Tuesday 26 September 2017

Gambia strongman Yahya Jammeh in court move to block successor

Yahya Jammeh has filed a supreme court injunction to stop his president-elect successor taking over (AP)
Yahya Jammeh has filed a supreme court injunction to stop his president-elect successor taking over (AP)

Gambia's strongman president has filed an injunction to stop election winner Adama Barrow from taking office on Thursday and to bar other parties from swearing in the opposition coalition leader.

President Yahya Jammeh t old Gambians they must wait for a supreme court hearing before he considers stepping down after more than 22 years in power.

He addressed the West African nation as Senegal said it was hosting president-elect Mr Barrow until his January 19 inauguration.

But Mr Jammeh, 51, said that date, marking the end of his mandate, was "not carved in stone".

"I have confirmed that we have filed an application for an injunction to restrict Mr Adama Barrow from being sworn in as well as restricting the chief justice and any other parties from swearing in Mr Adama Barrow until the application is decided by the supreme court of Gambia, Mr Jammeh said.

And until then, the status quo remains."

Mr Jammeh called the chairwoman of the West African bloc, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, during his state TV broadcast.

While on the phone, he confirmed that he filed the injunction and asked that the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS), which has been mediating the political crisis in Gambia, help facilitate supreme court judges.

"The only peaceful resolution of this impasse is through the courts," he told Ms Sirleaf.

Ms Sirleaf said that "we are going to work on this right away" and encouraged Mr Jammeh to confirm that he wanted peace and would follow the constitution.

"Gambia needs peace, and ECOWAS wants peace," she said.

Mr Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, had conceded after losing in the December 1 election, but a week later he rejected the vote, saying there were irregularities.

He and his party filed a petition calling for a new vote and he appointed judges to the supreme court, which had not sat for more than a year.

The Nigerian and Sierra Leone judges he appointed, however, have said they cannot sit until May.

ECOWAS leaders attempting to mediate the political crisis met Mr Jammeh and Mr Barrow in Gambia on Friday, but said no deal was reached.

Mr Barrow, who once worked as an Argos security guard in north London, was then invited to meet African leaders at the France-Africa summit in Mali on Saturday.

The West African regional bloc has said if Mr Jammeh does not cede power it will consider military intervention and has already prepared a standby force led by Senegal, which almost completely surrounds Gambia.

A Nigerian army memo has also ordered officers to prepare a battalion of 800 troops for the possible military intervention, should Mr Jammeh not step down.

The African Union has announced it will cease to recognise Jammeh as Gambia's legitimate leader as of January 19, when his mandate expires, and warns of "serious consequences" if his actions lead to the loss of lives.

Mr Jammeh criticised the AU's decision in his Sunday address, saying it had not been approved by member states.

Gambia's political uncertainty has recently sent several thousand people, mostly women and children in buses, fleeing the country of about 1.9 million people across the border to Senegal.

Mr Jammeh came to power as a 29-year-old army lieutenant and won four multi-party elections before he was finally defeated by Mr Barrow.

AP

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