World Bulletin / News Desk
West African troops entered The Gambia Sunday to secure President Adama Barrow's arrival from neighbouring Senegal, as controversy erupted over the assurances offered to Yahya Jammeh to guarantee his exit.
The Senegalese general leading a joint force of troops from five African nations said soldiers had nonetheless entered The Gambia to "control strategic points to ensure the safety of the population and facilitate... Barrow's assumption of his role."
Senegalese forces had briefly crossed into the former British colony on Thursday but pulled out shortly afterwards, with Sunday's troop movement the first by soldiers from the joint force.
Marcel Alain de Souza, a top official with the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), which organised the deployment, said pro-Jammeh elements and mercenaries remained on the ground and had open fired as troops crossed the border.
"They were neutralised," he said in a statement seen by AFP, without elaborating.
De Souza said the country "could not be left open" for long, however, and that Barrow must be in place "as soon as possible".
"A country must have a government, but the security conditions required the troops we have sent to secure Banjul and other towns," he said.
- Comfortable terms -
Following Barrow's win in the December 1 election, Jammeh refused to step down, triggering weeks of uncertainty that almost ended in a full military intervention.
The longtime leader, wearing his habitual white flowing robes, waved to supporters before boarding a small, unmarked plane at Banjul airport alongside Guinea's President Alpha Conde after two days of talks over a departure deal.
He left behind a small minority of diehard supporters, some of whom wept as his plane departed.
The choice of Equatorial Guinea for his exile had helped ease concerns that Jammeh might interfere in his nation's politics if he stayed in Guinea, whose border is not far from The Gambia's eastern region.
The strongman personally controlled certain sections of the security forces, and his long tenure was marked by systematic rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention.
But critics have raised concerns over the wording of a statement issued by the UN, ECOWAS and the African Union that seemed to offer Jammeh comfortable guarantees for his future.
"No legislative measures" would be taken that would infringe the "dignity, security, safety and rights" of Jammeh or his family, it said, noting that he could return when he pleased and that property "lawfully" belonging to him would not be seized.
Equatorial Guinea is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, meaning Jammeh would not be extradited in the event he was charged with crimes against humanity or other serious offences.
One Banjul-based diplomat described the provision for Jammeh to return to The Gambia without hindrance as ill-advised.
afpGüncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ocak 2017, 17:38