Military action looms in Gambia as ECOWAS Defence Chiefs meet in Nigeria
The Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, on Saturday, held a meeting with colleagues from other West African countries as part of preparation for the inauguration of an ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) for the Gambia.
The meeting, held at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, was in readiness for a possible military action in the Gambia should President Yahya Jammeh makes real his threat not to step down when his tenure expires on January 19.
Welcoming the participants and ECOWAS officials to Nigeria, Olonisakin, expressed the readiness of regional leaders and military commanders to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the political leaders of Gambia and ensure peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Gambian’s constitution and the peoples will.
Although no communique was issued at the end of the meeting, a statement published on the website of the Defence Headquarters listed notable dignitaries at the event to include the chairperson of ECOWAS Chief of Defence Staffs, Daniel Ziankahn of Liberia (Brigadier General); CH Gueye of Senegal; ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Hajiya Salamatu; Vice President of the Commission; the Ghanian Chief of Defence Staff and principal staff officers from Defence, Army, Navy, and Air Force headquarters.
The meeting held as Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, said that ECOWAS would ask the Security Council to approve the deployment of troops to The Gambia if Jammeh refuses to cede power.
Also, the African Union declared that it will cease to recognise Jammeh as the nation’s legitimate president as of Jan. 19.
It was recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had led a three-nation delegation to Banjul earlier in the day, which his foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama admitted had not succeeded in getting long-time Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to step down.
Buhari then left Banjul, capital of The Gambia to Mali, taking Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow along to join other world leaders at the 27th Africa-France Summit in Bamako Mali on Saturday where Barrow was referred to as president.
Jammeh’s tenure ends 19 January. And both ECOWAS and the AU have said he would cease to be the leader of West Africa’s smallest country by 20 January.
Meanwhile, thousands of Gambians, mostly women and children, have already crossed the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, where they do not require a visa.