There are profound concerns over the political situation in The Gambia which reaches a climax tomorrow night (Wednesday, January 18) when the newly elected President Adama Barrow should take office, but current President Yahya Jammeh is still trying to cling to power.
Following what should be the legal handover of power, Adama Barrow’s inauguration is due to take place on Thursday. On Tuesday in a last ditch move, Jammeh declared a state of emergency throughout The Gambia – Africa’s smallest nation.
In discussions with friends in Marlborough’s link community of Gunjur it appears that there is considerable fear in the country that conflict is bound to break out within the next 24 hours.
Many people from the larger towns are leaving the country – women and children in particular. They are fleeing to neighbouring Senegal and Guinea Bissau where they are being cared for families and friends and by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
The streets of the capital Banjul and Serrekunda – the country’s largest urban area – are said to be empty. Friends in Gunjur are stockpiling rice and groundnuts in the event of prolonged conflict and those who work in the capital are remaining at home.
The Economic Community of West African States has troops lined up on the Senegal border with The Gambia threatening to descend on Banjul if Jammeh does not step down.
The Nigerian President has offered Jammeh political asylum and a house in Lagos, although many Gambians believe he should face a court of law for the many human rights abuses and murders that he is alleged to have committed during his 22 years of office. He came to power in a military coup at the age of 29 when he was a Captain in the army.
Many Marlborough people will be sharing a deep concern for their friends in The Gambia.