Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has lashed out at regional mediators urging him to step down, saying he will not be intimidated.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on Jammeh to honour his initial pledge to accept electoral defeat.
Four West African leaders— President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Koroma and Ghanaian President John Mahama, who lost election and accepted the outcome, visited Jammeh to urge him to respect the election result.
At a follow-up meeting of ECOWAS in Abuja last weekend, the sub regional group mandated Presidents Buhari and Mahama to coordinate the plan to install a democratic government in The Gambia next month, when Jammeh is due to stand down.
ECOWAS said military intervention might be a possibility if diplomatic efforts failed.
Jammeh, who said the December 1 poll was flawed, added that he would defend his country if need be.
Mr Jammeh subsequently lodged a case before the Supreme Court to annul the vote after the electoral commission changed some results.
The commission insists the outcome was not affected by an initial error and property developer Adama Barrow defeated Jammeh.
Yesterday, The Gambian chief justice adjourned the Supreme Court hearing until 10 January, eight days before Mr Jammeh’s term in office officially ends, because there were not enough judges to hear the case.
Mr Jammeh seized power in the tiny country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.
In a 45-minute speech at the African Bar Association on Tuesday night, Jammeh defended his position, saying West African leaders had violated the ECOWAS principle of non-interference.
“Who are they to tell me to leave my country?” he said during his televised speech.
“I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure justice is done.
“I’m a man of peace, but I cannot also be a coward. I am a man of peace but that does not also mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country and defend my country courageously, patriotically and win.”
The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in the capital, Banjul, reported that it was his first public reaction to last week’s intervention by ECOWAS leaders, and he reiterated his call for fresh elections as the only way to resolve the impasse.
A spokesman for the opposition coalition that backed Barrow said Mr Jammeh would not face prosecution after leaving office.
“President-elect Barrow says he is going to treat outgoing President Yahya Jammeh like a former head of state and would consult him for advice,” Halifa Sallah told the AFP news agency.
Some analysts have suggested that reports that Jammeh could face prosecution were behind his U-turn.
Human rights groups have accused President Jammeh of committing serious abuses against opponents during his 22-year rule.
The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.