Thursday, 19 January 2017

Nigeria deploys 200 Air Force men, jets for action in Gambia

Nigeria yesterday deployed troops and fighter jets ahead of today’s end of President Yahya Jammeh’s tenure. He lost the December 1, 2016 election to Adama Barrow but has declined to respect the result.

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is leading the international community’s efforts to make Jammeh to recognise the result and transfer power peacefully to Barrow, who is in Senagal after attending last week’s Franco-African Summit in Mali.

Nigeria deployed 200 Air Force troops from the 117 Air Combat Training Group (ACTG), Kainji, Niger State – in line with ECOWAS mandate.

The Air Force personnel were flown out from Kainji to Dakar, the Senegalese capital, from where they will operate should there be need to move them for combat.

 The troops, including Special Forces, Combat Support Group, technicians and medical officials, among others, were taken in a Hercules C-130 military transport plane.

Also deployed are: fighter air planes, helicopters, and a large utility helicopter.

The navy on Monday deployed its newest warship – NNS Unity – on the waters around The Gambia.
The Army, it was gathered, will deploy troops today.

Also yesterday, columns of Senegalese troops moved to the Gambian border.
 “We are heading towards there,” one military source in Dakar told Reuters. “We are very seriously preparing ourselves.”

 Residents of the towns of Diouloulou and Ziguinchor in southern Senegal reported troops movements towards the Gambian frontier from midnight onwards.

 “Since early morning there have been hundreds of Senegalese soldiers heading in trucks towards the border with The Gambia,” one source in Ziguinchor said.

Ghana is also expected to send troops.

Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Siddique Abubakar told his men yesterday that they “have been given the task, which is very well defined, and we have put together all the air assets that we think are necessary to ensure that we are able to successfully conduct this operation and that is what we have on ground here”.

He added: “What we have here are men that are highly trained, highly skilled. They know their job and they know their task, and as a professional service, the commander of the air assets will work together with other commanders and they will come up with what is required in terms of plans, to be able to execute their tasks and come back home.”

Jammeh remained adamant yesterday, even as Vice President Mrs Isatou Njie-Saidy resigned.

The United States warned Jammeh to avoid the consequences of his failure to peacefully hand over power today. It promised to give full support to the measures being taken by ECOWAS to end The Gambian impasse.

U.S. Department of State spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference that Jammeh was putting his legacy and The Gambia in peril.

“President Jammeh is losing opportunities to respect the will of the Gambian people and to peacefully hand over power to the president-elect, which is supposed to happen on Thursday.

“Doing so would allow him to leave office with his head held high and to protect the Gambian people from potential chaos.

“Failure to do so will put his legacy – and, more importantly, the Gambia – in peril, and we have been clear about this,” he said.

According to him, the accusation by Jammeh of external interference in The Gambia’s internal affairs is not tenable.

“I don’t know what interference he’s referring to, but we obviously want to see The Gambia succeed.
“And we want to see the president-elect properly installed and to have in place a government, which is responsible for and responsive to the needs of the Gambian people.”

The U.S. had on Friday, indicated support for ECOWAS to take all necessary action on Jammeh if he fails to handover to Barrow.

The U.S. had regretted that Jammeh’s action had made the situation in The Gambia to become “very uncertain”.

“We call on President Jammeh to listen to his own people, to listen to the Gambian people who have clearly called on him to accept the results of the Dec. 1 election.

“And to again agree to what he already agreed to, which is a peaceful handover of power to President-elect Barrow.”

Kirby, however, said the U.S. “believes that ECOWAS can certainly play an important role in providing security and addressing some of the concerns that there could be violence around the transition”.

He also said that the U.S. was not ruling out its support to a military action, saying: “We do, and I’m not trying to back away from that in any way, shape, or form.

“I just would say that we do, obviously, support ECOWAS as a force for peace and security in the region, and specifically in The Gambia.

“Well, again, I don’t want to speak to what possible actions they may take. I don’t want to get out in front of those decisions,” he said.

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