The Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, on Saturday hosted colleagues from other West African countries as ECOWAS steps up preparation for a possible military action in the Gambia.
The meeting, held at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, was part of the preparation for the inauguration of an Ecowas Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) for the small West African country should President Yahya Jammeh makes real his threat not to step down when his tenure expires on January 19.
Mr. Jammeh lost the December 1 2016 election to Adama Barrow of the opposition.
While welcoming the participants and ECOWAS officials to Nigeria, Mr. Olonisakin, a General, expressed the readiness of regional leaders and military commanders to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the political leaders of Gambia and ensure peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Gambian’s constitution and the peoples will.
A source close to the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES that a decision was taken that the defence chiefs should return to their various countries to prepare troops for possible deployment in Gambia.
A statement published on the website of the Defence Headquarters listed notable
dignitaries at the event to include the chairperson of ECOWAS Chief of Defence Staffs, Daniel Ziankahn of Liberia (Brigadier General); CH Gueye of Senegal; ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Hajiya Salamatu; Vice President of the Commission; the Ghanian Chief of Defence Staff and principal staff officers from Defence, Army, Navy, and Air Force headquarters.
No communique was issued at the end of the meeting, which held just as ECOWAS vowed to take all necessary actions to enforce the will of the Gambian people.
The UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) said ECOWAS had decided to take all necessary actions to enforce the results of the Dec. 1, 2016 presidential election in the Gambia.
Mohamed Chambas, Head of UNOWAS, disclosed this while briefing the UN Security Council on the political and security situation in the region.
Mr. Chambas is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.
Mr. Chambas pointed out that there was progress in West Africa and the Sahel, but warned of the region’s political challenges, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said at the briefing.
The UN envoy cited a “rising tide of democracy” throughout the continent, noting that a number of countries had recently held elections which largely complied with electoral norms and standards, upholding their status as a model in the region and beyond.
Referring to the presidential elections in the Gambia, and the ensuing crisis, Mr. Chambas said: “However, some countries in the region had witnessed political uncertainty or significant security challenges.’’
“We were saddened by the quickly unfolding political crisis resulting from President Jammeh changing his mind and deciding to reject the results,’’ he said.
He further updated the 15-member council on the initiatives to resolve the situation there taken by ECOWAS that agreed to uphold the elections results and decided to take all necessary actions to enforce the results.
“UNOWAS is fully involved in supporting the ECOWAS-led mediation, which continues to explore all avenues towards a peaceful transfer of power,” the UN envoy added.
The Secretary-General’s West Africa and Sahel envoy also informed council members of elections in Cape Verde and Ghana as well as in Guinea, where polls anticipated to be held in February had been postponed.
In his briefing, Mr. Chambas also spoke of the continuing security and humanitarian challenges in Nigeria due to frequent attacks perpetrated by the Boko Haram militant group.
He appealed for more funding and support for relief programmes in the country.
He further updated the council on UNOWAS’ close collaboration with other UN missions in the region and in the context of the drawdown of the UN missions in Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia.
He added that it worked on issues related to regional stabilisation, technical support and in the implementation of its Resolution 2282 (2016) and the General Assembly Resolution on Sustaining Peace.