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Gambian President's Options to Stay in Office Shrinking

FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife Zineb during presidential elections in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016. Jammeh has been demanding that the poll results be nullified.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s options to stay in office may be shrinking.

The five judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone needed to constitute the Gambian Supreme Court did not come to Banjul for Tuesday's scheduled hearing.

The session was called to weigh in on President Jammeh’s request to nullify December’s election results. The international community has already recognized President-elect Adama Barrow as the winner and called on Jammeh to step down.

The head of Gambia’s Bar Association says the hearing has been rescheduled for next Monday, There has been no confirmation from the judges that they will show up for that date, which comes just three days before Barrow’s inauguration.

Three West African presidents are expected in the Gambian capital Wednesday to continue the mediation efforts led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari’s special adviser, Femi Adesina, told VOA’s Daybreak Africa that diplomacy remains the best course of action, although the West African bloc ECOWAS has not ruled out military force.

“This is not interfering. This is rather mediation and peacemaking. Because there is the potential, what you have on the ground is like sitting on gunpowder, on a keg of gunpowder that can explode at any time, and innocent people would be affected, so it’s better to work for peace, talking to President Jammeh. And that is what ECOWAS is doing,” Adesina said.

‘Growing isolation’

Jammeh’s allies are dwindling. This week the minister of information resigned and fled to neighboring Senegal, and Jammeh fired 12 ambassadors who had spoken in favor of transition.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa, said the defections could give ECOWAS some strength in negotiations.

“Civil society groups that you would never have thought would dare speak out like that before are now doing so. Even the dentists' association... So I think, bit by bit, there is growing isolation; but, the key thing is looking at how much the army and the heads of the army remain with the president. There will certainly be some divisions in that; but at the moment the head of the army does seem to be staying close to Jammeh, and I think that is where people will be looking for movement,” Cockburn said.

In a statement Tuesday on Twitter, President-elect Barrow said ECOWAS leaders are coming Wednesday to “persuade [Jammeh] to step down for the last time.”