West African nations are planning military intervention in Gambia to ensure that President-elect Adama Barrow is inaugurated on Thursday, military officials said.
Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia are among members of the Economic Community of West African States planning to contribute soldiers to the effort, according to a person familiar with the operation who isn’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue. The Nigerian Air Force said on its Facebook pagethat it’s deploying 200 men, fighter jets, transport aircraft and a helicopter to Senegal, which borders Gambia, for the operation.
“We’re waiting for negotiations,” Ecowas military spokesman Seydou Maiga Moro told the Senegalese radio station RFM. “If between midnight and now nothing is accomplished, we’re starting the hostilities. All the troops are already in place.”
The regional states decided to take the action after President Yahya Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency late Tuesday, two days before he was supposed to hand over power to Barrow, who won an election last month. Ecowas said earlier it was prepared to use force to remove Jammeh, who initially acknowledged he lost to Barrow before changing his mind and saying he wants the Supreme Court to hear his petition challenging the vote results.
“The regional body Ecowas has reiterated its determination to take all necessary measures to ensure the transfer of power to President-elect Barrow,” Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, said in a statement. “The UN supports regional efforts aimed at resolving the crisis.”
Barrow, who sought refuge in Senegal earlier this month, has said repeatedly the inauguration will take place on schedule in Gambia. The African Union has said it will no longer recognize Jammeh as president as of Thursday.
Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia since a coup in 1994, has been criticized by human rights groups for jailing opponents and cracking down on journalists. Gambia, a nation of fewer than 2 million people, has an 80-kilometer (50-mile) coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, while the rest of the country is surrounded by Senegal.
Travel company Thomas Cook is implementing plans to return almost 1,000 U.K. tourists from Gambia, the Press Association reported Wednesday. Tourism is the country’s main source of foreign revenue. The U.S. embassy said it’s closing all non-emergency services on Wednesday and will remain shut on Thursday.
Ecowas previously sent 600 troops to Guinea Bissau following a coup in April 2012. The soldiers are due to be withdrawn this year.
The regional group also sent soldiers to Ivory Coast in 2002, when a failed coup split the country into a rebel north and a government-run south. The troops were deployed to patrol the dividing line between the warring parties and were later redeployed as UN troops.