Gambia’s top judge in the Supreme Court declined on Monday to rule on President Yahya Jammeh’s petition to overturn his election defeat. Reports from Banjul say that Gambians are waiting to see how Jammeh will react to the victorious opposition leader, Adama Barrow, who is reported to be planning his inauguration this week. Barrow, who is visiting neighbouring Senegal, insists the swearing in ceremony will go ahead.
Jammeh conceded defeat to Barrow following the Dec. 1 presidential poll but later changed his mind, drawing widespread condemnation and the threat of a military intervention by ECOWAS countries led by Nigeria.
Reuters reports that the Gambia Supreme Court has not sat for over a year and all the judge’s seats including that of the chief justice are unoccupied by Gambian Judges. Jammeh reportedly hired judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone to hear the election petitions, but they have failed to arrive in Gambia.
“It is crystal clear that the justices from Nigeria and Serra Leone are not coming,” the court’s Nigerian Chief Justice of Gambia, Emmanuel Fagbenle, said.
The chief justice said the court would be adjourned until the next regular session in either May or November, but added that the petitions could be heard if the judges arrived sooner. Allies of Jammeh said there could be no inauguration with petitions still pending before the court.
Photo L-R: ECOWAS Peace Mission – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberia’s President, Gambia’s President Yayah Jammeh, Ghana’s former President & Gambia’s Vice President | ECOWAS leaders failed to convince Jammmeh to cede power.
“In the interest of justice, the petition must be heard and determined before the inauguration can take place,” said Edward Gomez, a lawyer for Jammeh’s APRC political party, reacting to the adjournment.
Tensions are rising in the capital Banjul as Barrow’s Jan. 19 inauguration approaches. Heavily armed security forces man checkpoints throughout the capital city. Whether Gambia’s impasse will be solved by a legal, political or military solution remains to be seen as the impoverished and tiny West African country reels under the dictatorial weight of a benevolent dictator masquerading as a democratic president.