The UN’s west Africa envoy says Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh must step down when his mandate ends in January to enable opposition leader Adama Barrow to take office after his election win.
Speaking to AFP in Dakar, Senegal, Mohamed Ibn Chambas said that as Jammeh’s five-year mandate ended on January 19, he had a constitutional right to remain in office until then.
“Between now and January 19th it is Mr Jammeh that is the constitutionally elected president,” he said.”By January 19th he should be ready to hand over power.”
On Monday Barrow had called for the president to step down “now” as his coalition became increasingly annoyed by Jammeh’s refusal to admit defeat in the December 1 election and his party’s legal challenge against the result.
Commenting on opposition worries that Jammeh could try to cling on to power pending the outcome of the legal case lodged Wednesday by the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reconciliation and Construction (APRC), Chambas said:
“That legal process has nothing to do with the term of his mandate.”
His spokesman earlier said that the ongoing police occupation of The Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) - the object of the APRC’s legal complaint - was an “unacceptable act”.
“It is a violation of the independent nature, guaranteed by the constitution, of the electoral commission, as some soldiers have taken away commission materials relating to the presidential election,” the spokesman added.
The chairman of the IEC, Alieu Momar Njie, said yesterday morning that he had not yet been informed why he was locked out of his own premises.
He further dismissed Jammeh’s legal challenge of the IEC’s election result as unworkable due to a lack of judges on the Supreme Court, which is the body mandated to decide on cases of electoral law.
“The only way they can pursue the commission is through the court, and there is no court,” Njie said.
To meet the deadline of January 18 required for Jammeh’s case to be heard before the end of his tenure, he would need to appoint as many as six judges to the Supreme Court, which has lain dormant since May 2015.
Lawyers continued a planned boycott of the court system Wednesday in protest at Jammeh’s legal fight.
The country’s most influential lawyers’ group, The Bar Association, has said any appointment of judges by Jammeh to decide on a case involving himself would be fundamentally unjust.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Tuesday a that a heavyweight delegation of four African leaders including herself had failed to reach a consensus with Jammeh and Barrow on a transition of power.
“We come to help Gambians find their way through a transition. That’s not something that can happen in one day,” said Sirleaf who headed the team of four African heads of state and the UN’s Chambas.
The lack of a deal has come as a blow to the opposition, which had hoped Jammeh would leave power within a month under international pressure.
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