President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has accused ECOWAS of declaring war after demanding that he stand down following his electoral defeat.
Regional leaders warned last month that the 15-member ECOWAS would “take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the December 1 poll.
But the Gambian leader, in a New Year’s speech on Saturday, said the ECOWAS summit decision was “totally illegal” as it violated the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.
“It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution. It is therefore absolutely unacceptable,” said Jammeh.
“Let me make very clear that we are ready to defend the country against any aggression and there will be no compromise on this.”
Opposition leader Adama Barrow was declared the winner of the election, which saw Jammeh initially conceding defeat.
But he reversed his decision a week later, condemning “unacceptable errors” by election authorities and calling for a new election.
The Gambia’s top court said last month it was adjourning until January 10 a case filed by Jammeh to annul the vote results.
Jammeh’s stance has stoked international concerns about the future of the small west African country.
The UN has also joined African leaders in calling for him to allow Barrow to take the oath of office as scheduled on January 19.
But the 51-year-old Jammeh is not willing to step down.
“Given the unjustifiable and unprecedented anomalies… what we are simply and rightfully asking for is to return to the polls and allow the Gambians to elect who they want to be their president in free and fair elections,” he said Saturday.