Gambia's Barrow asks regional force to stay for six months

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2017 6:48 AM

DAKAR (Reuters) - Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, has asked a West African military contingent, which pressured his predecessor to go into exile after he refused to accept election defeat, to remain in the country for six months, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

Yahya Jammeh, an authoritarian former coup leader who ruled for 22 years, fled to Equatorial Guinea on Saturday as a multi-national force with a mandate from the regional bloc ECOWAS stood poised to remove him.

"The president of Gambia asked for the mission to remain for six months, and it's up to ECOWAS to decide," Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations' most senior official in West Africa, told reporters in Senegal's capital, Dakar.

Barrow, who won the Dec. 1 election by a slim margin, was sworn in as president at Gambia's embassy in Dakar last week.

He has remained in Senegal as the ECOWAS force carries out a sweep of Gambia to neutralize any lingering security threats, but a senior aide said he was likely to return to Gambia on Thursday.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Kevin Liffey)