President Marcel de Souza, if President Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down next month.
“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.”
ECOWAS has used military intervention in other West African nations, notably Mali and Guinea Bissau.
Jammeh has called himself a man of peace but says that does not mean he will not defend himself “courageously, patriotically and win.”
Jammeh has filed a legal petition in court in which he seeks to have the elections annulled and fresh polls under a new electoral commission held.
International and local pressure have been mounting on Jammeh to step down and for Gambian forces loyal to the longtime ruler to end its occupation of the electoral commission office.
At least a dozen of his ambassadors including envoys to the EU, UN, AU, U.S., and China have urged him to step down and allow a peaceful transfer of power.
Senegalese troops intervened in The Gambia in 1981 after a Marxist leader Kukoi Samba Sanyang overthrew the government of Sir Dawda Jawara.
Jammeh came to power through a military coup and risk being prosecuted for crimes against the state and human rights abuses. Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow said Jammeh will not be prosecuted, according to spokesperson Halifa Sallah.
“If he is not going, we have standby forces already alerted and these stand-by forces have to be able to intervene to restore the people’s wish,” Souza said.