By Kebba Jeffang
Halifa Sallah, Spokesperson for Coalition government, speaking at a press conference at Kairaba Beach Hotel on Tuesday, 10th January, assured the general public that the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow will take place on the 19th January in spite of the court case of outgoing government contesting the outcome of the presidential election.
Sallah, who was speaking on behalf of the Incoming President, said this legal pursuit is a right that cannot stop the constitutional provision which guarantees a winner of the presidential election to be sworn in.
“It should be abundantly clear that it is neither in line with law nor commonsense for a loser to have the right of the victor suspended until an election petition is heard,” he said.
Sallah added “the right of a victor to be sworn in as President and the duty of an incumbent to leave office when one’s term ends is not invalidated by filing an election petition. The Office of the President- Elect stands by the principle that Adama Barrow’s election as President of the Republic of The Gambia stands and is calling on the general mobilisation of the people in preparation for the inauguration on 19th January.”
He emphasised that the status and outcome of an election petition are unknown and indeterminable before the completion of any court process and should therefore be regarded as a peripheral issue which should not hamper any preparation for the inauguration .
He continued, “the current effort by the loser to use the court case as a tool to mobilise his supporters to give the impression that they have been cheated of victory is contributing to the fear that he is not ready for a peaceful transfer of power. This is why some countries are issuing travel advice and some people are also relocating.”
Sallah said the ECOWAS Authority has clarified its position so that no one would claim that they are siding with anyone in The Gambia other than the Gambian people whose verdict must be respected. He said the authority of ECOWAS said they are closely following the process and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is leading the effort as ECOWAS mediator.
Sallah cited to the statement of Chairperson of ECOWAS President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the inauguration of President Akufo Addo in Ghana recently when she said “we call on the people of Gambia to follow the example of Ghana and put the interest of the nation above all personal interests. ECOWAS stands by the people of Gambia and will exercise every effort to sustain peace and democracy. We stand by the people of The Gambia and want to assure them of our unwavering adherence to the principles of democracy in our entire region.”
The Coalition Spokesperson said it is clear that the ECOWAS stands for mediation. He said “force only comes when Gambians are at each other’s throat and when power is taken or maintained unconstitutionally.” He said hence, the Office of the President-Elect is calling on ECOWAS to speed up the coming of President Buhari to explore peaceful ways of solving the impasse.
“It is evident from the visits of the Religious, Civic, Business, Traditional and Community leaders, the solidarity messages from NGOs, the demonstration of political will by Gambian Ambassadors and the general mood of the people in the street that most Gambians want the incumbent to hand over political office in peace,” he said.
Mr. Sallah said the first duty of the incumbent to prove that he stands for peace is to tell the people that he will leave office when his term expires and would hand over to the elected president when that comes. Sallah said the president should then add that he has filed a petition in court whose outcome and effect would be communicated to the public in due course.
“This should have been followed by declaration by security chiefs of readiness to pay obedience to any civil authority that emerges out of Electoral processes in the Gambia. Such messages would have gone down well with the Gambian population and the world. The current mobilisation for an uncertain court case is sending the wrong signal,” he emphasised.
The Coalition Spokesperson said due to uncertainty the U.S. Department of State has warned U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future.
“On January 7, 2017, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and authorised the departure of all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country. The security situation in The Gambia remains uncertain following December 1, 2016 presidential elections,” Sallah.
He said the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the current president’s petition on January 10 (yesterday) contesting the election results and which, he added, is a potential flashpoint that could lead to civil unrest adding that the sitting government has begun taking restrictive measures, which include shutting down and restricting radio stations, and making politically motivated arrests.
He said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stated it may intervene if the president does not step down by January 18 while U.S. citizens should consider departing on commercial flights and other transportation options now, as airports and ferry terminals may close unexpectedly in the event of unrest.”
He said the Office of the President-Elect therefore is of the view that no Gambian would have the moral authority to claim to love the Gambia by subjecting her people to unrest while other nationals are safeguarding their own people from unrest. He said no single Gambian could violate the peace of the country if all Gambians civilian and military stand for peace. He said only the commitment of each to the principle of One Gambia, One Nation and One People could ensure the peace of the country based on democracy and justice.
Sallah noted that “our citizens have no other home to run to. Gambia is their home land. Leaders come and go but Gambia remains. The road to peace is clear. The incumbent should recognise the right of the President-Elect to assume office whenever his term expires while pursuing his court case as a private matter. He should also prepare all state institutions and agents to acknowledge such reality by paying due regard to the concerns of the Incoming administration.
“It is already judicial precedence to swear in a president while an Election Petition is filed challenging the validity of an Election. This is what happened in the case of John Dramani Mahama after the December 2012 presidential election in Ghana.The petition was ultimately dismissed after he was already sworn in as president,” said he said.
Mr. Sallah concluded by stating that some people have alleged that the incumbent has security concerns. He said the office of the President-elect has demonstrated that any future ex-President would have the same status as ex-President Jawara. Hence, no excuse should be given for derailing the verdict of the people. He said it wants to assure the Gambian people its firm allegiance to the Gambia and vows to be ever true to the homeland.