The West African regional bloc said on Saturday it would take all necessary actions to uphold the result of a Dec. 1 election in Gambia, where long term President Yahya Jammeh says he will not step down after losing to President-Elect Adama Barrow.
The chairperson of the regional bloc ECOWAS, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Saturday told the community, at its 50th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, that measures will be taken to bring the matter to an end.
“It’s now important that the authority at this summit considers measures to bring the matter to a successful conclusion before January 19 … when the mandate of the current President expires,” she told the summit.
ECOWAS leaders said in a communique marking the end of a summit in the Nigerian capital that they would attend the Jan. 18 inauguration of Barrow, “who must be sworn in”, and guarantee the safety of the president-elect.
Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to step down was seen across Africa as a moment of hope for the continent.
However, Jammeh announced on Dec. 9 that he would reverse that position and called for a fresh vote. That move was widely condemned, including by ECOWAS leaders who say it violates the principle of democratic accountability.
Jammeh’s APRC party is now challenging the election results in Gambia’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not sat in more than a year, so judges will have to be appointed before they can consider the president’s legal complaint.
The measures are expected to be agreed on by the end of the three-day summit on Monday. ECOWAS agreed to “respect the will of the Gambian people” and said the group had nominated Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to mediate.
“The authority (ECOWAS) shall undertake all necessary actions to enforce the result of the election,” the group added, calling on all stakeholders inside and outside the country to show restraint.
“(ECOWAS) calls on the Gambian defence and security to perform their role in a nationalistic manner and protect lives and property,” the final communique said.
A Gambian delegation led by Works Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa had arrived while the summit was already in progress to affirm Jammeh’s stance, diplomats said.
President Sirleaf and three other presidents in the region including Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and John Dramani Mahama of Ghana visited President Yahya Jammeh on December 13 to convince him to step down. They however failed.