ECOWAS leaders that met in Nigeria’s capital Abuja expressed concerns about the worsening security situation, the crackdown on the media and arrest of pro-democracy campaigners.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said he had received disturbing information regarding The Gambia after new emerged that defeated President Yahya Jammeh was actively recruiting rebel fighters in border towns between Ivory Coast and Liberia.
A clampdown on dissenting voices saw a handful supporters of a grassroots campaign for Jammeh to step down arrested, the campaigner leaders escaping arrest and feeling to neighboring Senegal
and at least four radio stations forced off air.
West African political leaders are to return to The Gambia this week to press President Yahya Jammeh to abide by election results and step down, Nigeria’s foreign minister said.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is to visit Banjul on Wednesday with Liberian counterpart Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ghana’s former president John Dramani Mahama.
The meeting would “discuss with President Jammeh the imperative to respect the constitution,” the foreign minister added in a statement after talks on the crisis in Abuja.
Buhari and Mahama have been appointed mediators by the regional bloc ECOWAS in the standoff, which was sparked by Jammeh’s loss of December 1 elections to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.
Onyeama said the talks “agreed on the determination to resolve the Gambian political crisis in a manner that at every step of the way conforms with the constitution… and respects the will of the people of The Gambia.”
There has also been a “mass exodus” of people into the interior and neighboring countries, heightening fears of a refugee crisis in the region.
Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 but is accused of gross human rights violations that include arbitrary detentions, torture and the killings of his opponents in the country of 1.9 million people.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Reporting from Torch on Gambia; Additional Reporting by Abdoulie Jon – AP; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)