The United States Mission in Banjul on Friday advised all its nationals in The Gambia to stock up food, be vigilant and take precautionary measures as the country plunges into a political nightmare.
At a town hall meeting held at the Ambassador’s residence in Fajara, the US diplomats further advised all US nationals that they may leave the country if they wish ahead of January 19th, when President Yahya Jammeh is supposed to handover power to President-elect Barrow.
The town hall meeting was well attended prompting the organizers to convene two sessions as an estimated 1,000+ crowd of American citizens, including many of Gambian heritage attended.
US Ambassador Alsup spoke of the “change that is coming to The Gambia” and expressed strong support for the President-elect who she said The Gambians chose as their new president. She said the embassy will be issuing a travel alert/warning shortly and will be scaling down to a small staff of 8 in other to send embassy families to Dakar.
“The embassy is encouraging American citizens to consider leaving, since evacuation of large numbers would be difficult. If an evacuation takes place (probably by bus) it would be to Senegal, not to the States” she said.
Advice was given for those choosing to stay to secure at least a gallon of water per person each day, adequate food and medicine for a week, etc.
Ambassador Alsup called on nationals to register at www.travel.state.gov on their STEP program to receive email updates from the embassy about Gambian developments. (anyone can register, even in the States). She said that next Tuesday will be a day of potential conflict due to the Supreme Court hearing.
She also announced that the American Embassy School has decided not to open on Monday or Tuesday. She also assured the audience that the embassy was working closely with neighboring countries to reach a diplomatic solution.
Meanwhile, West African leaders said last month it would take all necessary steps to uphold the result of a December 1st election in The Gambia, where incumbent President Yahya Jammeh says he will not step down after losing to opposition coalition Adama Barrow.
Jammeh initially accepted his loss in the December 1st election, shocking Gambians who have lived through his repressive rule since he took power in a 1994 coup, and triggering celebrations in the streets. But a week later changed his mind, saying the electoral commission had been biased by “foreign influences” and vowing to hang on despite regional and international condemnation.
ECOWAS has since placed a standby forces on alert in case Mr Jammeh attempts to stay in power after his mandate ends on January 19th. Mr Jammeh called the bloc’s stance “a declaration of war”, and said he will defend himself. He said ECOWAS has no right to interfere in Gambia’s internal affairs.
The sub-regional bloc is meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, this Saturday, January 7th, 2017 to take what they call a “major decision” on the political impasse.