Gambia′s Supreme Court postpones election petition decision | News | DW | 10.01.2017
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Gambia's Supreme Court postpones election petition decision

A judge in Gambia said on Tuesday that a decision on President Jammeh's challenge to the poll results will not be heard until Monday next week, just days before President-elect Adama Barrow's expected inauguration.

Thousands of members of the ruling party were at the courthouse chanting, singing and dancing. But the Supreme Court said neither President-elect Adama Barrow nor the Independent Electoral Commission had been served with the ruling party's petition.

After initially accepting the results of the December 1 election, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh and his party filed legal complaints against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), alleging manipulation of ballot counting and intimidation of his supporters.

Jammeh lost the elections to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

No judges on the panel

There were obstacles in the way of a Supreme Court ruling.

"There is a problem of getting judges to sit on [the case]," Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, director of the Center for Democracy and Governance in Abuja told DW. "They have had lots of problems trying to illegally recruit judges."

Nigeria Ecowas-Treffen (Getty Images/AFP/P.-U. Ekpei)

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with Nigeria President Buhari

The court has been dormant since May 2015 after several judges were fired for commuting death sentences of former military officers to life in prison. Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle, a Nigerian, is the lone sitting judge on the panel. Even if additional judges were installed, Ibrahim believes that whatever decisions they make "would have no credibility."  

A document seen by Reuters and signed by acting Nigerian chief justice Nkanu Onnoghen said the timing of the court case was "unfavorable." Gambia's supreme court usually sits in May and November. 

West African delegation coming

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is to lead a delegation of West African leaders to Gambia in an effort to convince President Jammeh to step down.

The new court date to hear Jammeh's case is set for January 16. The mandate for Jammeh's five-year term expires on January 18, after which president-elect Adama Barrow is due to take power. If Jammeh refuses to step aside by that date, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may order a military intervention.

"Violence should be avoided but nothing is ruled out," said Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. 

Jammeh said in December, following his refusal to accept the election outcome, "unless the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration on January 19. And let me see what ECOWAS and those big powers behind them can do."

Buhari is to join Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama in the Gambian capital of Banjul on Wednesday. They are to "discuss with President Jammeh the imperative to respect the constitution," Onyeama said.

Jammeh, after assuming power following a coup in 1994, has been accused of human rights abuses and stifling the press.

kbd/jm/abj (AFP, AP)

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