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PoliticsEthiopia backs newly sworn-in Gambian president

Ethiopia backs newly sworn-in Gambian president

  • Adama Barrow to be invited to AU Summit

As international pressure is mounting against Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh, Ethiopia backed the recognition of Adama Barrow, President-elect of the Gambia, by the Economic Cooperation for West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).

Unanimously adopting resolution 2337 (2017), the United Nations Security Council requested that outgoing President Yahya Jammeh carry out a peaceful transition and transfer power to the President-elect by January 19, 2017, in accordance with the Constitution.

By recognizing the newly elected president, Adama Barrow, who is known as a businessman, Ethiopia, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, on Thursday voted for ECOWAS’ intervention.

Ethiopia was recently elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC and it officially took its seat this month. Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD) attended and addressed a ministerial-level UNSC debate on “Conflict Prevention & Sustaining Peace” on January 10, 2017 at the United Nations.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Security Council, Ethiopia was represented by Ambassador Tekeda Alemu (PhD), the head of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations.

In the ensuing dialogue, members welcomed the unanimous adoption of resolution 2337 (2017), with many expressing support for ongoing mediation efforts by ECOWAS and the African Union. They called on the outgoing President to respect the legitimate voice of the Gambian people, as expressed in the elections.

A number of speakers, however, said the adoption did not imply the Council’s endorsement of possible military measures. Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) said the situation would not endanger international peace and security, and the resolution could therefore not be seen as endorsing the use of force. A specific resolution would be needed for that purpose, he emphasized.  Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), meanwhile, reaffirmed that the Council’s support for regional positions coincided with a belief in African solutions to African challenges, echoing a point made by China’s representative.

Some speakers said the negotiations on the resolution had been “rushed”, with Uruguay’s representative stressing that, as a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, his delegation would have preferred more inclusive discussions.  However, Tekeda Alemu (PhD) (Ethiopia) pointed out the rapid deterioration of the situation, underling the need for every effort to ensure that it did not descend into chaos.  State institutions should not be allowed to collapse, he said, adding that the usurpation of power — and the unconstitutional move to retain it — should not be allowed to succeed.

Fodé Seck (Senegal) described the resolution as a continuation of efforts by ECOWAS and the United Nations to find a solution to the situation, and underscored the importance of President-elect Adama Barrow’s call to respect the will of the Gambian people.

In a related development, Zuma said on Thursday that she would be inviting the newly-elected Gambian president to Addis Ababa to attend the 29th Summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government.

West African leaders told Jammeh to leave or be ousted by regional troops — which entered the country on Thursday unchallenged – with a view to installing the democratically-elected Barrow.

Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, said yesterday ECOWAS troops would force Jammeh out if he refused to cede power.

A delegation of West African leaders – including the presidents of Liberia, Mauritania and Guinea – are expected to arrive in Gambia on Friday as part of a final mediation effort, Gambian state television said.

Jammeh, who ruled the Gambia state for 22 years and tried to extend his tenure despite losing to Barrow, is still in State House in the capital and is attempting to make a last-minute deal to ease his way out, according to sources close to the government. Earlier this week, he imposed a state of emergency in a final attempt to hang on to power.

Overnight, he sacked what was left of his cabinet and said he would oversee all ministries himself.

The UN refugee agency warned that the political instability, which it said had driven 45,000 people, mainly children, into Senegal could send more Gambians abroad.

Holding a Qur’an and looking solemn, Barrow on Thursday delivered his first speech as president after his inauguration in Dakar. “This is a day no Gambian will ever forget,” he told a crowd of officials and diplomats. “This is the first time since the Gambia became independent in 1965 that the Gambia has changed the government through the ballot box.”

Celebrations in the Gambia began as soon as Barrow had made his speech, with drivers beeping their horns in elation and people leaning out of car windows, waving their arms, in scenes reminiscent of the outpouring of joy after the election result was announced. Jammeh rejected it a short time later.

Significantly, Barrow called on the UN to enforce his electoral win. “I hereby make a special appeal to ECOWAS, AU [African Union] and the UN, particularly the Security Council, to support the government and people of the Gambia in enforcing their will, restore their sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy,” he said.

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