The new Gambian president is calling on West African troops currently in his country to renew their mandate as they are "absolutely necessary" to ensure peace and security in the West African nation. Adama Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, made the remarks through his top adviser Mai Ahmad Fatty during a press conference in the capital Dakar.
"The security of the state and of my citizens is my top most priority, it is my strong conviction that under the present circumstances, the continuos presence of the ECOMOG ( West African armed forces) in the Gambia, is among the key guarantors of peace and stability in the Gambia," Barrow's statement said.
The remarks were made hours after additional troops entered Gambia to join those already deployed earlier this month to solve the country's political crisis.
The Senegalese general leading the joint force told AFP that soldiers had entered Gambia on 22 January to "control strategic points to ensure the safety of the population and facilitate... Barrow's assumption of his role".
Gambia faced a political deadlock when veteran leader Yahya Jammeh refused to relinquish power following his defeat in December's presidential elections. The strongman eventually went into exile on 21 January.
However, Barrow is now requesting that "Ecomog forces in the Gambia remain in the country until such time the security general situation is comprehensively redressed."
Will Gambian refugees in Senegal be repatriated?
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated earlier in January, that at least 45,000 refugees had crossed into Senegal fearing the political crisis could culminate into violence.
Following Jammeh's departure, thousands have started to cross back into Gambia.
When asked whether Gambian refugees would continue to be repatriated, following the deployment of additional troops, Fatty told IBTImes UK: "We are working with international organisations, such as the Red Cross, and Senegalese authorities to take them back home."
He added that Gambian authorities are providing logistical support to facilitate the crossing.
"We have also set up a crisis committee to coordinate all these activities. We hope, within the next three days or four, to evacuate all our citizens. We are calling on all Gambians to go home," Fatty continued.
Some Gambian refugees in Dakar told IBTimes UK they are worried to go back home as their leader was still in Senegal.
"Barrow is in Senegal, but the other members of the opposition coalition are on the ground. They are all in the Gambia and people need to have faith in their leaders," Fatty explained. "President Barrow is a different case, he is no longer an ordinary Gambian, he is the president and his security considerations are different."
When will Barrow go home?
It is not yet clear when Barrow will return to Banjul. Sources close to the president saidBarrow will make an official announcement on his departure date next week. Current thinking indicates he is unlikely to leave Dakar before Wednesday (25 January).
"He [Barrow]made his desire clear, to go home. His excellency will return home as soon as possible," Fatty concluded.
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