ECOWAS troops entered The Gambia on Sunday to secure President Adama Barrow’s arrival from neighbouring Senegal.
The full entry of the troops was caused by controversy over the assurances offered to Mr Yahya Jammeh to guarantee his exit.
Jammeh flew out of The Gambia on Saturday, ending 22 years at the helm of the west African nation, and landed in Equatorial Guinea a few hours later where he is expected to settle with his family.
The Senegalese general leading a joint force of troops from five African nations said soldiers had nonetheless entered The Gambia to “control strategic points to ensure the safety of the population and facilitate… Barrow’s assumption of his role.”
A convoy crossing the frontier on Sunday morning, which would leave them several hours to reach Banjul.
Senegalese forces had briefly crossed into the former British colony on Thursday but pulled out shortly afterwards, with Sunday’s troop movement the first by soldiers from the joint force.
Marcel Alain de Souza, a top official with the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), which organised the deployment, said pro-Jammeh elements and mercenaries remained on the ground and had open fired as troops crossed the border.
“They were neutralised,” he said in a statement, without elaborating.
De Souza said the country “could not be left open” for long, however, and that President Barrow must be in place “as soon as possible”.
“A country must have a government, but the security conditions required the troops we have sent to secure Banjul and other towns,” he said.
Following Barrow’s win in the December 1 election, Jammeh refused to step down, triggering weeks of uncertainty that almost ended in a full military intervention.
The long-time leader, wearing his habitual white flowing robes, waved to supporters before boarding a small, unmarked plane at Banjul airport alongside Guinea’s President Alpha Conde after two days of talks over a departure deal.
He left behind a small minority of diehard supporters, some of whom wept as his plane departed.
The choice of Equatorial Guinea for his exile had helped ease concerns that Mr Jammeh might interfere in his nation’s politics if he stayed in Guinea, whose border is not far from The Gambia’s eastern region.
He personally controlled certain section of the security forces, and his long tenure was marked by systematic rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention.