posted on Thu 19 Jan 2017 12:35 PM
Resolution on The Gambia

The Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution today on The Gambia, amidst the country’s ongoing political crisis and the possibility of an ECOWAS military intervention. Although his term expired today, President Yahya Jammeh has refused to cede power to President-elect Adama Barrow. Senegal first circulated a draft resolution on Tuesday evening (17 December), which was presented and discussed in consultations under “any other business” yesterday afternoon. Senegal put the draft resolution in blue last night, and following a final revision it was put in blue once more this morning.

Negotiations on the draft text have progressed quickly due to developments in The Gambia and today’s 19 January deadline for Barrow’s inauguration. Separately, members had been discussing a draft presidential statement on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) that covered developments across the region, including The Gambia, and the activities of the UN regional office. Senegal proposed the draft statement following last week’s 13 January briefing and consultations on the regional office. At the time of that meeting, an ECOWAS high-level delegation had just arrived in Banjul, led by President Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria), and during consultations it seems that members emphasised the importance of seeing the outcome of the ECOWAS delegation’s mediation efforts.

On Tuesday, following Jammeh’s declaration of a state of emergency, members decided to remove the section on The Gambia from the UNOWAS draft text, and instead to have a specific resolution focused on The Gambia. During yesterday’s meeting on The Gambia, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman briefed on unfolding developments, including the parliament’s decision on Tuesday to extend Jammeh’s term in office for three months. Members appeared generally supportive of Senegal’s draft resolution, though it seems some members expressed more caution about how to respond to the situation, with one member noting that mediation efforts had yet to be exhausted. Following the meeting, the Council president provided “elements to the press”. He said that members reiterated the full content of the Council’s 21 December 2016 presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/19) and their request to Jammeh and relevant Gambian authorities to fully respect the results of the 1 December presidential elections, as well their support for the efforts of ECOWAS and the AU.

Yesterday evening, Senegal circulated and placed in blue an updated version of the draft resolution. The draft resolution welcomes the AU Peace and Security Council’s (AU PSC) decisions from 13 January, including its declaration that Jammeh will cease to be recognised as the President of The Gambia as of 19 January 2017 and its request that Jammeh transfer power in accordance with the Gambian constitution.

During discussions on the draft, it seems that Russia, in particular, was not comfortable with language that reiterated the Council’s full support to ECOWAS’ commitment “to take all necessary measures” to ensure the respect of the will of the people of The Gambia. This was language based on the communiqué of the ECOWAS Authority’s 17 December summit and the AU PSC’s communiqué of last week. It seems that in order to accommodateRussia’s concerns Senegal removed the reference to “all necessary measures”. Another issue that was raised was the inclusion of language that indicated that the instability in The Gambia could pose a threat to international peace and security”, a reference to Article 37, Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This language is not in the draft in blue, indicating that the resolution is not under Chapter VII. The Council, however, would not need to authorise an ECOWAS military intervention if this is requested by Barrow following his inauguration as the legitimate president.

Discussions continued on the draft after it was put in blue, including on Egypt’s suggestion that the resolution state that all peaceful measures be exhausted, which was not added to the draft. It seems Senegal was reluctant to include such language, since it was inconsistent with developments on the ground, as ECOWAS forces had been mobilising along the border and appeared poised to intervene. Late morning today, Senegal made a final revision to the draft resolution in blue which appears to further address both Egypt and Russia’s concerns. The final draft text adds language referring to ECOWAS’ commitment to ensure “by political means first” the results of the election.

The draft resolution further commends and strongly supports continued efforts of the AU and ECOWAS to promote peace and stability in the region, reiterating language from the 21 December presidential statement that welcomed ECOWAS decisions at its 17 December summit. The draft resolution includes a request for the Secretary-General to update the Council on the resolution’s implementation within 10 days.

Over the last 24 hours there has been a flurry of developments, including a meeting between Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Jammeh in Banjul. There have been signs of division within the Gambian security forces and possible fracturing of support for Jammeh. According to media reports yesterday, Gambian army chief Ousman Badjie said that his troops would not fight ECOWAS forces should they enter into the country. Yesterday, Jammeh’s vice-president resigned. At press time, Barrow had just been sworn-in as president at The Gambian embassy in Senegal.