Tourists Flee Gambia as Jammeh and Barrow Engage in Power Tussle

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is set to create a power tussle in the small West African nation following his strong resolve to cling on to power despite losing the last presidential election.

Jammeh’s term as leader comes to an end tomorrow when a new president is expected to be sworn in, however, it is very unlikely that would be the case following Jammeh’s announcement of a 90-day state of emergency yesterday.

Tourist flee Gambia

Hundreds of tourists packed onto planes in an exodus sparked by the country’s state of emergency.

President Jammeh said yesterday that the emergency measure had become necessary due to unwelcome interference of foreign powers in the country’s December 1 election, which Jammeh had lost to opponent Adama Barrow.

Brian and Yvonne Souch, a couple from Witney in southern England, told AFP they were unaware of the potential risk of flying to the country following the state of emergency, and felt that their tour company, Thomas Cook, should have kept them better informed.

“We didn’t know anything until we came down for breakfast,” Brian Souch said.

A return visitor for the last six years, Souch, came back for “the weather, the people, the beaches,” and was disappointed to be put on a hastily scheduled extra flight organized by the package holiday firm.

Thomas Cook said in a statement Wednesday a programme of additional flights into Banjul airport would bring home the 1,000 package holidaymakers it has in The Gambia, followed by up 2,500 more at the “earliest possible flight availability”.

Some tourists were unfazed by the news as the state of emergency, however, as their countries have not issued travel alerts.

ECOWAS Interference

A diplomatic source told AFP: “It’s because of the uncertainty and the likelihood an ECOWAS standby force will have to be deployed,”.

The 15-nation Economic Community Of West African States has repeatedly urged Jammeh to respect the outcome of the vote and step aside, a call backed by the UN Security Council, African Union and others.

In Washington, the US State Department urged Jammeh to “peacefully hand over power” to Barrow, his refusal has however led to fears that a military action might become inevitable from tomorrow.

Another source at Nigeria’s military Head Quarters told AFP a deployment to Senegal, whose territory surrounds The Gambia, would happen “very soon”.

Under the Gambian constitution a state of emergency lasts up to 90 days if the national assembly confirms it — which the legislature did late Tuesday, further increasing the term of Jammeh by three months.

Gambian citizens have started packing their bags and streaming out of Gambia following a small, narrow enclave and going by either road or ferry, headed for Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea. The immigrants can be seen carrying as many possessions as they can carry.

Kingsley Ukpai

I write, I write and I keep writing… Most importantly, I make sure everything I write makes sense!

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