A high-powered delegation of African leaders have traveled to Gambia in order to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to step aside and accept the results of the December 1st presidential elections, in which Adama Barrow was declared the winner. According to BBC, the delegation includes Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and Ghana’s President John Mahama, who also lost an election last week. For his part, Mahama has said he will step down next month.
While in Gambia, the delegation is also expected to hold consultations with Barrow in the hopes of brokering a deal that may provide a soft landing for Jammeh and members of his inner circle.
Political analysts suspect that Jammeh’s decision to reject the election results could be connected to statements that have been credited to key members of Barrow’s coalition, who have vowed to arrest and imprison Jammeh as soon as he’s out of office.
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After 22 years in office, President Jammeh lost the election to Barrow of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who was backed by a coalition of seven political parties. Barrow received 222,708 (43.3 percent) of total votes cast, while Jammeh received 208,487 (39.6 percent) votes.
Jammeh went on to surprise and impress observers of African political affairs when he accepted the official results of the Gambian Electoral Commission and conceded defeat while telling Barrow, “I’m calling you to wish you all the best, the Gambian people have spoken and I have no reason to contest the will of Almighty Allah.”
However, on December 10th, President Jammeh again shocked political analysts when he rejected the election results, citing “serious and unacceptable abnormalities” in the course of the voting process.
“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process.
“I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a God-fearing and independent electoral commission.”
A day later, Jammeh’s ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party also announced that it was heading to the Supreme Court to challenge the results of the elections, which it described as flawed.
Jammeh’s sudden change of heart has been met with condemnation from the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and the African Union.
Liberian President and current Economic Community of West African States chairperson Sirleaf said, “The will of the Gambian people, freely expressed in exercise of their franchise, must be respected by all without precondition.”