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Gambia army chief says ‘we will not fight’

Nigerian troops board plane to head for Senegal.

Gambia army chief says troops will not fight intervention

Banjul, Gambia | AFP | 

Gambia’s army chief said Wednesday he would not order his men to fight other African troops if they enter Gambian territory, speaking as Senegalese and other troops massed on his nation’s borders.

The Senegalese troops backed by other African forces are on standby to move into The Gambia as President Yahya Jammeh approaches a midnight deadline to stand down or face military action after refusing to leave at the end of his term.

“We are not going to involve ourselves militarily. This is a political dispute,” Chief of Defence Staff Ousman Badjie said, after eating dinner in a tourist district close to the capital, Banjul, eyewitnesses told AFP.

“I am not going to involve my soldiers in a stupid fight. I love my men,” he added, stopping to pose for selfies with admirers while dressed in fatigues, beret and green t-shirt, according to those present.

“If they (Senegalese) come in, we are here like this,” Badjie said, making a hands up to surrender gesture.

Badjie is no stranger to controversy after appearing to declare support for president-elect Adama Barrow and then switching back to Jammeh.

He was recently barred from visiting Gambian peacekeepers in Darfur due to the sensitivity of The Gambia’s ongoing political crisis, which has seen Jammeh repeatedly refuse to step down despite losing a December 1 election to opponent Barrow.

“Our troops are on alert… The ultimatum takes effect at midnight,” when Jammeh’s mandate is due to expire, Senegal army spokesman Colonel Abdou Ndiaye told AFP ahead of the deadline.

Earlier, the Senegalese army said it was ready to intervene in neighbouring The Gambia if there was no solution to the crisis triggered by President Jammeh’s refusal to step down after his election defeat last month.

“Our troops are on alert… The ultimatum takes effect at midnight,” when Jammeh’s mandate is due to expire, army spokesman Colonel Abdou Ndiaye told AFP. “If a political solution fails, we will engage” in operations in The Gambia, he said, confirming that troops were heading to the border.

Earlier,  Nigeria air force said Wednesday that it had sent 200 soldiers and air assets including fighter jets to Senegal as part of a regional force to enforce the result of Gambia’s contested election. (full story here)

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said it had “today moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, light utility helicopter as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar from where it is expected to operate into Gambia”.

“The deployment is also to forestall hostilities or breakdown of law and order that may result from the current political impasse in The Gambia,” it added in a statement.

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