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  • No deal reached for Gambia impasse

    Banjul (Gambia) (AFP) - Liberia's president said Tuesday no deal has yet been reached by a heavyweight delegation for Yahya Jammeh to transition power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who was declared the victor of a recent presidential election.

    A day of talks with Jammeh and Barrow yielded constructive conversations but no resolution.

    The situation was further complicated by Jammeh's political party filing a legal challenge to the result in the afternoon.

    "We come to help Gambians find their way through a transition. That's not something that can happen in one day. It's something that one has to work on," said Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acting as the head of a delegation of four West African heads of state visiting the country.

    Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana's outgoing President John Mahama all flew in with Sirleaf in an attempt to find common ground between the two sides.

    The Liberian leader said Jammeh had "expressed some concerns" on the same day his party filed the petition with the country's Supreme Court.

    "The ECOWAS mission was here to meet with him to understand the status quo a bit better," Sirleaf added, referring to a West African regional bloc.

    The ECOWAS community would now consider the results of the visit on Saturday, she said.

    Nigeria's Buhari had said earlier the longtime ruler had been "receptive" to their pleas, but president-elect Barrow said the talks were in gridlock.

    "There has not been an agreement so far," said Barrow, who also met the delegation.

    The leader of the opposition described a "standoff" with the government. Referring to the court challenge filed by the ruling party, he said Jammeh "doesn't have the authority" to annul the result.

    The lack of a deal will come as a blow to the opposition, who had hoped Jammeh would leave power within a month under international pressure.

    That transition will be all the more complicated given the legal petition, seen by AFP, claimed the country's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had violated the law, that Barrow was not the elected president and the result was void.

    The ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) said it was not present when the IEC issued a recount on December 5, claimed there were irregularities in the process and alleged voter intimidation.

    - Sanctions threat? -

    A top ECOWAS official had said that if Jammeh and the delegation do not reach an agreement, West African states would "contemplate more draconian decisions", but the quartet would not elaborate on this Tuesday.

    Jammeh had surprised observers by initially conceding defeat in the poll but then reversed his stand last Friday, triggering an avalanche of international condemnation and a multitude of calls for him to cede power peacefully.

    His decision was triggered in part by a readjustment of the votes counted in the election was made by the IEC on Monday last week, reducing the number of ballots for all three candidates but ultimately confirming Barrow's victory.

    Earlier on Tuesday, police locked down the offices of the electoral commission, raising fresh fears Jammeh might not leave office without a fight.

    The electoral commission chairman, Alieu Momar Njie, told AFP that when he went to work riot police prevented him from entering the premises.

    Later Tuesday Njie maintained the results still stood, and questioned Jammeh's ability to bring a legal challenge.

    Jammeh in mid-2015 dismissed a string of Supreme Court judges after criticising the court's move to commute several death sentences.

    "The only recourse when you have any problems with the results of the elections, one has to appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has been dormant since May 2015," Njie said.

    A group of the country's most influential lawyers has said there is "no legitimate legal mechanism available in The Gambia to hear and determine the election petition", as Jammeh would have to stuff the court with his own appointees.

    - Army loyalty -

    Earlier in the day, opposition coalition members had been more confident of a breakthrough.

    "Remember President Buhari is from the military. Jammeh is from the military. I think that will make a difference," said Hamat Bah, a senior coalition official.


    Up until now the president of the tiny country of fewer than two million people may have exasperated his regional peers but has never threatened peace in the area.

    The situation has dramatically shifted, however, since Jammeh's move to void the election.

    Gambian army chief Ousman Badjie also seemed to reverse a previous declaration of support for Barrow and arrived at delegation preparation talks wearing a badge that featured Jammeh's face on his uniform.

    Badjie said he supported the "commander in chief, President Yahya Jammeh" in brief comments to journalists.

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  • What next for The Gambia?

    Mr Jammeh's party says it will file a petition to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court cannot make a decision as they do not have enough judges.

    Two were sacked by the president in June and legal experts say he can't appoint new judges for a case about himself.

    With no Supreme Court to rule on the dispute, the next question is how the army could get involved. And that is not clear.

    The head of the Gambian army, General Ousman Badjie, pledged his loyalty to President-elect Adama Barrow after the incumbent conceded.

    But since Mr Jammeh went back on his words, the army appears to have gravitated back towards him.

    Amid the possibility for instability, Gambia's neighbours are getting involved.

    Senegal, which surrounds The Gambia, called a UN Security Council meeting which condemned Mr Jammeh's U-turn.

    Senegalese fighter jets have been seen flying in the skies. It is not clear whether this is a coincidence or a warning to Mr Jammeh.

    Grey line

    According to the electoral commission's latest count, as a result of the vote on 1 December:

    • Adama Barrow won 222,708 votes (43.3%)
    • President Jammeh took 208,487 (39.6%)
    • A third-party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 89,768 (17.1%)

    They were revised by the country's electoral commission on 5 December, when it emerged that the ballots for one area had been added incorrectly, swelling Mr Barrow's vote.

    The error, which also added votes to the other candidates, "has not changed the status quo" of the result, the commission said.

    However, it narrowed Mr Barrow's margin of victory from 9% to 4%.

    Mr Jammeh, who has ruled the Gambia for 22 years, originally conceded victory to Mr Barrow, who used to be a security guard in chain store Argos in London.

    He was even shown telephoning Mr Barrow saying "you are the elected president of Gambia and I wish you all the best".

    Last week a leading member of Mr Barrow's coalition told the UK's The Guardian newspaper that President Jammeh would be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed during his rule.

    In his U-turn rejecting the results, Mr Jammeh cited "serious and unacceptable abnormalities" in the electoral process, pointing to the errors mentioned by the electoral commission.

    Despite the errors, election commission head Alieu Momarr Njai told Reuters news agency that he stood by the "if it goes to court, we can prove every vote cast".

    "The election results were correct, nothing will change that," he said.

    President-elect Barrow said on Sunday that he feared for his safety.

    In his 22 years in power, Mr Jammeh acquired a reputation as a ruthless leader.

    Human rights group have accused his government of stifling the press and harassing opposition parties.

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  • Ghana TV: President concedes defeat to opposition leader

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy.

    The country's election commission said Akufo-Addo received 53.8 percent of the vote, compared to 44.4 percent for President John Dramani Mahama. It was the largest margin of victory by a presidential candidate since 1996, upending pre-election predictions that the race would be neck and neck.

    After the announcement, thousands of Akufo-Addo's supporters converged on his residence in the capital of Accra to celebrate and listen to the president-elect deliver his victory speech.

    "There's never been a more humbling moment in my life," Akufo-Addo said. "I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down. I will do everything in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations."

    Akufo-Addo went on to commend Ghanaians for the "mature, peaceful and orderly manner" in which they exercised their right to vote.

    "The democratic credentials of our nation have been further enhanced by your conduct," he added, addressing Ghanaians.

    Mahama's concession solidifies Ghana's status as a model of democracy in West Africa, a region historically plagued by coups and strongman rule. Ghana has experienced a peaceful transition of power every time there has been a change in government since the country moved to democratic rule in 1992.

    Sandra Kwakye, a 38-year-old businesswoman in Accra, told The Associated Press that she is hopeful for the future now that there has been a change in government.

    "I'm so happy and grateful because we've all been facing hardships for a long time, but we know now that we will have a good president," she said. "(Akufo-Addo) will make everything better for us. That's what he promised."

    Mahama called Akufo-Addo to concede defeat shortly before the commission's announcement. He also delivered a concession speech in which he congratulated Akufo-Addo and promised to remain committed to the unity and stability of the country.

    "I want to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country's democracy and would work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition for the incoming administration. As president, I've done my bit," Mahama said as party supporters surrounded him.

    It took almost 72 hours for the commission to declare a winner, leaving many Ghanaians skeptical about the delay and impatient for a verdict. The commission, however, acknowledged that it had performed its duty within the scheduled time frame and that it was on par with previous elections.

    Before Wednesday's election, the opposition had emphasized Ghana's high unemployment levels and underperforming GDP growth rates to appeal to frustrated voters.

    Mahama defended his record, hinging his campaign on plans to boost economic growth and continue modest gains in infrastructure development. A change in government, he said, would reverse the progress made during the last four years.

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  • Gambia's President Jammeh says rejects outcome of December 1 election

    Gambian President Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a polling station during the presidential election in Banjul

    Gambian President Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a polling station during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

    BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh said on Friday he rejects the outcome of last week's election that he lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow and called for fresh elections.

    The announcement made on state television throws the future of the West African country into doubt after an unexpected election result that ended Jammeh's 22-year rule and was widely seen as a moment of democratic hope.

    "After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process," Jammeh said.

    "I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a god-fearing and independent electoral commission," he said.

    Human rights groups said Jammeh's government detained, tortured and killed opponents during his rule and his defeat sparked wild celebrations. But some people also said they doubted whether he would accept defeat.

    Official election results from the electoral commission gave Barrow, a real estate developer who once worked as a security guard at retailer Argos in London, 45.5 percent of the vote against Jammeh's 36.7 percent.

    Barrow is set to take over in late January following a transition period.

    (Reporting by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, editing by G Crosse)

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  • Congo rights group blames govt, parties for deadly unrest

    Kinshasa (AFP) - DR Congo's independent human rights commission Wednesday blamed both the government and the opposition for the deaths of 46 people, most of them by gunfire, in clashes in Kinshasa in September.

    Scores more were hurt in the capital when "non-identified elements in the police" and "protesters using stolen weapons" clashed September 19 and 20 in opposition protests against President Joseph Kabila, a commission report said.

    The release of the CNDH report, its first since the commission was set up in July 2015, was hailed by the European Union, a major donor to the vast resource-rich nation.

    Democratic Republic of Congo has seen months of trouble ahead of the official end of Kabila's mandate on December 20, his second term in office.

    He is barred from serving again but has never said he plans to step aside and last month cut a power-sharing deal with fringe opposition politician Samy Badibanga as prime minister in a move that effectively extends his term to early 2018.

    The CNDH toll for the September protests, which were organised by anti-Kabila coalition Gathering, was slightly lower than the UN toll of 53 dead.

    Gathering brings together mainstream opposition parties that back longtime Kabila rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

    There were signs of an easing of political tension in the country this week when Tshisekedi agreed to join mediation talks headed by the country's bishops, the deputy secretary of Congo's National Episcopal Conference said.

    The talks, which aim to agree on a transition ahead of April 2018 presidential elections, showed "there is goodwill all round," said Andre Masinganda.

    Tshisekedi's Gathering had snubbed talks involving the authorities up until this week.

    The formal talks are set to start "Thursday December 8 2016" at 10am (0900 GMT) in Kinshasa, according to a statement released late Tuesday.

    However the UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO, is bracing for violence ahead of December 20, UN Special Representative to DR Congo Maman Sambo Sidikou said in New York on Tuesday.

    "MONUSCO has further updated its contingency plans and is further adjusting its posture and deployment to mitigate politically driven violence and to protect civilians," he said.

    Kabila came to power after the murder of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila by a bodyguard in 2001 during the Second Congo War, which ended two years later.

    Elected in 2006, he went on to win a second five-year term in a 2011 vote that the opposition decried as rigged.

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