The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has confirmed that it has deployed assets to Senegal in case they are needed to enforce Gambia’s election mandate.
The mandate requires Gambia’s president, Yahya Jammeh, to step down by the end of his term on Jan 19, 2017, after he lost the Dec 1, 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow, who has been recognized by neighbouring countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as the president-elect.
“The NAF today moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, light utility helicopter as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar from where it is expected to operate into Gambia,” the NAF director of public relations, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said Wednesday.
“The deployment is also to forestall hostilities or breakdown of law and order that may result from the current political impasse in Gambia.”
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar addressed the airmen before their departure at the New Bussa air base in Niger State. The contingent is being led by Air Commodore Tajudeen Yusuf.
Other countries contributing troops include Senegal, Ghana and countries within the sub-region.
Senegal’s forces are already at the Gambian border and will enter the country if President Yahya Jammeh does not step down when his official mandate ends at midnight, Jan 19.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz arrived Banjul on Wednesday to talk to Jammeh, Gambian state TV said. It was the last mediation effort to persuade Jammeh to step down to defuse an imminent declaration of war.
Jammeh has refused to step down, though unconfirmed reports indicated that he has made arrangements for his children and wife to leave Banjul.
Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, said the country’s troops are at the border, ready to move into Gambia by midnight. “We are ready and are awaiting the deadline at midnight. If no political solution is found, we will step in,” Ndiaye said.
Senegal’s statement raises the prospect of armed confrontation between forces loyal to the president who has ruled Gambia for 22 years and Senegal, which surrounds the tiny country on three sides.
Senegal has circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member United Nations Security Council seeking its “full support to the ECOWAS in its commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect of the will of the people of The Gambia”.