West African leaders meet in Nigeria on Monday over Gambia

President Muhammadu Buhari will on Monday host four West African leaders to a meeting aimed at averting violence and preserving democracy in The Gambia.

ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, West African leaders

A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said the meeting was in furtherance of Buhari’s mandate as mediator in the political impasse in The Gambia.

Shehu said the meeting in Abuja followed the one in Accra on the sidelines of the inauguration of that country’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Saturday.

He maintained that the Accra’s meeting expressed the readiness of the leaders of the sub-region to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the leaders of The Gambia.

“The Presidents of Liberia and Senegal, the Vice President of Sierra-Leone and ex-President Mahama are expected at the meeting,’’ he said.

Shehu said Buhari and the immediate past President of Ghana, John Mahama, as Mediator and Co-Mediator respectively, have also been mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow.

They are also expected to ensure a peaceful handover of power on Jan. 19.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari and some ECOWAS leaders had visited Banjul, the Capital of The Gambia, to meet with President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the country’s presidential election held on Dec. 1, 2016.

Buhari and ECOWAS leaders, who met with Jammeh, The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow and other stakeholders, insisted on the sanctity of the electoral process, and respect for the wishes of the people.

Jammeh had conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission.’’

Jammeh, who initially closed down the country’s electoral commission, has directed its reopening as he appointed new foreign Supreme Court judges likely to preside over his appeal against the presidential election result.

The supreme court will be hearing on Jan. 10 of Jammeh’s challenge to the result that elected his rival Adama Barrow.

One of the outcomes of the just-concluded ECOWAS Summit held on Dec. 17 in Abuja was the decision to designate Buhari as the Mediator for The Gambia with Mr John Mahama, the outgone President of Ghana, as Co-Mediator.

The summit also gave the terms of reference to include ensuring the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow, the political leaders and the entire population.

Others are: “Upholding the result of the Presidential election held on Dec. 1, 2016 and ensuring that the President-elect is sworn into office on Jan. 19, 2017, in conformity with the constitution of the country.’’

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