Major General Francois Ndiaye, the head of ECOWAS operations in Gambia, said Kanilai, the birth place of ex-president Yahya Jammeh, is a private residence and military presence there will be ended.
The head of the ECOWAS military mission in The Gambia Monday told local journalists they have not found any security threat at the country’s presidential compound, State House.
Gambia online media and local newspapers last week reported chemicals were found in the air conditioners at State House, meant to poison future occupants.
“I went to the State House and asked them to put on the ACs (Air Conditioner) at my own risks… Today I am talking to you. So that means there is no chemical there… There were some pesticides and it is possible to make mistakes thinking that pesticides are chemicals,” Major General Francois Ndiaye, a Senegalese national, said.
“So it is false for the time being… We are waiting for ECOWAS experts to come there and crosscheck but as a military, I don’t think there is chemical there.”
Gambian President Adama Barrow whose rival ex-president Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after losing an election was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal.
Since his coming into the country, he has been staying at his residence and his team said he will be there until the State House is properly sanitized, though details about their concerns or suspicion were not revealed to the media.
The regional leaders have placed a number of 7000 troops including naval forces, air forces and ground troops to oust Yahya Jammeh if he refused to step down after his term expired on January 19.
But Jammeh was later persuaded to leave without any confrontation and Ndiaye said they are now reducing the size of their forces because of the encouraging security situation.
“…We entered this country with purpose, to fight and change the head of state. Now that the security situation is improving, there is no need for us to use fighter jets, tanks and all other things. The Gambia arm forces have been very cooperative. We are now controlling the ammunitions and the weapons. So there is no need for us to stay any longer with those heavy weapons… That is why we are downsizing gradually,” he said.
“The fighter jets will fly back to Nigeria… The Offshore Patrol Vessels that were deployed from Nigeria and Senegal will also return.”
Ndiaye also revealed that they are opening the Gambia ports for commercial operation after locking it down for a number of days during the crisis.
He said the Senegalese ground troops that entered Gambia from its eastern border with neighbours and from the Seeleti area will “return soon”.
Controlling arsenals, Kanilai
Ndiaye said they have not had a single resistance from Gambian forces in any part of the country when they entered and that the birth place of Yahya Jammeh, Kanilai, is under their control.
“There was no resistance there. When our troops reached there, the general there, General Savage came to meet them at the roundabout at Kanfenda. They shook hands and went into the compound. All the ammunitions and weapons are all under ECOWAS custody…,” Ndiaye said.
“I don’t want to unveil it here but there is plan for Kanilai… Kanilai is a private residence. There shouldn’t be any military there… In the coming days, you will see that there will be no more military there.”
He said currently all “ammunitions and weapons” are under the control of the regional forces.
Meanwhile, Ndiaye confirmed to journalists that four Gambian forces who have accompanied the ex-first lady Zeinab Jammeh outside the country were arrested by regional troops while returning into The Gambia by land borders.
“There were soldiers who accompanied the first lady and they were arrested when coming back…,” he said while declining to reveal names.
The mandate of the ECOWAS forces is to “take all necessary measure to ensure the safety of President Adama Barrow and the population” and also ensure that he successfully takes over power and govern without any security problem.