Dec. 12, 2016 (GIN) – A new constitutional crisis has erupted in Gambia after a change in heart by Yahya Jammeh, the national president defeated in a recent election whose outcome he now refuses to respect.
Jammeh initially promised a peaceful transition to the winner, Adama Barrow, but unexpectedly made a U turn and announced on national TV his “total rejection of the election results.. thereby annulling the election.”
African leaders are now heading to Gambia to persuade incumbent President Jammeh to agree to leave office peacefully. The delegation is headed by Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace laureate and the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone leader Ernest Bai Koroma and outgoing Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama.
“I think he should step down now,” said Barrow, who was declared the election winner.
“He has lost the election, we don’t want to waste time, we want this country to start moving,” he told the AFP news agency.
Mr Jammeh’s mandate ends on Jan. 18 but his party says it will file a petition to the Supreme Court, reports the BBC’s Umaru Fofana. But the Supreme Court cannot make a decision as they do not have enough judges.
Two were sacked by the president in June and legal experts say he can’t appoint new judges for a case about himself.
The military appears divided over the new development. Head of the Gambian army, Gen. Ousman Badjie, pledged his loyalty to President-elect Barrow after the incumbent conceded. But some members of the army have gravitated back to the outgoing leader.
Neighboring Senegal, which surrounds The Gambia, called a UN Security Council meeting which condemned Mr Jammeh’s U-turn. Senegalese fighter jets have been seen flying in the skies.
According to the electoral commission’s latest count, Mr. Barrow won by 222,708 votes (43.3%), President Jammeh received 208,487 (39.6%) and a third-party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 89,768 (17.1%)
A correction to an alleged ballot miscount has reduced Mr. Barrow’s margin of victory from 9% to 4%.
With the announcement of Jammeh’s defeat, a public outpouring of joy filled the streets. But it came to a halt when Jammeh said he would “not tolerate any demonstrations” and warned that there would be “serious consequences” for anyone who went against him.
Gambians who had taken to the streets stayed at home on Sunday and Monday as soldiers have been seen digging trenches and building defense positions on the road to the capital, Banjul.
The U.S., European Union, African Union, United Nations and ECOWAS have all pressed Jammeh to respect the election result.