The Gambia’s new president has declared that the “rule of fear” is over in the country, but it was unclear whether his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, had agreed to relinquish power and go into exile.
Addressing members of the Gambian diaspora in the capital of Senegal on Friday night, Adama Barrow said: “The rule of fear [has vanished] from the Gambia for good.”
But it remained unclear if Jamme, who ignored multiple deadlines to quit, had agreed to the terms under which he would cede power to Barrow.
Earlier on Friday, a post on Barrow’s Twitter account said that Jammeh had stepped down and would be leaving the country.
As midday and 4pm deadlines for Jammeh’s departure passed on Friday, two regional leaders arrived in the capital, Banjul, in a last-ditch diplomatic effort. Mauritania’s president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and Guinea’s Alpha Condé, as well as the UN’s regional chief, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, made a final attempt to persuade Jammeh to go without a fight.
A regional military force that crossed the border in support of Barrow was awaiting orders on Friday. Marcel Alain de Souza, chair of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), said troops would force Jammeh out if he refused to leave the country.
General Ousman Badjie, the Gambia’s chief of defence staff, said there would be no war, as a political crisis should be resolved politically.
“When our brothers [from the regional Ecowas force] come, we’ll welcome them with a cup of tea, and they’ll put down their weapons, and we’ll enjoy the smiling coast of Africa,” he said. Badjie’s allegiance appears to have shifted from Jammeh to Barrow in recent days. “Why should we fight for everything? I love my soldiers and I love the Gambian people,” he said.
Jammeh’s security forces have also begun to desert him.
“Nobody wants to die for this,” a source close to the presidency said, adding that many Jungulars, Jammeh’s loyalists who are known to carry out his orders to torture and kill, had left the president’s side.
Gambian soldiers guarding the capital said they were disgruntled with Jammeh. “How can I be fine when I have been here since 4am and I’m hungry?” asked a soldier on the airport road. In his inauguration speech, Barrow gave the military assurances that he would pay them well.