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DAKAR, Senegal – Gambia's president-elect says he is ready to take office in January despite the refusal by the West African country's longtime ruler to accept his election loss.
"On the day his term expires, my term as the lawful president of the Gambia begins," Adama Barrow said in a statement late Sunday. "This is the law of the land. My status as incoming president has unquestionable constitutional legitimacy."
President Yahya Jammeh, who at first surprised Gambians by conceding defeat after 22 years in power, a week later announced that he had changed his mind. He alleges voting irregularities that make the Dec. 1 ballot invalid.
The crisis has drawn the attention of regional leaders, who on Saturday promised to "take all necessary actions" to enforce the results of Gambia's election and announced they will attend Barrow's Jan. 19 inauguration.
The summit of the Economic Community of West African States also pledged to "guarantee the safety and protection of the president-elect," who has said he fears for his life.
Barrow urged Jammeh to accept his loss "in the spirit of national reconciliation."
Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and has been accused by rights groups of human rights abuses.
Jammeh's party, the Alliance for Construction and Reorientation, has filed a petition challenging the election results at the Supreme Court. The court, however, has not sat for over a year.
The Independent Electoral Commission has stood by a vote it has called transparent, fair and accurate.