14, December 2016
West African regional leaders have failed to convince Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who has lost and rejected the results of a recent presidential election, to allow power transition. Political upheaval erupted in Gambia after the presidential election on December 1, when opposition leader Adama Barrow was declared the winner. Incumbent Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for 22 years and was seeking re-election, first conceded defeat but then backtracked, calling for a re-vote.
Gambian military forces, professing loyalty to the president, seized the headquarters of the national elections commission on Tuesday and blocked staffers from entering the office. Leaders from a regional bloc known as the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, traveled to Gambia in a failed attempt to strike a deal with the president to make him leave power. “It is not time for a deal. It is not something that can happen in one day. It is something that we have to work on,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the ECOWAS delegation.
The regional leaders will meet again on Saturday, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, to further seek a solution to the crisis. ECOWAS president Marcel Alain de Souza warned on Tuesday that military intervention could be considered if the Gambian president avoided to step down. Head of the president’s party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, has filed a petition with Gambia’s Supreme Court demanding a fresh vote with a re-validated voter registry.
The document, which was filed against the election commission and Gambia’s attorney general on Tuesday, said the recent election should be invalidated because, it said, the vote was not conducted fairly. “The petition prays that it be determined that the said Adama Barrow was not duly elected or returned as president and that the said election was void,” read the petition.
But it was not clear what the filing of the petition with the Supreme Court would entail, as some of the institution’s judges have been dismissed by Jammeh himself in a previous row. “The only recourse when you have any problems with the results of the elections… one has to appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has been dormant since May 2015,” said the election commission’s chairman, Alieu Momar Njie, referring to the time when Jammeh dismissed the judges.
Barrow has denounced Jammeh’s rejection of the vote results and said the president lacks the constitutional authority to call for a new vote or to invalidate the election. The United States, the United Nations Security Council, and international organizations have also called for a peaceful transition of power.