Coalition Reacts to ECOWAS Summit outcome

By Kebba Jeffang

Following the ECOWAS Saturday’s summit in Abuja, Nigeria, the Coalition with its President-elect Adama Barrow reacted halifa-sallahpositively and called on outgoing president Yahya Jammeh once more to reconsider his decision and step down to maintain peace and stability in the country.

This statement was read at the press conference by the Coalition’s spokesperson Halifa Sallah on behalf of the president-elect Adama Barrow on Sunday, December 18, 2016 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

He said “a government is recognized by states and peoples in Africa today because of Constitutional legitimacy. The Constitution of the Gambia states that the authority to govern in the Gambia must be derived from the votes cast by the Gambian people. On 1st Dcember 2016, the sovereign Gambian people had their say. On 2nd December 2016 the IEC gave its verdict. All the contestants agreed that I am the chosen president of the Republic of The Gambia”.

He said the decision of the incumbent to change his earlier decision to accept the results and ensure smooth and peaceful hand over of executive power came as a surprise, noting that his decision to reject the results has given rise to national and international reaction against his change of heart.

“My position as president-elect and the Coalition 2016 is clear. Section 63 Subsection (2) of the Constitution orders that I assume office on the day the term of the outgoing president expires. He assumed office on 19 January 2012. His term expires in January 2017 after serving five years, as provided by the Constitution,” Barrow’s words delivered by Halifa.

Mr. Sallah reading the statement of Barrow said, “we therefore hold that the outgoing President Jammeh is the lawful president of the Gambia until his term expires in January, 2017. On the day his term expires, my term as the lawful president of the Gambia begins. This is the law of the land. My status as the incoming president has unquestionable constitutional legitimacy. I am therefore preparing to assume office after outgoing President Jammeh’s term expires in January and the team for the inauguration is at work. This is what I told the Gambian people in particular and the international community at large”.

He said “today I wish to take this opportunity to inform the nation that the constitutional legitimacy of my status as an incoming president has been endorsed at home and abroad.”

“At home, civil society groups in large numbers are endorsing the results of the election and are calling on the incumbent not to obstruct the smooth transfer of executive power. They are the Gambia Bar Association, Medical and Dental Association of the Gambia, Gambia Labour Congress, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Initiative for the Promotion of Democracy and Good Governance, Gambia National Trade Union Congress, Gambia Press Union, University of the Gambia Faculty and Staff Association, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, National Youth Council, National Youth Parliament, Gambia Association of Public Health Officers, Civil Society Coalition on Elections, The Association of Non-Governmental Organization, Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia, Musicians’ Union of the Gambia, Gambia Association of Music Producers and Promoters, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, National Association of Gambia Nurses and Midwives and Think Young Women. The list continues to grow by the day to confirm the resolution of Gambians in ensuring that the democratic process and outcome are not derailed by undemocratic means. These initiatives have confirmed the internal legitimacy of my incoming presidency. Those who do their national duty do not want to be thanked but I must commend them for defending the Constitution and the sovereignty of the people, said Sallah.

He said externally, the ECOWAS heads of state deployed a high level mission of heads of state to the Gambia on 13th December 2016 to review the political situation with all stakeholders. He said the delegation comprised President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, President Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana. He said they are now calling on outgoing President Yahya Jammeh to accept the results of the polls and refrain from any action likely to compromise the transition and peaceful transfer of power to him as president-elect.

“They are also calling for my safety and protection to be guaranteed as requested by the Coalition. They also concurred with the Coalition’s position that I should be sworn in on the day the term of office of the outgoing president expires in conformity with the Gambian Constitution and promised to grace the occasion in their numbers,” Sallah said.

Sallah noted that in pursuance of peace and reconciliation, ECOWAS selected a duo to mediate in the persons of President Muhammadu Buhari, who will serve as the mediator in the Gambia and President John Dramani Mahama shall serve as co-chair. He said they also requested for AU and the UN endorsement of all decisions made and invited their collaboration to implement them.

He said, “prior to this landmark initiative by the heads of state of ECOWAS, I did receive endorsement from the president of ECOWAS Commission, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretray General to West Africa and the Sahel, High representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Eurpoean Commission Federica Mogherini, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, President Ellen Jonson-Sirleaf, Chair of ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, Senegal’s minister of foreign affairs Mankeur Ndiaye, US state department, West African Civil Society Forum. The list keeps on increasing to confirm the external legitimacy of my status as president-elect.

“In the spirit of national reconciliation, I still wish to call on outgoing president Jammeh to accept his status in good faith and facilitate a smooth transfer of power. This is what is in line with the national interest which he has sworn to uphold and defend under the Constitution. In the letter and spirit of our national anthem, Gambians want to live in unity, freedom and peace each day. For their sake let the doors be open to ensure a peaceful transfer of executive power,” said Sallah speaking on behalf of president-elect Barrow.

Meanwhile, while answering questions from journalists, Sallah said when the ECOWAS delegation met his coalition team recently in Banjul, one of the concerns raised was the security for the president-elect. He said this might be the reason why ECOWAS during their Saturday summit in Abuja said they will be willing to provide security. He said it has been captured in the Communiqué which shows that they have listened to them. However, he said how and when that security will be provided they cannot tell. He said President-elect Barrow has confirmed several times that they have hired a private security firm for now.