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Gambia’s Jammeh Rejects Presidential Election Results a Week After Admitting Defeat

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In a shocking move, Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh on 9 December rejected the result of the presidential election held earlier this month, a week after he admitted defeat. He has called for new elections to be held and the ruling party has announced that it will challenge the results of the 1 December election at the Supreme Court. They have until 13 December to submit a challenge to the court.

The announcement, which was made on state television, throws the future of the West African country into doubt after the unexpected election result ended Jammeh’s 22-year rule. Last week, he had conceded defeat on state TV, in a move that resulted in celebrations over the defeat of a government that human rights groups accused of detaining, torturing and killing opponents during the president’s rule. Opposition leader Adama Barrow had been announced as the winner of the election by the country’s electoral commission. However on Saturday Jammeh has since stated that “after a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities, which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” adding, “I recommend fresh and transparent elections, which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission.” On the ground sources have reported that overnight the capital city Banjul remained quiet, however there was a particular nervousness about the president’s statement that he would deal harshly with any troublemakers who took to the streets.

International reaction to his statement has also been swift, with the United States State Department saying in a statement that Jammeh’s rejection of the results was an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election and remain illegitimately in power. Meanwhile Senegal’s foreign minister disclosed on Saturday that Gambian authorities have refused entry to the chair of regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, in a move that has dampened hopes for a political solution after President Yahya Jammeh rejected the results of the election he lost on 1 December. Sirleaf Johnson had hoped to put back on track Gambia’s first democratic transition to power in over fifty years, however those plans appeared thwarted on Saturday when her plane was denied landing access at Banjul. Senegalese foreign minister Mankeur Ndiaye disclosed “Johnson Sirleaf was supposed to fly in today, but Jammeh said ‘not at the moment.’” It was not clear if the plane had already taken off.   Also on Saturday the African Union (AU) weighed in on Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to accept the 1 December presidential election results, calling his statement “null and void.” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma disclosed that “the Chairperson of the Commission strongly urges President Yahya Jammeh to facilitate a peaceful and orderly transition and transfer of power.” She also called on Gambia’s security forces to remain neutral. The United Nations Security Council on Saturday condemned Gambia President Yahya Jammeh’s rejection of election results announced last week that saw him lose power after 22 years. The Council has urged all parties to refrain from violence. In a statement, the Council disclosed “(Security Council members) called on him to respect the choice of the sovereign People of The Gambia, as he did on 2 December 2016, and to transfer, without condition and undue delay, power to the President-elect, Mr Adama Barrow.”

The head of Barrow’s transition team has disclosed that the president-elect and his staff members are safe. Mai Ahmad Fatty went on to say “we are consulting on what to do, but as far as we are concerned, the people have voted,” adding “we will maintain peace and stability and not let anyone provoke us into violence.” What is certain is that Jammeh’s shock announcement will present an unexpected and severe challenge to the incoming Barrow administration, which is already grappling with how to take the reins of power and deal with an army that for the past two decades has been loyal to the same present. While last week, army chief General Ousman Badjie had called Barrow in order to pledge his allegiance, diplomatic sources have disclosed that they expect a faction from Jammeh’s Jola ethnic group to remain loyal to him.

Official election results from the electoral commission gave Barow 45.5 percent of the vote against Jammeh’s 36.7 percent. The Independent Electoral Commission however later corrected the results to give Barrow a slimmer lead with 43.3 percent of votes, or fewer than 20,000 more than Jammeh.

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