A West African military operation that pressured Gambia’s long-time leader, Yahya Jammeh, to step down and flee into exile has had its mandate extended by three months, the office of new President Adama Barrow said on Wednesday.
The ECOMIG confirmed on Thursday that they will reduce their troop to five hundred (500) men from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana starting from February 21, 2017.
“The gradual disengagement of land component forces, which should start no later than February 19, 2017, will occur after the departure from Gambia of the air and sea components,” ECOMIG said in a statement.
“This downscaling is a result of the Joint ECOWAS Heads of State and Government meeting on the situation in The Gambia, held on January 29, 2017 in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of the African Union Summit.”
Barrow won a Dec. 1 election but Jammeh, who had ruled since seizing power in a coup in 1994, refused to step down, forcing his opponent to be sworn in at the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring Senegal last month.
Barrow immediately asked regional bloc ECOWAS for assistance and West African troops quickly crossed into Gambia from Senegal, giving mediators the necessary leverage to negotiate Jammeh’s departure.
“President Barrow is glad to inform the general public that the standby force ECOMIG has integrated itself into the security and military fabric of the country,” the president’s office said in a statement.
“The Standby Force has had its mandate extended by three months subject to renewal.”
A senior United Nations official said late last month that Barrow had requested that the 7,000-troop strong ECOWAS force’s mandate be extended by six months.