The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has confirmed that it has deployed to Senegal in case of the need to enforce Gambia’s election mandate, it said on Wednesday.
“The NAF today moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, light utility helicopter as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar from where it is expected to operate into Gambia,” director of public relations, Ayodele Famuyiwa said.
Senegal’s forces are already at the Gambian border and will enter the country if President Yahya Jammeh, who lost a Dec. 1 election, does not step down when his official mandate ends at midnight.
Only Jammeh can save himself. Not his rubber stamp parliament that today extended his tenure illegally by three months.
To save the embattled Gambian leader, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz arrived Banjul on Wednesday to talk to Jammeh, Gambian state TV said.
It was the last mediation effort to persuade the obdurate Jammeh to step down to defuse an imminent declaration of war.
Jammeh has refused to step down, though unconfirmed reports indicated that he has made arrangements for his children and wife to leave Banjul.
Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, said the country’s troops are at the border, ready to move into Gambia by midnight.
“We are ready and are awaiting the deadline at midnight. If no political solution is found, we will step in,” Ndiaye said.
Senegal’s statement raises the prospect of armed confrontation between forces loyal to the president who has ruled Gambia for 22 years and Senegal, which surrounds the tiny country on three sides.
At the United Nations in New York, Senegal has circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member Security Council that would give “full support to the ECOWAS in its commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect of the will of the people of The Gambia”.
The draft, according to Reuters, would endorse the decision of ECOWAS and the African Union to recognise Adama Barrow. It also called on Gambia’s security forces to protect lives and property and serve the elected authorities.
It was not immediately clear when Senegal planned to put the draft resolution to a vote. U.N. Security Council approval is not needed for an ECOWAS military intervention in Gambia if Barrow requests help, some diplomats said.
Since independence in 1965, Gambia has had only two rulers. Jammeh seized power in a coup and his government has gained a reputation among ordinary Gambians and human rights activists for torturing and killing opponents.
The man who will take over from him, Barrow is a real estate businessman. In a tweet today, he told his compatriots, “the future begins tomorrow’.