Eleven West African leaders are continuing to push for Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh to accept his defeat in the Dec 1 elections.
The 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 Jan 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.
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 But he later rescinded his support and refused to accept his defeat.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.
Meanwhile in GENEVA, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has warned that the increased military presence deployed across Gambia since Pres Jammeh rejected the election result risks heightening the current climate of intimidation and harassment in the country.
"This is deeply worrying, given the record of human rights violations in The Gambia, including excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detention and deaths in custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees," he said.
The High Commissioner also urged the Gambian authorities to allow people to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression. "All those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable."
Zeid urged the President and all political parties to respect the result of the elections, the democratic process and the independent status of the IEC, whose premises were taken over by the army on Tuesday and officials ordered to leave.
"All parties should conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful atmosphere during this crucial period and, in particular, avoid using inflammatory language. We urge all sides to reaffirm their commitment to democracy and to work to ensure that there is a peaceful handover of the presidency by 18 January in line with the freely expressed desire and will of the Gambian people," the High Commissioner stressed.
"President Jammeh and his Government should avoid resorting to threats or acts of intimidation, including against Mr. Barrow and his supporters, and members of the IEC," he added.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK