A new Gambian president has been sworn into office in neighbouring Senegal while the Gambia’s defeated longtime ruler refuses to step down, deepening a political crisis in the west African country.
Adama Barrow was inaugurated on Thursday in a hastily arranged ceremony at the Gambia’s embassy in Senegal. The embassy room held about 40 people, including Senegal’s prime minister and the head of the Gambia’s electoral commission.
A huge TV screen broadcast the swearing in ceremony to several hundred people watching outside. “This is a day no Gambian will ever forget,” said Barrow, dressed in a flowing white robe.
Also at the event were officials from west Africa’s regional bloc, Ecowas, which is threatening to invade the Gambia to force the outgoing president, Yahya Jammeh, to step down.
The UN security council was set to vote later on Thursday on a draft resolution endorsing the west African regional force’s efforts to remove Jammeh.
Jammeh was at his official residence, State House, in Banjul, the Gambia’s capital, and intended to stay there, said an official close to the administration. He added that the regional force would have to arrest him there.
Many of Jammeh’s loyalists at State House will resist, the official added. But the Gambia’s army, estimated at well below 5,000 troops, is divided over its loyalties to Jammeh, and those not sympathetic to him will not leave until they are invited by the new government, the official said.
Barrow won the December election, defeating Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994. Jammeh initially conceded defeat but then changed his mind and said he would not accept the results, saying the election was marred by irregularities.
Jammeh has resisted strong international pressure for him to step down. His mandate expired at midnight.
African nations began stepping away from Jammeh, with Botswana announcing it no longer recognised him as the Gambia’s president. His refusal to hand over power “undermines the ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance” in the Gambia and Africa in general, it said.
The African Union earlier announced that the continental body would no longer recognise Jammeh once his mandate expired.