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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh Defies International Calls To Step Down


When the president of Gambia lost his election bid three weeks ago, he accepted defeat and agreed to leave office next month. Now he has changed his mind, and that's threatening the stability of the small West African nation. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from next-door Senegal that the leaders of neighboring countries are trying to convince him to step down. So far, it's not working.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Erstwhile, coup leader turned president Yahya Jammeh, who has a lamentable human rights record, says he will not be railroaded into leaving office by his fellow West African presidents. They're trying to mediate in Gambia's post-election crisis.


PRES YAHYA JAMMEH: Who are you to tell me to leave my country? I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure that justice is done. I am a man of peace, but that doesn't mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country, courageously, and win.

QUIST-ARCTON: In a surprise move, Jammeh had conceded defeat and congratulated President-elect Adama Barrow for winning the December 1 election in Gambia. A week later, the president u-turned, rejecting the results, blaming the electoral commission for publishing an incorrect vote tally and other irregularities, he said. Swift global condemnation followed, with calls for Jammeh to step aside and hand over power to Barrow. The West African regional bloc dispatched four presidents to Gambia to try to persuade the president to go. Jammeh, in power for the past 22 years, is defiantly standing his ground.


JAMMEH: And I say how the hell do you know that this is the will of the Gambian people? Non-interference in the internal affairs of member states in this case has been violated. I made it very clear, I will not accept it. And that's where I stand until today.

QUIST-ARCTON: The man who claims he has a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS and another for infertility and says he will rule Gambia for a billion years now appears to be putting his faith in a Supreme Court whose judges Jammeh has hired and fired on a whim. The case is due to be heard just days before the scheduled date for the new president's inauguration next month. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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