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Gambia’s government says it’s up to Togo to resolve internal crisis

Gambia’s Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe

WEST AFRICA – Report reaching Globe Afrique has confirmed that The Gambia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed the country remains neutral in the political saga unfolding in the West Africa nation of Togo, denying an earlier report by Reuters that The Gambian foreign minister over the weekend had requested Togo’s incumbent president Faure Gnassingbe to step down from power.

The foreign ministry in a release said it was up to the people of Togo to decide whether President Faure Gnassingbe should stay in power or step aside.

President Faure Gnassingbe took power in 2005 after the demise of of his father who had ruled the tiny West Africa nation since 1967.   The country is currently stalled in a deepening political crisis in which an estimated 15 people have been killed during protests since August this year.

The Gambian Foreign Ministry in a statement said, “At this moment, there is no reason warranting the government of the Republic of The Gambia to take a position, since the Togolese people continue to make efforts to find a solution to the crisis.”

Gambia’s Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe over the weekend is quoted as telling Reuters: “I think the African Union and ECOWAS should engage Togo and persuade the president to step down,” referring to the pan-African body and West African regional bloc.

“When it goes against accepted norms I don’t think it should be treated as an internal affair,” he added.

In West Africa at the moment, The Gambia and Togo are the only countries in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region that have no presidential term limits.

Both nations voted against a presidential term limits when the entire ECOWAS sub-region sought to make term limits a law across the region in 2015.

However, with the dethronement of long military dictator turned civilian president Yahya Jammed and the election of Adama Barrow, The Gambia is now amending its constitution to incorporate term limits for president.

President Faure Gnassingbe is concluding his third term and intends to seek a fourth term, prompting opposition’s protest nationwide.

Activists and political opposition leaders have planned protests since August seeking an end to his rule and amid frustration over delays to constitutional reform.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that security forces have subjugated protests, firing on demonstrators, and intensify the chances of Gnassingbe being overthrown if the popular anger continues like what occurred in Burkina Faso in 2014 when Blaise Compaoré was forced out.

So far, the international community and ECOWAS nations have been silent in condemning the crisis in Togo.  Analysts say ECOWAS delay in criticizing the Togolese leader could be due to the fact that the Togolese leader currently holds the ECOWAS chairmanship until June 2018.

A planned referendum in Togo has failed to pacify the opposition, claiming Gnassingbe could stay until 2030 if the referendum is adhered to considering its retroactive nature.

In a statement, the African Union and ECOWAS have both welcomed the proposed reforms, urged peace and encouraged dialogue.

Gambia’s government under President Barrow is seeking a constitutional review to cap a president’s tenure to just two four- or five-year terms, among other reforms, Darboe said.

“No national assembly should have the power to nullify that law as we’ve seen elsewhere in Africa,” he said.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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