Senegal's army spokesman says its troops have entered Gambia to get former leader Yahya Jammeh to cede power to the country's newly inaugurated president.
A West African regional force, including Sengalese troops, had been poised on Gambia's borders and moved in Thursday shortly after the U.N. Security Council expressed "full support" for Gambia's new President Adama Barrow and called on Jammeh to respect his election loss.
Adama Barrow was inaugurated Thursday in a hastily arranged ceremony at Gambia's embassy in Senegal. The small embassy room held about 40 people, including Senegal's prime minister and the head of Gambia's electoral commission.
A jumbo TV screen broadcast the swearing in ceremony to several hundred watching outside the embassy
Also at the event were officials from West Africa's regional bloc, ECOWAS, which is threatening to invade Gambia to force outgoing president Yahya Jammeh to step down.
The U.N. Security Council was set to vote later Thursday on a draft resolution endorsing the West African regional force's efforts to remove Jammeh.
"This is a day no Gambian will ever forget," said Barrow, dressed in a flowing white robe.
Barrow's inauguration took place in the Gambian embassy in Senegal's capital, Dakar. Senegalese police lined the embassy entrance. A large screen outside allowed hundreds to view the ceremony, which was being attended by Senegal's prime minister and other top officials and dignitaries.
Jammeh was at his official residence, State House, in Gambia's capital and intended to stay there, said an official close to the administration who was not authorized to speak to reporters. If the regional force is going to arrest Jammeh, it will have to be there, he said.
Many of Jammeh's loyalists at State House will resist, the official added. But Gambia's army, estimated at well below 5,000 troops, is divided over its loyalties to Jammeh, and those not sympathetic to him will not leave until they are invited by the new government, the official said.
The U.N. Security Council was set to vote Thursday on a draft resolution endorsing the West African regional force's efforts to remove Jammeh.
Barrow won the December election, defeating Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994. Jammeh initially conceded defeat but then changed his mind and said he would not accept the results, saying the election was marred by irregularities.
Jammeh has resisted strong international pressure for him to step down. His mandate expired at midnight.
African nations began stepping away from Jammeh, with Botswana announcing it no longer recognized him as Gambia's president. His refusal to hand over power "undermines the ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance" in Gambia and Africa in general, it said.
The African Union earlier announced that the continental body would no longer recognize Jammeh once his mandate expired.
The U.S. Embassy in Dakar issued a warning to embassy personnel to stay at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Senegal-Gambia border and to avoid military bases until at least Jan. 26.
The streets of the capital, Banjul were quiet Thursday, with few cars and scattered groups of men gathered on roadsides chatting under trees. Shops were closed and gasoline petrol was in short supply. Few tourists remained in the resorts.
Jammeh declared a state of emergency this week, but there were no signs of military activity. Fewer checkpoints were seen.
Thousands of Gambians have fled the country, including some former cabinet members who resigned in recent days. Hundreds of foreign tourists, including many from Britain and the Netherlands, were evacuated on special charter flights.
In Banjul, many residents said they are waiting for news of Barrow's inauguration.
"We are behind Barrow. We are not scared," said taxi driver Boto Sane. "When we hear that everyone can go out (to celebrate safely), that he has returned, we will. For now we are calm."
Another resident said the regional forces would be welcomed if it leads to peace.
"We like that they are coming," said taxi driver Tata Saidy. "We are waiting to hear that now, at this moment, the president is Barrow."
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