Gambia's Jammeh asks for deadline extension to leave power


The Gambia’s strongman Yahya Jammeh has asked for an extension of deadline for him to leave power from midday until 4pm, government sources have said, as the leaders of Guinea and Mauritania arrived in the capital, Banjul, in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to get him to cede power.

A regional military force that crossed the border in support of his democratically elected successor, Adama Barrow, was awaiting orders on Friday. Marcel Alain de Souza, chair of the west African union Ecowas, said troops would force Jammeh out if he refused to leave the country.

The west African troops entered the Gambia on Thursday night, hours after Barrow was forced to hold his inauguration as president in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. De Souza said the west African force, which includes tanks, has so far met no resistance.

Jammeh, who ruled the west African state for 22 years and tried to extend his tenure despite losing to Barrow, is still in State House [the president’s official residence] in the capital and is attempting to make a last-minute deal to ease his way out, according to sources close to the government. Earlier this week, he imposed a state of emergency in a final attempt to hang on to power.

Overnight he sacked what was left of his cabinet and said he would oversee all ministries himself.

Banjul, the capital, was deserted on Friday. Dozens of vultures spread their wings on the large ground outside State House, and a lone cyclist, perhaps one of the few remaining tourists in the country, made the most of the empty roads.

The country’s chief of defence staff, Ousman Badjie, was seen speeding in the direction of Banjul. He has switched allegiance several times over the past month, and was celebrating with Barrow supporters in the streets last night.

It is unclear what side he and the military would take in the event of an Ecowas attack on State House, though most sources speaking to the Guardian believed he was no longer with Jammeh.

When the president of Mauritania arrived in the country on a final mediation mission on Wednesday night, Jammeh demanded that Barrow’s inauguration be delayed and that he be allowed to return to his farm in the Gambia, according to diplomatic sources. The sources also said Jammeh asked that Ecowas, the regional body that has been leading negotiations for the past month, be replaced as a mediator.

However, it is highly unlikely that Jammeh will be allowed any of these concessions except a safe haven. One senior member of the coalition told the Guardian last month that Jammeh had “bunkers and treasure” at the farm and would start an insurgency if he were allowed to go back.

Source: Guardian UK

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