Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow, was sworn in at the country’s embassy in neighboring Senegal, as forces amassed at the border to force incumbent Yahya Jammeh to step down after his election defeat in December.
Barrow, a real estate developer who has never held public office, has been in Senegal since the weekend, when he attended a summit of African leaders who back his victory. He was advised to remain in Senegal for his safety.
“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget in a lifetime,” Barrow said in a speech immediately after being sworn in.
— Adama Barrow (@adama_barrow) January 19, 2017
Jammeh, who has ruled since a bloodless coup in 1994, has refused to step down, despite threats of military intervention, international condemnation, and an emptying cabinet.
At least 26,000 people have fled Gambia for Senegal since the start of the crisis, UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday. Shops and businesses in Banjul, Gambia’s capital, remain closed.
Tour companies have chartered planes to evacuate tourists from beach
side resorts. Gambia’s sandy beaches are a popular European vacation destination.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Jammeh, all political actors, and their supporters to “fully respect the outcome of the election and to resolve all disputes that may arise from the electoral process through established legal procedures in an expeditious and transparent manner.”
He also repeated his earlier call for a “peaceful, timely and orderly transfer of power.”
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution backing West African intervention. They stressed, however, that political means should be pursued first.
The decision came as the Nigerian and Senegalese armies said they were deploying troops to Gambia as part of an operation by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS.
In his inauguration speech, Barrow ordered Gambia’s armed forces to stay in their barracks and “support the motherland”. He warned that those found illegally holding arms will be considered rebels.
Gambia’s army currently number around 2,500.
Al Jazeera reported that troops from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Togo are at the borders, waiting for the go ahead to intervene.
Vice President Isatou Njie Saidi quit on Thursday, becoming the highest level official to abandon Jammeh’s government. At least eight ministers have resigned, saying they no longer stand with Jammeh.
Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the Dec 1 elections, but later changed his mind, claiming there were irregularities, saying that the vote was flawed and that the electoral committee was under the influence of “foreign forces”. He has challenged the vote in Supreme Court; however, there are not enough judges to for a decision.
Earlier this week, Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency. On Wednesday, Gambia’s national assembly passed a resolution that extends Jammeh’s term by 90 days.
The African Union announced this week that it would not recognize Jammeh once his mandate had expired.
This is the latest in Jammeh’s many eccentricities. Ten years ago he claimed that he could cure AIDS with special herbal medicine that he used on patients on Thursdays. He also claimed to cure asthma.
In 2015, he threatened to slit the throat of homosexuals in the country. He has also claimed that only Allah can remove him from office and that he would rule for “a billion years”.