Sirleaf Johnson

Leaders of the West African regional grouping have officially authorized the Ecowas Standby Force (ESF) to intervene militarily in The Gambia and enforce the outcome of a presidential election earlier this month if defeated President Yahya Jammeh refuses to give up power when his mandate expires on January 18.

Gambia’s President, Yahaya Jammeh, inspects a Guard of Hounour by the military. ECOWAS has put him on notice to quit or get ouste.

A leaked December 17 resolution mandates the ESF to deploy a Senegal-led military force to oust Jammeh who is challenging the election result after initially conceding defeat to Barrow and promising a smooth handover of power.

According to the resolution signed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her capacity as the current Ecowas chair, the ESF has been mandated to ensure the safety of President-elect Barrow, his inauguration in accordance with the country’s constitution and provide security to other political leaders and the Gambian population.

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The mandate of the EFS whose composition has not yet been revealed enters into force after President Johnson-Sirleaf’s signature but will be subjected to a review depending on political events in The Gambia over the next few weeks as diplomacy is used to end the electoral deadlock.

The resolution made after the fiftieth Ecowas Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, held on December 17 said the duration of ESF’s mandate will last from Barrow’s inauguration to realizing the necessary conditions for the effective exercise of his executive powers as the country’s new president.

The operations of the intervention force will be funded through the Ecowas community levy and financial support from the United Nations, the European Union and other donor partners.

The resolution followed an unsuccessful attempt by the leaders of Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone to talk Jammeh out of preventing a smooth handover of power to Barrow who had topped the polls with 43 percent ahead of the incumbent who polled 39 percent according to the revised figures of the results after the Independent Electoral Commission had corrected a collation error which did not alter the standings of the candidates.

Outgoing President Jammeh whose party’s petition challenging the results will be heard in The Gambian Supreme Court on January 10 has vowed to prevent Barrow’s inauguration on January 19, a day after his own mandate as the country’s elected leader will expire.

The head of the Independent Electoral Commission Alieu Momar Njai has rebuffed Jammeh’s claims of “vote-rigging and widespread irregularities” as nonsense.

President Jammeh who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and won four elections before losing the December 1 poll has warned that any move to oust him would be regarded by his government as a naked external aggression.


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