Gambia: No resolution from election petition hearing
11 Jan 2017 - 13:21
BANJUL, Gambia: A hearing over last month’s Gambian election was scuttled Tuesday due to the absence of two judges from its African neighbors, throwing further doubt over whether a peaceful political transition will happen on Jan. 19 as scheduled.
Outgoing strongman President Yahya Jammeh’s petition to annul the election results was supposed to be heard by five judges, including Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbele, but the Nigerian and Serra Leonean judges were absent.
Fagbele, who presided over the country’s Supreme Court, told Jammeh’s lawyer Edu Gomez that he needed a full panel to hear the petition but the outsourced judges – customary in Gambia – would not travel there until either May or November.
The case was adjourned to Monday but Fagbele warned the petitioners that they shouldn't expect anything different since he cannot hear the case without a full judges panel.
Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission and President-elect Adama Barrow are to be served the petition before the next hearing.
He also advised parties to the standoff to consider alternative resolution of the political conflict through the regional economic bloc ECOWAS or a committee of political parties.
Fagbele is a Nigerian national and weeks ago, the Gambia Bar Association accused him of gross incompetence and professional misconduct and demanded his resignation.
Gambia was plunged into a crisis on Dec. 9 after Jammeh rejected the election results, a week after conceding defeat to Barrow, a little-known property developer.
Jammeh claimed the electoral process was tainted with “unacceptable irregularities” and ordered a fresh vote before filing a petition seeking to annul the results.
Since the crisis erupted, ECOWAS and major international institutions, including the United Nations and African Union, have asked Jammeh to step down.
Several high-profile Gambians have also joined the call, and 11 ambassadors have written to Jammeh asking him to end his tenure.
On Monday, Sheriff Bojang, Jammeh’s communication minister, resigned and called on him to hand over power when his term expires on Jan. 19.
Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari and Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama are expected in Gambia on Wednesday to hold talks with Jammeh as part of ECOWAS’ efforts to peacefully solve the impasse.
Halifa Sallah, Barrow’s spokesman, said weeks ago that they continue to plan for an inauguration on Jan. 19.