In the face of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s intransigence to the voice of reason to accept defeat as per the December 1, 2016 election results, Senegal has reportedly put its army on standby, waiting to see whether the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc, of which Senegal is a member, decides to use force to remove the dictator.
ECOWAS officials have said they will be in Gambia on January 19 to witness Adama Barrow’s installation as president, despite strong opposition from Jammeh.
Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, was the first West African leader to congratulate Barrow on his election victory. Sall’s government “has not been a good partner to President Jammeh’s government. They have not gotten along for a long, long time. They don’t like each other, and apparently you can see that being manifested in the recent election controversy,” Samsudeen Sarr, Gambia’s acting permanent representative to the United Nations, said this week.
“Macky Sall is the one who is telling the world that President Jammeh came out with no reason whatsoever for changing his mind, which is false,” Sarr added. “There are … very compelling reasons why he changed his mind. But why would you misinform the world that he conceded, bought some time, and came back and changed his mind without any reason? And this is what misled the whole world.”
Meanwhile, Senegal will lead military intervention to oust Jammeh if he refuses to step down when his mandate expires on 19 January, a senior official of the West African regional grouping ECOWAS has told JollofNews.
“Stand-by forces” were on alert and would be deployed “to restore the people’s wish” if mediators, led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, failed to persuade Mr. Jammeh to give up power, said Marcel Alain de Souza, the chairman of the ECOWAS Commission.
He added that it was not ECOWAS’ “wish to set alight the zone” and if Mr. Jammeh “loves” his people, he should “negotiate an exit door calmly.”
Mr. Jammeh initially conceded victory to property developer Adama Barrow in the December 1 election, but he later called for the election to be annulled, alleging that it was marred by irregularities.
The Supreme Court has set initially set January 10 as a date for a case brought by Mr. Jammeh’s party to cancel the result, but deferred to May citing constitutionality.
Nigeria offers Asylum
In a related development, Nigeria Lawmakers have agreed to offer Asylum to Jammeh if he agrees to step down on January 19 when his tenure ends. But how guaranteed is it that he won’t be pulled out as was the case of Liberia’s ex-President, Charles Taylor, who was also exiled in Calabar, Nigeria, remains the question.
The motion was tabled by a lawmaker who chairs the Committee on Refugees, the Voice of America (VOA) has reported. According to Mohammed Sani Zorro and the majority who shared his view, granting Jammeh asylum will be in the interest of peace efforts in the tiny West African country.
Other representatives who kicked against the motion were of the view that the move will send the wrong signal and set an unhealthy precedent to other autocrats across the continent.
They affirmed their support for ECOWAS mediation efforts and also called on Jammeh to “respect the will of the people,” who voted for opposition candidate.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who heads the ECOWAS mediation effort, should consider “offering outgoing President Jammeh a safe haven in Nigeria to live securely as a way to end the political stalemate in The Gambia,” they added.
The motion, however, does not bind the government and did not prompt an immediate response from Buhari, who is expected to visit Banjul on Friday for talks with Jammeh.
Jammeh, had initially accepted the outcome of the polls only to reverse his decision citing irregularities as admitted by the electoral body. He has in a recent address vowed to challenge the results in court and warned that he would not leave power until his complaint was heard by the Supreme Court.
The top court was unable to constitute a bench to listen to the poll petition by Jammeh’s party. The Chief Justice said the parties had to wait till May to get judges to sit on the case.