John Kirby, US State Department Spokesman

(JollofNews) – The US government Tuesday called on President Yahya Jammeh to step aside peacefully to prevent “potential chaos” in the small West African nation.

Mr Jammeh’s mandate ends at midnight but is refusing to handover power to opposition candidate Adama Barrow, who was declared winner of last month’s election. And as the standoff deepens, he has declared a state of emergency in the country due to what he called unprecedented foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.

But John Kirby, US State Department spokesman  said Mr  President Jammeh is losing opportunities to respect the will of the Gambian people and to peacefully hand over power to the president-elect, which is supposed to happen on Thursday.

“Doing so would allow him to leave office with his head held high and to protect the Gambian people from potential chaos. Failure to do so will put his legacy – and, more importantly, the Gambia – in peril, and we have been clear about this,” he said.

President Yahya Jammeh

“I don’t know what interference he’s referring to, but we obviously want to see the Gambia succeed and we want to see the president-elect properly installed and to have in place a government which is responsible for and responsive to the needs of the Gambian people.”

Mr Jammeh, 51, who has ruled the Gambia for 22 years has rejected the election results  after accusing the country’s electoral commission of  it rigging the election in favour of the opposition.

His attempt to overturn the election result at the Supreme Court has been delayed because of a shortage of judges as most of the judges come from neighbouring countries.

The regional group, Ecowas, which tried unsuccessfully to convince Mr Jammeh to handover power peacefully has warned of serious consequences if Mr Barrow’s is blocked on Thursday.

And as the deadline nears, Nigeria has deployed its newest warship, the NNS Unity, to the Gambia ahead of a planned military intervention to enforce the outcome of  the election results.