An ECOWAS delegation to Gambia led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday left the country with peace talks inconclusive. It was a last-ditch attempt to persuade Gambia’s longtime leader, Yahaya Jammeh, to step down and allow last December’s election winner, Adama Barrow, to be inaugurated this week.
However, the delegation failed to broker a deal, with Jammeh digging-in in his attempt to remain in power. Talks are bound to continue in spite of initial attempts being inclusive, a spokesperson for the delegation said, with plans for Barrow’s inauguration still on.
Jammeh’s failure to relinquish power is being resisted by ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations. ECOWAS has indicated it would consider removing Jammeh using military force if he refuses to step aside.
According to Associated Press reports, a Nigerian army memo dated Wednesday, January 11, and seen by AP, ordered officers to prepare a battalion of 800 troops for a possible military intervention in Gambia, even though military authorities in Nigeria had earlier denied the said plan for an intervention.
Meanwhile Barrow left Gambia for Mali, where he met with West African leaders attending a summit there. The former estate agent wants to resolve the transitional deadlock so he can be sworn-in, with Jammeh’s term ending on Thursday. The AU has said it will no longer recognize Jammeh’s rule beyond this point.
Jammeh had initially admitted defeat after the December election but shortly afterwards called for the result to be annulled. A lawyer for Jammeh filed a request with the Supreme Court last Thursday, asking for an injunction to block Barrow’s swearing-in.
The Supreme Court is unable to hear the challenge until May because of a shortage of judges, and Jammeh says he will not step down until then.
Barrow won 43.3% of the vote in December’s election, compared with Mr Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.