Gambia: West African leaders step up pressure on Jammeh to step down

Gambia's incumbent president Yahya Jammeh, under intense pressure from ECOWAS

ECOWAS may “contemplate more draconian decisions” if no agreement with Jammeh

Four African heads of state have landed in The Gambia on Tuesday with a mission to persuade incumbent President Yahya Jammeh to leave office after his defeat at the ballot box.

Jammeh, who earlier conceded to his opponent – Adama Barrow – has vowed to challenge the December 1 vote result in court, leading to an avalanche of international condemnation and multitude of calls for him to cede power to Barrow, who was officially declared the winner.

Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s outgoing President John Mahama landed and immediately convened at a luxury hotel ahead of talks with Jammeh.

“We hope we can talk and that the will of the people will prevail,” President Sirleaf told journalists after her arrival as head of the delegation.
The heavyweight grouping, all of whom who have significant ties to The Gambia, will be joined by United Nations West Africa envoy Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

After meeting Jammeh the African leaders will hold separate talks with Barrow, several sources told reporters.

Gambia-based diplomats say Buhari in particular has long been annoyed by Jammeh’s provocative behavior.
Up until now Jammeh may have exasperated his peers but has never threatened peace in the sub-region, a situation that has dramatically shifted since his (Jammeh’s) move to void the election.

“It is unacceptable that there is an election and one person turns down the result,” Liberia’s information minister Eugene Nagbe told reporters on Tuesday. “The message of President Sirleaf and her delegation to Jammeh will be that he accepts the result and gives way to smooth transition.”

If Jammeh and the delegation did not reach an agreement, west African states would “contemplate more draconian decisions”, a top official with the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc headed by Sirleaf told reporters late Monday.

Jammeh’s party did not file a complaint with the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, thought to be constitutionally the last day possible to contest the election result, but have until 6:00 pm local time (1:00 pm EST) to do so.

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Jammeh has led The Gambia for 22 years since taking power in a coup.

President-elect Barrow has told reporters he wants Jammeh to step down “now”, though the longtime leader has the legal right to stay in office until mid-January.

The African Union (AU) has also promised to dispatch its own delegation as soon as possible to aid the transfer of power, while a statement released Monday said it rejected “any attempt to circumvent or reverse the outcome of the presidential election.”

Source: AFP