GAMBIAN President Yahya Jammeh’s ruling party challenged his defeat in a December 1 election at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The move came as West African leaders failed to reach a deal to get the erratic Jammeh to accept the result and end a growing political crisis.
Soldiers also raided the headquarters of the national elections commission and sealed it off just hours before the arrived of the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Jammeh, who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, has ruled Gambia since taking power in a coup 22 years ago.
He had quickly conceded defeat to his main challenger, Adama Barrow, but in a charasteric u-turn that has been widely condemned, rejected the election results last Friday.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, led the ECOWAS delegation that also included Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s John Mahama.
“It is not time for a deal. It is not something that can happen in one day. It is something that we have to work on,” Johnson Sirleaf said as the presidents prepared to leave Gambia.
Regional leaders will discuss the crisis at an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria on Saturday, she said, adding Jammeh had given her assurances that peace and stability would be preserved.
The contrast with events last Friday in Ghana could not have been more stark. Mahama lost an election last week and conceded defeat to opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, and became the first elected leader in the country to serve only one term.
It is unlikely Mahama would reverse course – or get away with it he did. Ghana seemed to reaffirm its position as a model of democracy in West Africa.
Indeed if former Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan had also behaved like Jammeh, ECOWAS delegation member Buhari wouldn’t have become of Nigeria last year either.
Cartoonist Gado above captures the democratic landscape in West Africa last week after events in The Gambia.