Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who initially accepted his defeat in a Dec. 1 election before making a dramatic about-face, will challenge the poll result before the Supreme Court, the ruling party said in a statement.
His loss to opposition candidate Adama Barrow, announced by the elections commission last week and followed by his rapid concession, had sparked hope for change in the tiny West African nation following 22 years of Jammeh’s authoritarian rule.
However, in a moved that drew widespread condemnation from the international community, the mercurial former coup leader on Friday decried “serious and unacceptable abnormalities” and called for fresh polls.
In a statement broadcast on state television late on Saturday, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) said it was preparing a legal challenge to the result.
“The statement of APRC chairman Yahya Jammeh on the 9th December was a prelude of a petition that the APRC is in the process of filing before the Supreme Court against the flawed decision of the Independent Elections Commission,” it said.
Under Gambian law, candidates have 10 days starting from the announcement of election results during which to submit a challenge with the court. Monday is a national holiday in Gambia, making Tuesday the final deadline for filing a petition.
Rights groups say Jammeh exerts strong influence over the Supreme Court which for years has been staffed mainly by judges brought in from other common law nations, including Nigeria and Pakistan.
“NOTHING MORE THAN A COUP D’ETAT”
Jammeh’s belated objections to the poll results followed a correction by the elections commission this week which reduced Barrow’s margin of victory to fewer than 20,000 votes.
Barrow, who has pledged to serve as a transitional leader and step down after three years, said on Saturday that Jammeh had no constitutional authority to reject the poll results.
The residence in the capital Banjul where Barrow was staying on Sunday was surrounded by around 30 unarmed supporters who said they were providing security after the police and military declined to protect him.
The head of the Gambian army pledged his allegiance to Barrow last week, however a regional diplomatic source who said he’d spoken to the president-elect told Reuters he did not feel safe.
“He asks that the international community ensure his security because he feels threatened,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Barrow declined to speak to Reuters on Sunday, but Omar Jallow, head of the People’s Progressive Party which backed Barrow in the election, said Jammeh’s actions were “nothing more than a coup d’etat.”
“We will not accept anything less than Adama Barrow being sworn in … We will not take this lying down,” Jallow said.
Jammeh has long had a troubled relationship with the international community due to accusations of human rights violations including the repression of political opposition and threats of violence and death against homosexuals.
His U-turn on Friday provoked immediate condemnation from the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the United States.
“The will of the Gambian people, freely expressed in exercise of their franchise, must be respected by all without precondition,” said Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who currently chairs the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
(Additional reporting by Diadie Ba in Dakar; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Raissa Kasolowsky)