Fearing for his safety the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) advised Barrow to remain in Senegal, where he fled after incumbent president Yahiya Jammeh – whose term ends on Thursday – refused to step down after losing last December’s presidential elections to Barrow, the BBC reported on Monday.
Ecowas is considering military intervention to force Jammeh out of office after he filed an injunction aimed at preventing the president-elect's inauguration on Thursday. He stated on state television on Sunday that “the so-called deadline of January 19, 2017 is not cast in stone and all parties shall await the outcome of the Supreme Court".
Jammeh, who came to power in 1994 during a military coup, also tried earlier in the month to challenge the legitimacy of Barrow’s win.
After Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) declared Barrow the winner with 45 percent of the vote, Jammeh launched his court challenge. However, it could take the Supreme Court months to rule on Jammeh’s petition to prevent the swearing-in ceremony due to the fact the court is barely functioning.
“The judicial sector is deeply flawed by virtue of the fact the Supreme Court has not been properly established. It last met in May 2015,” Jeggan Grey-Johnson, from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), and a Research Associate at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview.
Gambia’s Bar Association has also accused the country’s Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle of plotting to use Nigerian judges to overturn the presidential elections.
Gambian lawyers, and members of the opposition, have taken it a step further accusing Jammeh of using these judges, and other officials and technical assistants, to persecute the opposition.
Meanwhile, like Barrow hundreds of terrified Gambians have fled the country, some to neighbouring Senegal including the head of the IEC and several high-ranking members of the security forces despite the country’s army chief pledging support for Jammeh.
However, The Gambia’s Ambassador to South Africa, Samba Mballow, told ANA that he doubted that many in the army would obey orders to support Jammeh if a military confrontation erupted.
“The army is of the people and will support the will of Gambians who voted clearly for a new president and if Jammeh refuses to step down he will be considered a rebel and you know what that means,” said Mballow.
As Thursday’s deadline inches closer tensions continue to escalate with the Ecowas military force on standby, a possible split in military allegiance, and the international community, including the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), all pressuring Jammeh to step down despite all signs to the contrary of him having any intention to surrender power.
“There is a state of emergency being acted upon even though it has not been publicly declared. The country is facing a serious political, constitutional, economic and security crisis,” Grey-Johnson told ANA.