Gambian crisis: Jammeh given last chance to resign as troops close in

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*President Barrow as he takes oath of office at The Gambian Embassy in Senegal *Photo credit: AFP

As Saraki, Ekweremadu, Utazi differ on Nigeria’s deployment of troops to The Gambia

West African leaders have given Yahya Jammeh a final opportunity to relinquish power after Senegalese troops entered The Gambia.

Mr. Jammeh has been given until noon on Friday to leave office or be forced out by UN-backed regional forces.

Troops have been told to halt their advance until the deadline passes.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is acting in support of Adama Barrow, who was sworn in as the new Gambian president on Thursday.

His legitimacy as president, after winning last month’s election, has been recognised internationally.

Last-ditch mediation talks, led by Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, are due on Friday morning.

Chairman of the EECOWAS commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, said that if the meeting with Mr. Conde proved unsuccessful, militarily action would follow.

“If by midday, he (Mr. Jammeh) doesn’t agree to leave The Gambia under the banner of President Conde, we really will intervene militarily,” he said.

ECOWAS was said that its forces had encountered no resistance after entering The Gambia on Thursday.

Troops from Senegal and other West African countries crossed into The Gambia after an initial deadline for Mr. Jammeh to stand down passed with his resignation.

Mr. Barrow, who remains in Senegal, has said that he will not return to Gambia’s capital, Banjul, until the military operation had ended.

The threat by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to remove Mr. Jammeh by force is supported by the 15-member UN Security Council, although the council has stressed that a political solution should be the priority.

A Senegalese army spokesman, Col. Abdou Ndiaye, told the BBC that troops who were now in The Gambia were prepared to fight if necessary.

“It is already war, if we find any resistance, we will fight it,” he said, adding: “If there are people who are fighting for the former president, we will fight them.”

But Col Ndiaye said the main goal of ECOWAS was to restore democracy and to allow the newly-elected president to take power.

In his inaugural speech at the Gambian embassy in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, President Barrow ordered all members of The Gambia’s armed forces to remain in their barracks.

Any found illegally bearing arms would be considered “rebels” he said.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption, Chukwuka Utazi have disagreed over the deployment of Nigerian troops to The Gambia without Senate approval.

Utazi, (PDP, Enugu North) relying on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules and Section 5(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari erred by deploying troops outside the country without securing any permission from the Senate.

Also relying on Section 5(4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Ekweremadu said the president could not deploy troops outside the country without any prior approval from the National Assembly.

But while responding, Saraki faulted Utazi’s claims and argued that Buhari was still acting within the confines of the law. He said the president could deploy troops, as long as the operation does not exceed seven days.

Quoting Section 5(5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Saraki maintained that until the expiration of seven days, no one can fault the action of the president.

BBC, The GUARDIAN

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