Preventing armed conflict in The Gambia


The deployment of an Economic Community of West African States peacekeeping force has helped The Gambia to prevent a constitutional crisis that from escalating into an armed conflict.

In December 2017, The Gambia held a presidential election. The incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, had been in power since 1994, led a repressive regime, and had refused the presence of international monitors at the polls. Thus, the unexpected announcement from the Gambian Electoral Commission that the opposition candidate had won the contest caught many observers off guard. Even more surprising was the conciliatory tone initially offered by Jammeh, who congratulated his rival, Adama Barrow.1 Within a week, however, Jammeh deployed troops on the streets and claimed irregularities in the vote-counting process meant that fresh elections should be held. Fearing armed conflict or a brutal crackdown, Barrow, along with tens of thousands of other Gambian citizens, fled to neighbouring Senegal.

The international community, led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was quick to condemn Jammeh’s actions and called for the restoration of constitutional rule. The UN Special Representative for West Africa and the presidents of Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone visited Jammeh, imploring him to give up the presidency. Jammeh’s refusal to cede power led ECOWAS to gather troops on the border and prepare for a Military intervention once his mandate ended.2 The EU provided initial funds for the operation via its Early Response Mechanism and has continued supporting ECOWAS efforts in The Gambia.3 In the meantime, Barrow was inaugurated in the Gambian Embassy in Senegal on 19 January 2017 and, on the same day, the UN Security Council approved ECOWAS intervention to enforce the decision of the Gambian people.4 The ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia made clear its intention to enter the country the moment Jammeh’s term in the presidency ended, however such action was avoided when he finally agreed to leave the country.5 In 2018, the African Union Technical Support to The Gambia mission was established to support the stabilisation process and advise the Gambian government on the rule of law, democracy, transitional justice, and Security Sector Reform.6 Diplomatic pressure and threat of Military intervention helped to ensure a peaceful transfer of power and maintain stability in The Gambia.

1 Christof Harmann. “ECOWAS and the Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia.” Africa Spectrum, Vol. 52, No. 1. (2017) pp.86-7

2 Ruth Maclean. “Gambia crisis: Senegal troops poised at border as Jammeh mandate ends.” The Guardian. (2017) Available at: (Accessed 11/11/2020)

3 Africa-EU Partnership. Mission in the Gambia (ECOMIG). (EU, 2019) Available at: (Accessed 11/11/2020)

4 United Nations Security Council. Resolution 2337. (UN, 2017) Available at: (Accessed 11/11/2020)

5 Ruth Maclean. “Yahya Jammeh leaves the Gambia after 22 years of rule.” The Guardian. (2017) Available at: (Accessed 11/11/2020)

6 Chido Mutangadura. “Will The Gambia be a turning point for AU peace efforts?” Institute for Security Studies. (2019) Available at: (Accessed 12/11/2020)

Start Year


End Year



The Gambia

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Risk of a vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative


Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States




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