26,000 Tourists flee Gambia over political crisis

Thousands of tourists have left The Gambia, following the declaration of a state of emergency in the country.

Jammeh’s tenure which was expected to expire by midnight on Wednesday was extended by 90 days by The Gambia’s Parliament. A state of emergency was also declared in the country.

Speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show, a journalist with the Standard newspaper in Gambia, Saikou Kalleh quoted a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), indicating that about 26,000 people had so far left the country.

“In the last hours, we have seen a UNHCR report indicating that about 26,000 people have left Gambia for Senegal…Tourists from other parts of the world are also flying out because people are expecting it [crisis] to have reach a breaking point. They don’t think ECOWAS and Jammeh, and his team are going to make any dialogue possible. That stubbornness in the government is very clear.”

barrow-and-jammeh

He revealed that the migration kicked off on December 9 when Jammeh rejected the results.

Saikou further attributed the high rate in migration from The Gambia to what he called “palpable fear” in the country.

“…If you go to Banjul, the fear is palpable. You can see fear in the air. There is a great deal of uncertainty. If you go to Gambia’s financial district, there is complete silence except for the occasional passing of vehicles and talking of pedestrians…There is fear and people are running away.”

Tourism might be affected

Saikou intimated that the crisis, if not resolved might threaten the tourism industry which according to him, contributes about 20% to Gambia’s GDP.

“If Jammeh refuses to step down it might affect the Gambian economy, because tourism contributes about 20 percent to the Gambia’s GDP.”

The Gambia is a popular beach destination in winter, especially for tourists from Britain.

Adama Barrow to be inaugurated today 

Meanwhile The Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow will be sworn into office at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

Barrow took to his twitter handle to make the announcement to his followers and the rest of the world who have keenly followed developments in Gambia following the refusal of President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power, despite losing the election in December 2016.

“I would like to inform you that the Inauguration Ceremony is going to take place at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal,” he announced.

Why is Mr Jammeh refusing to leave office?

The Gambia regularly held elections, which he won until last year. Mr Jammeh had said there were irregularities in the election process, including the turning away of some of his supporters from polling stations, and errors made by the Electoral Commission.

The Commission accepted that some of the results it initially published contained errors, but said Mr Barrow had still won. Mr Jammeh has said he will stay in office until new elections are held. Retaining power would have ensured he was not prosecuted in The Gambia for alleged abuses committed during his rule.

The US state department urged Mr Jammeh to peacefully transfer power to Mr Barrow on Thursday. “Doing so would allow him to leave office with his head held high and to protect The Gambian people from potential chaos,” spokesman John Kirby said.

By: Marian Ansah/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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