Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Muhammadu Buhari and Macky Sall of Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal respectively have ended a one-day meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, aimed at resolving the political stalemate in The Gambia.
A dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says President Buhari of Nigeria hosted the one-day meeting, also attended by Mr. John Mahama, the immediate past President of Ghana, Mr. Marcel de Souza, President of the ECOWAS Commission and special representatives from the United Nations and African Union.
The meeting came ten days to the January 19th inauguration of President-elect of The Gambia, Mr. Adama Barrow. Outgoing President Yahya Jammeh who lost the December 1 election and had earlier conceded defeat, however recanted a week later, and is now asking for fresh polls to be conducted.
Sub-regional leaders at the recently concluded 49th ECOWAS Summit held on December 17 in Abuja under the Chairmanship of President Sirleaf designated President Buhari as the mediator for The Gambia and the immediate past President of Ghana, Mr. Mahama, as co-mediator.
According to the dispatch, the leaders on Monday deliberated on the current state of affairs in The Gambia and agreed on their determination to resolve the political crisis in a manner that every step of the way conforms to the Constitution of The Gambia and respects the will of the people of that country.
The dispatch adds that the three West African leaders, after over four hours of an intensive closed door meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, resolved to within two days send some ECOWAS leaders to The Gambia to discuss with outgoing President Jammeh the imperative to respect the Constitution.
Last month’s 49th ECOWAS Summit also gave the terms of reference of President Buhari and former President Mahama to include ensuring the safety of President-elect Barrow, the political leaders and the entire population.
President Sirleaf will therefore again lead President Buhari and hopefully President Ernest Bai Koromo of Sierra Leone to Banjul on Wednesday, January 11. Others to form part of the ECOWAS leaders’ delegation include co-mediator, Mahama, Mr. de Souza and special representatives of the United Nations and African Union.
Last month, President Sirleaf led an ECOWAS delegation, including Presidents Buhari, Koroma and Mr. Mahama to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, where they met with President Jammeh, President-elect Barrow and other stakeholders.
Speaking on the outcome of the discussion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, said the sub-regional leaders expressed particular concern over the deteriorating situation that has been reported in respect to security in The Gambia.
In particular, the West African leaders expressed concern over the closure of some radio stations and media houses in The Gambia, the arrests of some people and also the refugee situation that is being created with the mass exodus of Gambians into the interior parts of the country and to neighboring countries.
Monday’s meeting in Abuja followed the one in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday, January 7, on the sidelines of the inauguration of that country’s new President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Meanwhile, this newspaper has gathered that the leaders are expected to leave for Banjul, The Gambia on Friday, January 13 to meet with President Yahya Jammeh on the political crisis in that tiny West African country.
The Daily Observer yesterday reliably learnt that, President Sirleaf as head of ECOWAS will be accompanying the African leaders to convince Jammeh to step down on January 18 to pave way for the inauguration of President-elect, Adama Barrow.
The ECOWAS leaders are using diplomatic means at present to convince Jammeh to respect the result of the election and peacefully step down, but he is contending that the intervention of ECOWAS is against the African grouping’s protocol, citing that the protocol does not allow anyone country to interfere with domestic problem of either country except with the consent of that country.
Earlier, the West African leaders said they will use diplomatic means to resolve the political crisis arising in The Gambia, but if they do not succeed through diplomacy, the next option will be to apply military force.