No show at the Gambia’s Supreme Court today as expected. The much-awaited sitting of the court over the petition filed by President Yahya Jammeh, challenging the results of the 1 December presidential election which he lost to opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow, has been suspended.
Gambia’s apex court could not form a quorum as only one judge was present. A quorum is formed if five justices are in court.
No official explanations have been given for the absence of the other judges, who were hurriedly recruited from Nigeria and Sierra Leone by Jammeh about two weeks ago for the sole purpose of hearing the case.
It has been speculated since last week that the judges would not turn up.
Reports by the News Agency of Nigeria quoted the Gambia’s Supreme Court’s registrar to have said: “the case has been adjourned until 16 January, since only one of the required minimum of five judges is present.’’
Even if the court forms a quorum on 16 January, it would not be able to reach a conclusion before 19 January. In fact, legal experts say the earliest the court could deliver a verdict on the controversial case is May.
Since the tenure of Jammeh expires on 18 January, the pressure is now on him to step down and allow President-elect Adama Barrow to be sworn in on 19 January.
At the last election in 2011, opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe filed a petition to challenge the result but Jammeh was sworn in before it had been heard. So there is a precedent for Jammeh to step down and allow Barrow to take the oath of office.
Meanwhile, a delegation of the ECOWAS mediation team, led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, will visit The Gambia on Wednesday 11 January to persuade Jammeh to step down and allow for a peaceful transition of power.
During an earlier meeting in December, West African heads of state failed to convince Jammeh to accept the result of the election.
The trip of the ECOWAS delegation, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Sierra Leone and former President John Mahama of Ghana as well as the president of the ECOWAS commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, and the Special Representative of United Nations for West Africa, Dr Ibn Mohammed Chambas, is seen as a last-ditch attempt to peacefully resolve the election crisis in the country.
The postponement of the case came less than 24 hours after the Communications Minister, Sheriff Bojang, stepped down and fled the West African nation.
Mr Bojang said he resigned because Jammeh’s refusal to accept the outcome of the presidential election was disregarding the will of the people.