The U.S. has asked its citizens to leave the West African nation of The Gambia and will be evacuating embassy staff and their families amid rising political tension.
The U.S. is encouraging its citizens to consider leaving since evacuation of large numbers would be difficult. U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia Patricia Alsup said if an evacuation takes place, probably by bus, it would be to Senegal and not to the United States.
U.S. Embassy staff will be reduced to only eight.
The tensions erupted after President Yahya Jammeh refused to leave power. He suffered a shocking defeat in the hands of a businessman, Adama Barrow, who the U.S. is now backing.
The international community and locals have urged Jammeh to step down but the standoff continues with Jammeh challenging the outcome of the results in the Supreme Court. At least six foreign judges are due in Banjul to deliberate over the petition.
Next Tuesday may see tensions heightened if the court rules in favor of Jammeh. Jammeh has a January 18 deadline to hand over to Mr. Barrow or will be bent to leave by an ECOWAS standby force that would be upholding the results and restoring constitutional rule in The Gambia.
Reports are rife that Mr. Jammeh is hiring former rebels in Ivory Coast and Liberia to help in thwart the international military intervention. The country’s military chief has pledged allegiance to Jammeh and assured him of the deeply divided military’s loyalty.