Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh is prepared to be a rebel leader and possibly face a regional force to oust him. The longstanding authoritarian ruler is refusing to step down, refusing to relinquish power until the Supreme Court rules on his election petition.
After Jammeh’s near midnight address on Tuesday, many Gambians slightly believe he was going to step down, making the assumption rife on social media.
The government has dismissed the notion that the defeated leader would be handing over power, according to a statement from the ministry of information read on the state-controlled television station, GRTS.
Although Jammeh’s chances of holding on to power are getting slimmer, the outgoing Gambian president is ready to topple President-elect Adama Barrow by all means necessary to continue his repressive rule.
Jammeh has until January 18 to hand over power or see Adama Barrow sworn in and declared a rebel on January 19.
At least a dozen of his ambassadors have urged him to step down and three of his cabinet members, including his chief of staff, has resigned in protest of his refusal to leave.
Jammeh has challenged the petition in court and the Supreme Court says it may not hear it until in May or November.
Jammeh’s lawyer Edu Gomez told reporters his client will continue to pursue his rights in court and in an address to the nation, Jammeh said only the courts can declare the winner.
Opposition campaigners and lawyers disagree. Whiles, it is Jammeh’s right to petition the results, it does not stop Mr. Barrow from assuming office as President of the Republic of The Gambia.
Jammeh’s former Information Minister Sheriff Bojang said that the APRC petition while appearing to have a veneer of constitutionalism are in fact an attempt to subvert the express will of the Gambian electorate.
West African leaders have put on hold the regional standby force to be led by Senegal. They are expected in Banjul Friday for a last-ditch attempt for a diplomatic solution.
Although a senior member of the coalition wants Jammeh prosecuted after the local bar association said his refusal to leave constitutes treason, President-elect Adama Barrow promised to treat Jammeh as a former president and statesman but will declare him a rebel if he does not relinquish power when his mandate expires next week.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Contribution and Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)