Gambia’s Jammeh Rebukes Regional Leaders for Opposition Support

  • Gambian president seeks fresh elections after losing vote
  • Intervention by neighbors amounts to unacceptable interference

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said he will refuse a request from regional leaders to step down after losing this month’s election to opposition leader Adama Barrow, describing the intervention from neighboring heads of states as unacceptable interference.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States pledged last weekend to take all the necessary measures to ensure that Barrow’s victory will stand and undertook to attend his inauguration in January when the incumbent’s term expires. Jammeh, in power since 1994, initially conceded defeat following the Dec. 1 election, only to make an about-turn one week later, citing voting irregularities.

“They want me to leave my country, but who are they to ask me to leave?” Jammeh said Tuesday in a speech broadcast on state-owned GRTS. “We have never seen such interference in our electoral disputes, which is unacceptable.”

Jammeh will only accept the establishment of a new electoral commission to conduct fresh elections, he said. The military has barred the head and staff of the existing electoral agency from entering their offices since Dec. 13 while the ruling party filed a petition against the vote’s outcome at the Supreme Court.

Guaranteed Safety

At a Dec. 17 meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Ecowas leaders agreed to guarantee the safety of Barrow and to appoint Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his Ghanaian counterpart, John Mahama, as mediators. It also called on the African Union and the United Nations to support the block’s initiatives.

“The authority shall take all necessary actions to enforce the results,” Ecowas said in an e-mailed statement after the meeting.

Criticized by human-rights groups for brutally stifling dissent, Jammeh achieved landslide victories in four previous polls after seizing power in 1994. Bellicose statements and claims of extraordinary powers are the hallmarks of his leadership style; Jammeh has said he could cure AIDS and infertility, and has proclaimed himself a doctor as well as a professor.

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