Thousands are fleeing Gambia amid fears that long-time dictator Yahya Jammeh will tip the country into war rather than accept a peaceful handover of power.
Prolonged political uncertainty and fear of unrest have pushed thousands of Gambians across the border into neighbouring Senegal and farther to Guinea-Bissau and Guinea Conakry.
The national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s refugee commission, Tibna Sambe Na Wana said more than 1,000 Gambians had crossed into the country where they do not require a visa, in recent days.
“It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily,” Na Wana said.
They fear their own lives. This is why they are running. Even my own family some of them have left, they went to Jarra.
The Gambia, a tiny country of less than two million people, is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and regional bloc Ecowas has said it is considering military intervention to force Mr Jammeh to relinquish power.
The Gambia’s Chief Justice has declined to rule on an application by President Yahya Jammeh to ban the inauguration of Adama Barrow as his successor.
Mr Barrow won the election and an inauguration is planned for Thursday.
But Mr Jammeh rejected the result and is refusing to step down until the Supreme Court hears his challenge, in May.
His legal team had asked for an injunction to block Mr Barrow’s inauguration.
The BBC’s Umaru Fofana reports from Banjul that Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle said he could not rule on the issues as he is a subject of it.
The UN refugee agency said last week that several thousand people, mainly children, have crossed into Senegal from The Gambia since 3 January.
“UNHCR teams report seeing buses filled with children, accompanied by women, cross the border,” said Liz Ahua, the regional representative for UNHCR.
Today Wednesday is supposed to be Jammeh’s last day in power.
Barrow, the president-elect, himself is staying in Dakar, where he has been advised to remain for his personal safety until his scheduled inauguration on Thursday. This has prevented him from returning home for the funeral of his eight-year-old son who, it was reported on Monday, died after being bitten by a dog.
Mamadou Dian Donghol Diallo.