DAKAR, Senegal – Gambia's outgoing President Yahya Jammeh is criticizing foreign pressure for him to step down and calling on Gambians to wait for a Supreme Court decision to determine the credibility of the Dec. 1 elections that he lost.
On Tuesday, thousands of supporters of Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction gathered around a Supreme Court hearing, pushing for the annulment of the election outcome. The Supreme Court, with only one sitting member, adjourned until Monday but said it likely cannot hear the petition filed by the party until May, when the Nigeria and Sierra Leone judges appointed by Jammeh are available.
The delay creates uncertainty that many fear could turn to violence. Jammeh at first conceded defeat to opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow but later called for a new vote, saying the Dec. 1 elections had irregularities.
The coalition has said it plans to move forward with Barrow's inauguration on Jan. 19, at the end of Jammeh's mandate, and the United Nations, European Union and West African bloc have called on Jammeh to respect the election and step down from power.
"Only the Supreme Court can declare anyone a president. So I ask anyone of us to respect the supreme law of the republic and await the Supreme Court review on the election result," said Jammeh in a late Tuesday address on state-run TV.
The incumbent criticized interference from other countries, including those of the Economic Community of West African States, which on Friday will send a delegation to try to persuade Jammeh to step down.
Jammeh said there was an "unprecedented level of foreign interference in our elections and internal affairs. And also a sustained smear campaign, propaganda and misinformation." He called on Gambians to resolve the issue themselves.
"I believe as we can, as Gambians, come together and resolve this and any other matter without undue external interference," he said. "The Constitution does not allow us to enter into any engagement, agreement or treaty that denigrates the supremacy of the Gambian Constitution."
Jammeh said he has appointed a secretary-general to mediate the postelection crisis among all parties.
He also issued an executive order that nobody be arrested or prosecuted for acts during the pre- and post-election period.