Ahead of the intended peace talks in the Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has warned the high-level ECOWAS mediation mission led by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to postpone their visit to Gambia from Wednesday to Friday instead.
However, President Buhari, who is leading the mediating team alongside Mr. John Mahama, the immediate past President of Ghana played down any thinking that the delay will affect the peace talks. He said the delay notwithstanding, the mandate of the ECOWAS will still be accomplished.
This will be the ECOWAS team’s second visit to the embattled President Yahya Jammeh, who is putting his country on the brink of crisis following his refusal to step down after losing the country’s last presidential election.
The West African country has been thrust into a political crisis following a December 1 presidential vote, which saw longtime ruler Jammeh losing to opposition leader Adama Barrow.
Jammeh initially conceded defeat but later reversed his position, lodging a legal case aimed at annulling the result and triggering new elections.
Jammeh who had hoped to use the country’s Supreme Court to upturn opponent Adama Barrow’s election may have had his hopes doused after the court on Tuesday, postponed the hearing of the case until May, due to lack of judges.
The Gambia relies on foreign judges, notably from Nigeria, to staff its courts due to a lack of trained professionals in the tiny West African state.
The election challenge was supposed to be heard on Tuesday by five judges, including Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbele, but the Nigerian and Sierra Leonean judges were absent.
The Chief Justice of the Gambian Supreme Court, Justice Emmanuel Fagbele, said it cannot rule on President Yahya Jammeh’s challenge against his electoral defeat, further casting doubts on whether a peaceful political transition will take place on January 19 as scheduled.
Fagbele told Jammeh’s lawyers that he needed a full panel to hear the petition but the outsourced judges would not travel there until either May or November.
The case was adjourned to Monday but Fagbele warned the petitioners that they should not expect anything different.