The Gambian opposition coalition has warned outgoing president Yahya Jammeh that he will be treated like a rebel leader if he refuses to step down. Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow, head of the coalition and member of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), on 1 December.
The outgoing leader, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, originally conceded defeat. However, he now intends to contest the vote at the Supreme Court due to what he says are "unacceptable abnormalities".
"Any president who loses constitutional legitimacy becomes a rebel," Halifa Sallah, a spokesman for the opposition coalition, was quoted by AFP as saying.
"Anybody who is a military officer or civil servant who refuses to be under another constitutional authority obviously would also become a rebel," he added.
Jammeh's U-turn sent shock waves across the nation, where a climate of fear has now replaced the initial jubilation surrounding the election of Barrow, who told IBTimes UK he considers himself the "rightful leader" of the country.
Barrow is due to be sworn in on 19 January. The president-elect, a former businessman who worked in London, said he will go ahead with the inauguration in spite of Jammeh's efforts to cling on to power.
Jammeh's U-turn followed an admission by Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that it had erred during vote counting, and Barrow's margin of victory had narrowed from 9% to 4%.
Despite the changes, the commission insists that the new tally leaves the outcome of the election unchanged with Barrow receiving 43.3% of the vote, and Jammeh 39.6%.
Earlier in December, four West African leaders – from Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana – met Jammeh and urged him to accept defeat.
The leaders left without managing to secure a deal with Jammeh, with the head of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) claiming that a military intervention to remove Jammeh was "possible".
On 14 December, security forces initially pledging alliance to Barrow backtracked claiming they were loyal to Jammeh before taking over the electoral commission headquarters. The move sparked fears of possible violence.