Botswana has announced on Thursday (19 January 2017) that it is the first African country that no longer recognises veteran leader Yahya Jammeh as the president of the Gambia. Jammeh is facing a military ousting by foreign troops after refusing to step down when his term expired on Wednesday (18 January).
Jammeh, who has been in power in the country since 1994, lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who is due to be sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal's capital Dakar on Thursday at 4pm local time.
"Mr. Jammeh's decision not to respect the will of the Gambian people undermines the ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance in The Gambia and Africa as a whole.
"This is also in direct contravention of the spirit and aspirations of the African Union Constitutive Act. The government of Botswana therefore continues to appeal to the international community to do all within its power to exert pressure on Mr Jammeh to hand over power in order to ensure a smooth transition," the Botswana government said in a statement.
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari led a delegation of West African leaders to Gambia twice to persuade Jammeh to step down and respect the election outcome. Jammeh's U-turn has sent shockwaves across Gambia and the region, with growing tensions exacerbated by the decision chief of army Ousman Badjie to pledge loyalty to Jammeh instead of Barrow.
However, Badjie told AFP on 18 January that his troops would not fight Senegalese forces. "We are not going to involve ourselves militarily, this is a political dispute. I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men."
At least 26,000 Gambians have fled into Senegal, as they fear the ongoing political crisis might escalate into violence. NGOs have warned of a possible humanitarian emergency on both sides of the border.
Thousands of holidaymakers, mainly from UK and the Netherlands, are currently being evacuated from the country. Travel agency Thomas Cook hopes to have brought home around 3,500 passengers on 16 flights by the end of Friday (20 January).
Is military intervention in The Gambia likely?
Barrow told IBTimes UK he considered himself the "rightful leader" of the country and was confident the issue could be resolved peacefully. However, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has mandated Senegal, which engulfs Gambia, to lead a military intervention in the West African nation. Senegalese and Nigerian troops are now stationed on the Gambian border and are ready to enter the country.
The UN Security Council will vote later today (19 January) on a draft resolution to support efforts by Ecowas to allow a transition of power. A spokesperson for the Nigerian army told IBTimes UK: "Nigeria has dispatched military fighter jets already to Senegal in preparation for Gambia operation." Ghana is also to deploy more than 200 combat troops.
It is not yet clear what will happen in the country, where Jammeh declared a state of emergency on 17 January. On the same day, the Gambian parliament passed a motion allowing Jammeh to stay in power for the next three months, something some have deemed as an "unconstitutional move".
Both Nigeria and Morocco have offered Jammeh asylum as long has he steps down, but the entreched leader wants to stay in office until the Supreme Court hears his petition on what he claims are "unacceptable abnormalities" occurred in the elction.
The apex court said it could only hear Jammeh's case about the election in May or even November, due to a lack of judges available to hear the case.