The West African envoy of the United Nations (UN) has warned recalcitrant Yahya Jammeh to step down when his tenure expires in January.
He said he must step down and hand over to opposition leader Adama Barrow who won the country’s presidential election.
According to Africa Review, the envoy, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said that as President Jammeh’s five-year mandate ended on January 19, he had a constitutional right to remain in office until then.
“Between now and January 19th it is Mr Jammeh that is the constitutionally elected president,” he said.
“By January 19th he should be ready to hand over power.”
On Monday Mr Barrow called for the president to step down “now” as his coalition became increasingly annoyed by Jammeh’s refusal to admit defeat in the December 1 election and his party’s legal challenge against the result.
Opposition is worried that President Jammeh could try to cling on to power pending the outcome of the legal case lodged Wednesday by the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reconciliation and Construction (APRC).
But Dr Chambas said: “That legal process has nothing to do with the term of his mandate.”
His spokesman earlier told AFP that the ongoing police occupation of The Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) — the object of the APRC’s legal complaint — was an “unacceptable act”.
“It is a violation of the independent nature, guaranteed by the constitution, of the electoral commission, as some soldiers have taken away commission materials relating to the presidential election,” the spokesman added.
The chairman of the IEC, Mr Alieu Momar Njie, told AFP on Wednesday morning that he had not yet been informed why he was locked out of his own premises.
He further dismissed President Jammeh’s legal challenge of the IEC’s election result as unworkable due to a lack of judges on the Supreme Court, which is the body mandated to decide on cases of electoral law.
“The only way they can pursue the commission is through the court, and there is no court,” Mr Njie said.
To meet the deadline of January 18 required for President Jammeh’s case to be heard before the end of his tenure, he would need to appoint as many as six judges to the Supreme Court, which has lain dormant since May 2015.
Lawyers continued a planned boycott of the court system Wednesday in protest at President Jammeh’s legal fight.
The country’s most influential lawyers’ group, The Bar Association, has said any appointment of judges by President Jammeh to decide on a case involving himself would be fundamentally unjust.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Tuesday a that a heavyweight delegation of four African leaders including herself had failed to reach a consensus with President Jammeh and Mr Barrow on a transition of power.
“We come to help Gambians find their way through a transition. That’s not something that can happen in one day,” said President Sirleaf who headed the team of four African heads of state and the UN’s Dr Chambas.
The lack of a deal has come as a blow to the opposition, which had hoped President Jammeh would leave power within a month under international pressure.