Gambian soldiers stand guard during victory celebrations in The Gambia / PHOTO: REUTERS

Dismay at military takeover of Gambia’s electoral commission

The United Nations said Wednesday Gambian security forces must immediately vacate the electoral commission and to refrain from any further acts that could jeopardize efforts towards the peaceful transfer of power.

“This action violates the independent status of the Commission under the Gambian constitution, and could compromise the sensitive electoral material under the IEC’s custody,” said UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon.

The electoral commission headquarters in Banjul was seized by forces loyal to incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who is fighting to stay in power after a shocking defeat to coalition candidate, Adama Barrow.

The chief of the electoral Commission, Alieu Momar Njai told the BBC he was barred from entering his office Tuesday morning. Staff of the commission were also restricted from leaving the premises.

“The military came to my office and said I am not to touch anything and told me to leave. I am worried for my safety,” the head of the commission, Alieu Momar Njai, told Reuters news agency.

The U.S. said it sees the unnecessary and unprovoked show of force as a move to subvert the democratic process in The Gambia, which has already been damaged by the refusal of outgoing President Jammeh to prepare for a lawful transition to President-elect Barrow.

President Yahya Jammeh’s party has challenged the outcome of the elections in the country’s Supreme Court. The local bar association says Mr. Jammeh cannot constitute a court just to hear his petition, after he ignored repeated calls by the union of lawyers to have a sitting of the court.

(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting by Sainey MK Marenah)

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