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VIDEO: Gambians flee amid election violence fears as Jammeh refuses to step down

Seyllou, AFP | File photo from May 2016 of residents at a Gambian border town near the Senegalese border.

Thousands of Gambians have been fleeing to neighbouring countries ahead of Thursday’s presidential inauguration amid fears of an outbreak of post-electoral violence over the incumbent leader’s refusal to step down.

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Over the past few days, ferries leaving Gambia for neighbouring Senegal have been packed as the post-electoral showdown gripping this tiny, impoverished West African nation reaches crisis point.

President Yahya Jammeh has refused to concede defeat to opposition candidate Adama Barrow who won the December 1 poll. Barrow, who has regional and international support, has insisted he will assume power on inauguration day, set for Thursday, January 19.

But after more than two decades in power, Jammeh refuses to go. Barrow remains in Senegal, where he fled earlier this month.

Leaders of ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc, have stated that if Jammeh does not step down, they are willing to use military force to install Barrow.

Fearing an outbreak of violence, Gambians are now voting with their feet and fleeing for Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.

“You see so many people, they are running, even my own family. They are leaving the country because they fear for their lives,” said a man at the country’s main ferry crossing.

Those refusing or unable to leave their homes in Gambia hope there will be no violence on or after inauguration day.

"When Jammeh came to power 22 years ago, no blood was spilled,” one local told FRANCE 24. "It must be the same when he leaves power."

Defence chiefs meet in Nigeria

Meanwhile the political crisis in Gambia is deepening with the ministers of finance, foreign affairs, trade and the environment announcing their resignations Tuesday.

 

West African defence chiefs met in Nigeria Monday to discuss strategies to handle the crisis, a Nigerian military source told Reuters.

“Some West African countries will be contributing troops, including Nigeria, for the operation," said the source, adding that the United Nations and African Union had offered support to ECOWAS for the plan.
 

 

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