Gambians fleeing capital anticipating violence

Gambians fleeing capital anticipating violence

Gambians are fleeing island capital of the West African nation, Banjul for fear of violence in coming days as defiant defeated President Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power to internationally recognized and locally-backed elected President Adama Barrow.

Security is tightening and reports say President Yahya Jammeh is actively hiring rebels in border towns between Ivory Coast and Liberia to help him thwart international efforts to enforce the outcome of the elections.

West African leaders are holding off on sending troops to the country as they negotiate with outgoing President Jammeh to relinquish power.

Many foreign nationals are already leaving and sending their families out anticipating violence.

A local official at one of the busiest commercial vehicle garages in Serrekunda said that lots of people are leaving for Guinea Conakry, Senegal, and other rural communities in provincial Gambia.

People are fleeing not just from the capital but from many urban cities that were identified as hot spots for post-electoral violence. Guineans and Senegalese nationals have left key cities in large numbers and closed their businesses, putting a hole into the already suffering economy.

Gambia has never experienced war since her independence in 1965 though it witnessed a mutiny led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang in 1981 where hundreds of people have lost their lives.

Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the December 1 election. But a week later, he reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.

(Reporting by Alhagie Jobe; Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)

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