Gambian authorities have denied entry to the chair of ECOWAS, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , Senegal’s foreign minister said on Saturday, dampening hopes for a political solution after President Yahya Jammeh rejected the results of elections that he lost on Dec. 1.
Jammeh on Friday called for another election in the tiny West African country after narrowly losing to opposition leader Adama Barrow. He conceded defeat publicly last week.
The announcement on state television threw Gambia’s future into doubt after the unexpected election result ended Jammeh’s 22-year rule and was widely seen as a moment of democratic hope.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) chair Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had hoped to put back on track Gambia’s first democratic transition of power in over 50 years, but those plans appeared thwarted on Saturday when her plane was denied landing access at Banjul.
“Johnson Sirleaf was supposed to fly in today, but Jammeh said ‘not at the moment,’” Senegal foreign minister Mankeur Ndiaye told Reuters. It was not clear if the plane had already taken off.
Sirleaf’s camp was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for Jammeh’s government could not be reached.
As Gambians brace for a tense standoff, international criticism of Jammeh’s claim came in fast. Following the United States and Senegal, the African Union on Saturday weighed in, calling Jammeh’s statement “null and void”.
“The Chairperson of the Commission strongly urges President Yahya Jammeh to facilitate a peaceful and orderly transition and transfer of power,” said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also called on Gambia’s security forces to remain neutral.
The UN Security Council on Saturday has also asked Jammeh to quit.
The Council told Jammeh to carry out a peaceful and orderly transition of power to the President-elect, Mr Adama Barrow.
In a press statement issued on Saturday, the 15-member Council “strongly condemned the outgoing Gambian President’s rejection of the official election results proclaimed by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission”.
The Council asked Jammeh “to respect the choice of the sovereign people of Gambia, as he did on Dec. 2, and to transfer, without condition and undue delay, power to the President-elect, Mr. Adama Barrow.”