The Gambian president’s call to reject poll results is drawing global criticism

Uncertain times.
Uncertain times.
Image: AP Photo/Jerome Delay
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The decision of Yahya Jammeh, president of The Gambia, to reject the results of the Dec. 1 elections only eight days after giving a concession speech live on state TV is drawing criticism from far and wide.

Senegal, which borders Gambia on three sides, has condemned Jammeh’s call to annul the results and demand fresh elections. Mankeur Ndiaye, Senegal’s foreign minister, in a communique, said his country “demands that the outgoing president unconditionally respects the democratic choice freely expressed by the Gambian people, organize the peaceful transition of power and ensure the security and physical integrity of the newly elected president.”

In a similar tone, the United States has also criticized Jammeh’s u-turn. ”This action is a reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of The Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately,” Mark Toner, deputy spokesman at the U.S. Department of State, said.

For its part, Senegal urged regional bodies, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU), to lean on Jammeh to respect the election results. Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, AU’s Commission Chairperson, has already described Jammeh’s rejection of the results as “null and void“. Dlamini-Zuma also urged Jammeh “to facilitate a peaceful and orderly transition and transfer of power to the new president of The Gambia.”

But amid growing tension, ECOWAS leader, president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia has already borne the brunt of Jammeh’s rashness. Due to land in Gambia earlier today, Johnson Sirleaf’s plane was blocked from landing with security forces deployed across the country.

Adama Barrow, winner of the Dec. 1 polls, has also issued a statement. Barrow, a property businessman with no prior political experience, said Jammeh had ”no constitutional authority to reject the results” and asked the long-time leader to allow “a smooth transfer of executive powers in the supreme interest of this country”.

Some watchers speculate the early disclosure of plans to prosecute Jammeh for his poor human rights record within a year of Barrow taking office might have prompted a change of heart by the sitting president. Jammeh had surprised Gambians and onlookers around the world with his gracious acceptance of the results and by calling Barrow live on national TV to congratulate him. In the days since the election, some of Jammeh’s political prisoners have been released from captivity.