One week after conceding defeat to opposition leader, Adama Barrow, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Friday, in a televised address to the country said he rejected the outcome of the election and called for fresh election conducted by a “God-fearing and independent electoral commission.”
Mr. Jammeh who has ruled the country for 22 years, by the announcement, has cast a shadow over the future of the small West African country after his televised phone call conceding defeat to the opposition leader led to wild celebration in major cities in the country and was hailed across the world.
“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” Mr. Jammeh said.
“I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission,” he said.
The announcement cast an air of uncertainty around the capital of the country Banjul as people stayed indoors following Mr Jammeh’s threat to deal severely with protesters.
The head of the country’s army, Ousman Badjie, told Mr Barrow to pledge allegiance to Mr. Jammeh, the spokesperson of the opposition said.
The army has shown unshaken loyalty to Mr. Jammeh during the 22 years of his rule, which human rights groups said was characterised by torture, political detention and extra-judicial killings.
Analysts expect Mr. Jammeh, who is widely known for being erratic, to take decisions that may affect the safety of Mr. Barrow; but opposition spokesperson said the president-elect is fine.
“We are consulting on what to do, but as far as we are concerned, the people have voted,” Mai Ahmad Fatty told Reuters. “We will maintain peace and stability and not let anyone provoke us into violence.”
The electoral commission initially gave Mr.Barrow 45.5 percent of the vote against Jammeh’s 36.7 percent but later reviewed the result giving Mr Barrow a slimmer victory of 43.3 percent with less than 20,000 votes over the incumbent.
Early in the week, leaders of the opposition party had threatened to stop Mr Jammeh from leaving the country after he hands over. They suggested that he might be imprisoned for the alleged human rights violations committed during his long tenure.
Analysts believed the threat of imprisonment might have forced Mr. Jammeh to rescind his earlier decision conceding defeat.
In a swift reaction to the announcement, neighbouring Senegal called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting. Senegal is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
The country’s foreign minister, Mankeur Ndiaye, in a televised address called on Jammeh to respect the wishes of the electorate and not to do anything to harm the interest of the country or its citizens in the Gambia.
Similarly, the United States Department of States has released a statement warning Mr. Jammeh to ensure smooth and peaceful transition of power.
Describing Mr. Jammeh’s televised statement as “reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of Gambia”, the U.S. government called on Mr Jammeh to carry out an orderly transition of power to Mr. Barrow in accordance with the constitution of the country.
“The people have spoken and it is time for the Gambia to come together to ensure a peaceful transition to President-elect Barrow,” the statement read.