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West African Leaders to Ask Gambia's Jammeh to Step Down

  • VOA News

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh gestures before voting in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016. In a reversal, having first conceded defeat in the country's presidential election, he now refuses to accept the poll's result.

West African leaders will travel to Gambia on Tuesday in an effort to convince longtime President Yahya Jammeh to step down after his loss in the December 1 election.

Jammeh initially conceded defeat to election winner Adama Barrow but withdrew his concession late Friday, saying "unacceptable errors" were found by election officials.

Reports from West Africa Monday say Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will lead a delegation that will travel to the Gambian capital, Banjul, and ask Jammeh to accept the election result.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the delegation will include Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone leader Ernest Bai Koroma and outgoing Ghanaian President John Mahama. She said it is significant that Mahama is included because he conceded defeat on Friday after losing Ghana's presidential election.

"The delegation that is visiting tomorrow (Tuesday) is extremely significant," she said.

Power described the situation in Gambia as "a very dangerous moment" for the country. "We know that there are some military officers that have sided with President Jammeh since his retreat from his prior recognition that he had lost the election, and that's a very alarming circumstance," she said.

Power said everyone in the international community is "singing from the same sheet of music and the song is clear: you have lost the election, President Jammeh, and you must give up power peacefully to your freely elected successor."

Reversal ‘unacceptable’

In her role as chairperson of the West African ECOWAS bloc, Johnson Sirleaf said Saturday that Jammeh's reversal was "unacceptable" and threatened peace in Gambia and the entire West African sub-region.

FILE - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seen delivering a speech at the 2016 Concordia Summit at Grand Hyatt New York, in New York City, Sept. 20, 2016. Johnson Sirleaf will lead a mission to mediate in Gambia's post-election crisis.
FILE - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seen delivering a speech at the 2016 Concordia Summit at Grand Hyatt New York, in New York City, Sept. 20, 2016. Johnson Sirleaf will lead a mission to mediate in Gambia's post-election crisis.

She called on Jammeh to "do the right thing" and facilitate a smooth transfer of power. She also called on President-elect Barrow and his supporters to exercise restraint.

After the Gambian election results were announced, state media broadcast a phone call in which President Jammeh told Barrow that he wanted to hand over power graciously and vowed not to contest the results.

Jammeh congratulated Barrow for his "clear victory" and praised the elections as "transparent" and "rig-proof." He also said, "Allah is telling me my time is up," and added he would move to his farm after leaving office in January.

Barrow, 51, represented a coalition of seven opposition parties that challenged Jammeh.

Jammeh, also 51, has ruled the tiny West African nation since taking power in a military coup in 1994. He won four subsequent elections that critics said were neither free nor fair, and supported a 2002 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. He once said he could rule Gambia for "a billion years."

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