Gambia’s Jammeh faces noon deadline to quit

Gambia President Adams Barrow leaves the Gambian Embassy after being inaugurated in Dakar, Senegal. (AP Photo/Jane Hahn)
Updated 20 January 2017
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Gambia’s Jammeh faces noon deadline to quit

BANJUL, GAMBIA: Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh faced a “last chance saloon” deadline to step down by noon as troops from five African nations stood by for action and key regional leaders flew in to make a final plea.
Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Guinea’s Alpha Conde were due in the capital, Banjul, as troops already inside The Gambia postponed military intervention to give Jammeh, who was defeated in elections last month, a final chance to leave quietly.
The two heads of state are long-term allies of Jammeh, who has had more prickly relations with other west African leaders during the post-election crisis these last weeks.
Diplomats in Banjul confirmed to AFP that the pair were arriving, with one describing a “last chance saloon” moment before foreign troops led by Senegal remove Jammeh by force.
Jammeh has rejected President Adama Barrow’s December 1 election win, despite significant pressure from regional powers and the UN, sparking a major crisis and sending tourists — vital for the tiny country’s economy — fleeing.
In Conakry, minister and Conde adviser Kiridi Bangoura said Jammeh would be offered asylum in the country of his choice.
Barrow, who was sworn in at The Gambia’s embassy in Dakar on Thursday, remained in Senegal awaiting the outcome of the talks, with hopes of taking over the reigns of state from Jammeh as soon as his safety could be guaranteed.
He hailed a “victory of the Gambian nation” and demanded loyalty from his armed forces at his inauguration.
An imminent military operation was suspended late Thursday to allow a final diplomatic push to convince Jammeh, who has ruled the former British colony since seizing power in a 1994 coup, to leave the country.
“We have suspended operations and given him an ultimatum,” said Marcel Alain de Souza, head of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“If by midday, he doesn’t agree to leave The Gambia... we really will intervene militarily,” he added.
As white flags reportedly flew from Gambian army posts in the countryside, tectonic shifts were said to be underway among the military elite, pointing to a gradual acceptance of Barrow, even among units known for loyalty to Jammeh.
A diplomatic source said a faction had “switched sides” among the elite Republican Guards who assure Jammeh’s personal protection, following meetings among themselves at their Bakau barracks close to Banjul.
Gambian army chief Ousman Badjie was seen celebrating Barrow’s inauguration late Thursday and had already declared he would not order his men to fight for Jammeh.
Soldiers were told by Barrow in his inauguration speech they would be considered rebel elements if they remained armed on the streets, and the few that remained on Thursday did not attempt to stop the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Barrow’s stronghold districts.
Vultures circled the deserted streets of Banjul on Friday morning, with the usual heavy military presence near absent.
“If they (foreign troops) come we will just stay in our homes and let them take him. If I had the chance I would apprehend him myself. He’s messed up our lives,” one Banjul resident told AFP under condition of anonymity.

On the ground, troops including “land, air and sea” forces crossed into The Gambia, a Senegalese army officer told AFP, indicating that Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Mali were also involved.
A Senegalese army spokesman confirmed his country’s troops had crossed the border, after Nigerian jets earlier flew over The Gambia.
The uncertainty continued to push Gambians to flee the country and shelter with relatives in neighboring states, while others living close to the capital returned to villages upcountry.
The United Nations refugee agency said around 45,000 had fled The Gambia so far, with more than 75 percent of those being sent out children, largely accompanied by women.
“They are staying with family members, host families or in hotels. Some families are hosting up to 40 to 50 people and will soon need support as they may quickly run out of resources,” a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report said.


Floods force millions to flee homes in South Asia

A man looks out of the window of his partially submerged home in flood-hit Kahchin, Myanmar. (Reuters)
Updated 11 min 47 sec ago
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Floods force millions to flee homes in South Asia

  • Death toll in Nepal and Bangladesh rises to 76 after days of heavy rains

KATMANDU: Floods have forced more than 3 million people from their homes across north and northeastern India, officials said on Monday, as the death toll in neighboring Nepal and low-lying Bangladesh rose to 76 after days of heavy monsoon rains.

Worst affected is the northern Indian state of Bihar, where some 1.9 million people have fled their homes due to rising waters, a state government release said.
Television channels showed roads and railway lines in Bihar submerged, with people wading through chest-high, brown, churning waters, carrying their belongings on their heads.
An impoverished agrarian province with rickety infrastructure and poor health care services, Bihar has a history of flooding in its northern areas that border Nepal.
Flood waters in the northeastern Indian state of Assam rose overnight with the Brahmaputra River, which flows down from the Himalayas into Bangladesh, and its tributaries still in spate. More than 1.7 million people in Assam have been displaced by the floods, authorities said, and most of the Kaziranga National Park, home to the rare one-horned rhino, was also under water.
“The flood situation has turned very critical with 31 of the 32 districts affected,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.
“We are working on a war footing to deal with the flood situation.”
Known for its tea industry, Assam is often inundated by seasonal flooding, and state and federal governments have spent millions of rupees on flood control.
India’s weather office on Monday forecast widespread rains across Assam and Bihar for the next two days.
In neighboring Nepal, 64 people were killed and 31 were missing, with around a third of all districts hit by heavy rains, authorities said. Many of the deaths were caused by landslides that swept away houses.

We are working on a war footing to deal with the flood situation.

                Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief minister of Assam

In southeast Nepal, water levels on the Kosi River, which flows into Bihar, had receded, an district official said. In 2008, the Kosi broke its banks and changed course, inundating huge tracts of land and killing 500 people.
“Our analysis is that the danger is over now that the water level has come down,” Chiranjibi Giri, assistant district administrator of Sunsari district, told Reuters.
The annual monsoon season, which brings the most rain across south Asia, also hit Bangladesh hard, forcing an estimated 190,000 people out of their homes, government officials said.
In Cox’s Bazar district, shelter to some 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in neighboring Myanmar, more than 100,000 people have been displaced.
Since early July, flooding and landslides have damaged thousands of shelters at the refugee camps, killing two people, including a child, Human Rights Watch said in a release last week.