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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, left, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, center, and Marcel de Souza, president of the ECOWAS Commission, attend the Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Abuja, Nigeria, Dec. 17, 2016 / Photo: Reuters

Gambia: Jammeh must step down, say West African leaders

West African leaders under the auspices of the regional ECOWAS have jointly called on Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh to step when his term of office expires in January.

Meeting in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Saturday, the eleven presidents present at the body’s 50th ordinary session called on Jammeh to accept the results and refrain from compromising a peaceful handover of power.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who is the current chairperson of ECOWAS, urged the leaders to decide on “measures to bring this matter to successful conclusion before 18 January”, when Jammeh’s mandate expires.

She did not elaborate on what measures the bloc would take, but they could include sanctions.

On Friday, Marcel de Souza, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, said a military intervention must be considered if diplomacy failed to persuade Jammeh to step down.

The summit named a mediation committee headed by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ghana President John Dramani Mahama as deputy, to engage Jammeh diplomatically and find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Mahama conceded defeat in an election a few days after Gambia’s. It was Ghana’s first electoral defeat of a sitting president.

The summit ended with all leaders stating they will attend the 19 January inauguration of Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow.

Meanwhile, pressure on Jammeh to step down is also coming from Gambians themselves.

Ebrima Sall, a Gambian senior social scientist, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the business community, religious leaders and bar association have been calling on Jammeh to step down.

“Everybody is now speaking out,” said Sall. “They have overcome the fear that was there and they are all calling upon him to leave and accept the verdict. They know the majority wants him to leave. Otherwise, he will be even more isolated internally, let alone internationally.”

Sesan Adeola with agencies

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