The African Union will cease to recognise Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh as the nation’s legitimate president with effect from January 19.
It is the date he is due to hand power to Adama Barrow, the winner of the December 1 election.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council made this declaration after a meeting in Addis Ababa, 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”.
The AU declaration came on a day President Muhammadu Buhari led a delegation of West African leaders to Banjul, Gambian capital, with the aim of persuading the soldier turned politician, to hand over power to Mr. Barrow.
Mr. Jammeh’s political party, in the latest gambit, has gone to court to halt the inauguration of Mr. Barrow, on the basis that Mr. Jammeh’s challenge of the electoral result has not been decided by the country’s Supreme Court.
The case was adjourned for months, because the court could not form a quorum.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians are trying to offer some carrots to encourage Mr. Jammeh to leave power peacefully.
The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had on December 23, 2016 put standby military forces on alert.
The ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza, said Senegal, The Gambia’s only territorial neighbour, would lead any military operation in the country.
Other West African countries, would be requested to provide troops as well, Mr. De Souza reportedly said.
Mr. Jammeh lost the December 1 2016 Gambia presidential election to opposition candidate, Mr. Barrow.
He initially accepted defeat and congratulated Mr. Barrow but changed his mind and decided to challenge the outcome of the election.
He also vowed not to hand over to the winner as expected on January 19.
On Thursday, Mr. Jammeh said he would not step down before a Supreme Court decision on the disputed election, the BBC reported.
There is currently shortage of judges in the country to sit on the matter.
The case can only be heard in May if Nigeria agrees to supply judges to the Supreme Court.
West African leaders, led by President Buhari, the chief mediator, travelled to Gambia Friday to persuade Mr. Jammeh to accept an “honourable exit plan”.
The outcome of that meeting is unknown at this time.