Political crisis deepens as president refuses to step down following defeat in last month’s presidential election.
Gambia’s Presidernt Yahya Jammeh has declared a national state of emergency two days before the end of his mandate.
In a national TV address, Jammeh said on Tuesday the 90-day measure was necessary because of “the unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference” in last month’s presidential vote, which he lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow.
Jammeh also cited external interference “the internal affairs of The Gambia and the unwarranted hostile atmosphere threatening the sovereignty, peace, security and stability of the country”.
A former coup leader who has ruled the small West African country since 1994, Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the December 1 vote but a week later contested the poll’s results stating irregularities.
Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, is scheduled to take office on January 19. He insists his inauguration will proceed as planned.
“The decision to declare a state of emergency was taken by the national parliament that convened, it seems, secretly,” Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, said.
“What this means is that all land, sea and air borders will be shut down – Gambia, as of right now, is effectively on lockdown.”
Jammeh is refusing to step down despite international pressure and the threat by other West African nations of a military intervention.
He has lodged a challenge to the election result with The Gambia’s Supreme Court and last week filed a fresh injunction to prevent the chief justice from swearing Barrow into office.
Last week, the Supreme Court said Jammeh’s challenge to the election result could not be heard for several months as it did not have a full bench, and the extra judges needed to hear the case were not available.
The Gambia relies on foreign judges, notably from Nigeria, to staff its courts due to a lack of its own trained professionals.
Leaders of neighbouring countries and the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, have repeatedly called on the long-serving rule to leave office peacefully, so far to no avail.
“Military and diplomatic sources in Abuja say they are not overthrowing Jammeh but are of course enforcing the mandate of ECOWAS and the African Union, as well as ensuring that the choice of the Gambian people is realised at the end of Jammeh’s term,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the Nigerian capital, said.
“There’s been a lot of diplomatic and military activity and preparations ahead of the deadline given to Jammeh to leave office.”
The announcement of the state of emergency came hours after Gambia’s ministers for finance, foreign affairs, trade and the environment resigned from Jammeh’s government.