Gambia’s Jammeh Imposes State of Emergency, Defying Region

  • President, who lost election, cites ‘interference’ in vote
  • Jammeh announces decision as West Africa prepares intervention

A man walks on a ripped electoral poster of Gambia's outgoing president Yahya Jammeh, on a street of Bijilo, on Dec. 4, 2016.

Photographer: Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency two days before he’s supposed to hand over power to the winner of last month’s election, as West African nations prepared to send a military force to remove him from power.

In a speech on state TV late Tuesday, Jammeh said the measure was necessary because of the “unprecedented and extraordinary amount of interference” in the Dec. 1 ballot. He also cited the Supreme Court’s inability to hear his petition disputing the outcome of the vote, blaming “foreign powers.” Parliament approved the state of emergency.

West African nations plan to send troops to Gambia to force Jammeh from office if he doesn’t stand down, a military official said earlier Tuesday. The winner of the vote, Adama Barrow, who’s in neighboring Senegal, is preparing for his scheduled inauguration on Thursday, according to a statement. Regional heads of state have pledged to attend the ceremony.

Under a state of emergency, the constitution is suspended and people can be detained without charge, Adeline Van Houtte, Africa analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said by e-mail.

“Jammeh is using all the means he has to block his opponent’s inauguration,” she said. “The risk of clashes between the two rival regime supporters is high if Barrow goes ahead with the inauguration.”

The U.S. embassy said it’s closing all non-emergency services on Wednesday and will remain shut on Thursday.

Contingency Plans

Jammeh, who’s ruled Gambia since a coup in 1994, surprised the nation of fewer than 2 million people by acknowledging he lost the vote to Barrow, only to change his mind a week later and file a petition to challenge the outcome. The Supreme Court has said it won’t be able to hear Jammeh’s petition until May because there aren’t enough judges to sit on the panel.

The African Union has said it will no longer recognize Jammeh as president as of Thursday. Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye resigned Monday, according to Isatou Njie, an official at the Attorney General’s office in the capital, Banjul.

Travel company Thomas Cook is implementing contingency plans to return almost 1,000 U.K. tourists from Gambia, the Press Association reported Wednesday.

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