“Their intervention is very important, it’s very good for the safety of the Gambian people who have been suffering for 22 years of dictatorship,” said Lamin Sesay, who was watching the Senegalese troops before they crossed the bridge to enter the capital.
The Senegalese commando battalion made its way cautiously into Banjul, stopping to liaise with members of the Gambian army at checkpoints. The Senegalese soldiers entered the country at the Selity border crossing between Gambia and the southern Casamance region, according to a senior Senegalese military officer who was not authorized to talk to the media.
The convoy of armoured personnel carriers and support vehicles made its way to State House and was greeted on the way by cheering supporters.
“I feel this is the day Gambia gained its independence, it all stopped in 1994 when a young man from nowhere turned this country upside down,” said Isatu Njie, a former television presenter at the GRTS state broadcaster, who was among the crowd.
The battalion took positions at Gambia’s State House and discussions took place between a Senegalese commander and the head of the building’s security forces, the Senegalese officer said.
The streets of Banjul had been quiet earlier in the day with few people and little traffic. However, the arrival of the troops brought people out on the streets with supporters of President Barrow singing the national anthem and cheering for the regional bloc Ecowas.
“They will remain temporarily to work with the security forces of the Gambia to ensure enlarged security for President Barrow to come,” said Halifa Sallah, spokesperson for Barrow’s coalition, at a press conference on Sunday.
The Senegalese troops had originally been put on alert as part of a military intervention that Ecowas threatened if Jammeh did not hand over power to Barrow. Their role in Gambia now will be managed to avoid any conflict between the two military forces, according to Sallah.
Gambia’s state of emergency put in place before Jammeh left the country will be lifted on Monday in coordination with the National Assembly, said Sallah.