By Daniel Finnan
The inauguration for Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow may take place outside of the capital Banjul as President Yahya Jammeh continues to refuse to leave office, according to Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. Barrow is expected to be sworn-in on Thursday, however talks on resolving a political impasse have yet to result in long-standing leader Jammeh stepping down.
“It might be considered impractical for him to be inaugurated in Banjul, in which case it will be done on Gambian territory somewhere,” Onyeama told RFI in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “Banjul is not the only part of Gambian territory and there are other parts of Gambian territory to which he would have access.”
Barrow is currently in Dakar, Senegal after attending the Africa-France summit in Bamako, Mali at the weekend.
“An embassy is a territory of a particular country that that embassy represents. The constitution provides for a swearing-in by a judge of a superior court and there are a number of those that are available,” said Onyeama.
“I’m not saying that it will be necessarily going to be there, but what I’m saying is that what constitutes Gambian territory, in addition to the physical territory, is that it also includes embassies,” he added, when asked more specifically about a ceremony taking place at the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
The swearing-in of Barrow and subsequent international recognition will legitimise possible assistance from other countries, according to the Nigerian foreign minister.
“He will be recognised as the legitimate president of The Gambia and this is not just symbolic,” said Onyeama. “In other words, what could amount to interference in the affairs of another country, would not be the case if the legitimate president invites another country to so assist,” he added.
Regional leaders from the Ecowas bloc have twice visited Banjul to discuss the political impasse with outgoing President Jammeh. Barrow was declared winner of the country’s December elections by the electoral commission, but Jammeh later refused to accept the results and filed a legal challenge.
Onyeama said he did not know of any further visits to Banjul to talk with Jammeh, “but certainly there are one or two leaders who have been asked to make contact”.
The Ecowas bloc had previously said that Senegal had put troops on alert for a possible military intervention if Jammeh did not step down. Nigeria is not preparing a force to intervene in Gambia, according to Onyeama, however a contingency plan is being put together to deal with the possible impact on any Nigeria or Ecowas nationals residing in Gambia.