Gambia’s Jammeh Pleads for Judges as Deadline to Quit Nears

Updated on
  • Gambian leader says he needs judges to hear his petitions
  • Swearing-in of vote winner Barrow planned on Jan. 19

Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh called on regional heads of state to help the country find judges so that its Supreme Court can hear his objections to his loss in a presidential election last month, two days after Nigeria’s president failed to persuade him to step down.

Jammeh filed an injunction at the court to stop the swearing-in of opposition leader Adama Barrow due on Jan. 19 and needs judges to hear the case as soon as possible, according to a recording of a phone conversation he had Sunday with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that was broadcast on Gambia TV. Sirleaf is the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, which is considering plans to force Jammeh to stand down.

“The only peaceful resolution of this impasse is through the courts,” Jammeh told Sirleaf in the conversation. Sirleaf responded that it’s a good idea if Jammeh puts his request in a written statement in which he pledges to follow the constitution. “Then we can move on and encourage Nigeria and other people to get the judges to come there,” she said, according to the broadcast.

The Supreme Court said it may be able to hear cases in May after a meeting earlier this month was canceled because there weren’t enough judges. It’s been two years since the court held a session. Gambia’s Bar Association last month urged the chief justice, a Nigerian national, to resign because he wasn’t independent.

Asylum Offer

A delegation led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with Jammeh on Friday but failed to resolve the crisis. Buhari planned to offer Jammeh asylum, according to Abdulrazak Namdas, a spokesman for the House of Representatives, which approved the proposal. The African Union says it will no longer recognize Jammeh as president as of Jan. 19.

President-elect Barrow will stay in neighboring Senegal until his inauguration, Agence de Presse Senegalaise reported Sunday, citing an official it didn’t identify. Thousands of Gambians have fled to Senegal since the beginning of the year, the BBC reported Monday on its website, citing the United Nations refugee agency. Gambia has an 80-kilometer (50-mile) coastline bordering the Atlantic Ocean, while the rest of the country is surrounded by Senegal.

After ruling for 22 years, Jammeh surprised the nation of less than 2 million people by acknowledging he lost the Dec. 1 vote, only to change his mind a week later and file a petition to challenge the outcome.