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On Gambia, Jammeh's Deal Is "Political, Not Legal," UN's Website Still Shows Him as President

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 – After days of stand-off, Yahya Jammeh left The Gambia on a plane to Guinea-Conakry on January 21.

 On January 25 Inner City Press asked UN Security Council President for January Olof Skoog if, in the Council's closed door meeting, any country had brought up immunity or impunity for Jammeh, and if he might return.

  Skoog said that it was clarified that the agreement is "political, not legal." Tweeted video here.

  Inner City Press asked UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric if his new boss, Antonio Guterres, will meet Adama Barrow at the African Union summit in Addis. The answer was UNclear.

  Meanwhile the UN's website for the Gambian Mission to the UN, on, still even on January 25 showed a photo of Jammeh as the country's president.  Inner City Press asked the UN about this more than a week ago, at the UN's noon briefing.

On January 19 as the deadline for Yahya Jammeh to step down as president of the Gambia passed, in the UN Security Council a Senegal-drafted resolution authorizing the use of force to make it happen was formalized for a vote, or put "in blue," with a meeting set for 1 pm in New York.

 At the appointed time, and with Egypt bragging about amendments it got to the text, the Security Council approved the amended resolution 15-0.

  On his way in, Inner City Press asked Council president Olof Skoog of Sweden if Adama Barrow can request military aid; he said that is "legal correct." Tweeted video here.

  After the vote, Inner City Press asked Skoog if he expects ECOWAS to report back on its actions. He replied they have had good communication.

For the US, Samantha Power who used Gambia as a prop in her swan song speech at the Atlantic Council earlier in the week, was not present. Instead it was her deputy Isobel Coleman, who did not speak to (or for) the press.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre if Morocco's offer to Jammeh of a "golden retirement" does not constitute immunity, or impunity. Delattre said it's a good question, but not one he'll answer.

  Meanwhile, as first noted by Inner City Press, the UN's website for the Gambia Mission to the UN still shows Jammeh, and his former Permanent Representative, here.

  Here are operative paragraphs from the draft resolution, in which the Security Council:

"1. Urges all Gambian parties and stakeholders to respect the will of the people and the outcome of the election which recognized Adama Barrow as President-elect of The Gambia and representative of the freely expressed voice of the Gambian people as proclaimed by the Independent Electoral Commission;

2. Endorses the decisions of ECOWAS and the African Union to recognize Mr. Adama Barrow as President-Elect of the Gambia;

3. Calls upon the countries in the region and the relevant regional organisation to cooperate with President Barrow in his efforts to realize the transition of power...

Expresses its full support to the ECOWAS in its commitment to ensure the respect of the will of the people of The Gambia as expressed in the results of 1stDecember elections... Requests outgoing President Jammeh to carry out a peaceful and orderly transition process, and to transfer power to President-elect Adama Barrow by 19 January 2017 in accordance with the Gambian constitution."

  When outgoing US Ambassador Samantha Power left the Security Council on January 18 after her swan song speech, on Iran, she refused a question on Gambia even though she'd used it as a prop in her January 17 Atlantic Council speech in DC.

 Earlier on January 18, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq about it, and Gambia's representation at the UN, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  in the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has declared a state of emergency.  And, obviously, the deadline is impending.  I wanted to know, one, is there any UN, I guess, response or comment on the state of emergency?  What’s UNOWA (United Nations Office in West Africa) doing?  And has there been any communication to the Secretariat regarding the continued representation of Gambia at the UN by Mr Sam Sarr or whoever is the acting Permanent Representative?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, yes, you’re right.  Today was… is to mark the end of the tenure of Mr Jammeh following his defeat in the elections.  President Jammeh continues to reject all efforts — from the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the United Nations — to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Adama Barrow.  As you know, we’ve repeatedly asked for that.  The regional body, ECOWAS, has reiterated its determination to take all necessary measures to ensure the transfer of power to President-elect Barrow.  Jeffrey Feltman, our Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, expects to brief the Security Council today on the latest developments and the continuous efforts by regional and international actors to ensure a smooth transfer of power.  As you’re aware, the UN supports regional efforts aimed at resolving the crisis.

Inner City Press:  And what about the representation here?  What… what… what would be the effect of the calendar turning to the 19th on Gambia’s representation at the UN, the individual who would represent the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  As far as I’m aware right now, the representation remains unchanged.  But, as you know, there are committee on credentials that can deal with the matter if they so choose.

As in The Gambia Yahya Jammeh moved on December 1 to shut off the Internet (and Viber, etc) for the / his election, there was again a deafening silence from the UN and its “communications” / press eviction chief Cristina Gallach.

 On January 13, Inner City Press asked the UN's Special Representative for West Africa and Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, about Nigeria asylum offer, about Sam Sarr as Ambassador and if Jammeh is recruiting mercenaries.

  Chambas called Nigeria's office helpful, though he said he didn't know the details. He said he'd heard of mercenaries but that Jammeh better leave.

  On Sam Sarr, Chambas said that any Jammeh representative would cease to be legitimate after January 18. But wouldn't it require action by the UN Credentials Committee, Inner City Press asked. Chambas said it was a good point, then cited the AU. But what would happen in the UN?

  Inner City Press asked the President of the Security Council, Olof Skoog of Sweden, who replied that it is not for him to say. So for whom is it? Watch this site.

On January 11, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Gambia, I wanted to ask, the President, Yahya Jammeh, said that no one can take him out of power or should take him out of power until the Supreme Court rules, which will be in May.  What does… does the UN think… what do you think of that?

Spokesman:  We are very much supporting the efforts of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States].  I understand the mission by the Nigerian President, who's leading a number of ECOWAS leaders, will take place later this week.  Mr. [Mohammed ibn] Chambas himself will brief the Security Council.  We want to see a peaceful transition that answers the hopes and aspirations of the people of the Gambia.

  On January 8 a fourth radio station, Paradise FM, was closed, it was announced - and still from the UN, nothing.

As in The Gambia Yahya Jammeh moved on December 1 to shut off the Internet (and Viber, etc) for the / his election, there was again a deafening silence from the UN and its “communications” chief Cristina Gallach.

 On January 5, Inner City Press asked holdover UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: about Gambia.  The electoral commission chief has gone into hiding, and the Government has closed three radio stations, one of which reopened with no news on it.  So what's the status of the UN's work on this holdover presidency?

Spokesman:  We've had… various UN officials have had contacts with parties involved, and obviously we would like to see and are very keen to see a peaceful resolution to the current crisis in the Gambia and, notably, the… for the President… the outgoing President to leave way for the President that was just elected.

 As of January 7, new Secretary General Antonio Guterres had yet to speak publicly about Jammeh and Gambia. Meanwhile the US issued a travel warning:

  "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future.  On January 7, 2017, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and authorized the departure of all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country.

The security situation in The Gambia remains uncertain following December 1, 2016 presidential elections.  On January 10, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the current president’s petition contesting the election results, which is a potential flashpoint that could lead to civil unrest.  The sitting government has begun taking restrictive measures, which include shutting down and restricting radio stations, and making politically motivated arrests.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stated it may intervene if the president does not step down by January 18.

U.S. citizens should consider departing on commercial flights and other transportation options now, as airports and ferry terminals may close unexpectedly in the event of unrest.  All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.  U.S. citizens should ensure that travel documents (passports and visas) are valid and up-to-date.  Consular services, already limited throughout the country due to very poor transportation infrastructure and security conditions, may be further limited, including in Banjul itself.

U.S. citizens who decide to remain in The Gambia should prepare for the possible deterioration of security."

  We'll have more on this.


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