West African leaders promised Saturday to enforce the results of a Gambian election that was won by a little-known businessman backed by an opposition coalition but rejected by the country’s longtime coup leader. A summit of the Economic Community of West African States ended with all leaders stating they will attend the Jan. 19 inauguration of Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow. They also pledged to “guarantee the safety and protection of the president-elect,” who has said he fears for his life. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh surprised his fellow citizens by conceding defeat the day after the Dec. 1 vote, and then changed his mind and called for a new election. The United Nations, the United States and the African Union have all condemned the move.
The summit in Abuja, Nigeria, attended by 11 presidents with Jammeh absent, agreed “to take all necessary actions to enforce the results” of the Gambian election. It called for Jammeh to accept the results and refrain from compromising a peaceful handover of power.
A new deployment of soldiers across the country risks increased intimidation and harassment, the U. N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned late Saturday. “This is deeply worrying, given the record of human rights violations in Gambia, including excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detention and deaths in custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees,” Zeid said.