UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
The UN Security Council was set to vote Thursday on backing ECOWAS efforts to force Gambia’s leader Yahya Jammeh to hand over power as the West African regional bloc amassed a military force ready to intervene.
The Economic Community Of West African States has repeatedly called on Jammeh to accept his defeat in the December 1 election and step down after 22 years in power.
The proposed resolution drafted by Senegal calls on the council to give “its full support to the ECOWAS in its commitment to ensure the respect of the will of the people.”
UN diplomats said the measure provides political backing from the Security Council to the Senegal-led campaign to force a handover of power in The Gambia, but it is not a formal authorization for the use of military force.
The measure does not invoke chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes the use of force.
A previous draft presented to the council on Wednesday requested UN approval for ECOWAS to take “all necessary measures” to force Jammeh to cede power to President-elect Adama Barrow.
That language, however, was dropped during negotiations late Wednesday, weakening the draft.
The latest text, seen by AFP, requests that “Jammeh carry out a peaceful and orderly transition process, and to transfer power to President-elect Barrow by January 19.”
Diplomats said they expected the measure to be adopted during the meeting, scheduled at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT).
– Peaceful transfer of power –
Nigeria and Ghana were sending troops and air power to Senegal to join a Dakar-led regional force preparing to carry out a possible military intervention in The Gambia.
The draft resolution requests that “all stakeholders, within and outside The Gambia …exercise restraint, respect the rule of law and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.”
It remained unclear whether Russia would abstain in the vote and there was uncertainty over the stance of the two other African council members, Egypt and Ethiopia, diplomats said.
During negotiations on the draft resolution, Egypt in particular expressed reservations about a military intervention and argued that all diplomatic venues must be exhausted, according to one diplomat.
Barrow was set to be sworn in as president during a ceremony at the Gambian embassy in Dakar and could immediately call on ECOWAS to intervene to ensure he takes office in Banjul, diplomats said.
Barrow’s request for an ECOWAS military intervention would provide the regional bloc with the legal basis to take action, according to UN diplomats.
The Security Council has recognized Barrow’s election victory in The Gambia as has the African Union.
The draft text calls on Gambia’s military and police to “place themselves at the disposal of the democratically-elected authorities.”
The vote on the regional peace effort in The Gambia takes place against the backdrop of crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi over elections.
In those two cases, regional African organizations have failed to come up with decisive action to support democratic transitions, leaving the United Nations struggling to agree on a way forward.