The West African regional bloc says it will take all necessary actions to uphold the result of a December 1 election in Gambia, where veteran President Yahya Jammeh says he will not step down after losing to Adama Barrow.
ECOWAS leaders said on Saturday in a communique marking the end of a summit in the Nigerian capital that they would attend the January 18 inauguration of Barrow, “who must be sworn in”, and guarantee the safety of the president-elect.
Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to step down was seen across Africa as a moment of hope.
Jammeh announced on December 9 that he would reverse that position and called for a fresh vote. That move was widely condemned, including by ECOWAS leaders who say it violates the principle of democratic accountability.
Jammeh’s party is now challenging the result in Gambia’s Supreme Court.
ECOWAS agreed to “respect the will of the Gambian people” and said the group had nominated Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to mediate.
“The authority (ECOWAS) shall undertake all necessary actions to enforce the result of the election,” the group added, calling on all stakeholders inside and outside the country to show restraint.
“(ECOWAS) calls on the Gambian defence and security to perform their role in a nationalistic manner and protect lives and property,” the final communique said.
ECOWAS chairwoman Ellen Johnson Sirleaf went to Gambia this week accompanied by the leaders of several West African countries including Nigeria and Ghana, whose President John Mahama lost a December 7 election and said he would step down.