Six foreign Justices appointed to the Gambia’s Supreme Court were a no show Tuesday to hear President Yahya Jammeh’s election petition.
The country’s Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle told lawyers for Mr. Jammeh and the APRC party that he could not hear the petition due to the absence of a full panel and announced that the hired Justices from Nigeria and Sierra Leone may not travel to Banjul until in May.
Nigeria’s acting Chief Justice WSN Onnoghen urged Mr. Fagbenle to adhere to the Gambia’s Supreme Court schedule of May and November in conformity with ‘established understandings.’
The Supreme Court being unable to hear Jammeh’s petition, which seeks to annul the results, have fresh elections held or declare him the winner, gives the longstanding ruler until January 18 to hand over power to businessman Adama Barrow.
Barrow won last month’s elections and is backed by eight opposition groups, the first for The Gambia.
Barrow has threatened to swear himself in and declare Jammeh a rebel if he refuses to step down.
Jammeh vowed there will be no inauguration for Mr. Barrow until the Supreme Court makes a final ruling on his petition. The country’s army chief Lt. Gen. Ousman Bargie has pledged his allegiance to Mr. Jammeh and assured him of the support of the entire military.
In a final push to press Jammeh to hand over peacefully, West African leaders led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will be in Banjul on Wednesday to express to Mr. Jammeh that it is “imperative to respect the constitution” and the will of the Gambian people.
The Supreme Court was not also available to hear a case to repeal sedition laws filed by the press union.
At least four radio stations have been closed since the political impasse began. More than a hundred journalists were jailed, killed, disappeared, tortured and forced into exile during Jammeh’s rule.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting by Sheriff Bojang Jr – WADR and Saikou Jammeh; Editing by Sainey Marenah)