The streets of Gambia’s capital Banjul lay deserted on Wednesday due to a boycott stemming out of fear of outgoing President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to challenge the presidential election result.
Many shops remained closed, while residents stayed indoors and children did not attend school due to a heavy military presence in the city and its outskirts.
Gambians fearfully awaited Jammeh’s next move, after the ruling party filed a petition to challenge the result of the Dec. 1 vote, which saw the autocrat lose power after more than two decades.
The ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) said the election should be annulled in a document handed to the registrar of the Supreme Court.
The petition was filed after an African Union (AU) delegation met with Jammeh, hoping to persuade him to hand over power to president-elect Adama Barrow.
However, Gambia’s Supreme Court is currently not operational with only one sitting judge, after Jammeh fired two others earlier this year.
In addition, all court houses have been closed throughout the poverty-stricken West African nation, as the Gambia Bar Association went on strike in protest against Jammeh’s refusal to bow out.
A wide range of professional bodies and Civil Society Organisations and various human rights groups have added their voice to the calls for Jammeh to respect the election result.
Earlier on Tuesday, security forces were blocking the entrance to the electoral commission in Banjul, while the chief of defence staff vowed to remain loyal to Jammeh.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the security forces to “immediately vacate” the premises of the electoral commission, calling the takeover an outrageous act of disrespect of the will of the Gambian people
Jammeh recently announced his intention to challenge the election results, even though he had earlier conceded defeat to Barrow.
The 51-year-old, who has ruled the West African country for 22 years with an iron fist, then deployed heavily armed military and police to the streets of Banjul.