9 January 2017

West African Leaders Urge Gambia President Jammeh to Step Down

Photo: Premium Times
Buhari hosts West African leaders.

A delegation of current and former West African leaders is to meet Gambia President Yahya Jammeh to encourage him to step down. The long-time leader has refused to accept the outcome of December's presidential election.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is to lead a delegation of West African leaders to Gambia in an effort to convince Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to step down.

The mandate for Jammeh's five-year term expires on January 18, after which president-elect Adama Barrow is due to take power. If he refuses to do so by that date, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may use military intervention.

"Violence should be avoided but nothing is ruled out," said Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.

Buhari is to join Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Ghanian President John Dramani Mahama in the Gambian capital of Banjul on Wednesday. They are to "discuss with President Jammeh the imperative to respect the constitution," according to Onyeama.

Not backing down

Jammeh lost December 1 elections to opposition candidate Adama Barrow. After initially accepting the results, Jammeh and his party have since filed legal complaints against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), alleging manipulation of ballot counting and intimidation of his supporters. The case is scheduled to be heard Tuesday. However, it is increasingly likely there will not be enough judges sitting on the case.

"In the absence of a court and the pure impossibility of the parties being served n time to appear and enter a response, it seems that an adjournment of the case will be the most likely outcome," Gambian legal expert Aziz Bensouda told French news agency AFP.

Jammeh's lawyer, Edward Gomez, said he did not know how many judges would appear, but said "judges have been employed for the Supreme Court."

"Now whether they are here or they are not, I am in no position to tell you," said Gomez.

The Gambian Supreme Court has been dormant since May 2015 after several judges were fired for commuting death sentences of former military officers to life in prson. Chief justice Emmanuel Fagbenle is the lone sitting judge on the panel.

Jammeh, after assuming power following a coup in 1994, has been accused of human rights abuses and stifling the press.

kbd/jm (AFP, AP)

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