President Yahya Jammeh surprisingly pledged late Tuesday to explore all means to peacefully resolve the political impasse created after he rejected last month’s election results.
Appearing on national television, Jammeh used the tone, syntax and body language reminiscent of his Dec. 2 concession speech to President-elect Adama Barrow. He assured Gambians that his intentions were in the country’s interests.
“I assure everyone that as a Gambian, a Muslim and a family man, no foreigner can love this country and holds its highest interest to heart more than myself and the majority of Gambian people,” Jammeh said.
“So I will also take all possible steps within the constitution and my conscience to do my part to resolve this sad impasse.”
Gambia was plunged into a crisis on Dec. 9 when Jammeh, who has held power in the small west African state since 1994, rejected the election results a week after conceding defeat to Barrow, a little-known property developer.
Jammeh said the electoral process was tainted with “unacceptable irregularities” and ordered a new vote before filing a petition seeking to annul the results.
He said “there [was] no denying that out beloved nation is going through a challenging period”.
A hearing on Jammeh’s Supreme Court petition has been postponed until May. On Tuesday, Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbele told Jammeh’s lawyer Edu Gomez that he needed a full panel to include judges from overseas, as is customary in Gambia, but that judges from Sierra Leone and Nigeria could not travel until either May or November.
Petition to Supreme Court
Opposition spokesman Halifa Sallah told a news conference on Tuesday that Barrow would be sworn in on Jan. 19 after Jammeh’s term expires the previous day.
In his broadcast, Jammeh appeared to call for the transition to wait for the Supreme Court decision.
“As our constitution provides, only the Supreme Court can review our challenge and only the Supreme Court can declare anyone president and so I ask each and everyone of us to respect the supreme law of the republic and await the Supreme Court review and ruling on the election results,” he said.
The president added that an investigation had revealed an “unprecedented level of foreign interference in our elections and internal affairs and also a sustained smear campaign, propaganda and misinformation”.
He stressed his belief in Gambians’ ability to solve the impasse without “undue external interference” and he thanked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union and the UN for their support “even if some were mistaken”.
Separately, a meeting between the president and mediators from the ECOWAS was moved from Wednesday to Friday by Jammeh, who has issued an executive order against arrests or prosecutions “due to acts or omissions in the pre- and post-electoral period” between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31.
“I ask all Gambians to forgive each other, especially us, the political class,” he added.