World

Gambian Ministers Desert Jammeh as West African States Prepare for Military Action

Yahya Jammeh
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (C) leaves the polling booth after casting his vote in the presidential election in a polling station, in Banjul on December 1, 2016. Several ministers have resigned from Jammeh's government ahead of the planned inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow on Thursday. MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty

Several senior ministers in the Gambian government have reportedly resigned, leaving President Yahya Jammeh increasingly isolated as he resists the planned inauguration of his successor on Thursday.

The ministers of foreign affairs, finance and trade have all tendered their resignations, according to the Gambian opposition Fatu Network news site. The country’s environment minister has also stepped down, Reuters reported.

The resignations come ahead of the planned inauguration of Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in a shock result in the December 2016 election. Jammeh has rejected the election result and refused to leave office, with West African countries preparing a military intervention in case of the longtime Gambian leader attempting to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate, according to reports.

Regional body the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened to send an intervention force into Gambia if necessary, while Nigeria and other West African countries are also said to be preparing troops. Nigeria has asked the United Kingdom to assist with training 800 of its soldiers as part of a joint force, the Financial Times reported.

A copy of the resignation letter of Foreign Minister Neneh MacDouall-Gaye has circulated on social media. In the letter, the minister wrote: “After due deliberation, I am of the conviction that under the prevailing circumstances I cannot effectively serve as foreign minister.” Gambia’s information and sports ministers also resigned last week, according to the Fatu Network.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also the chairperson of ECOWAS, has led a team of heads of state that have made several visits to Gambia in a bid to negotiate a peaceful transition on January 19. Nigerian parliamentarians have even voted to offer Jammeh asylum in their country should he agree to step aside, but the former army officer—who seized power in Gambia in 1994 in a military coup—has rejected all calls to leave power.

Jammeh filed an appeal against the election result to Gambia’s Supreme Court in December 2016, having initially accepted his defeat before making a U-turn one week later. But the court has not sat for over a year, and Nigerian and Sierre Leonean judges drafted in by Jammeh are not available to hear the appeal until May.

The president said in a televised call with Sirleaf Sunday that he had filed an injunction to block the chief justice, or any other Gambian authority, from carrying out Barrow’s inauguration, which is scheduled to take place in the country’s national stadium in the capital Banjul. Sirleaf told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program that Jammeh had played a “ruse” on her by broadcasting the conversation and that the constitution of the country “must be respected.”

Barrow is currently in Dakar, Senegal, where he will remain until Thursday. The president-elect has experienced a personal tragedy after his eight-year-old son died on Sunday after being mauled by a dog near Banjul.

Barrow was unable to attend his son’s funeral following advice from ECOWAS to remain in Senegal for his own safety, the BBC reported.

The president-elect attended a Franco-African summit in Mali over the weekend and was pictured shaking hands with French President Francois Hollande.

The president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said that he hoped “African wisdom” would convince Jammeh to step down on January 19 for “the greater good for Gambia, which does not need a bloodbath."

Editor's Pick