West African troops were welcomed with cheers and chants of freedom, and Gambian soldiers do push-ups as a sign of respect as they march into the Gambia’s capital, Banjul and took their positions.
Gambia’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Ousman Bargie and former President Yahya Jammeh’s Chief of Staff Musa Jallow welcomed them to the State House, the official seat of the presidency.
“They are not an invading force. They are here to compliment the efforts of the Gambia’s armed and security service and we urge the public to cooperate and give them support,” CDS Bargie said.
The regional force is expected to clear the way for the return of the country’s newly elected President Adama Barrow, who earlier took refuge in nearby Senegal when Jammeh refused to leave office.
Barrow is waiting for an all clear to return to Banjul to take power.
No time frame had been announced by late Sunday for Barrow’s return, but a spokesman told reporters it would be “as soon as possible.” Marcel Alain de Souza said parts of Gambia’s security forces needed to be “Immobilized” ahead of Barrow’s return.
Former President Yahya Jammeh who ruled the country with an iron-fist for 22 years still has loyalists within the army, especially in the presidential guard unit.
Dozens of soldiers believed to have supported Mr. Barrow were arrested by forces loyal to Mr. Jammeh ahead of the arrival of ECOWAS forces.