President Sirleaf, Ecowas chair

(JollofNews) – West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Saturday.

Sirleaf told reporters after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in Gambia.

“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia.. we will continue to pursue that for now,” said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body said.

Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in Gambia’s Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.

Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the Dec. 1 election. But a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations’ top official in West Africa, also attended the special closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana’s new President Nana Akufo-Addo who was sworn in on Saturday.

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Joe Bavier and Dale Hudson)