AU to shut door on Jammeh

ETHIOPIA-ADDIS ABABA-18TH AU SUMMITADDIS ABABA/BANJUL. – The African Union will cease to recognise Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh as the West African nation’s legitimate president as of January 19, the date he is due to hand power to the winner of a December 1 election, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said.In a statement issued after a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the council also warned of “serious consequences in the event that his action causes any crisis that could lead to political disorder, humanitarian and human rights disaster, including loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties”.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s president was leading a regional delegation to Gambia in a last-ditch attempt yesterday to persuade its long-time leader to step down and allow his rival’s inauguration next week.

Nigerian legislators voted on Thursday to offer asylum to President Yahya Jammeh, who is refusing to cede power after losing elections.

Legislators confirmed the vote in favour of authorising Nigeria’s leader to offer safe haven to President Jammeh.

The offer would “strengthen the hand” of President Muhammadu Buhari in negotiating with Jammeh, said Sani Zoro Mohammed, the legislator who sponsored the motion.

Yesterday, President Buhari was heading a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States to Gambia to try to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, seen as a test of democracy in a region once populated by military dictators. The West Africa regional bloc also has a military force on standby to intervene if Jammeh does not step down when his mandate expires January 19.

Jammeh took power in a coup in 1994 in the tiny country of 1,9 million people. He initially accepted defeat in the December 1 election and publicly congratulated winner Adama Barrow, the candidate of an opposition coalition.

But then Jammeh changed his mind, ordered troops to take over the electoral commission office and challenged election results at the Supreme Court.

The court, short of judges, has said it might not be able to consider that challenge until May, but Jammeh says Gambia should await its decision. Jammeh might be wary of a Nigerian promise of safe haven.

Nigeria offered asylum to Liberian warlord Charles Taylor in 2003 to help end the civil war he started in 1989, but was forced by international pressure to hand Taylor over in 2006 for trial for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone – AP/Africa News/Reuters.

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