UN to vote on backing ECOWAS action in The Gambia
The UN Security Council was set to vote Thursday on backing ECOWAS efforts to force Gambia’s leader Yahya Jammeh to hand over power as the West African regional bloc amassed a military force ready to intervene.
The Economic Community Of West African States has repeatedly called on Jammeh to accept his defeat in the December 1 election and step down after 22 years in power.
The proposed resolution drafted by Senegal calls on the council to give “its full support to the ECOWAS in its commitment to ensure, by political means first, the respect of the will of the people.”
The measure would provide UN political backing to the Senegal-led campaign to force a handover of power in The Gambia, but it is not a formal authorization for the use of military force, UN diplomats said.
The draft resolution does not invoke Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes the use of force.
Diplomats said they expected the measure to be adopted during the meeting, scheduled at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT).
A previous draft would have authorized ECOWAS to take “all necessary measures” to force Jammeh to cede power to President-elect Adama Barrow, but that language was dropped during negotiations.
The final text stressed the need to engage in “political means first.”
The draft resolution requests that Jammeh “carry out a peaceful and orderly transition process, and to transfer power” immediately to Barrow.
– Peaceful transfer of power –
Nigeria and Ghana were sending troops and air power to Senegal to join a Dakar-led regional force preparing to carry out a possible military intervention in The Gambia.
The draft resolution requests that “all stakeholders, within and outside The Gambia …exercise restraint, respect the rule of law and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.”
It remained unclear whether Russia would abstain in the vote and there was uncertainty over the stance of the two other African council members, Egypt and Ethiopia, diplomats said.
During negotiations on the draft resolution, Egypt in particular expressed reservations about a military intervention and argued that all diplomatic venues must be exhausted, according to one diplomat.
The draft text calls on Gambia’s military and police to “place themselves at the disposal of the democratically-elected authorities.”
Barrow was sworn in as president during a ceremony at the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
The new leader could request an ECOWAS military intervention, which would provide the regional bloc with the legal basis to take action, according to UN diplomats.
The Security Council has recognized Barrow’s election victory as has the African Union.
The vote on the regional peace effort in The Gambia takes place against the backdrop of crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi over elections.
In those cases, regional African organizations have failed to come up with decisive action to support democratic transitions, leaving the United Nations struggling to agree on a way forward.
– Eyes on border –
After 11th-hour talks in Banjul, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz flew on to Dakar where he met Barrow for talks at which Senegal’s President Macky Sall was also present, the private RFM radio station reported.
It was not clear whether the Mauritanian leader had secured a deal or made an asylum offer to Jammeh.
The last-minute intervention came after several unsuccessful attempts at diplomacy by the 15-nation Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).
Mauritania is not part of ECOWAS and diplomats have previously reached out to the conservative desert nation in hopes of brokering a deal with Jammeh.
ECOWAS heads the regional force massing on Gambian-Senegalese border.
Speaking to AFP at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty hailed ECOWAS efforts to resolve the crisis.
“ECOWAS has stood up, and they don’t always do that, he said.
“It’s an important message to Jammeh, both from the people of The Gambia, the people of Africa, and from neighbouring states, that it’s not business as usual anymore.