The Gambia: Buhari, other W’African leaders hold closed door meeting

President Yahya Jammeh…will he change his mind and avoid a military option?

*Military resolution may be a last resort

Some West African leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja met behind closed door to discuss their response to the political impasse in The Gambia ahead of the date of the swearing-in ceremony of the victor of the General election.

Presidents of Liberia and Senegal, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Macky Sall as well as ex-Ghanaian President John D. Mahama are attending the meeting.

The representative of the United Nations to West African Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas is also attending the meeting while the Vice-President of Sierra Leone is still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.

The meeting which is being held at the new Presidential Banquet, Aso Villa, followed the one in Accra on the sidelines of the inauguration of President Nana Akufo-Addo, on Saturday.

The meeting of the West African leaders is aimed at avoiding violence if possible and preserving democracy in The Gambia.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said the Abuja talks would discuss further steps and other options open to be taken by the west African leaders.

“There are some disturbing information the (Nigerian) president (Muhammadu Buhari) is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating. Sources claim that military option is on the bill as a last option.

The West African leaders at the Accra meeting expressed the readiness of the region to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the leaders of The Gambia.

At the last ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, President Buhari and the former President of Ghana, John Mahama were appointed as Mediator and Co-Mediator to resolve the political impasse.

They have also been mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow and ensure a peaceful handover of power on 19th January which the outgoing President, Yahya Jammeh may not allow.

After the meeting in Accra, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the regional bloc had no intention to deploy its standby military force in The Gambia.

“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia … we will continue to pursue that for now,” Sirleaf, who chairs the 15-member body said.

Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court where President Yahya Jammeh is challenging the poll result.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the top U.N. official in West Africa, also attended the closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana’s new President Nana Akufo-Addo, who was sworn in on Saturday.

Diplomats are concerned about the impasse over the poll.

The United States warned its citizens on Saturday against visiting The Gambia, whose white beaches are a draw for tourists.

“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future,” the statement said.

Jammeh, a former military coup leader, who has ruled The Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the 1st December election.

But a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang on to power despite a wave of regional and international condemnations.

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