Jammeh in bid to an­nul elec­tions

Re­fuses to hand reins to win­ner

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

IN­CUM­BENT Gam­bian pres­i­dent Yahya Jammeh was at­tempt­ing to an­nul last month’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, which he lost to pres­i­dent-elect Adama Bar­row, by pe­ti­tion­ing Gam­bia’s Supreme Court yes­ter­day.

Jammeh, due to step down on Jan­uary 19, as­serts that the elec­tions were rigged and is re­fus­ing to hand power to Bar­row de­spite re­gional and in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

“The next 48 hours in The Gam­bia are crit­i­cal,” said Jeg­gan Grey-John­son, from the Open So­ci­ety Ini­tia­tive for South­ern Africa and a re­search as­so­ciate at the South African In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs.

“There is a state of emer­gency be­ing acted upon even though it has not been pub­licly de­clared. The coun­try is fac­ing a se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal, con­sti­tu­tional, eco­nomic and se­cu­rity cri­sis,” said Grey-John­son.

Gam­bia’s Bar As­so­ci­a­tion has ac­cused the coun­try’s chief jus­tice, Em­manuel Fag­benle, of plot­ting to use Nige­rian judges to over­turn the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Gam­bian lawyers, and mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion, have taken it a step fur­ther, ac­cus­ing Jammeh of us­ing th­ese judges and other of­fi­cials and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tants to per­se­cute the op­po­si­tion.

“The cri­sis is deep­en­ing as even the Nige­rian chief jus­tice who is the only mem­ber cur­rently sit­ting in the coun­try has re­port­edly ab­sconded,” Grey-John­son said.

The Gam­bia ex­pert fur­ther said Jammeh’s ap­peal was prob­lem­atic on two fronts.

“First, from an in­sti­tu­tional per­spec­tive, the ju­di­cial sec­tor is deeply flawed by virtue of the fact that the Supreme Court has not been es­tab­lished. It last met in May 2015,” Grey-John­son said.

“As a re­sult, Jammeh is at­tempt­ing to put to­gether a panel of judges to form a Supreme Court and this is un­likely to suc­ceed as he needs at least nine judges to be able to sit on that panel.

“How­ever, he is strug­gling to get any judges at this point in time be­cause all the judges who are go­ing to be sit­ting on that panel are not Gam­bians.

“At least four of them are com­ing from Nige­ria and one from Sierra Leone.”

Jammeh is pe­ti­tion­ing the court with two cases. The first in­volves tak­ing the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) to court to­gether with Bar­row, and in ef­fect the at­tor­ney-gen­eral, to an­nul the elec­tions.

“Jammeh is ask­ing for some­thing that has never taken place on the African con­ti­nent. He’s not ask­ing for a re­count and fur­ther­more doesn’t have the po­lit­i­cal man­date to an­nul the elec­tions,” Grey-John­son said.

“He’s say­ing the elec­tions need to be re­run with a new elec­toral com­mis­sion which he will ap­point af­ter dis­band­ing the cur­rent one. But he’s not given any time frame for the pro­posed new elec­tions to be held.

“It is dif­fi­cult to see how this case can pro­ceed from in­sti­tu­tional and for­mu­la­tion per­spec­tives. Due process has not been fol­lowed as well as the pe­ti­tion be­ing highly flawed,” Grey-John­son said.

Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to some le­gal ex­perts, the 10-day pe­riod Jammeh had to file an ap­peal has al­ready lapsed.

The sec­ond case the court is hear­ing in re­la­tion to Jammeh re­lates to his party also tak­ing the IEC to court on be­half of ap­prox­i­mately 5000 vot­ers who claim to have been dis­en­fran­chised dur­ing the De­cem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

“How­ever, it is not pos­si­ble at this stage for the leader or the spokesper­son of Jammeh’s party to ac­tu­ally bring a case in front of the Supreme Court be­cause only can­di­dates who ac­tu­ally stood for elec­tions are able to do that,” said Grey-John­son.

“In a nut­shell, Jammeh’s bark­ing up the wrong tree.”

The sec­ond prob­lem­atic front re­lates to the po­lit­i­cal di­men­sion in that even if the Supreme Court was func­tion­ing prop­erly, the IEC al­ready de­clared the elec­tions free and fair so it is doubt­ful that Jammeh would suc­ceed with any court ac­tion.

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