The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has extended the mandate of its military mission in Gambia for one year from its initial expiration date of May 21, 2017. ECOWAS announced the decision at a summit in Liberia on Saturday, June 5.
Significant tensions between West African forces and Gambian citizens have been reported in recent weeks. On Friday, June 2, a demonstrator was killed during clashes between troops and protesters who denounced the presence of ECOWAS Mission in the Gambia (ECOMIG) forces in the village of Kanilai. Authorities announced that 22 arrests had been made in connection to the clashes.
Additional protests are likely in the coming days and weeks and the possibility of violence cannot be ruled out.
Kanilai is the home village of former President Yahya Jammeh.
Soldiers from ECOWAS entered Gambia on January 22, 2017, a day after the departure of former President Yahya Jammeh from the country, in order to facilitate political stability in the country. Tensions have been reported in some parts of Gambia between citizens and West African troops, as some believe ECOMIG to be an occupying force. Hostility may also stem from the inclusion of Senegalese troops in ECOMIG, a longtime rival of Gambia.
Those present in Gambia are advised to monitor the situation, avoid politically sensitive discussions in public, avoid any demonstrations, and follow the instructions of local and home authorities. Due to the risk of major unrest, individuals in the country should remain close to home, have an evacuation plan, ensure that travel documents are valid and up-to-date, and stock up on several days' worth of basic necessities.