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Regional leaders fail to reach deal with Gambia’s Jammeh

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An image grab taken on December 3, 2016 from a video of the Gambia and Television Services (GRTS) broadcasted on December 2, 2016, in Banjul shows outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaking during a press conference after being defeated during the presidential election. Jammeh conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow on December 2, 2016 accepting that Gambians had "decided that I should take the backseat". The Gambia's President-elect Adama Barrow was to hold talks with his coalition the day after to plot his transition to power, following a shock election victory that ended the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh. Handout / GRTS - Gambia Radio and Television Services / AFP

An image grab taken on December 3, 2016 from a video of the Gambia and Television Services (GRTS) broadcasted on December 2, 2016, in Banjul shows outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaking during a press conference after being defeated during the presidential election. Jammeh conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow on December 2, 2016 accepting that Gambians had “decided that I should take the backseat”. The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow was to hold talks with his coalition the day after to plot his transition to power, following a shock election victory that ended the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh.<br />Handout / GRTS – Gambia Radio and Television Services / AFP

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s ruling party challenged his defeat in a Dec. 1 election at the Supreme Court on Tuesday as West African leaders failed to reach a deal that would see him accept the result and end a deepening political crisis.

Soldiers also seized the headquarters of the national elections commission and sealed it off just hours before the mediation delegation representing regional bloc ECOWAS touched down in the tiny riverside nation.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia since taking power in a 1994 coup and is accused of widespread rights abuses, initially conceded defeat to his main challenger, Adama Barrow. But in a dramatic about-face, that drew international condemnation he then rejected the poll results last Friday.

The legal petition filed by the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction now raises the prospect that Barrow’s narrow victory, which was poised to end years of Jammeh’s autocratic rule, may be overturned.

“The petition prays that it be determined that the said Adama Barrow was not duly elected or returned as president and that the said election was void,” read the text of the document submitted to the court and seen by Reuters.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, led the ECOWAS delegation that also included Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s John Mahama, who lost an election last week and conceded defeat.

“It is not time for a deal. It is not something that can happen in one day. It is something that we have to work on,” Johnson Sirleaf said as the presidents prepared to leave Gambia.

Regional leaders will discuss the crisis at an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria on Saturday, she said, adding Jammeh had given her assurances that peace and stability would be preserved.

But in an apparent sign that Jammeh was further entrenching his position, security forces seized control of the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters, which holds the original poll records.


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