Senegalese troops backed by other African forces were poised to enter The Gambia Thursday after President Yahya Jammeh refused to leave office, ignoring a midnight deadline to stand down or face military action.
Jammeh’s army chief said his troops would not fight their entry into the country, as the Mauritanian president flew out of The Gambia following hopes of a last-minute deal to convince President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power.
“We are not going to involve ourselves militarily. This is a political dispute,” Chief of Defence Staff Ousman Badjie said after eating dinner in a tourist district close to the capital Banjul, eyewitnesses told AFP.
African troops on standby as Gambia deadline expires
“I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men,” he added. “If they (Senegalese) come in, we are here like this,” Badjie said, making a hands up or surrender gesture.
President Yahya Jammeh mandate ended at midnight (local and GMT) but he has steadfastly refused to leave office after losing elections last month to Adama Barrow, prompting west African states to ramp up pressure on the president following weeks of failed diplomacy.
Nigeria sent troops and fighter jets to Senegal, whose own forces massed on the Gambian border.
Meanwhile, latest report has it that Gambian troops are pulling back from strategic checkpoints in Banjul, while some have fled after declining to fight ECOWAS forces.