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A visit by West African leaders to get Gambia’s defeated president to step down did not go as planned

Unfruitful talks.
By Yomi Kazeem
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Four presidents from West Africa led a delegation to The Gambia yesterday in a bid to convince president Yahya Jammeh to step down from office. Jammeh, who had initially accepted the election results, before rejecting them in a dramatic U-turn, has been in office in 22 years.

Representing the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and John Mahama of Ghana met Jammeh and president-elect Adama Barrow in an attempt to manage a peaceful transition of power. But it appears those talks have yielded no results. “We have not come to an agreement,” Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, president of Liberia said after the meeting. “We have come to help the Gambians to organize the transition. It is not something that can be accomplished in a single day. We have to work on it.”

Jammeh’s party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), has filed a legal petition to challenge the election results, raising the possibility that president-elect Adama Barrow’s narrow win at the polls could be overturned. APRC has also called for new elections.

“The petition prays that it be determined that the said Adama Barrow was not duly elected or returned as president and that the said election was void,” the petition reads. By law, Jammeh may challenge the results at the country’s supreme court, but for the court to hear the challenge  justices will have to be appointed—Gambia does not currently have a panel of supreme court justices. Gambia’s Bar Association has questioned the strong influence Jammeh exerts over the country’s judiciary.

Jammeh is expected to hand over power within 60 days of the Dec. 1 election, so ECOWAS leaders still have some time to manage a peaceful transition. Should that fail, Marcel de Souza, the ECOWAS commission president, has hinted at the possibility of deploying military troops.

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