By Collin Freeman…..
Credit: Twitter/ @MBuhari
Gambia’s embattled dictator despatched riot police to occupy the country’s electoral commission on Tuesday as he defied mounting international pressure to step down.
Security forces loyal to President Yahya Jammeh, who suffered a shock defeat in elections on December 1, surrounded the commission’s offices and barred anyone from entering, staff said.
The move appeared to be linked to Mr Jammeh’s unexpected announcement on Saturday that he planned a legal challenge to the election results, which he had previously said he would abide by.
Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Nigeria, and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone are understood to have warned Mr Jammeh that if he does not step down immediately, he will face tough measures including sanctions.
To ram home their message, they were joined by Ghana’s outgoing President John Mahama, who also lost elections this month but has agreed to go quietly.
Mr Jammeh, 51, has ruled Gambia in authoritarian fashion ever since taking power in a bloodless military coup in 1994.
He claimed on Saturday that there had been “unacceptable” irregularities in the vote that cost him power, and demanded a re-run of the polls, despite having said earlier it was the most “transparent” election the world had ever seen.
Many believe his U-turn is down to a threat issued by the opposition last week that they would put him on trial within a year for past human rights abuses.
Mr Jammeh also despatched a deputy to meet the visiting heads of state on the airport tarmac on Tuesday, reportedly because he feared for his own safety.
The visiting presidents were also due to meet with Adama Barrow, the incoming Gambian head of state, who in his earlier life worked in London as a security guard.
Mr Barrow, who has urged Mr Jammeh to step down immediately, has voiced fears for his own safety as long as Mr Jammeh remains in charge.
The visiting delegation is understood to have told Mr Jammeh that he must now quit straightaway in the wider interests of peace.
The delegation was expected to give further details of its discussions later on Tuesday evening.
Speaking just after the meeting with Mr Jammeh, Mr Buhari confirmed he had been “receptive” but declined to say more