Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has condemned mediation efforts by the African regional bloc ECOWAS that aims to get him to leave power. The opposition said Jammeh would not face prosecution on leaving office.
Pressure on President Yahya Jammeh (photo) to step down has come from regional leaders in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc and from his own diplomats.
Eleven Gambian ambassadors in Beijing, Ankara, London, New York, Moscow, Brussels, Dakar, Madrid, Havana, Bissau and Addis Ababa have signed an open letter calling on him to accept the outcome of the December 1 election and facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Adama Barrow next month.
US envoy to the UN Samantha Power praised the ambassadors, but warned they were being "silenced and recalled to Banjul."
After first conceding defeat to his little-known challenger, Jammeh last week rejected the result. His party, the Alliance for Construction and Reorientation, has filed a petition challenging the results in Gambia's Supreme Court.
Speaking on state television late Tuesday, Jammeh hardened his position. "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," he said.
"Already the ECOWAS meeting was a formality. Before they came, they had already said Jammeh must step down. I will not step down," he added.
No charges for Jammeh
Halifa Sallah, a spokesman for the opposition coalition, told the AFP news agency that Jammeh would not face prosecution on leaving office. After talks with ECOWAS, he said the bloc "wanted to know whether the incoming administration plans to prosecute" Jammeh, and added "there is no indication of a threat [of prosecution] or the need to threaten outgoing President Yahya Jammeh," he said.
"President-elect Barrow says he is going to treat outgoing President Yahya Jammeh like a former head of state and would consult him for advice," Sallah added.
Jammeh took power as a young army officer in a 1994 military coup. He was elected president in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. Human rights groups have accused him of the detention, torture and killing of perceived opponents during his 22-year rule.
French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that Barrow "must be installed as soon as possible," adding that "the matter is non-negotiable." Hollande spoke after a meeting in Paris with Senegalese President Macky Sall, whose country nearly surrounds Gambia.
On Monday, outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised ECOWAS' "firm decision" to stand by Barrow, who has confirmed his intention to assume office in January, despite Jammeh's rejection of the election result.
jm/cmk (Reuters, AFP)