Speaking on state television late on Tuesday night, outgoing President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia insisted that he would remain in power past his mandate until a court rules on his appeal challenging the outcome of the 1 December 2016 election.
Mr. Jammeh lost the presidential election to businessman Adama Barrow and conceded victory the following day. However, just one week after doing so, the Gambian president reversed course and refused to accept the outcome of the election, opting to challenge the results at court.
“Until the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration [of Mr. Barrow] on the 19th of January,” Mr. Jammeh said on television. “What we are asking for is not for the IEC [Independent Election Commission] to declare me the winner, I cannot do that.”
Last week, a joint delegation consisting of representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) met with Mr. Jammeh in Banjul and called on him to step down. But the Gambian leader refused to budge.
“I am not a coward. My right cannot be intimidated and violated. This is my position. Nobody can deprive me of that victory except the Almighty Allah,” he said during his television address.
“The ECOWAS meeting was a formality. Before they came, they had already said Jammeh must step down. I will not step down,” Mr. Jammeh said.
Despite Mr. Jammeh’s insistence that he will remain in power, ECOWAS leaders said they would attend the 19 January inaugural ceremony and would provide security for Mr. Barrow.
While ECOWAS seeks to mediate the conflict through peaceful, diplomatic means, the possibility remains that force could be used as a last resort. In the 1990s, ECOWAS deployed troops to Sierra Leone and Liberia during their civil wars, and in 1981, Senegal, in which the Gambia is embedded, sent troops there during a 1981 coup.