By Alhagie Jobe: The sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS, say they are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia where longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power after conceding defeat in last month election, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed on Saturday.
Sirleaf told waiting journalists after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra after the inauguration of new President Nana Akufo-Addo that the regional bloc did not ‘yet’ intend to deploy its standby military force in The Gambia.
“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia……we will continue to pursue that for now,” said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court where Yahya Jammeh is challenging the poll result.
Mr Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled Gambia for 22 years with iron-fist, initially accepted his defeat by opposition coalition leader Adama Barrow in the December 1st election. But a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.
Diplomats are concerned the impasse over the poll could escalate quickly into violence.
The United States warned its citizens on Saturday against visiting The Gambia. “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future. On January 7, 2017, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and authorized the departure of all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country” the statement said.
The United Nations had earlier announced that it is also relocating its staff to Senegal ahead of the January 19th would-be controversial day for Barrow’s inauguration.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations’ top official in West Africa, also attended the special closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana’s new President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Meanwhile, the quick change to a soft position by ECOWAS discouraged and killed the spirit of many Gambians.
Gambians are angrily expressing their views on social media saying their dreams have been faded and the future becomes empty after 22 years of suffering yet still Gambians can’t manage to decide their destiny.
Many say the ECOWAS decision “to keep the region peaceful” will unfortunately embolden Jammeh more though military intervention as elsewhere, should be an absolute last resort but incumbent President Jammeh is unhinged and doesn’t know or do diplomacy.