West African troops were poised to intervene in Gambia on Thursday after President Yahya Jammeh's mandate expired and overnight talks to convince him to stand down failed.
Senegal has deployed hundreds of soldiers to its shared border with Gambia and Nigeria has pre-positioned war planes and helicopters after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would remove Jammeh if he did not hand over power to challenger Adama Barrow, who won an election in early December.
Gambia's capital, Banjul, was quiet overnight and on Thursday morning as military helicopters flew overhead and police trucks patrolled largely empty streets.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz led last ditch talks with Jammeh in Banjul on Wednesday before meeting Senegal's President Macky Sall and Barrow in Dakar overnight.
It was unclear what Jammeh's next move would be. The veteran leader faces almost total diplomatic isolation and a government that has all but collapsed from defections. Both ECOWAS and the African Union have said they will recognise Barrow as president from Thursday.
"It is absurd," Barrow's spokesman Halifa Sallah said in a press conference on Wednesday. "The clear position is that the president-elect should assume office on the 19th".
Plans to swear Barrow in at the national stadium have been dropped but he will take the oath of office at an undisclosed location, Sallah said.
Two diplomats said they expected Barrow to be sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal.