A really huge Nigerian warship has been deployed in The Gambia, more as a show of force rather than preparation for an attack, the BBC reported Tuesday.
The deployment is obviously part of the strategy of ECOWAS to force out President Yahya Jammeh who has refused entreaties from the region’s leaders to step down following his last December 1 presidential election defeat by Mr. Adama Barrow.
Jammeh remained intransigent Tuesday, declaring a 90-day state of emergency, less than 48 hours before his official mandate ends, according to the Gambia Television.
Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters, however, yesterday continued to down play its reported involvement in planned military operations in The Gambia, insisting that the matter remained with the political authorities to decide.
“We are not involved in any preparation for military action in The Gambia,” the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen. Abubakar Rabe, told THISDAY last night.
But BBC said a military source told it that the vessel – the NNS Unity – is currently sailing off the coast of Ghana.
THISDAY had reported on Tuesday that ECOWAS had prepared a force for military intervention if the outgoing Gambian president refused to step down today.
The exact terms of the state of emergency remain unknown, as no details were provided with the announcement.
Jammeh initially accepted the election results but then decided he wanted them annulled after the electoral commission admitted some errors, although it insisted this did not affect the final outcome.
The Supreme Court is unable to hear Jammeh’s petition against the results of the election until May because of a shortage of judges, and the embattled president said he would not step down until then.
At least three Gambian ministers, including the foreign minister, have resigned in recent days. Thousands of Gambians have also fled to neighbouring Senegal amid fears of violence.
Barrow won 43.3% of the vote compared with Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.
Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.