Gambia’s Supreme Court has refused to stop the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow.
Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle yesterday declined to hear a petition brought by President Yahya Jammeh, seeking an injunction “restraining Mr Barrow, the Chief Justice of the Gambia or any judicial or quasi-judicial officer or any person in whatever capacity whatsoever to preside over the swearing-in or inauguration on 19 January 2017 or any other date pending the determination of the election petition”.
Fagbenle, a Nigerian citizen and the only member of the court currently sitting, said he was unable to preside over the motion filed because he was named in the petition.
Jammeh’s constitutional term in office is expected to end at midnight on Wednesday, 18 January but he vowed yesterday after the court’s verdict that his regime would not allow Thursday’s planned inauguration of Adama Barrow to go ahead.
Jammeh’s statement now effectively closes the door on the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Jammeh had lodged a case before the Supreme Court last week requesting the result to be annulled, alleging that the election was rigged. But the court is unable to hold a hearing until May – as most of the judges come from other countries – and Jammeh has said he is going nowhere until then.
Barrow, who has received the support of the international community, has said he would go ahead with his inauguration on 19 January despite Jammeh’s rejection of the result. The president-elect is currently in Senegal where he is staying until he’s inaugurated.
Two missions of ECOWAS leaders to Banjul have failed to convince Jammeh to respect the election outcome and hand over power to Barrow.
The African Union’s has said in a statement that the organisation will no longer recognise Jammeh as president once his term ends. It warned of “serious consequences in the event that his action causes any crisis that could lead to political disorder and humanitarian and human rights disaster”.
The United Nations has also told Jammeh that his staying beyond his tenure would not be accepted.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS leaders have signalled their determination to mount a rare African defence of democratic principle by using force to ensure that Jammeh, Gambia’s president of 22 years, gives up power.
ECOWAS is now seeking the UN Security Council’s authorisation to undertake military action if Barrow’s inauguration on Thursday is blocked.
Nigeria at the weekend hosted a meeting of West African military chiefs in preparation for a possible military action in The Gambia.
On Saturday, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, hosted colleagues from other West African countries as part of the preparation for the inauguration of an ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG).
Among those who attended the meeting were the Chairperson of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff, Brig Gen Daniel Ziankahn (Liberia); CH Gueye of Senegal; the Ghanaian Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Michael Samson-Oje; and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Hajiya Salamatu.
The military chiefs’ meeting, held at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, was part of the move to force Jammeh out should such a need arise.
But Gen Olonisakin expressed the readiness of regional leaders and military commanders to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the political leaders of The Gambia to ensure peaceful transition of power.
Meanwhile, fearful of a military showdown as the end of Jammeh’s tenure nears, thousands of Gambians continue to flee to neighbouring countries The UN has announced that it was closely watching the situation and would issue a statement of its next line of action in the coming days.
Most analysts see no other alternative to military action in view of the belligerent attitude of Jammeh who has ruled Gambia for more than two decades with iron fist.