The Senegalese army says its troops have entered Gambia in support of Adama Barrow, who has been sworn in as president. A political crisis continues in the country as longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down.

Senegal Gambia Panzer vor Grenze (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Cherkaoui)

News agencies reported on Thursday that troops from Senegal had entered the Gambia. “We have entered Gambia,” Colonel Abdou Ndiaye wrote in a text message to Reuters news agency. “They entered this afternoon,” he said after Barrow’s swearing-in ceremony.

A hastily arranged ceremony took place in the Senegalese capital of Dakar to inaugurate Adama Barrow as the new president of Gambia. Around 40 people were present in the ceremony, including Senegal’s prime minister and head of Gambia’s electoral commission. Several hundred people watched the televised event standing outside the Gambian embassy in Dakar, news agencies reported.

“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget in a lifetime,” Barrow said in his inaugural speech. “We will now build a Gambia where what you know counts more than who you know,” he added.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres congratulated the new president, extending his support. Guterres “told President Barrow of his full support for his determination, and ECOWAS’ historic decision, with the unanimous backing of the Security Council, to restore the rule of law in The Gambia so as to honor and respect the will of the Gambian people,” a UN spokesman said.

Gambia is surrounded on three sides by SenegalGambia is surrounded on three sides by Senegal

Following the ceremony, he called upon security forces in his country to “demonstrate their loyalty,” asking soldiers to remain in their barracks. Those who did not would be considered rebels, the Reuters news agency reported. Thousands of Gambians were reported to have fled the country fearing unrest, the UN said. Officials from ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, were also present at the swearing-in.

The UN Security Council has meanwhile unanimously backed the new president and called on Jammeh to “carry out a peaceful and orderly transition process” and transfer power to Barrow in accordance with the Gambian constitution.

Jammeh has been in power since a coup in 1994. His mandate ended after Barrow won the elections in December. Jammeh conceded initially, but backtracked later, saying the vote was flawed. Subsequent talks to persuade him to step down also failed.

Adama Barrow is a former businessman and a real estate tycoon. He was chosen the head of the coalition of Gambia’s opposition parties. After winning the elections in December, he announced his country’s exit from the Commonwealth – a group of former British colonies – and the International Criminal Court, which tries crimes against humanity.

mg/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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A peaceful transfer of power in Gambia?