West Africa Leaders Meet on Gambia Crisis as Deadline Looms

West African heads of state were due to meet in Nigeria to discuss how to get Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to step down next week without having to resort to force.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari hosts his Senegalese and Liberian counterparts in Abuja on Monday, according to a statement e-mailed by the Nigerian presidency. Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh and former Ghanaian President John Mahama will also attend, it said.

Yahya Jammeh

Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images

The meeting of the Economic Community of West African States follows discussions in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on the sidelines of the inauguration of President Nana Akufo-Addo on Saturday, according to the statement. The organization “expressed the readiness to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the leaders of the Gambia,” it said.

Jammeh, in power since a 1994 coup, has refused to accept he was defeated by the opposition in elections last month and Ecowas has threatened to use force if he doesn’t step down on Jan. 19. The bloc has vowed that regional heads of state will attend the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow scheduled to take place on that date.

Gambian authorities closed down a private radio station, making it the fourth radio to stop broadcasting since the beginning of the year, the head of the Gambia Press Union, Emil Touray, said by phone Monday.

The U.S. State Department last week ordered employees and families to leave Gambia, citing possible violence linked to the contested election.

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