Wednesday, January 4, 2017 5:35 pm
Gambia’s Army Chief reaffirmed his loyalty to embattled President Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday in a possible regional military intervention to enforce the election result that dealt the long time leader a surprise defeat.
Jammeh initially accepted his defeat in the Dec. 1 election, but a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power in spite a wave of regional and international condemnation.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS has placed standby forces on alert in case Jammeh attempts to stay in power after his mandate ends on Jan. 19.
Jammeh has called the bloc’s stance “a declaration of war’’.
“May I please seize this opportunity to renew to your Excellency the assurance of the unflinching loyalty and support of the Gambia Armed Forces,’’ General Ousman Badjie wrote in a letter to Jammeh published in a pro-government newspaper.
Many Gambians, who have lived through 22 years of Jammeh’s increasingly authoritarian rule, were stunned when the elections commission declared opposition figure Adama Barrow winner of election that held in December.
Jammeh’s initial acceptance of the result sparked nationwide celebrations.
Badjie declared his allegiance to Barrow soon after the poll results were announced, according to a spokesperson for the president-elect.
However, his position remained unclear following Jammeh’s dramatic about-face.
In an illustration of the growing pressure on Gambian officials as the Jan. 19 deadline looms, Alieu Momarr Njai, Head of the elections commission, fled Gambia on Friday due to fears for his security, family members said.
Gambian security forces had in December seized control of the commission’s headquarters, which holds the original poll records and told staff, including Njai, to leave.
Over the weekend, Gambian security agents closed three private radio stations, making it harder for the incoming government to communicate with its supporters.
“It is a sign of weakness for any side of the political spectrum to resort to media closures rather than engagement to put one’s position across,’’ Barrow’s office said on Wednesday in a statement that also called for the release of detainees.
Leaders of ECOWAS member nations have dismissed Jammeh’s move to challenge his election defeat before Gambia’s Supreme Court on Jan. 10 and said they would attend Barrow’s swearing-in this month. (Reuters/NAN)