There are strong indications that Gambia’s president-elect, Adama Barrow, may have been taken into safety with thousands of Gambians including women, children and the elderly fleeing the Gambia to neighbouring Senegal and Guinea-Bissau as the political standoff over last month’s election results deepens.
President Muhammadu Buhari and other West African leaders, may have taken Barrow into safety after a botched attempt to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to voluntarily cede power after he lost the 1 December election.
Jammeh’s tenure officially ends on January 19.
However, he is refusing to handover over power to opposition candidate, Barrow, who was declared winner of the election by the country’s electoral commission.
Both the ECOWAS and the AU have said he would cease to be the leader of West Africa’s smallest country by 20 January.
Apparently unmoved, Jammeh has also undermined a pledge made by leaders of the West African regional grouping to send a Senegal-led military force to intervene militarily in the Gambia and enforce the outcome of the election if he refuses to give up power when his mandate expires on January 18.
AFP reports that President Buhari flew out of Banjul with Barrow on Friday, en route to Mali, for what was called crisis talks in hopes of ending the nation’s political impasse.
Meanwhile, the prolonged political uncertainty and fear of unrest has pushed thousands of Gambians across the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau.
Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s refugee commission, said more than 1,000 Gambians had crossed into the country, where they do not require a visa, in recent days.
“It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily,” Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s Refugee Commission told AFP.
“Women, children and the elderly made up the greatest numbers, the official said, with more than 500 passing one border post near the town of Jegue in three days. They say they are scared of a military escalation.”
In Senegal, the UN’s refugee agency said “several thousand people” had crossed into the southern Casamance region from The Gambia, especially children.