Jammeh in bid to annul elections
Refuses to hand reins to winner
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.