PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has said that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has asked and must ensure that President Yayah Jammeh of Gambia steps down when his mandate ends in January.
According to a communiqué issued at the end of the 50th ordinary session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, President Yayah must uphold the result of the December 1 presidential election in the country and must guarantee the safety and protection of the president-elect.
“The Authority calls on President Yahya Jammeh to accept the result of the polls and refrain from any action likely to compromise the transition and peaceful transfer of power to the president-elect,” the communiqué added.
Johnson Sirleaf comments came at the start of the ECOWAS summit aimed at deciding on action against Jammeh in the face of what regional leaders say is a challenge to its principles of democratic accountability.
She did not spell out what measures the bloc would take but they could include sanctions, which could hurt Gambia because ECOWAS member, Senegal, is the country’s only neighbour.
“It’s now important that the authority at this summit considers measures to bring the matter to a successful conclusion before January 19 … when the mandate of the current president expires,” Johnson Sirleaf told the summit.
Jammeh’s 22 years in power have been marked by allegations of human rights abuses and repression against perceived political opponents. He is due to step down on January 18.
Initially, he conceded defeat but a week ago, he rejected the results and called for a fresh vote in a move that was widely condemned. His party is now challenging the result in Gambia’s Supreme Court.
Johnson Sirleaf’s remarks follow a mission to Gambia last week, accompanied by the leaders of several West African countries including Nigeria and Ghana, whose President John Mahama lost a December 7 election and has said he would step down.
The Authorities of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries, on Saturday in Abuja, appointed President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and his Ghanaian counterpart, John Mahama, as Chief Mediator and Co-Mediator respectively in the Gambian political impasse.
The West African leaders also resolved to attend the inauguration of the Gambian president-elect, Adama Barrow, on January 18, while urging the defeated President Yayah Jammeh to hand over power on the said date.