West Africa’s leaders are in last-ditch talks with Jammeh to bring peaceful change in Gambia

Out with the old.
Out with the old.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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The Gambia’s embattled president Yahya Jammeh has been given a final chance to step down from office peacefully, after staying beyond a previous deadline over the last 24 hours.

After 22 years in power, Jammeh has so far refused to cede power to Adama Barrow, winner of the Dec. 1 elections. Barrow was inaugurated as the new Gambian president in a makeshift ceremony at the country’s embassy in neighboring Senegal on Thursday (Jan 19.) because Jammeh declined to to vacate office.

Following Barrow’s inauguration, troops deployed by the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) entered Gambia, and reportedly encountered no resistance. In a bid to allow for a last chance at reaching a peaceful, diplomatic solution, ECOWAS’ military action has been temporarily suspended. Jammeh was originally given until noon to step down, but talks remain ongoing even though that deadline has passed.

Final talks with Jammeh are currently being led by Alpha Conde and Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, presidents of Guinea and Mauritania. But should those talks fail, like previous talks with ECOWAS leaders have, Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the ECOWAS commission says the regional bloc “will intervene militarily” with the goal of forcing Jammeh out of power and installing Barrow who has remained in Senegal waiting for the impasse to be resolved.

Jammeh has sought to stay in power by filing an election petition with Gambia’s highest court claiming anomalies and errors in the results of the December elections. After the Supreme Court said it was unable to hear his petition until May due to a shortage of judges, Jammeh has insisted on remaining in office until a decision is made by the court.