8, January 2017
West African leaders will continue mediation to ensure the peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia and have no plans to deploy armed forces to the country “for now,” says Liberia’s president. “We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia… we will continue to pursue that for now,” Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said after a meeting of regional leaders in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Saturday.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided not to deploy its standby military force to The Gambia, said Sirleaf, who chairs the 15-member bloc. The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, has refused to step down despite losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow, an opposition leader, in December last year. That has triggered a political crisis and fears of violence in the country.
Jammeh initially accepted losing to Barrow, triggering nationwide celebrations on the streets. A week later, however, he changed his mind, saying the electoral commission had been biased in favor of his rival. He then filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against the electoral commission and vowed to remain in office despite regional and international pressure to concede defeat.
Sirleaf stressed that ECOWAS is closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court, where Jammeh is challenging election results. Last month, ECOWAS leaders said they would do anything necessary to uphold the result of The Gambia election. ECOWAS then placed its military forces on standby to intervene in case Jammeh attempted to stay in power after his mandate ends on January 19.
According to Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, ECOWAS is scheduled to discuss the future steps at a meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja, on Monday. Observers have expressed concern that the political deadlock in The Gambia could escalate into violence.