Senegalese troops amassed at the border with Gambia as the clock ticked down on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s time in office and with the inauguration of his successor due Thursday.
The soldiers had arrived at the Senegalese border town of Karang, while the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) deployed fighter jets and troops to Senegal ahead of a likely military intervention in Gambia, where the post-election political crisis was escalating.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) pledged to send troops to ensure a peaceful transition of power after the bloc failed in repeated attempts to convince Jammeh to cede power.
After ruling Gambia for 22 years, Jammeh has refused to accept the result of a December 1 election, which saw him lose power to real estate mogul Adama Barrow.
The Nigerian Air Force said in a statement that its deployment is in keeping with the West African bloc’s pledge to enforce the election mandate.
Nigeria moved 200 troops, fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters and other air assets to the Senegalese capital Dakar, and plans to move them from there into Gambia.
“The deployment is also to forestall hostilities or breakdown of law and order that may result from the current political impasse in Gambia,” the statement read.
Jammeh’s mandate officially ends Wednesday.
Barrow fled Gambia on Saturday to Dakar amid fears of violence, but has insisted he would be inaugurated as scheduled on Thursday.
Thousands of people have been trying to leave the small West African nation after Jammeh on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in an attempt to cling to power.
The president who refuses to leave office recently placed his army on highest alert and Chief of Defence Staff, Ousman Badjie, repeatedly pledged his loyalty to the autocrat.
Experts, however, don’t believe Jammeh will be able to hold up a military battle for long.
The country of 1.9 million people has about 1,000 soldiers, little capacity to fight a well-trained army, for example that of Senegal, which counts almost 20,000 troops.
The Gambian parliament has also extended Jammeh’s tenure by 3 months as well as approved his declaration of “State of Emergency” for 90 days.