Gambia: ECOWAS mediation talks on Gambia fail again - Opposition spokesman

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Talks to resolve the political impasse in the Gambia have failed for the second time with the chief mediator, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, leaving the country immediately after the West African mediation team met outgoing President Yahya Jammeh.

The mediation team of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by President Buhari did not speak with journalists.

However, opposition spokesman Halifa Sallah said the regional leaders did not reach an agreement with Jammeh to hand over on 19 January.

He added that the talks failed to resolve the political impasse but the mediation and negotiations would continue. He could not say for how long this would continue, PANA reported on Friday.

The ECOWAS mediation team included Liberian President and ECOWAS chairperson Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama. This is the second time in one month that ECOWAS leaders have failed to convince Jammeh to step down peacefully after losing the 1 December election.

Sallah said the development would not stop the inauguration of president-elect Adama Barrow on 19 January.

“As Gambians our destiny is in our hands and come January 19, Gambians will decide,” Sallah told journalists.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for the past 22 years with an iron fist, was defeated at the polls by opposition leader Barrow but after conceding defeat he changed his mind and has refused to hand over. He has petitioned the Supreme Court which is not expected to sit before May while his term of office ends on 19 January.

Judicial sources have told PANA that Jammeh has filed an injunction at the Supreme Court to stop the inauguration of president-elect Barrow on 19 January.

The injunction filed by Edward Gomez, attorney for Jammeh and his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party is asking the Chief Justice and any other judicial staff not to swear in Barrow.

Gambia's Chief Justice, Nigerian Emmanuel O. Fagbenle, confirmed the filling of the injunction to PANA on his cell phone but declined to comment further.

Judicial sources told PANA on Thursday night that the application for the injunction was brought to the Supreme  Court by Gomez, Seedy S.K. Njie, Minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure and other senior officials of the APRC party.

The source added that the application was received by the registrar of the Court on Thursday.

The Nigerian House of Representatives has asked the Government to offer asylum to Jammeh.

In a resolution, the MPs asked President Jammeh to respect the wishes of the citizens who voted for opposition leader Barrow. They pledged their solidarity with the parliament and people of Gambia in ending the political stalemate.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has reorganized its Order of Battle (ORBAT) to raise a battalion to be deployed in The Gambia to forcibly remove Jammeh if he refuses to leave power on 19 January.

The new battalion, christened ECOMOG NIBATT 1, is drawn mainly from the 19th Battalion of the Nigerian Army based in Okitipupa, southwest Nigeria. Other personnel were drawn from other formations and units across the country.

A signal from the Nigerian Army headquarters directed all nominated officers and men to report immediately at the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps Centre, Jaji Military Cantonment, Kaduna, for formal induction training on counter terrorism and counter insurgency before their deployment, if it becomes necessary. Jammeh has vowed to fight any foreign forces.

ECOWAS on 23 December last year put standby military forces on alert with ECOWAS Commission President Marcel de Souza saying Senegal, Gambia’s only territorial neighbour, would lead any military operation in the country.

Other West African countries would be mandated to provide troops as well, Mr. De Souza said.
-0- PANA MSS/MA 13Jan2017

13 january 2017 20:43:02

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