Senegalese troops moved to the Gambian border on Wednesday, threatening to invade The Gambia and remove outgoing President Yahya Jammeh by force should he refuse to step down by Thursday.
Wednesday is supposed to be Mr. Jammeh's final day in office, as President-elect Adama Barrow is due to be sworn in on Thursday, January 19. But despite mounting pressure from neighboring Senegal and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mr. Jammeh has refused to peacefully hand over power to Mr. Barrow.
Reuters reports that the Senegalese army will enter The Gambia if Mr. Jammeh does not step down by midnight, local time. Colonel Abdou Ndiaye, spokesperson for the Senegalese army, confirmed this to the news agency on Wednesday.
"We are ready and are awaiting the deadline at midnight. If no political solution is found, we will step in," Mr. Ndiaye told Reuters.
In preparation for potential military intervention, Nigeria deployed a warship to the Gambian coast on Tuesday and is willing to contribute 200 troops to the ECOWAS regional force.
Mr. Jammeh, however, has indicated that he would not step down, which could plunge the small West African nation into war. The Gambian parliament earlier passed a resolution allowing Mr. Jammeh to remain in power for an additional three months.
Reuters reports that Senegal has drafted a resolution to be reviewed by the 15-member United Nations Security Council giving approval for an ECOWAS intervention to remove Mr. Jammeh in order to uphold the will of the Gambian people. However, diplomats disclosed to Reuters that such approval would not be necessary if Mr. Barrow requests help from ECOWAS.
Fearing their safety, thousands of Gambians and tourists have fled the country.
It would be recalled that Mr. Barrow defeated Mr. Jammeh in the December 1, 2016 presidential election. Mr. Jammeh initially conceded defeat, but rescinded his concession a week later, citing irregularities in the poll. He has since refused to step down.
Mr. Jammeh rose to power as a 29-year-old military officer during a bloodless coup in 1994. He is only the second leader of The Gambia since the country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.