Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has rejected the result of the presidential election held earlier this month, a week after admitting defeat.
Speaking on state TV on Friday, Jammeh cited “abnormalities” in the vote and called for fresh elections.
Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup in 1994, suffered a shock defeat to Adama Barrow. “After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election,” he said. He said he now recommends fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by “a God-fearing and independent electoral commission”.
President-elect Barrow, a property developer, is due to take office in late January. Mai Ahmad Fatty, the head of his transition team, told Reuters they were “consulting on what to do”, adding: “As far as we are concerned, the people have voted. We will maintain peace and stability and not let anyone provoke us into violence.”
The strongman shocked Gambians by conceding defeat after the election last week. Latest official figures gave Barrow 43.29 percent of the vote and Jammeh 39.64 per cent. Voter turnout was 59 per cent.
The streets of the capital, Banjul, were reported to be calm on Friday night although soldiers were seen placing sandbags in strategic locations across the city, AFP news agency reports. Gambians who have been celebrating the end of Jammeh’s 22-year rule for the past week, now face an uncertain future again.
In a swift reaction, neighbouring Senegal called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting. Senegal is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
The country’s foreign minister, Mankeur Ndiaye, in a televised address called on Jammeh to respect the wishes of the electorate and not to do anything to harm the interest of the country or its citizens in the Gambia.
The US has also “strongly condemned” Jammeh’s statement.
“This action is a reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of The Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately,” said state department spokesman Mark Toner.
The African Union and the regional ECOWAS are expected to issue statements on the surprise development today.