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

IEC Chair worried but remains hopeful

Gambia’s Electoral Chair Alieu Momar Njai expressed concerns about the safety of Gambians but hopeful that incumbent President Yahya Jammeh will leave power peacefully.

“I am worried and everyone in the country is worried about what is going to happen next in this country. We hope and pray that the president will leave in peace so that there will be no military intervention,” said Mr. Njai.

Njai has fled the West African nation to safety and gone into hiding after receiving credible threats to life.

Jammeh has launched crackdowns on the media and pro-democracy campaigners. Two private radio stations remain closed and a handful of grassroots campaigners were forced into exile.

Jammeh is accusing Mr. Njai and the electoral commission of rigging the polls in favor of Mr. Barrow and called for “fresh elections under a God-fearing electoral commission” in a petition challenging the outcome of the polls in court. The petition also seeks to have the results nullified or Mr. Jammeh to be declared the winner.

The country’s Chief Justice, Nigerian-born Emmanuel Fagbenle has slated January 10 for the first hearing of an election petition filed by Jammeh’s party. This was after judges were imported in order to constitute a court panel.

The IEC Chief says he will prove every vote cast and insists Mr. Barrow has won the polls. Ballot boxes remain sealed at the electoral commission for 30 days in case a recount is requested.

“The whole world is supporting Adama Barrow including the locals here such as doctors, teachers, lawyers and students, because it is clear that he won,” he said.

Soldiers from Jammeh’s elite presidential guard besieged the electoral commission office and denied Mr. Njai and his staff access. Njai had had his first encounter with soldiers weeks before the polls after denying a group of soldiers without identification, voter cards when registrations were closed.

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