West African leaders in the ECOWAS bloc have said they will undertake all necessary actions to uphold the election results in Gambia. They have called for the safety of the president-elect to be guaranteed.
West African leaders of ECOWAS, the regional group of 15 countries promoting economic integration, gathered in the Nigerian capital on Saturday seeking a quick resolution to a political crisis in Gambia. Their meeting follows a close, disputed election after which President Yahya Jammeh called for a new poll.
ECOWAS leaders said at the end of their summit that they would attend the inauguration of president-elect Adama Barrow (photo) on January 18 and called on Jammeh to guarantee the safety of the president-elect. The West African regional bloc said on Saturday it would take all necessary actions to uphold the result of a the December 1 election.
Jammeh surprised many Gambians by conceding defeat to opposition leader Barrow after the polls closed but soon changing his mind and calling for a new election. The United Nations, the United States and the African Union have all condemned Jammeh's actions.
The people of Gambia "voted decisively for a change in the political leadership of the country," Liberian President and ECOWAS chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told the summit. Leaders must decide "measures to bring this matter to successful conclusion before January 19" when Jammeh's term expires.
Eleven presidents were at the summit in Abuja, Nigeria, with four absentees, most notably Jammeh.
ECOWAS President Marcel de Souza said this week that a military intervention and "draconian measures" must be considered if diplomacy failed with Jammeh.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN top envoy for West Africa, said the global body would back efforts to resolve the political crisis.
"The UN remains concerned by some of the worrisome developments that occurred during the post-election period in The Gambia," Chambas said at the summit.
Those concerns included "in particular, the seizure of the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission by the Gambian military," Chambas added.
Ruling party challenge
The ruling party filed a court challenge against the election results last Tuesday, a constitutional move that was further complicated by the fact that Gambia's Supreme Court did not have a quorum.
The United States cast doubt on the court, saying it doubted it was "a credible court dedicated to ensuring the integrity of Gambia's democratic process."
Barrow has said he fears for his life.
A joint statement issued by Amnesty International, Article 19 and RADDHO rights groups said, "We ask ECOWAS and the international community to ensure this choice is respected and to do all they can so that the democratic transition is not impeded."
bik/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)