Gambia Crisis: Incumbent President Clings to Power, Intervention Looms

The small nation of Gambia in Africa is currently ruled by Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994. His rule was characterized by his erratic behavior, he has previously claimed to be able to cure Aids and female infertility, and harsh treatment of opposition. Jammeh lost the Presidential election last December to Adama Barrow, who has pledged democratic reforms. Jammeh initially accepted the results but has since reversed course and seems intent to remain in power at all costs. Mr. Barrow fled the country to neighboring Senegal, where he was officially inaugurated as the new President at Gambia’s embassy in Senegal. For now, Gambia remains in a state of limbo though one way or another the crisis seems likely to end soon.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has moved troops into position, led by the Senegalese military, to oust Jammeh by force if his refusal to hand over power continues. Should ECOWAS actually invade Gambia, Jammeh has very little hope of clinging to power. The Gambian military is overwhelming outclassed and out-sized by the forces arrayed against it, and this is under the assumption that the entire military actually stands and fights. However, seizing control by force would greatly mar Mr. Barrow’s victory and undoubtedly leave the country deeply divided.

UPDATE: During the course of this writing, Senegalese troops have entered the country, state of resistance unclear.

Opponents of Mr. Barrow will in the future likely use the ECOWAS intervention to paint him as a ‘foreign puppet’ and an illegitimate ruler.  As such, the likelihood of civil disorder post-resolution of the crisis in the country remains high. If the Gambian security services are seriously degraded in conflict with ECOWAS forces, that will leave them unable to maintain law and order in the country no matter who emerges as the victor. The potential for a major spike in crime is great.