In a surprise televised address this week, the Gambia’s president, Yahya Jammeh, attacked the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), the United Nations Security Council and the African Union, the bodies that have urged him to respect the election result.
Jammeh slammed the organisations for taking “unprecedented and hasty resolutions against our republic and Constitution”.
He also lambasted the international community for “an unprecedented level of foreign interference in our elections and internal affairs and also a sustained smear campaign, propaganda and misinformation”.
Jammeh went on to announce the appointment of his party’s secretary general, Musa Jallow, as a mediator to help resolve the country’s political impasse.
The Gambia has been thrust into a crisis following a December 1 presidential vote, which saw long-time ruler Jammeh losing to opposition leader Adama Barrow.
Jammeh initially conceded defeat but later reversed his position, lodging a legal case aimed at annulling the result and triggering new elections.
Leaders from the Ecowas bloc, led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, are expected to visit the Gambia’s capital, Banjul, on Friday with hopes of bringing a diplomatic end to the impasse.
During his televised address, Jammeh appealed for patience, asking his fellow Gambians to “await the Supreme Court review and ruling on the election results”.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court postponed a ruling on a possible rerun of the presidential election until May, casting further doubt on whether a peaceful political transition will happen on January 19, when president-elect Barrow is scheduled to take office.
In his speech, Jammeh, who has ruled the tiny West African country for 22 years, did not budge on his refusal to acknowledge Barrow as winner of the election.
But he appeared more conciliatory to his own public than in recent weeks. “I believe we can ask Gambians to come together to resolve this and any other matter without undue external interference,” he said.
The president also called for no arrests for actions relating to the pre- and post-election period, without specifying what such acts would be under the law.
Before the elections he declared on television: “Allah elected me, and only Allah can remove me.”
He has also said that he would stay in power for a billion years.
Just before the elections more than 90 people were arrested for taking part in protests.
Jammeh came into power in a coup in 1994. In the past 22 years he has arrested journalists and political activists and people have disappeared. Jammeh has also claimed that he can cure HIV through prayer and threatened to kill gay people. — Al Jazeera/News24 Wire