By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated a Mediation Support Team (MST) in line with his mandate as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator for The Gambia’s political impasse.
A statement by Malam Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in Abuja on Saturday, said Buhari had since directed Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama to lead MST on the matter.
Shehu stated that Onyeama would be working with the team of the Co-Mediator, President John Mahama of Ghana.
According to him, the committee has begun consultations with leaders in the sub-region as well as with international partners.
“The main task of MST is to undertake the first phase of the preparatory and support work that would lead to a high level meeting of the Mediator (President Buhari) and the stakeholders.’’
“Buhari remains optimistic that a peaceful resolution of the problem, in line with the laws and the Constitution of The Gambia, is possible before the January 19, 2017 inauguration date of the new President’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari and some ECOWAS leaders had visited Banjul, the Capital of The Gambia, to meet with President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the country’s presidential election held on Dec. 1, 2016.
Buhari and ECOWAS leaders, who met with Jammeh, The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow and other stakeholders, insisted on the sanctity of the electoral process, and respect for the wishes of the people.
Jammeh had conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission.’’
Jammeh, who initially closed down the country’s electoral commission, has directed its reopening as he appointed new foreign Supreme Court judges likely to preside over his appeal against the presidential election result.
One of the outcomes of the just-concluded ECOWAS Summit held on Dec. 17 in Abuja was the decision to designate Buhari as the Mediator for The Gambia with Mr John Mahama, the out-going President of Ghana, as Co-Mediator.
The summit also gave the terms of reference to include ensuring the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow, the political leaders and the entire population.
Others are: upholding the result of the Presidential election held on Dec. 1, 2016 and ensuring that the President-elect is sworn into office on January 19, 2017, in conformity with the constitution of the country.