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ECOWAS Leaders Insist Gambian Leader Must Go

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Select leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has reiterated the resolve of the entire sub-region that President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, must quit office at the expiration of his tenure, having lost the presidential election held in the country in December.

The leaders took this position after a meeting hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

They, however, added that the political issues in the Gambia must be resolved in a manner that does not violate the constitution of the country and respect for the will of the people.

The mediation meeting was attended by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President Macky Sall of Senegal, ex-President John Mahama of Ghana, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza, and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama told State House correspondents after the meeting that “The leaders agreed on the determination to resolve the crisis in a manner that every step of the way conforms to the constitution of The Gambia and respect for the will of the people of The Gambia.”

He also added that the ECOWAS leaders condemned the arrests of perceived opposition personalities as well as the clampdown on opposition institutions and media organizations thereby causing many people to flee the country in fear.

Onyeama stated that the mediation team therefore decided to hold another meeting with President Jammeh in The Gambia on Wednesday to prevail on him to respect the constitution of his country.

The minister added that a representative of the African Union, AU, will be joining the delegation that will travel to The Gambia on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the federal government has said that it will not hesitate to evacuate Nigeria citizens who are resident in The Gambia, if the current situation degenerates.

Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, told journalists in a telephone interview on Monday that the government was monitoring the situation and hoping things do not get volatile.

The Presidential aide added that in the case of violence, “Naturally, the Nigerian government will not abandon our citizens … In case the situation becomes volatile, we will evacuate those who want to be evacuated.”

“But we are hoping and confident that it will not get to that and that the matter will be resolved through the ongoing intervention of the ECOWAS leaders. The leaders will meet with President Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday,” she added.

The entire ECOWAS sub region was pleasantly surprised when President Jammeh, who had vowed to rule The Gambia for a “billion years”, accepted defeat and congratulated Adama Barrow, his opponent in the Presidential election held in December.

Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived as Jammeh, recanted a week later and called for the cancellation of the election as well as the conduct of a fresh exercise, citing electoral abnormalities.

Many countries across the globe condemned Jammeh’s action as anti-people, saying he must hand over when his tenure expires.

Marcel de Souza, the ECOWAS Commission president, was quoted as saying that troops have been put on standby to intervene in the situation should Jammeh insist on not handing over.

But in his New Year’s message, Jammeh reiterated that The Gambia is a sovereign State and any intervention by external forces would amount to an act of war. He vowed to defend his country against such.

Jammeh also sacked 12 of the country’s ambassadors who asked  him to step aside and allow opposition leader Barrow to take power.

The ambassadors to China, Britain, Turkey, Senegal, and the United States, as well as the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, were among the affected diplomats.

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