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On January 21 2016, approximately 5,000 foreign troops, supplied by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), entered The Gambia with orders to remove President Yahya Jammeh from office after the December 1st, election. The election was unexpectedly won by property developer Adama Barrow with 45.5% of the vote while incumbent Mr Jammeh won 36.7%. The results of this election were considered by the young population as opportunity for change and a more peaceful future within their own borders. Mr Jammeh, who has held power since a successful military coup in 1994, is known for his harsh rule over the country and human rights abuses which have stained The Gambia’s recent history. Limiting the freedom of the press and calling out homosexual people as “vermin” that the government would deal with as malaria-carrying mosquitoes are just two examples of how the Mr Jammeh administration ruled over the population and it is safe to say peace and stability have not been features of the last twenty-two years of Gambian life.
Surprisingly, Mr Jammeh initially conceded defeat after the election, congratulated Mr Barrow on his victory and signaled intentions to adhere to the peaceful transition of power, which is necessary for any functioning democracy. However, he has since retracted that statement, citing voting irregularities, and is demanding a new vote on the matter. Furthermore, through the Gambian Parliament, he has extended his own term by 90 days and declared a state of emergency for the duration of this time in an attempt to stay in power. In response, the United Nations Security Council, through resolution 2337, confirmed Mr Barrow as the legitimate and democratically-elected President of The Gambia and expressed deep concern over Mr Jammeh’s refusal to abdicate his position. Mr Jammeh, for his part, has declared that he will not accept foreign intervention in his own country’s affairs and is preparing to fight back against ECOWAS in order to secure his survival as President. As a result, 26,000 Gambians have already fled the country ahead of the violence to come and the conflict has the potential to have serious humanitarian ramifications for the civilian population.
It is important to note that as of the January 18th, Mr Barrow was officially sworn in as President of The Gambia at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal. From that date, both ECOWAS and The African Union have declared that they will recognize Mr Barrow and not Mr Jammeh as leader of the country.