Gambia crunch talks overshadowed by refugee crisis fears

2017-01-13 21:14

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Banjul - West African leaders began crisis talks with President Yahya Jammeh on Friday over his refusal to leave power, as fears grew of a refugee exodus caused by the nation's political impasse.

Appointed chief mediator by a group of west African states, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari led the delegation along with Ghana's former president John Mahama and Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who attempted similar negotiations last month without success.

Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 coup, has made clear he will not quit as president until the country's Supreme Court decides on a legal case he has lodged aimed at having the result annulled and fresh elections called.

Buhari told journalists "only God knows" if the Gambian leader will step down as he left a luxury hotel to meet him, but his foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said he was "pretty optimistic that the talks will not fail this time."

The delegation landed with just five days left of Jammeh's five-year term to go, and with a warning by the president late on Tuesday to the international community that "undue external interference" was unnecessary.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to sit and hear his legal challenge before May, ratcheting up tensions with the winner of the December 1 election, Adama Barrow, whose inauguration is due January 19.

Gambians fleeing 

The prolonged political uncertainty and fear of unrest has pushed thousands of Gambians across the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau.

Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau's refugee commission, said more than a thousand Gambians had crossed into the country, where they do not require a visa, in recent days.

"It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily," Na Wana said.

Women, children and the elderly made up the greatest numbers, the official said, with more than 500 passing one border post near the town of Jegue in three days.

"They say they are scared of a military escalation," Na Wana added.

In Senegal, the UN's refugee agency said "several thousand people" had crossed into the southern Casamance region from The Gambia, especially children.

Senegal and The Gambia have deep ethnic and linguistic ties, and most families have relatives living across the border.

"Most arrivals in Senegal are Gambians and Senegalese who have been working or living in The Gambia," said Liz Ahua, UNHCR's representative for West Africa in Dakar, but said Africans from several other nations were also crossing.

With the migrants moving into their relatives' homes, households have doubled or tripled in size in a few days, the UN agency said, putting a strain on food supply.

A nation of fewer than two million people, The Gambia already accounts for the highest number of migrants per capita of any nationality crossing the Mediterranean on smugglers' boats to Italy.

Read more on:    muhammadu buhari  |  john mahama  |  adama barrow  |  ellen johnson sirleaf  |  yahya jammeh  |  senegal  |  gambia  |  equitorial guinea  |  west africa  |  immigrants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

How to get rid of fleas

Before you call in the pricey exterminators, try this DIY approach that promises to get your flea problem under control.

 
 

Paws

12 Cool cat facts
Chocolate can be fatal for dogs
Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Do you know what you are feeding your dog?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.