Nigeria to Offer Gambia’s Jammeh Asylum to Defuse Crisis

  • Jammeh’s lawyer seeks injunction blocking inauguration
  • Nigerian lawmakers offer asylum to prevent regional violence

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari headed to Gambia to defuse a political crisis sparked by President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down after he lost elections last month.

Buhari will present a plan approved by Nigeria’s lower house of parliament on Thursday to offer Jammeh asylum, as part of efforts to persuade him to leave office. The plan is intended to “prevent violence which could engulf the region,” Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman for the House of Representatives, said by phone from the capital, Abuja.

The African Union won’t recognize Jammeh as the legitimate president of Gambia as of Jan. 19, the date when the winner of the vote, Adama Barrow, is to be inaugurated, according to an e-mailed statement Friday. The organization said it considers the outcome of last month’s vote “inviolable” and urged Jammeh to refrain from any action that undermines the process leading up to the swearing-in ceremony.

Jammeh’s lawyer on Thursday filed an injunction in the Supreme Court that seeks to prevent the inauguration, according to Fatu TV, a pro-opposition broadcaster. The petition came two days after the court failed to consider another petition from Jammeh’s lawyers contesting the election results. Gambia’s Supreme Court hasn’t functioned since 2014.

‘Peripheral Issue’

Preparations for the inauguration on Jan. 19 won’t be hindered by Jammeh’s petitions, Halifah Sallah, a spokesman for Barrow, told reporters Thursday in Gambia’s capital, Banjul. “The status of an election petition should be regarded as a peripheral issue,” he said, urging authorities to allow four private radio stations that have been shut since Jan. 1 to resume broadcasting.

Barrow obtained 263,515 of the votes in Dec. 1 election against 212,099 for the incumbent. Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia since a coup in 1994, initially conceded defeat, only to make an about-turn a week later. The Economic Community of West African States has threatened to use force if Jammeh doesn’t step down.

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

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