West African leaders are meeting in Ghana’s capital, Accra on Saturday to make a ‘major decision’ on The Gambia’s political crisis after reports that the tiny country’s defeated President Yahya Jammeh is hiring rebel fighters to back him.
“A major decision on the impasse is expected to be taken at that all-important meeting,” said Garba Shehu, spokesman for Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. “President Buhari is the chief mediator of the crisis and he is committed to ensuring that the logjam is resolved.”
President Yahya Jammeh initially accepted defeat but took a political detour resulting to a standoff. The international community agrees he must hand over power or face serious consequences including sanctions and military action.
ECOWAS chair and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Mr. Jammeh clinging onto power can destabilize the entire the entire West Africa and with credible reports of mercenary hirings, West African leaders are more likely to act faster to avert The Gambia from going into a civil war and mercenaries being equipped and financially stable to start conflict in their own countries.
Many Liberians are already worried that their country may plunge into civil war again, statistic show and Ivory Coast is already seeing mutinies across major cities.
Experts say it is in the best interest of Senegal, especially in order to avoid the escalation of the crisis in its southern Casamance province and a refugee crisis in its northern cities.
President Yahya Jammeh has accused ECOWAS of violating The Gambia’s sovereignty and vowed to defend the country against an ECOWAS standby force to be led by Senegal.
Jammeh, 51, came to power through a coup in 1994 and says there would be no inauguration for Mr. Adama Barrow and he will not be stepping down until after a ruling on a petition he filed with the country’s Supreme Court.
Barrow is backed by seven opposition groups and defeated Jammeh in last month’s polls. He has threatened to swear himself in and declare Jammeh a rebel.