Robbie gramer with Agency Report
While the world braces for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration
on Friday, another inauguration in West Africa has regional leaders
worried: Gambia’s. West African countries are reportedly preparing for
a military intervention in Gambia if President Yahya Jammeh refuses to
step down on Thursday, the day that his successor Adama Barrow was
scheduled to take office.
Jammeh, who initially conceded the election to Barrow in a surprise
defeat in December, has since reneged his offer to step down, and may
be preparing for a fight to stay in office. On Tuesday, Jammeh, who
has ruled the tiny and impoverished Gambia for over two decades,
declared a state of national emergency in light of what he called “the
unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference” in the
Dec. 1 election he lost.
The state of emergency puts the country on lockdown, banning “acts of
disobedience” and “acts intended to disturb the public order.” He’s
also shored up power in the country’s supreme court and national
assembly, which are considered mere extensions of the one-man regime.
“Jammeh is digging in for a long fight here,” Gambia expert Jeffrey
Smith told Foreign Policy.
There may be will in neighboring countries to send in troops to remove
him by force. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
members, including Nigeria and Gambia’s neighbor Senegal, are
reportedly preparing troops. On Tuesday, Nigeria deployed a warship
off the coast of Gambia. A source in the Nigerian military told
Reuters his country and other West African countries were readying for
And any fight may not last as long as Jammeh hopes. His country’s tiny
military likely wouldn’t fare well in a fight with neighboring
militaries, Smith said — if it even fought at all. “The rank and file
troops don’t support [Jammeh],” Smith said. “His firm grip on security
forces is exaggerated.”
Reading the tea leaves, three of Jammeh’s ministers, including his
foreign minister, resigned and thousands of Gambians have fled to
Senegal and nearby Guinea-Bissau in expectation of a violent showdown.
Jammeh’s ouster could relieve West Africa of one of its most
problematic, violent, and bizarre dictators. Jammeh, who’s led
state-sanctioned witch hunts, claims he can cure AIDS, and lists
“Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska” on his official
resume, is is a black mark on West Africa’s economic and political
“He’s not your average president — African or otherwise,” Smith said.