Jam­meh to stay in of­fice for three months

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BANJUL: Gam­bia’s Na­tional As­sem­bly has passed a res­o­lu­tion to al­low Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh, who lost an elec­tion last month, to stay in of­fice for three months.

The de­ci­sion an­nounced on state tele­vi­sion will raise ten­sion with lead­ers of the West African bloc Ecowas, who have threat­ened sanc­tions or mil­i­tary force to make Jam­meh hand over to op­po­si­tion leader Adama Bar­row, who won the elec­tion.

Jam­meh on Tues­day de­clared a state of emer­gency, say­ing it was to pre­vent a power vac­uum while the supreme court ruled on his pe­ti­tion chal­leng­ing the elec­tion re­sult. The Na­tional As­sem­bly res­o­lu­tion al­most cer­tainly gives the gov­ern­ment author­ity to pre­vent Adama’s in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Bar­row is in Sene­gal and could, in the­ory, be sworn in as pres­i­dent at the Gam­bian em­bassy in that coun­try, which is tech­ni­cally on Gam­bian soil.

Gam­bia is one of Africa’s small­est coun­tries and has had just two rulers since in­de­pen­dence in 1965. Jam­meh seized power in a coup in 1994 and his gov­ern­ment has gained a rep­u­ta­tion among or­di­nary Gam­bians and hu­man rights ac­tivists for tor­tur­ing and killing op­po­nents.

Few peo­ple ex­pected him to lose the elec­tion and the re­sult was greeted with joy by many in the coun­try and by democ­racy ad­vo­cates across the con­ti­nent, par­tic­u­larly when Jam­meh ini­tially said he would ac­cept the re­sult and step down.

Jam­meh’s de­ci­sion to re­verse that po­si­tion has cre­ated po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. At least five min­is­ters have re­signed from his gov­ern­ment, hun­dreds of peo­ple have fled to neigh­bour­ing Sene­gal and oth­ers in the coun­try say they fear vi­o­lence.

Bri­tish tour op­er­a­tor Thomas Cook started evac­u­at­ing about 1 000 hol­i­day­mak­ers yesterday. It said on its web­site it was lay­ing on ex­tra flights in the next 48 hours to re­move 985 pack­age tour cus­tomers.

It was also try­ing to con­tact a fur­ther 2 500 “flight only” tourists in Gam­bia to ar­range for their de­par­ture on the ear­li­est avail­able flight.

Gam­bia’s econ­omy re­lies on one main crop, peanuts, and tourism. It is pop­u­lar with Euro­pean hol­i­day­mak­ers. – Reuters

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