The Gambia’s long-time President Yahya Jammeh must step down when his five-year mandate ends in January, the UN says.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who serves as the special representative of the UN secretary-general and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on Wednesday that Jammeh had a constitutional right to remain in office until January 19.
“Between now and January 19th it is Mr Jammeh that is the constitutionally elected president.”
The UN official said Jammeh’s departure would enable opposition leader Adama Barrow to take office following his presidential election win. “By January 19th he (Jammeh) should be ready to hand over power.”
Jammeh has announced plans to challenge Barrow’s election victory in court.
The incumbent president, who has ruled the Gambia for more than 22 years, has said that he had previously accepted the electoral results “believing that the Independent Electoral Commission was independent and honest and reliable.”
Commenting on the Gambia’s opposition worries that Jammeh could try to cling on to power pending the outcome of the legal case lodged on Wednesday, Chambas said, “That legal process has nothing to do with the term of his mandate.”
Chambas’ spokesman has said that the occupation of the Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission by police was an “unacceptable act.”
“It is a violation of the independent nature, guaranteed by the constitution, of the electoral commission, as some soldiers have taken away commission materials relating to the presidential election,” the spokesman said.
Alieu Momarr Njai, the chairman of the commission, said on Tuesday that security forces had entered the commission’s building. Njai also said on Wednesday morning that he had not yet been informed why he was locked out of his own premises.
West African leaders have failed to convince Jammeh to allow power transition. Leaders from a regional bloc known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have traveled to the Gambia in a failed attempt to strike a deal with the president to make him leave power.
Barrow says Jammeh lacks the constitutional authority to call for a new vote or to invalidate the election.