Amid progress in West Africa and the Sahel, UN envoy warns of region’s political challenges

Briefing the Security Council on the situation in West Africa and the Sahel region, a senior United Nations official cited a rising tide of democracy throughout the continent, noting that a number of countries had recently held elections which largely complied with electoral norms and standards, upholding their status a model in the region and beyond.

However, some countries in the region had witnessed political uncertainty or significant security challenges, noted the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

We were saddened by the quickly unfolding political crisis resulting from President Jammeh changing his mind and deciding to reject the results, said Mr. Chambas, referring to the presidential elections in Gambia and the ensuing crisis.

He further updated the 15-member Council on the initiatives � to resolve the situation there � taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), that agreed to uphold the elections results and decided to take all necessary actions to enforce the results.

UNOWAS is fully involved in supporting the ECOWAS-led mediation, which continues to explore all avenues towards a peaceful transfer of power, the UN envoy added.

He also informed Council members of elections in Cabo Verde and Ghana as well as in Guinea, where polls anticipated to be held in February have been postponed.

In his briefing, Mr. Chambas also spoke of the continuing security and humanitarian challenges in Nigeria due to frequent attacks perpetrated by the Boko Haram militant group and appealed for more funding and support for relief programmes in the country.

He further updated the Council on UNOWAS’ close collaboration with other UN missions in the region and, in the context of the drawdown of the UN missions in CAte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and Liberia (UNMIL), as well as its work on issues related to regional stabilization, technical support as well as in the implementation of its Resolution 2282 (2016) and the General Assembly Resolution on Sustaining Peace.

Source: UN News Centre

West African Leaders to Visit Gambia President Again Amid Crisis

ABUJA � The presidents of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia will visit Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday in a second attempt to press him to hand over power, Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said on Monday.

Jammeh, in power since a 1994 coup, lost a Dec. 1 election to businessman Adama Barrow, but the authoritarian leader has contested the results in a move condemned at home and abroad.

An ECOWAS delegation led by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited Gambia in December but failed to persuade Jammeh to step down. The West African bloc has since said it would take all necessary steps to uphold the result of the election and had put troops on standby.

Jammeh called the move “a declaration of war.”

“They resolved that three presidents will visit Jammeh on Wednesday to press him again to hand over [power]. They are the presidents of Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” Onyeama said after a one-day ECOWAS summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The former president of Ghana, John Mahama, would also attend along with representatives of the United Nations and African Union.

The crisis in Gambia needed to be resolved “step by step” in line with the country’s constitution, Onyeama said, adding that ECOWAS was concerned about the closure of radio stations by authorities and arrests since the vote.

Gambian authorities shut a fourth popular radio station late on Sunday, staff said on Monday, further strangling opposition voices amid a post-election clampdown.

Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the poll, which was seen as a triumph for democracy in the country of 1.8 million. But a week later he filed a petition with the Supreme Court due to irregularities in the vote count, drawing condemnation from local opponents and foreign powers.

It is not clear how the case will be heard before Jan. 18, when Jammeh’s mandate will run out. Judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone who were expected to preside over the case did not arrive in court on Monday as expected.

Adama Barrow has said his inauguration will go ahead regardless of the Supreme Court case.

Source: Voice of America