Jammeh, whose mandate expired at midnight, came to power in a 1994 coup, had initially conceded defeat but a week later contested the December 1 poll’s results stating irregularities.

A former coup leader who has ruled the small West African country since 1994, Jammeh has resisted strong international pressure for him to step down.

READ MORE: Thousands flee Gambia as crisis deepens

African nations began stepping away from Jammeh, with Botswana announcing on Thursday it no longer recognised him as Gambia’s president.

His refusal to hand over power “undermines the ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy and good governance” in Gambia and Africa in general, it said.

Earlier this month, the African Union announced that it would no longer recognise Jammeh once his mandate expired.

At least 26,000 people have fled Gambia for Senegal since the start of the crisis fearing unrest, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday, citing Senegalese government figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies