Gambians and tourists flee country as president remains

Tourists and locals alike have started to flee politically unstable Gambia as President Yahya Jammeh refuses to give up his post.

GAMBIA (REUTERS) - Gambians and tourists beginning to flee the country Wednesday (Dec 18), as President Yahya Jammeh clings to power on the eve of his rival Adama Barrow's planned swearing in.

Jammeh is refusing to step down, despite condemnation from regional leaders, and even the threat of an imminent invasion by West African troops to enforce his election defeat.

Gambia's National Assembly will allow Jammeh, who took power after a 1994 coup, to stay in office for three more months.

But, his allies have deserted in their droves and many Gambians are not waiting to find out what will happen next, instead crossing the border into Senegal.

And it's not just locals who are affected.

British Tour operator Thomas Cook said it had made plans to evacuate 985 package tour customers from the tiny West African nation, and was also trying to contact a further two and a half thousand 'flight only' tourists to get them out of Gambia on the earliest available plane.

Despite the reputation of its leader, Gambia's Atlantic Ocean beaches are popular with European holidaymakers.

But now the country's tourism industry lies in tatters.