Gam­bia pres­i­dent re­jects calls to step down

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BANJUL: De­feated Gam­bian Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh has again vowed not to leave of­fice at the end of his man­date in Jan­uary, say­ing a court first must rule on his chal­lenge to the out­come of a hotly dis­puted elec­tion.

Jam­meh, who has been in power for 22 years, has re­jected op­po­si­tion can­di­date Adama Bar­row’s shock vic­tory in the De­cem­ber 1 vote. His stance has stoked in­ter­na­tional con­cerns about the fu­ture of the small west African coun­try, with the UN join­ing African lead­ers in call­ing for him to step down. “Un­less the court de­cides the case, there will be no in­au­gu­ra­tion (of Bar­row) on the 19 Jan­uary,” said Jam­meh, who had ini­tially con­ceded de­feat but then lodged a com­plaint with the coun­try’s Supreme Court to over­turn the re­sult.

“I will not cheat but I will not be cheated,” he said in a lengthy tele­vi­sion ad­dress late Tues­day. “What we are ask­ing for is not for the IEC (In­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion) to de­clare me the win­ner, I can­not do that,” he said. “Jus­tice must be done and the only way jus­tice can be done is to re­or­ga­nize the elec­tion so that ev­ery Gam­bian votes. That’s the only way we can re­solve the mat­ter peace­fully and fairly.” ‘Will not be black­mailed’ Jam­meh, 51, also took aim at the West African re­gional ECOWAS bloc which has called on him to ac­cept the re­sults and re­frain from any ac­tion that could com­pro­mise the peace­ful trans­fer of power. “My rights can­not be vi­o­lated and in­tim­i­dated to a point where I suc­cumb to black­mail,” he said. West African lead­ers meet­ing at the week­end said they would at­tend Bar­row’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and “take all nec­es­sary ac­tions to en­force the re­sults”, with­out spell­ing out what those mea­sures might be. Jam­meh, who took power in a 1994 blood­less coup, ini­tially warmly con­grat­u­lated Bar­row af­ter re­sults were de­clared. But a week later he con­demned “un­ac­cept­able er­rors” by elec­tion author­i­ties and called for a new vote. “I will not step down, be­cause this is dis­re­spect­ful of our con­sti­tu­tion which says a tran­si­tion pe­riod of 60 days. Even if he had won legally, I have 60 days of tran­si­tion,” he said Tues­day. The nation’s gov­ern­ment-in-wait­ing said on Mon­day that Jam­meh had no con­sti­tu­tional man­date to stay in of­fice be­yond Jan­uary.

“Any pres­i­dent who loses con­sti­tu­tional le­git­i­macy be­comes a rebel,” said Hal­ifa Sal­lah, a spokesman for the op­po­si­tion coali­tion that spurred Bar­row to vic­tory. The im­pov­er­ished coun­try has been sta­ble un­der Jam­meh’s rule al­though rights groups and me­dia watch­dogs ac­cuse him of cul­ti­vat­ing a cli­mate of fear and crush­ing dis­sent against his regime.

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