Gambia’s Jammeh accuses ECOWAS of declaring war
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has accused the West African regional bloc ECOWAS of declaring a war against his country amid an ensuing political crisis there.
In a New Year’s speech broadcast on state TV, the Gambian president pledged to defend his country against what he called any foreign aggression.
Jammeh called the mediation by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as an insult to the Gambia’s constitution.
“Let me make it very clear that we are ready to defend this country against any aggression … My government will never opt for such confrontation but defending our sovereignty is a sacred duty for all patriotic Gambians,” the president said, adding, “It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, the president questioned the role of the regional body as a genuine mediator. “ECOWAS has also disqualified (itself) to provide mediation services as a genuine mediator has to be neutral and impartial and win the trust and confidence of the parties to the conflict.”
Jammeh had initially accepted the results of the December 1 election, in which opposition leader Adama Barrow was declared the winner, but reversed his position more than a week later and called for a revote.
His refusal to accept the results prompted political upheaval in the country, bringing pressure from the international community on him to accept the result and step down.
Leaders from ECOWAS have traveled to the Gambia in an attempt to strike a deal with the president to make him leave power.
ECOWAS has said that Jammeh must step down next month and vowed “to take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the election.
The Gambian military has already been deployed to civilian sites, such as the election commission headquarters, in a show of force by Jammeh.
Barrow says Jammeh lacks the constitutional authority to call for a new vote or to invalidate the election.
Several countries, the United Nations Security Council and international organizations have also called for a peaceful transition of power.
Jammeh seized power in a military coup in 1994 and has been in power ever since. He has long been under fire by human rights groups, who accuse him of torturing, imprisoning, or even sometimes killing his opponents.