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Senegalese Forces Say They Will Enter Gambia Unless Jammeh Quits

Reuters: Senegal’s forces are at the Gambian border and will enter at midnight if veteran Gambian President Yahya Jammeh refuses to leave power, Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese army, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Jammeh, who lost a Dec. 1 election to opposition leader Adama Barrow, said he would not step down, citing irregularities in the vote. His official mandate was due to end at midnight GMT.

“We are ready and are awaiting the deadline at midnight. If no political solution is found, we will step in,” Ndiaye said.

The Nigerian Air Force said it had deployed to Senegal in case of need. Nigeria is part of the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened Jammeh with sanctions or intervention if he does not step down.

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.

Authorities took steps to shore up Jammeh’s authority this week. Jammeh declared a state of emergency on Monday, while on Tuesday the National Assembly passed a resolution to enable him to remain in office for three months.

Gambia has had only two rulers since independence in 1965. 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.

Senegal circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. 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, seen by Reuters, would endorse the decision of ECOWAS and the African Union to recognize 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.

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