Hours after the Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh left the country after 22 years in power, West African troops approached the capital to secure the arrival of President Adama Barrow from Senegal.
A Senegalese general leading a joint force of troops from five African countries said on Sunday that the soldiers entered the Gambia to control the strategic points to ensure the safety of the population and facilitate Barrow’s assumption of his role.
Witnesses in the Gambian border town of Farafenni saw a convoy crossing the frontier on Sunday morning. The Torch has confirmed that the soldiers have already entered into the capital.
Marcel Alain de Souza, a top official with the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) said pro-Jammeh mercenaries had opened fire as troops crossed the border. “They were neutralized,” he said in a statement.
The official also said Barrow must be in place “as soon as possible.”
“A country must have a government, but the security conditions required the troops we have sent to secure Banjul and other towns,” De Souza said.
President Barrow has said he would return to the Gambia once a security sweep is complete.
President Barrow’s spokesperson has confirmed to journalists that the regional forces will be coming but emphasized that they “should know that they are coming into a sovereign land with a sovereign people, sovereign security institutions and must make sure when coming, they first consult and engage in collaboration rather than taking full control”.
He reveled that a Gambian senior military personnel who is respected by the soldiers, know Gambian territory and the institutions, is to arrive in Banjul tomorrow for inspection together with regional forces and Gambia Arm Forces.
“We are expecting the aide tomorrow to be able to work with the security forces, security chiefs, in order to provide the guidance that is necessary so that the current security situation will be properly managed,” Sallah said, but refused to reveal the name.
Sallah said the troops will remain in the country for some time to help strengthen the security of the small nation in collaboration with Gambian security.
On January 19, the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution to ensure a transfer of power in the Gambia.
Jammeh flew to Equatorial Guinea following the UN decision with a set of assurances from the international community.
Jammeh left the country after finally conceding defeat in an election under increasing international pressure.
He lost the presidential election in December to Barrow but said he would not relinquish power, claiming that there had been irregularities in the vote and pushing the country to the edge of war.
On Saturday, some two days after the expiration of his mandate, Jammeh finally announced a decision “to relinquish the mantle of leadership” and, now with his exit from the Gambia, the way was paved for Barrow to return home from Senegal, where he was inaugurated on January 19.
Meanwhile, Sallah has also revealed that President Barrow will announce his cabinet tomorrow and will also work with the National Assembly to annul the declaration of the state of emergency in the country.