The Electoral Commission of Gambia conducted Presidential Election on the 0, day of December 2016. After the said election, the Commission announced Adama Barrow as the winner. The incumbent President of the Gambia, His Excellency, Yahya Jammeh initially accepted the result of the said election and congratulated the winner. In the days following the said election, the incumbent President denounced the outcome of the election and announced his intention to contest the result of the election in court. The decision of the President to contest the result of the said election led to a flurry of diplomatic activities and panic relating to the future of democracy in the Gambia and the likely humanitarian tragedy that may occur if all the parties in the Gambia remain belligerent.
In conformity with its mandate as the foremost professional lawyers grouping in Africa, the Governing Council of AFBA resolved to constitute a mediation and conciliation committee with the mandate to visit Gambia and mediate in the crisis based on the principles of constitutionalism, fairness, advancement of democracy and the consolidation of peace and harmony in the country.
The AFBA mediation and conciliation committee visited the Gambia from the 19th through 21st December 2016 and engaged all the critical stakeholders relevant to the amicable resolution of the electoral impasse including the incumbent President, Yahya Jammeh, the winner of the December 1, 2016 election Adama Barrow, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Gambia and the Chairman and the members of the Electoral Commission. The main thrust of the engagement by the AFBA was to:
• Facilitate a resolution of the Gambian political crises which arose after the declaration of the results of the election conducted on the 1st of December 2016.
• To nudge all the parties to place the interest of Gambia first and not to adopt a belligerent attitude to the resolution of the conflict.
• To urge all the parties to refrain from employing hate speech and other divisive rhetoric capable of creating an atmosphere of fear, silence and sowing the seeds of violence in the country.
• To observe elementary principles of mediation which requires a certain form of shuttle diplomacy between the factions and to streamline the gray areas of disagreement to achieve harmony and peaceful resolution of the conflict?
• To urge the parties in the conflict to find domestic mechanisms of settling the conflict and minimize outside involvement and interference in finding solution to the conflict.
1. The AFBA believed and still believes that if mediation and conciliation are properly, honestly and fully explored fruitful resolution of the impasse would be achieved.
2. In line with the approach suggested by the African Bar Association, the regional body ECOWAS and its mediation committee has fully embraced the path suggested by AFBA and have made the use of force to achieve its stated objective as a last option.
3. The AFBA believes that force as a political weapon should be used in exceptional circumstances of genocide, wide spread breach of law and order and complete breach of fundamental rights leading to humanitarian crises.
4. The AFBA believes that the appointment of a Mediator General by President Yahya Jammeh is a step in the right direction as same will dispel whatever misgivings he might have about handing over power and allow the Gambian people find a peculiar Gambian solution to the electoral impasse.
5. In keeping with the shuttle mediation diplomacy efforts AFBA scheduled a meeting with the Gambian Bar Association, who have suddenly found their voice in the middle of this crises by demanding that AFBA condemn President Yahya Jammeh as a precondition to meeting with AFBA.
6. AFBA considers the position of Gambian Bar Association in the light of the peculiar circumstances as unproductive and untenable, as towing that line will amount to an affront to the basic tenets of mediation which is that the neutrality of the mediator must never be compromised. By making the condemnation of President Yahya Jammeh a precondition for speaking with AFBA, the Gambian Bar Association in collusion with Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) was seeking to taint the bonafide and good intention of AFBA as a mediator. At this point, AFBA wishes to place on record that the regional body ECOWAS council of head of states has since soft pedaled from their initial stance of enforcing the will of the Gambian people by use of force. And the new position of ECOWAS through President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and ECOWAS Chairperson was one that is in tandem with AFBA position, which was to explore peaceful and complementary approach of dialogue to the resolution of the crises.
7. AFBA believes that this is not the time to join issues with the scurrilous language used by some individuals who claim to be associated with PALU. We believe that PALU is a very responsible organization that will channel its energies to a peaceful and reasonable resolution of the Gambian crises.The use of force, imposition of sanctions and other deleterious measures which are avoidable will only bring untold hardship to the people of Gambia and its environs.
8. AFBA is convinced as stated earlier that all men and women of goodwill whether acting as emissary of state bodies or emissary of reputable professional associations can conveniently contribute to the resolution of the impasse through mediation and conciliation.
9. AFBA will continue its mediation role and complement the efforts of ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations and all others bodies and organisations working towards a peaceful Gambia.
10. AFBA urges all the parties in the electoral impasse to display the spirit of statesmanship, respect the rule of law and due process and embrace the spirit of constitutionalism in the resolution of the crisis.
11. AFBA wish the people of Gambia and all men and women of goodwill who are genuinely engaged in mediation godspeed in the realization of positive outcome of the crises.
Dated at Abuja this 12th day of January 2017
Hannibal Uwaifo President, Nigeria
J. B. Daudu SAN Chairman, Governing Council Nigeria
– See more at: http://www.nigeriabar.com/2017/01/african-bar-association-press-release-on-her-mediation-committee-visit-to-gambia#.WIDwPqOZMnU