UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Monday discussed ruling Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down, with U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power later describing the situation in the West African country as “very dangerous.”
Jammeh, in power for 22 years, quickly conceded defeat to opposition candidate Adama Barrow after a Dec. 1 presidential election. But Jammeh denounced the results in an about-face on Friday that drew international condemnation.
The 15-member Security Council condemned the move on Saturday, calling for all parties to refrain from violence, and was briefed behind closed doors on the situation on Monday by U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman.
“It is a very dangerous moment,” Power told reporters after the briefing. “We know that there are some military officers that have sided with President Jammeh since his retreat ... That’s a very alarming circumstance.”
“We also know that the president-elect has been in close touch with the chief of defence of the armed forces, so this is a very complex and murky situation at present,” she said. “Power to take The Gambia to its peaceful destiny lies in President Jammeh’s hands.”
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will lead a delegation of West African heads of state on Tuesday to tell Jammeh to accept his election defeat and step down.
The Security Council “urged President Jammeh to meet and cooperate” with the high level delegation, said Deputy Spanish U.N. Ambassador Juan Manuel Gonzalez de Linares Palou. Spain is president of the Security Council for December.
Jammeh has ruled the country since seizing power in a coup in 1994 when he was an army lieutenant, winning four elections that were criticized by rights monitors and surviving several coup attempts. International human rights groups accuse him of widespread violations and repression.
“Everybody is singing from the same sheet of music and the song is clear: you have lost the election President Jammeh and you must give up power peacefully,” Power said.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao, Bernard Orr