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Sacked Envoys Failed Gambian Government, Official Contends

FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife, Zineb, during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was right to fire 12 top envoys who failed to defend the Banjul government after the disputed December 1 election, the country's acting U.N. ambassador says.

The 12 envoys had called on Jammeh to hand over power peacefully to Adama Barrow, whom the Independent Electoral Commission declared winner of the vote. The fired envoys included the ambassadors to the United States, Senegal, China and Turkey.

"They did not defend the government that they are supposed to represent at this very trying time, when they were expected to do so," Samsudeen Sarr, Gambia's acting permanent representative to the United Nations, said this week. "The Gambian government really gave them the position with the expectation that during circumstances like this, they would stand by the government and explain at least the conditions or the situations that are not very clear to the world."

Opposition supporters said the dismissed envoys were true heroes who had spoken on behalf of the people, following more than two decades of gross human rights violations and a clampdown on free speech during Jammeh's rule.

Sarr disagreed. One could understand the envoys' actions, he said, "if there were to be no controversy over the election." But Jammeh, who initially accepted the election results, later backtracked, alleging that voting irregularities had tainted the outcome.

"I think these guys owe it to the government they are representing to show it to the world," Sarr said of the dismissed envoys. "But the world has seen that they made their decision even before the facts were presented."

Civil society groups have said that if Jammeh loves the country as he claims, then he should peacefully hand over power without bloodshed.

Senegal ready

Meanwhile, Senegal reportedly put its army on standby, waiting to see whether the regional Economic Community of West African States bloc, of which Senegal is a member, decides to use force to remove Jammeh.

ECOWAS officials have said they will be in Gambia on January 19 to witness Barrow's installation as president, despite strong opposition from Jammeh.

Senegal's president, Macky Sall, was the first West African leader to congratulate Barrow on his election victory. Sarr said Sall's government "has not been a good partner to President Jammeh's government. They have not gotten along for a long, long time. They don't like each other, and apparently you can see that being manifested in the recent election controversy."

"Macky Sall is the one who is telling the world that President Jammeh came out with no reason whatsoever for changing his mind, which is false," Sarr added. "There are ... very compelling reasons why he changed his mind. But why would you misinform the world that he conceded, bought some time, and came back and changed his mind without any reason? And this is what misled the whole world."

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