PARIS, France, December 21, 2016/APO/ –FIDH and member organisations of the #MyVoteMustCount coalition call on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 22 years, to hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow. The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations and influential diplomacies must continue to put pressure in favor of the full respect of the result of the presidential election and the Gambian Constitution. When necessary, they must adopt sanction measures as provided for in their respective fundamental texts.
“President Jammeh should comply with the electoral verdict of the people of The Gambia and hand over power to elected President Adama Barrow. After 22 years of absolute power, a democratic transition in The Gambia would be a major step forward for Africa and especially for West Africa, ” said Arnold Tsunga, FIDH Vice-President.
The political climate remains tense in the Gambia 10 days after the volte-face of Yahya Jammeh to reject the results of the presidential election organized on 1 December.
During its Summit held on 17 December in Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS reaffirmed its commitment to ensure democratic principles are upheld in the Gambia. Thus, inits final communiqué, the ECOWAS stresses that it “shall take all necessary measures to strictly enforce the results of the 1st December 2016 elections ». This decision contributes to increasing the pressure on Yahya Jammeh to guarantee a transfer of power on 18 January 2017. It builds on the mission led on 13 December by the President-in-Office of the ECOWAS and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , who went to the Gambia with Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria and John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana. The presence of the latter sent out a symbolic message as, just a few days before the mission, he had recognized his own defeat in the presidential election. Muhammadu Buhari and John Dramani Mahama have been appointed ECOWAS mediators for the Gambia.
“The ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations must continue their efforts so that the choice freely expressed by the Gambian people is fully respected. They must prepare to implement all necessary measures against Yahya Jammeh if he insists on not giving up power on 18 January and thus violating the rules of democracy ” said Me Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice-President.
For its part, Yahya Jammeh has hardened his position and seems willing to cling to power at any cost. Defeated through the polls, he has shown off his strengths by ordering, on December 13, the occupation of the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) by the Red Berets of the Gambian Army while the ECOWAS delegation was present in Banjul, the Gambian capital. On the same day, the ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), filed an appeal to challenge the results of the election before the Supreme Court, which is not functional because its judges have not yet been appointed.
Similarly, supporters of President-elect Barrow were the target of reprisals. On 19 December, Yahya Jammeh, dismissed Sheikh Omar Faye, the Gambia’s ambassador to the United States, after he published an open letter on social networks on 13 December, calling Jammeh to hand over power to president-elect Barrow, respect the will of the Gambian people and the Constitution. Ousmane Badjie, the Chief of Staff of the Gambian army, who initially supported Barrow and asked the army to do the same, finally declared himself loyal to Yahya Jammeh. On 9 December, a few hours before his turnaround, Yahya Jammeh had promoted 49 soldiers to key positions in the army.
“The AU must enforce its texts and values that prohibit any electoral hold-up. If the President-elect is not sworn-in on 19 January 2017, all necessary measures provided by AU instruments must be considered, including targeted sanctions and suspension of the Gambia from its bodies,” said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative before the African Union.
In the latest statements of its current Chairperson, Idriss Deby Itno, and its Peace and Security Council, the AU has clearly decided “to ensuring full respect and compliance with the will and desire expressed by the people of the Gambia “and to support the efforts made by ECOWAS. During its 59th Ordinary Session, held from 21 October to 4 November 2016 in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted a resolution on the human rights situation prevailing in the country. Notably, the ACHPR “condemned all acts of excessive and disproportionate use of force against protestors, sexual assault of women detainees and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees” committed during the pre-electoral period and called on the government of the Gambia “to ensure that the elections are free, fair and peaceful”. The AU must now take concrete actions to ensure respect for regional and international instruments to which the Gambia has freely adhered, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, elections and governance, signed by the Gambia in 2008.