President Muhammadu Buhari will on Monday, January 9, 2017, in Abuja meet with leaders of West African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal and immediate past Ghanaian President over the lingering threat to democracy in neighbouring The Gambia, whose outgoing President Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down after losing to Adama Barrow, candidate of the opposition coalition.
In a tweet on his personal handle Sunday night, President Buhari wrote: “Tomorrow in Abuja, in my role as ECOWAS-mandated Mediator, I will host a meeting of West African leaders on the situation in The Gambia.”
Explaining further, Bashir Ahmad, the President’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, said West African leaders expected at the meeting to include: Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; and Macky Sall, Senegal. Others are: Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana of Sierra-Leone and John Dramani Mahama, who handed over on Saturday as President of Ghana.
The Abuja meeting, Ahmad continued, is “aimed at avoiding violence and preserving democracy in The Gambia.”
Ahead of the Abuja meeting, Reuters reported President Sirleaf as telling journalists in Accra on the sidelines of Saturday’s swearing in of Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana that
ECOWAS has no intention yet to deploy its standby military force in 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,” explained Sirleaf, who chairs the 15-member body.
Commenting on the meeting, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said ECOWAS would hold a meeting on Monday to discuss “some disturbing information president (Buhari) is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating.
Despite his loss at the December 1, 2016 historic election after 22 years in the saddle, President Jammeh, who initially conceded defeat and even called to congratulate Barrow, suddenly changed his mind, and has so far shown no intention to vacate office, days to his scheduled hand over date.
He shocked the world by declaring that the vote count was “fraudulent and unacceptable,” vowing to challenge the result at the nation’s Supreme Court.
The latest move by the five West African leaders is a follow up to an earlier one involving Buhari, Mrs. Sirleaf, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Mahama, as well as Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the UN’s West Africa representative.
As if to show he is still firmly in charge, Jammeh who assumed office after a military coup d’etat as a young military officer in 1994 has in the past few weeks shut at least three private radio stations, and arrested people wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Gambia Has Decided,” a known statement of Barrow supporters.