Gambia crisis central focus of France, Africa leader summit

AP News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2017 5:14 PM
Gambia crisis central focus of France, Africa leader summit

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Gambia's political crisis took center stage on Saturday at a summit in Mali, where leaders said they hope that Gambia's longtime leader will step down peacefully when the president-elect is to take office next week.

More than 30 African heads of state, and the French president, met in Bamako, Mali to discuss the fight against extremism, France's role on the continent and government challenges.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said much of the summit's focus was on the West African country of Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh has said he will not give up power after 22 years, despite a vote that saw the opposition coalition's Adama Barrow win.

Leaders from the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, said no deal had been reached Friday after mediation efforts in Gambia. The bloc has said it would consider military action if Jammeh does not step down. Barrow, who was flown to Mali to meet with French President Francois Hollande and regional leaders, has said Jammeh could be considered a rebel leader after Jan. 19, when his inauguration will take place.

President Keita, who spoke at the summit's end, said ECOWAS, and much of Africa, hopes that "the torch will peacefully be passed on."

Hollande said Dec. 1 election results must be respected, pointing out that Gambia's president-elect was welcomed to the summit.

"Everything must be done so that on Jan. 18, or effectively by Jan. 19, he can take office," Hollande said.

Hollande said French troops would remain in Mali to help combat al-Qaida-linked extremists.

France has helped train more than 20,000 African soldiers a year since 2013, when it led an operation that pushed extremists from northern Mali strongholds. Hollande said it now aims to train more than 25,000 soldiers a year for three years. He also promised increased development project funds.