West African leaders will make a decision Saturday on how to resolve Gambia’s electoral crisis and its longtime leader’s refusal to accept defeat in elections, Nigeria’s presidential spokesman said Friday. A military intervention led by Senegal could be in the offing.
“One way or the other, a decision will be taken,” spokesman Garba Shehu said. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari heads a committee named by the Economic Committee of West African States to resolve the crisis.
The regional bloc has threatened to send troops led by neighboring Senegal if President Yahya Jammeh does not step down Jan. 19, when his mandate ends. Shehu said a decision will be made Saturday when West African leaders meet for the inauguration of Ghana’s new president. It will be the fourth time a Ghanaian president has peacefully stepped aside to make way for a newly elected leader, after the country suffered more than a decade of military dictatorship.
In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the Dec. 1 vote then later demanded a new election. The United Nations, the United States, the European Union and others have united in criticizing him.
The West African bloc has pledged to protect Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow, who has said he fears for his life under a Jammeh administration accused of gross human rights violations including arbitrary detentions and deaths in custody of political opponents.
The president of Gambia’s electoral commission fled the country this week. Human rights groups said Friday political opponents are being detained and some have received death threats. Critics say thousands of Gambians have fled abroad to escape persecution and an untold number of political dissidents have been jailed and some killed.
Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 in the country of 1.9 million people known for its beaches.