ABUJA, NIGERIA - West African leaders will make a "major decision" on the political impasse in Gambia at a meeting in Ghana on Saturday, a spokesman for the Nigerian presidency said Friday.
The West African ECOWAS bloc said last month that it would take all necessary steps to uphold the result of a December 1 election in Gambia, in which President Yahya Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow but later said he would not step down.
ECOWAS placed standby forces on alert in case Jammeh attempts to stay in power after his mandate ends on January 19. Jammeh called the bloc's stance "a declaration of war" and said he would defend himself.
"A major decision on the impasse is expected to be taken at that all-important meeting," said Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. "President Buhari is the chief mediator of the crisis and he is committed to ensuring that the logjam is resolved."
Jammeh initially accepted his election loss, shocking Gambians who have lived through his repressive rule since he took power in a 1994 coup and triggering celebrations in the streets.
But a week later he changed his mind, saying the electoral commission had been biased by "foreign influences" and vowing to hang on despite regional and international condemnation.
Jammed said ECOWAS had no right to interfere in Gambia's internal affairs, and that Gambians should await the outcome of a legal challenge that his APRC party has lodged at the Supreme Court.