Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who is refusing to step down now says he wants new mediators other than ECOWAS, accusing West African leaders of being “blatant and one-sided.”
“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,” said Jammeh. ““This partisanship of ECOWAS has also disqualified it from providing mediation services as a genuine mediator has to be neutral and impartial to win the trust and confidence of the parties to the conflict.”
ECOWAS leaders met Jammeh in Banjul last month and urged him to step down after a fact-finding mission. Jammeh said their meeting was a mere formality, and warned the bloc not to violate the sovereignty of the tiny country.
After initially accepting the result, Jammeh later rejected it, alleging irregularities, and filed a petition to the Supreme Court which is due to be reviewed on January 10.
“Given the unjustifiable and unprecedented anomalies… what we are simply and rightfully asking for is to return to the polls and allow the Gambians to elect who they want to be their president in free and fair elections,” Jammeh said.
“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.” President Yahya Jammeh.
Jammeh’s refusal to step down has opened up the possibility of a military intervention by West African forces after the ECOWAS body said it was putting military forces on alert. Jammeh called that a “declaration of war”.
ECOWAS passed a resolution in Abuja for Jammeh to step down or face a military force to be led by neighboring Senegal to flush him out and uphold the will of The Gambian people.
The disheartened outgoing President says the sub-regional bloc has taken sides with the winning opposition, which “disqualified it from providing mediation services.”
Jammeh calls the ECOWAS resolution a declaration of war.
“It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution. It is therefore absolutely unacceptable. Let me make very clear that we are ready to defend the country against any aggression and there will be no compromise on this,” he said.
Jammeh is cracking down on pro-democracy activists in a last minute attempt to assert his authority and hold on to power. Two activists were arrested and two radio stations closed in a move that the main press union says is a threat to people’s democratic right to information amid escalating political crisis.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting from Aljazeera; Contribution and Editing by Alhagie Jobe)