The longtime leader of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, has defended himself amid calls for him to cede power. Jammeh had initially conceded defeat but later surprised the country with a dramatic about-face.
Jammeh once again refused to accept the results of the December 1 election, insisting only god could force him to step down.
"I am not a coward. My right cannot be intimidated and violated. This is my position. Nobody can deprive me of that victory except the Almighty Allah," Jammeh said on state television late on Tuesday.
Gambia's longtime leader took power in a coup in 1994 and held on for the next two decades before being voted out of office in December's election. Though he initially accepted the results, Jammeh later backtracked and said he would not cede power to his rival, Adama Barrow, who is technically set to take office in January.
Jammeh's party has also appealed the election results, although Gambia's top court ruled on Wednesday that the case would be postponed until January 10, only nine days before Barrow's scheduled inauguration.
Pressure from abroad
The leader is also facing mounting international pressure to vacate the office, with West African regional bloc ECOWAS attempting to persuade him through diplomatic means while also warning that it would resort to "all necessary actions" to ensure Barrow becomes president.
Jammeh, who met with representatives of the bloc last week, has fired back at ECOWAS, accusing it of violating Gambia's sovereignty.
"This country has been independent since 1965. And they want me to leave my country?" Jammeh said. "Who are they to tell me to leave my country?"
Leaders of the bloc have already agreed to attend Barrow's inauguration. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the bloc's decision.
Other world leaders have also spoken out against Jammeh, including US envoy to the UN Samantha Power in a tweet from two days ago.
French President Francois Hollande has also called on Jammeh to step down, saying that Barrow "must be installed as soon as possible" and that "the matter is non-negotiable."
Human rights groups have frequently criticized Jammeh, accusing him of using harsh measures to crack down on opposition in his country. Gambia is among the countries with the highest number of citizens attempting to migrate to Europe by sea.
blc/jm (AP, AFP)