Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow said on Monday that longtime leader Yahya Jammeh should step down immediately after Jammeh reversed his decision to concede defeat following a presidential election.
This is even as Jammeh said on Monday rather than a fresh election he ordered before, he will challenge the result at the Supreme Court.
But Barrow said: “I think he should step down now. He has lost the election, we don’t want to waste time, we want this country to start moving.”.
Barrow is due to welcome a heavyweight delegation of African heads of state and UN representatives Tuesday to persuade Jammeh to go, which the president-elect said gave him confidence he would soon take power.
“It’s giving us confidence and it will give confidence to every Gambian that the world is concerned about Gambia,” he said.
Diplomatic sources indicated the delegation is likely to include UN West Africa envoy Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her capacity as head of the west African bloc ECOWAS.
Jammeh has led the tiny sliver of a nation of just under two million people for 22 years since taking power in a coup.
However, Jammeh’ party announced a legal challenge over the December 1 election in which he had already conceded defeat to Barrow.
Jammeh said he will now challenge the results of a December 1 election at the Supreme Court.
Celebrations had erupted across the West African nation when Jammeh unexpectedly conceded defeat after the elections commission announced the victory of opposition candidate Adama Barrow.
However, in a dramatic about-face that drew international condemnation, the mercurial former coup leader on Friday decried “serious and unacceptable abnormalities” and called for fresh polls.
In a statement broadcast on state television late on Saturday, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) said it was preparing a petition “against the flawed decision of the Independent Elections Commission”.
The deadline for submitting a challenge to the court is Tuesday.
There is no sitting Supreme Court in Gambia, though there is currently a chief justice, who is Nigerian. In order to hear Jammeh’s complaint, legal experts believe at least four other judges must be hired.
Rights groups say Jammeh exerts strong influence over the court.
Three chief justices served between 2013 and 2015. The first, a Nigerian, was fired five weeks after his appointment then arrested and jailed. His Ghanaian successor lasted six months before his dismissal.
Ali Nawaz Chowhan from Pakistan served for three months before abruptly leaving Gambia after acquitting the former navy chief in a treason case.
He later told a Pakistani newspaper that he left because the decision displeased the government.
The last two Gambian judges left the court a year and a half ago.
“Either you do what Jammeh wants you to, or you lose your job or even go to jail,” said Bubacarr Drammeh, a former state prosecutor who fled into exile in the United States earlier this year.
“The election results were correct, nothing will change that,” elections commission head Alieu Momarr Njai told Reuters on Sunday. “If it goes to court, we can prove every vote cast. The results are there for everyone to see.”
Barrow, who has pledged to serve as a transitional leader and step down after three years, said that Jammeh had no constitutional authority to reject the poll results.
The residence in the capital Banjul where Barrow was staying on Sunday was surrounded by around 30 unarmed supporters who said they were providing security after the police and military declined to protect him.
Banjul was calm though armed soldiers were visible in the streets and manning checkpoints on some roads in the city.
The head of the Gambian Army pledged allegiance to Barrow last week, however a regional diplomatic source who said he had spoken to the president-elect told Reuters he did not feel safe.
“He asks that the international community ensure his security because he feels threatened,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Barrow declined to speak, but Omar Jallow, head of the People’s Progressive Party which backed Barrow in the election, said Jammeh’s actions were “nothing more than a coup d’etat.”
“We will not accept anything less than Adama Barrow being sworn in … We will not take this lying down,” Jallow said.
Jammeh has long had a troubled relationship with the international community due to accusations of human rights violations including the repression of political opposition and threats of violence and death against homosexuals.
His U-turn on Friday drew condemnation from the United Nations, African Union, European Union and the United States.
“The will of the Gambian people, freely expressed in exercise of their franchise, must be respected by all without precondition,” said Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who currently chairs the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.