Nigeria leader to head delegation to resolve Gambia crisis

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 09, 2017 3:35 PM
Nigeria leader to head delegation to resolve Gambia crisis

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari will lead three West African heads of state to Gambia on Wednesday in an effort to persuade its longtime leader to step down, officials said Monday.

A meeting Monday in Abuja agreed on the mission, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyema said of the second presidential delegation from the Economic Community of West African States to visit Gambia since President Yahya Jammeh lost Dec. 1 elections.

Jammeh initially conceded the loss, but changed his mind.

The West African bloc has said it has a military force on standby if Jammeh refuses to cede power when his mandate expires Jan. 19.

Leaders meeting Saturday in Ghana said they were working on a diplomatic solution.

But Onyema told journalists on Monday that "every option is on the table" and "violence should be avoided, but nothing is ruled out."

He said the regional bloc is "prepared and determined to take advantage of any of the options that it feels is appropriate" to install election winner Adama Barrow as the rightful president.

The United States, European Union and others have condemned Jammeh's stance and supported efforts to enforce Gambia's Constitution.

Monday's meeting included the presidents of Liberia and Senegal, which would lead any military intervention.

The leaders expressed particular concern over the deteriorating security situation. Jammeh has mobilized troops, closed radio stations and ordered arrests, leading to a "mass exodus" of Gambians to their country's interior and to neighboring countries, Onyema said.

Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, but is accused of gross human rights violations that include arbitrary detentions, torture and the killings of his opponents in the country of 1.9 million people.