The president-elect of the Gambia has demanded that Yahya Jammeh step down immediately, as African leaders prepared to fly in and persuade the country’s autocratic leader to reconsider his refusal to accept defeat and resign. After 22 years in power in the west African nation, it came as a surprise to many when Jammeh, an autocratic leader who had said he would rule for “a billion years if Allah willed it”, accepted defeat in a televised call to Adama Barrow, the leader of the opposition coalition. However, a week later he declared that the vote was “fraudulent and unacceptable” and vowed to take the matter to the country’s supreme court. Barrow and his coalition said Jammeh’s plans were “illegal” and he should resign. Barrow said he was relying on four senior African presidents due to arrive in the country on Tuesday to persuade Jammeh to reverse his pledge to nullify the election and retain power.
It is unclear whether Jammeh will agree to meet Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and John Mahama, who has just accepted defeat in Ghana’s election, as well as Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the UN’s west Africa representative. If he does, this would be the first time he has met anyone from outside the government since losing the election.
“We want him to step down immediately so that we can move forward,” Barrow told the Guardian. “He lost the election, called me, swore to the Qur’an and said: ‘I am a Muslim, I have faith, I lost the election. I have accepted it in good faith and our electoral system is the best in the world. No one can rig it.’ We want him to step down because he has put himself in a very funny position, in a tight corner.”