West African bloc tells Jammeh to cede presidency or face ouster

Veteran Gambian leader Yahyah Jammeh has refused to concede the presidency after electoral defeat in December. Gambian government sources say the veteran leader has asked the ECOWAS group to extend the deadline for him to leave office until 1600 GMT.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Adama Barrow (R) shakes hands with foreign diplomats after he was sworn in as Gambia's president at his country's embassy in Senegal, January 19, 2017.

Updated Jan 21, 2017

The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has given veteran Gambian leader Yahyah Jammeh a last chance to cede the presidency.

The leaders of Guinea and Mauritania, who are longtime allies of Jammeh, headed to Gambia for talks with the longtime ruler ahead of a 1200 GMT deadline Friday for him to leave power or face an advance by regional forces on the capital. 

The deadline passed but a Senegalese presidential source said the forces would wait for the end of talks between Jammeh and the two leaders before taking further action.

Gambian government sources said the veteran leader has asked the ECOWAS group to extend the deadline for him to leave office until 1600 GMT.

Jammeh refused earlier this week to hand over power when his mandate ran out, after opposition leader Adama Barrow defeated him in December's presidential election.

Barrow was sworn in as president of Gambia on Thursday at his country's embassy in neighbouring Senegal.

Social media carried messages of congratulations.

After taking the oath of office, Barrow requested foreign assistance to assume the presidency. The UN Security Council and ECOWAS have endorsed Barrow's presidency.

ECOWAS, a regional bloc of 15 states including Gambia, has instructed Senegal to lead an intervention if Jammeh does not peacefully hand over power. The regional bloc says its forces, that involves 7,000 troops, has already entered Gambia from the southeast, southwest and north.

TRT World's Shoaib Hasan has more details.

Residents fleeing

Earlier on Friday, the UN refugee agency UNHCR cited figures from the Senegalese government according to which political turmoil in Gambia had driven about 45,000 people, mainly children, to flee into Senegal since January 1.

"The next few days will be critical and more people may leave the country if the current situation is not resolved peacefully soon," UNHCR said in a statement adding that Senegalese authorities had prepared aid for 100,000 arrivals.

The statement further said that another "800 people have crossed into Guinea-Bissau."

TRTWorld and agencies