The embattled president of Gambia Yahya Jammeh has pleaded with ECOWAS for an extension of the deadline given to him to vacate office from noon to 4 pm local time, BBC reports on Friday.
The recalcitrant ruler, who had earlier vowed not to step down, was given a “last chance saloon” deadline to bow out as troops from five African nations stood by for action, while key regional leaders flew in to make a final plea.
The military intervention – named Operation Restore Democracy – aimed at installing Adama Barrow as the president of the country has been halted temporarily to allow for a last-ditch negotiation.
“We think that up until the last minute there is still a solution through dialogue,” said Marcel de Souza, head of the ECOWAS commission.
He further explained the decision to suspend the advance to reporters in Dakar late on Thursday.
Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Guinea’s Alpha Conde also told newsmen that they remained optimistic for a political resolution to the country’s handover crisis as they left for Banjul from Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.
“We still have every chance for a peaceful solution,” Aziz said. “We have every interest in achieving that, we have enough conflicts in Africa going on without adding another.”
Conde said a political solution “must be found” before boarding their flight.
Quite a number of diplomats in Banjul had confirmed the last-ditch peace push, with one describing a “last chance saloon” moment before foreign troops led by Senegal remove Jammeh by force.