Saturday, December 17, 2016

West African Leaders Press Gambia’s Jammeh to Accept Defeat

West African leaders are continuing to push for Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh to accept his defeat in the December 1 elections.

Eleven West African heads of state met Saturday in Abuja, Nigeria, for the 50th summit of the West African community bloc known as ECOWAS to call for a speedy resolution of the political impasse in Gambia.

ECOWAS Chairperson and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said delegates needed to recommend measures to conclude the matter before January 19. That’s when the Gambian president is constitutionally mandated to hand over power.

She and the presidents of Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone met Jammeh in Gambia during the week, but that meeting failed to produce any resolution to end the standoff between him and the winner of the election, Adama Barrow.

Jammeh has ruled the country since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994. His rule has long been tainted with accusations of gross human rights abuses. He was expected to stay in power, but this year, many young Gambians were determined to rule him out.

FILE - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh smiles during a rally in Banjul, Gambia, Nov. 29, 2016.

FILE – Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh smiles during a rally in Banjul, Gambia, Nov. 29, 2016.

Barrow won a majority of the votes, and Jammeh congratulated him. But he later rescinded his support and refused to accept his defeat.

Since then, Jammeh has faced international condemnation. The United Nations, African Union and Amnesty International have all demanded Jammeh step down. There’s even a hashtag trending on social media, #JammehMustGo.

ECOWAS has not detailed what measures it would take against Gambia, but they could include sanctions. That would be a big blow. Gambia is one of the poorest countries in Africa and relies on tourism for revenue. It also relies on its border with Senegal for imports, but Senegal has been open in condemning Gambia. And sanctions could result in closed borders.

Jammeh is still making moves to hold on to power. His political party has filed a legal challenge to the election loss with the Supreme Court of the Gambia.

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