Senegalese troops have entered The Gambia to ensure Adama Barrow assumes power as the country’s new president, a Senegalese army spokesman has said.
It comes shortly after Mr Barrow took the oath of office at The Gambia’s embassy in the capital of Senegal.
He has been recognised internationally. But strongman Yahya Jammeh has refused to quit and is backed by parliament.
West African leaders have threatened to remove Mr Jammeh by force. The UN has backed their support for Mr Barrow.
The 15-member Security Council stressed on Thursday that this should be pursued “by political means first”.
Senegalese army spokesman Col Abdou Ndiaye was quoted by news agencies as saying the country’s troops entered The Gambia on Thursday afternoon.
Nigeria said earlier in the day that its “armed reconnaissance air force are over Gambia”, AFP reports.
“They have the capacity to strike,” Nigerian Air Force spokesman Ayodele Famuyiwa told the news agency.
West African military forces have made it clear they are ready to enforce a transfer of power in the country, a popular beach destination among European holidaymakers.
Mr Barrow took oath at the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
In his inauguration speech, he ordered all members of The Gambia’s armed forces to remain in their barracks.
“Those found illegally holding arms will be considered rebels,” he warned.
“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget,” Barrow said after taking the oath, which was administered by the president of Gambia’s bar association. “Our national flag will now fly high among the most democratic nations of the world.”
“I hereby make an explicit appeal to ECOWAS, the (African Union) and the UN… to support the government and people of the Gambia in enforcing their will, restoring their sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy,” he said.
During the brief inauguration speech, Barrow asserted his new role as commander and chief of Gambia’s armed services, ordering soldiers to stay calm and remain in their barracks. Those who did not would be considered rebels, he said.
ECOWAS and the African Union have said they will recognize Barrow from Thursday and nations including the United Kingdom and France were quick to congratulate Barrow.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement pledged “his full support for his (Barrow’s) determination, and ECOWAS’s historic decision, with the unanimous backing of the Security Council, to restore the rule of law in The Gambia so as to honor and respect the will of the Gambian people.”
Barrow gave the oath in a tiny room in Gambia’s embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, and many of those present broke into the Gambian national anthem once he had completed it.
Outside the building on a residential street amid a heavy security presence, dozens of Gambians listened to the ceremony through loudspeakers.
“THE DICTATOR IS OUT”
Hundreds of Gambians celebrated in the streets, cautiously at first, and then gradually in larger numbers as they realised the security forces looking on were not going to open fireBBC reports.
Cars whizzed up and down the highway lined with iron-roofed shops in the pro-Barrow Serrekunda district of Banjul, with horns honking and people hanging out of the windows.
“The dictator is out,” shouted pharmacist Lamine Jao, 30, as others cheered and whistled in agreement. “It’s just a question of time. We’ll soon flush him out. Believe me,” he said.
“It’s very sad to be swearing in a president in someone else’s country,” said Fatou Silla, 33, a businesswoman who fled Gambia with her son a week ago, reports Reuters.
Fearing unrest, thousands of Gambians have fled, the United Nations estimates.