Defiant Gambian president refuses to step aside

Yahya Jammeh reiterates he won’t hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow despite growing international pressure.

Gambia''s President Jammeh smiles during a rally in Banjul
Jammeh has ruled Gambia for more than two decades [Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters]

Gambia’s president has reiterated he will not step down despite losing the December 1 election, as West African leaders and Western powers urge him to hand over power peacefully.

Yahya Jammeh initially conceded defeat on state television after 22 years in power, but a week later, reversed his position, denouncing the election results and demanding a new vote.

“Unless the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration on January 19,” Jammeh said on Tuesday.

His political party has lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court to overturn the December 1 vote result.

READ MORE: Gambia president-elect Adama Barrow talks to Al Jazeera

Last week, Gambian troops took over the Independent Electoral Commission office in the capital, Banjul, and instructed its chairman to leave while barring other employees from entering.

Jammeh’s pledge to stay, which broadcast on state television, indicated a hardening of his position.

It came a day after President-elect Adama Barrow said he was ready to take office on January 18 – the day Jammeh’s mandate ends.

“I am not a coward. My right cannot be intimidated and violated. This is my position. Nobody can deprive me of that victory except the Almighty [God],” Jammeh said.

No prosecution

Jammeh condemned West Africa’s regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for what he termed “meddling” in Gambia’s affairs.

The political crisis in Gambia will be settled internally and peacefully, Jammeh said, adding he would maintain his position of challenging the election result.

A spokesman for the opposition coalition that backed President-elect Barrow assured, on Tuesday, that Jammeh will not face prosecution on leaving office.

Jammeh’s government has been accused of detaining, torturing and killing opponents.

“ECOWAS wanted to know whether the incoming administration plans to prosecute outgoing President Yahya Jammeh,” spokesman Halifa Sallah said, after talks with ECOWAS on the peaceful transfer of power.

“There is no indication of a threat [of prosecution] or the need to threaten outgoing President Yahya Jammeh.

“President-elect Barrow says he is going to treat outgoing President Yahya Jammeh like a former head of state and would consult him for advice.”

Backing the opposition candidate, French president Francois Hollande said the results of the December 1 polls were “indisputable”, and Barrow “must be installed as soon as possible”.

READ MORE: Gambians seek justice after a 22-year reign of terror

Last week, ECOWAS said Jammeh must step down when his term runs out and vowed “to take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the poll, without spelling out what those measures might be.

Jammeh, who came to power in 1994 as a 29-year-old army officer following a military coup, had won four previous polls.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies