The president of Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission, Alieu Momarr Mjiar, announces presidential election results in Banjul, Gambia, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Gambia’s electoral chief safely out of country after death threats

Gambia’s electoral chief Alieu Momar Njai has fled the West African nation due to credible threats to his life, family sources confirmed.

Njai, 82, presided over Gambia’s elections in which incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years suffered a shocking defeat in the hands of real estate developer Adama Barrow.

President Jammeh who initially accepted defeat is refusing to step down, accusing the electoral commission of rigging the polls in favor of the opposition and sending away 25,000 of his supporters in provincial Gambia.

Security forces loyal to Jammeh laid siege on the electoral office building occupying it for weeks before saying it was under “an imminent threat” from arsonists. The UN calls the occupation “disrespectful” and warned the security forces not to tamper with sensitive electoral materials.

“It is not ethically right for a supreme court that has been dormant for 20 months to be reactivated simply to preside over the past election results,” Gambia’s Electoral Chief Alieu Momar Njie

Njai insists Jammeh has lost the polls and can prove every vote cast after Jammeh filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the annulment of the results and to be declared the winner.

President-elect Adama Barrow has threatened to swear himself in and declare Jammeh a rebel.

Electoral Chief Njai says Jammeh cannot stop the swearing in of Mr. Barrow, who is internationally recognized and locally backed.

Njai was due to report back to his office on Tuesday, where he would be possibly served with court documents to begin the process for the Supreme Court hearings of Mr. Jammeh’s petition, but he has questioned the constitutionality of the court.

ECOWAS, the sub-regional economic bloc has given Mr. Jammeh until January 18, when his mandate expires to hand over power or be military flushed out, a move that Jammeh is resisting.

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