Gambia’s political opposition said Monday that longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh could be considered a rebel leader if he takes up arms and doesn’t step down later this month, a firm warning issued after the president recently vowed that any presence of foreign troops in the tiny West African nation would be tantamount to an act of war. Two days earlier, Jammeh railed against the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS that has urged him to step down. Jammeh claims that numerous voting irregularities invalidate the Dec. 1 ballot won by opposition coalition’s Adama Barrow, and Jammeh’s party is challenging the results in court. Meanwhile, Barrow says he is planning a Jan. 19 inauguration, which puts him on a collision course with Jammeh, who seized power in a bloodless 1994 military coup.
Halifa Sallah, the spokesman of the opposition coalition, said Monday that Jammeh will be a private citizen as of Jan. 19, and would have no constitutional mandate to be in command of the armed forces of Gambia.
“Any president whose term of office expires who takes up arms against an incoming president whose term should begin according to law, would be regarded by the international community as a rebel leader,” Sallah said in reading a statement by the coalition.
The president of ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — has said that West African leaders will send troops into Gambia if Jammeh refuses to step down.