Leaders of the sub-regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have promised to enforce fully the results of The Gambia’s December 1st Presidential election won by the opposition coalition leader Adama Barrow but rejected by the country’s longtime coup leader Yahya Jammeh.

The West African leaders made the declaration at the end of its 50th Ordinary Summit held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Saturday.

The summit was convened few days after a fact finding mission of heavyweight quartet of West African leaders travelled to The Gambia to persuade Mr Jammeh to accept the will of the people and leave after 22 years. The delegation led by ECOWAS chair and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, included Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s outgoing President John Mahama as well as the UN Africa envoy Mohamad Ibn Chambas.

The Gambia voted on December 1st in a historic election in which longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh was defeated by an oppoisition coalition led by Adama Barrow. After the results where declared, Mr Jammeh conceded defeat and congratulated President-elect Adama Barrow but a week after, made a U-turn and rejected the election results in totality blaming the electoral body of certain irregularities leading to his defeat and further announced that the results are ‘null and void.’ He called for fresh election in the country to be supervised by what he called ‘a God fearing electoral body”.

The announcements on state television threw Gambia’s future into doubt and ignited the political impasse as President-elect Adama Barrow rubbished Mr Jammeh’s claimed and urged him to ensure a smooth transition and hand over power.

The international community – the UN Security Council, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United States, European Union and others also condemned Mr Jammeh over his actions and repeatedly asked him to handover power peacefully.

Meanwhile, at Saturday’s Economic Community of West African States summit attended by 11 presidents with President Jammeh absent, leaders agreed “to take all necessary actions to enforce the results” of the Gambian election.  They called for Jammeh to accept the results and refrain from compromising a peaceful handover of power.

The leaders further pledged to “guarantee the safety and protection of the president-elect,” who has said he fears for his life.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the West African leaders agreed to uphold the result of 1st December 2016 election in the Republic of The Gambia; guarantee the safety and protection of the President-elect Mr. Adama Barrow and announced that all Head of States will attend the inauguration of the President-elect Adama Barrow who must be sworn in on 19th January 2017 in conformity with the Gambian constitution.

“We call on the government and the coalition parties to show restraint in order to preserve national unity, to respect the will of the Gambian people as expressed by the Presidential election results of 1st December 2016” the Summit communiqué noted.

The Summit also named a mediation committee headed by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari with his deputy Ghana President John Dramani Mahama, who conceded defeat in an election a few days after Gambia’s.

“His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander in chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will serve as the Mediator in the Gambia and His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana as the Co-chair. The mediation process shall be conducted on the basis of terms agreed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government. We requests the endorsement of the AU and the UN on all decisions taken on the matter of The Gambia and also requests their support for the mediation efforts of ECOWAS including the provision of technical assistance where required The Authority shall take all necessary actions to enforce the results of 1st December 2016 elections” the Summit noted in the Communique.

The West African leaders also called on the Gambian defence and security forces to perform their role in a nationalistic manner and protect lives and property. They also encouraged all stakeholders, within and outside The Gambia, to exercise restraint, respect the rule of law and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS President Marcel de Souza earlier this week said if diplomacy fails, a military intervention and “draconian measures” must be considered for Gambia.

Jammeh is now using the excuse of errors in the vote tally, ignoring the country’s Independent Electoral Commission, which said the winner remains Barrow, who won with a revised count of 227,708 votes to Jammeh’s 208,487. His ruling APRC party has filed a court challenge against the results, a constitutional move complicated by the fact that Gambia’s Supreme Court does not have a quorum.

Last week, Mr Jammeh sent military officers to take over the electoral commission’s office.

By Alhagie Jobe