The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has reportedly put its troops on high alert as it prepares to ‘invade’ Gambia to force former President Yahya Jammeh out of power.
Newly elected President Adama Barrow is due to be sworn in on 19 January 2017, but Jammeh has so far refused to step down after losing the elections.
“The waiting forces are already on alert for a possible intervention if Yahya Jammeh refuses to cede power,” the chairman of ECOWAS Commission was quoted by Radio France Internationale (RFI) as saying.
However, critics believe ECOWAS troops will likely face a stiff resistance from Jammeh’s well trained and well equipped army believed to number over 5 000 men. Jammeh early this month promoted more than 50 army officers to guarantee their support as he plans to set Gambia on the warpath.
But some observers believe ECOWAS troops will be up to the task and probably defeat the former dictator. If caught alive, Jammeh could face justice at an international court over massive human rights abuse, including murder, kidnappings and torture.
ECOWAS, which established ECOMOG (ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group) 25 years ago as armed conflicts tore West Africa part, set up an interposition force to restore order in the region.
The force then intervened successfully during the civil war in Liberia in 1990 and in Guinea-Bissau, and participated in international missions in Ivory Coast in 2002 and in Mali in 2012, RFI said on its website, describing the ECOWAS Standby Force as the most serious outcome of a regional force in Africa.
Senegal, which sent a security team to guard a ‘shaking’ Barrow, could head the operations and supplies the bulk of the troops, RFI said, adding that any military intervention would need an African Union and United Nations official mandate.
Photo: Gambian former President Yahya Jammeh