Gambia's President-elect Adama Barrow has left for Mali to join other West African leaders in last-ditch efforts to get Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power when his term expires on 18 January.
Several talks within Gambia to persuade Jammeh to accept defeat in the election has met with failure in the past one month. A three-nation delegation led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tried to broker a deal in Gambia's capital city Banjul on Friday (13 January), which too reportedly did not succeed.
West African leaders now plan to intervene in hopes of bringing an end to the nation's political deadlock as the region reportedly fears the consequences of a non-peaceful transition.
Barrow will meet the regional heads in Mali, where they are all present to attend a summit. The former estate agent is said to be determined to resolve the transitional impasse so that he can take charge as Gambia's president next week.
But the incumbent president has made it clear that he will not step down until Gambia's Supreme Court takes a decision on his legal challenge seeking to annul last month's election results. He initially conceded defeat but later took a U-turn. The court is unlikely to hear his legal challenge before May due to shortage of judges, reports say.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a 15-nation bloc of West African states, has repeated calls on the 51-year-old leader to respect the result of the polls, which declared Barrow the winner. It suggested using military force if Jammeh refuses to relinquish power that he has held on for 22 years.
Barrow is expected to hold further discussions with the delegation this weekend.
Nigeria Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama expressed West Africa's "determination to find a peaceful solution that accords with the constitution of The Gambia and also reflects the will of the Gambian people," AFP reported.
Meanwhile, the African Union said it will no longer recognise Jammeh as Gambia's president when his term ends. It warned of "serious consequences" if the outgoing president's refusal to give up power causes political disorder in the country. There are growing fears it could even cause a refugee exodus, BBC reported.
Jammeh is thought to have been offered asylum by Nigerian MPs to help negotiations.