Critical hearing in The Gambia

Critical hearing in The Gambia

Gambia’s Supreme Court will begin hearing a case brought by President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday over his loss to rival

Gambia's President Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh attends the plenary session of the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island September 27, 2009. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez proposed on Sunday that South American and African nations unite to create a cross-continental mining corporation to keep control of their resources. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA POLITICS) - RTXP0RZ

Photos: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Gambia’s Supreme Court will begin hearing a case brought by President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday over his loss to rival Adama Barrow in a Dec. 1 election.

Jammeh, who’s been in power for 22 years, initially shocked the world by accepting defeat only to change his mind a week later and order the electoral commission’s headquarters to be seized.

In court, Mr Jammeh will allege that voting irregularities mean Adama Barrow was not duly elected. For his part, Barrow insists he’ll move ahead with inauguration proceedings slated for Jan. 19. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Jammeh is not willing to cede power, setting the stage for a potentially violent showdown.

As the incumbent, Jammeh is well placed to shore up his support among the country’s security apparatus, and all signs indicate he has spent the past weeks doing just this. Meanwhile, West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, has attempted to mediate the dispute to little avail.

Tuesday’s hearing is critical. If Jammeh is successful, fresh elections will be held. If not and the incumbent refuses the step aside, regional (and global) powers will have to decide whether to intervene or stand by as a dictator clings to power.