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ECOWAS can't mediate Gambia crisis: Pres. Jammeh

Gambian President Jammeh says 'Partisan' economic bloc of West African countries can not mediate Gambia crisis

ECOWAS can't mediate Gambia crisis: Pres. Jammeh File photo

By Saikou Kalleh

BANJUL, Gambia

Gambia’s strongman Yahya Jammeh has charged that the current “partisan” position the members of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) took to uphold the Dec. 1 election of the small country has disqualified them as genuine mediators that will bring the impasse to a successful end.

Gambian citizens went to polls on Dec. 1 and opposition leader Adama Barrow was declared winner by the country’s electoral authorities but President Jammeh said he annulled the result and ordered for fresh elections.

Though his party has later proceeded to challenge the results at the country’s Supreme Court, the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, has vowed to uphold the initial results which Jammeh accepted for a week before he took a U-turn.

“This blatant impartial and one dimensional approach clearly indicates that the role of ECOWAS is not predicated on the pursuit of justice in the resolution of this stalemate,” Jammeh said in a New Year message broadcasted to the nation on the state TV Friday night.

“This partisanship of ECOWAS has also disqualified it to provide mediation services as a genuine mediator has to be neutral and impartial to win the trust and confidence of the parties to the conflict… Thus we will not enter into negotiations brokered by ECOWAS if it does not recognize that the provision of the Gambian constitution provides the basic legal principles to guide the sorting out of the details of this stalemate in order to arrive at a peaceful resolution legally binding on both parties.”

He added: “Without this quest for justice within the context of the constitution of The Gambia, and the elimination of the threat of use of force… the impasse will continue with the risk of escalating into a military confrontation.”

The opposition leader Barrow has also told journalists several weeks ago that he would be inaugurated despite Jammeh’s rejection of the results and Coalition members have been preparing for his swearing-in which ECOWAS leaders said they will all attend on Jan. 19 a day after Jammeh’s term expires.

Since president Jammeh said he has annulled the results of the elections, soldiers were positioned at strategic locations around the country and people started fleeing urban Gambia in anticipation of violence.

However, life in the country remain calm though there is widespread fear of the possibility that the country can descend into violence should Jammeh refuse to leave power in January.

Many professional institutions and prominent individuals have called on him to step down but Jammeh said such pleas and demands were based on fear.

The regional bloc said it has put its forces on standby to oust Jammeh if he refused to step down but Jammeh argued that the “ECOWAS decision to uphold the Dec. 1 election results is totally illegal as it interferes with the internal affairs of a member state."

Jammeh said he will not be threatened and “… defending our sovereignty and total independence is a sacred duty for all patriotic Gambians, more sure The Gambia armed forces."

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