ATLANTA(MaraviPost): President Jammeh rejects the elections results. A week after admitting defeat! He claimed, after declaring himself that the process was fair and transparent, that there were “abnormalities” and therefore rejected totally the results and is now calling for fresh elections. This is Deja vu!
The president-elect of the Gambia has demanded that Yahya Jammeh step down immediately, as African leaders prepared to fly in and persuade the country’s autocratic leader to reconsider his refusal to accept defeat and resign.
After 22 years in power in the west African nation, it came as a surprise to many when Jammeh, an autocratic leader who had said he would rule for “a billion years if Allah willed it”, accepted defeat in a televised call to Adama Barrow, the leader of the opposition coalition.
However, a week later he declared that the vote was “fraudulent and unacceptable” and vowed to take the matter to the country’s supreme court. Barrow and his coalition said Jammeh’s plans were “illegal” and he should resign.
Barrow said he was relying on four senior African presidents due to arrive in the country on Tuesday to persuade Jammeh to reverse his pledge to nullify the election and retain power.
It is unclear whether Jammeh will agree to meet Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and John Mahama, who has just accepted defeat in Ghana’s election, as well as Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the UN’s west Africa representative. If he does, this would be the first time he has met anyone from outside the government since losing the election.
“We want him to step down immediately so that we can move forward,” Barrow told the Guardian. “He lost the election, called me, swore to the Qur’an and said: ‘I am a Muslim, I have faith, I lost the election. I have accepted it in good faith and our electoral system is the best in the world. No one can rig it.’ We want him to step down because he has put himself in a very funny position, in a tight corner.”
Jammeh, Barrow said, “has a legal team and advisers and ought to know better. He doesn’t have the authority to annul the results. We were very disappointed for a sitting president to behave that way, but we believe that he made a mistake and he doesn’t have the authority to do that.”
The outpouring of joy at Barrow’s victory and Jammeh’s initial acceptance of 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, talking openly of the deaths and disappearances they had experienced under Jammeh, stayed at home on Sunday and Monday, wary of the armed security forces deployed on many street corners.
Soldiers have been digging trenches and building defence positions with sandbags on the road to Banjul, the Gambia’s capital, in the days since Jammeh rejected the result.
Sources in the country said there were serious threats to Barrow’s life, but Barrow dismissed this as “just a rumour, not something concrete”. “I have faith, I contested elections on principle. I have the support of the Gambian people. I am not in the least afraid,” he said.
“We contested elections under very difficult circumstances,” he added. “We were exposed to anything. But I think now we are in a better position because the whole international community is watching the Gambia. Everybody is watching the Gambia worldwide.”
Barrow had had to get rid of the private security firm from Senegal that had been protecting him after “lots of complaints” from the government, he said, and now he is protected by young Gambian volunteers, many of them family friends, armed only with scowls and sunglasses.
On Friday, Jammeh said that he was annulling the election with immediate effect and would hold another poll under a new electoral commission, as he said the old one, which he appointed, was not independent.
Later, however, his spokesman said he would take his complaint to the supreme court. No judges are currently sitting in this court, however, after Jammeh fired the last of them last year.
Legal experts in the country said Gambians were reluctant to take positions as judges, knowing that they were expected to do Jammeh’s bidding or bear the consequences, and that foreigners, particularly Nigerians, are brought in to fill positions as judges instead. If Jammeh appoints new judges in time, the case could go to the court on Tuesday.
Barrow would not say whether he would offer Jammeh an exit deal, such as immunity from prosecution that rights groups say were committed under his tenure in exchange for handing over power, but did cite South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process as a possible template for how to proceed.
“We are in a stronger position (than Jammeh),” he said. “Whatever he is doing is illegal. The apartheid regime was there, the ANC came to power, reconciled with the government and moved on. It’s possible everywhere. We will look at the circumstances – the Gambia is our priority today.”