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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh © AFP/File / ISSOUF SANOGO
Banjul, Gambia, Dec 21 – Defeated Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has again vowed not to leave office at the end of his mandate in January, saying a court first must rule on his challenge to the outcome of a hotly disputed election.
Jammeh, who has been in power for 22 years, has rejected opposition candidate Adama Barrow’s shock victory in the December 1 vote.
His stance has stoked international concerns about the future of the small west African country, with the UN joining African leaders in calling for him to step down.
“Unless the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration (of Barrow) on the 19 January,” said Jammeh, who had initially conceded defeat but then lodged a complaint with the country’s Supreme Court to overturn the result.
“I will not cheat but I will not be cheated,” he said in a lengthy television address late Tuesday.
President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (centre) arrives in Banjul on December 13, 2016, for a meeting in a bid to persuade Yahya Jammeh to step down © AFP / Seyllou
Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 bloodless coup, initially warmly congratulated Barrow after results were declared.
But a week later he condemned “unacceptable errors” by election authorities and called for a new vote.
“I will not step down, because this is disrespectful of our constitution which says a transition period of 60 days. Even if he had won legally, I have 60 days of transition,” he said Tuesday.
The nation’s government-in-waiting said on Monday that Jammeh had no constitutional mandate to stay in office beyond January.
“Any president who loses constitutional legitimacy becomes a rebel,” said Halifa Sallah, a spokesman for the opposition coalition that spurred Barrow to victory.
The impoverished country has been stable under Jammeh’s rule although rights groups and media watchdogs accuse him of cultivating a climate of fear and crushing dissent against his regime