Gambian Military Arrests Generals On Exile

The Gambia army has disclosed that the Military authorities in Gambia arrested two of ex-strongman Yahya Jammeh’s generals after they returned unexpectedly from exile over the weekend.

According to a statement by the army, Umpa Mendy, Jammeh’s principal protection officer, and the former head of the State Guards Battalion Ansumana Tamba had both accompanied the former leader into exile.

However, the army statement, said they flew back into Gambia on Sunday.

“They were arrested at their respective homes … and are currently detained at the Yundum Military Barracks, where they are helping the military police with their investigations,” the army said.

The army did not say why the two men returned to Gambia or on what charges they had been arrested.

Gambia’s current President Adama Barrow was sworn in Feb 18, 2017 as a West African regional intervention force closed in on the capital Banjul forcing Jammeh, who had refused to accept his defeat in elections, to flee to Equatorial Guinea.

Barrow is still seeking to assert control following the end of 22 years of Jammeh’s authoritarian rule under which the military served as a key pillar of a regime notorious for jailing and torturing political opponents.

The new government has replaced or dismissed a number of senior military officers, some of them suspected of being members of a group called the Jungulars, which many Gambians say carried out killings on behalf of the government.

However, the army still contains many former supporters of Jammeh.

Barrow’s allies have repeatedly warned of the possibility that exiled officers were working to undermine the new government from abroad.

 

Jammeh’s Spy Chief Charged With Murder

Head of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency and the chief spy, under exiled Yahya Jammeh was on Thursday charged before a Banjul court for the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention in 2016.

Yankuba Badjie and the Director of Operations, Sheikh Jeng, along with eight other officers were charged.

The charges were part of attempts by President Adama Barrow to re-establish democracy in the small West African nation.

Barrow had released dozens of opposition activists from prison since he took office on Jan. 19, replacing Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the Islamic republic for the last 22 years with an iron fist.

Jammeh caused weeks of political impasse by refusing to accept the result of the December presidential election before going into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Badjie took over at the intelligence agency in 2013, with Jeng as his deputy.

During their tenure, the intelligence agency carried out kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and rape, according to international human rights activists.

The Gambia: UK ‘Very Pleased’ About Commonwealth Return

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is in The Gambia, has said he is “very pleased” the West African state intends to rejoin the Commonwealth.
His visit, the first to The Gambia by a British foreign secretary, comes weeks after long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh went into exile after losing elections.
Mr Jammeh took The Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it a neo-colonial institution.
New President Adama Barrow had promised a return to the 52-nation grouping.
Before leaving for Banjul, Mr Johnson said: “We will ensure this happens in the coming months.
“The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world.”
The Commonwealth secretariat said it welcomed the news, saying the formal process of rejoining would have to be agreed by the 52 heads of government.
“When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, the heads of government… noted its decision with regret. We looked forward to the country’s eventual return because it was part of our very close knit family and our doors have always remained open,” a spokesman said.

Last week, the European Union promised The Gambia an aid package of nearly £65m ($81m) – almost three years after freezing its assistance to the West African nation.
Mr Barrow, who was sworn in last month, has also said The Gambia will reverse its move to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a statement on Monday, the government said it had written to UN chief Antonio Guterres to inform him of its decision “to discontinue the withdrawal notice”.

BBC Africa

Armed Off-Duty Soldier Arrested in Mosque as Barrow Prays

Security operatives have arrested a non-duty soldier of The Gambia Armed Forces after he was arrested with a pistol inside the main mosque in Banjul where new President Adama Barrow was performing Friday prayers.

APA reports that the solider has been identified as Baboucarr Njie who is being interrogated by personnel of the ECOWAS Military in The Gambia (ECOMIG) over his motive for carrying the pistol inside the mosque.

The incident took place at Banjul’s main King Fahd mosque where the Gambian leader had joined Muslim worshippers for congregational prayers on Friday afternoon.

Security sources, say ECOMIG are not ruling out foul play.

Reports quoting eyewitnesses said the suspect was searched by ECOMIG troops as he entered the mosque during which a gun was discovered inside a bag he was carrying.

It is not known if the gun was loaded.

Although his motive still remains unclear, he reportedly told his interrogators that he was with the intention of handing the pistol over to President Barrow’s military aide, Massaneh Kinteh who was not at the mosque at the time of the incident.

Other worshippers who witnessed the incident said President Barrow had left the mosque immediately after the congregational prayers as the suspect was handcuffed and led away.

It comes days after ECOMIG commanders said they were scaling back the number of foreign intervention troops in the country from 7, 000 to 500, citing an improved security climate following a protracted political crisis sparked by the disputed results of the December 1 election.

Barrow’s predecessor Yahya Jammeh had refused to concede the election despite his defeat by the former, plunging the country into a nerve-racking political crisis.

Jammeh, Gambia’s repressive leader since 1994 only bowed to diplomatic pressure and flew into exile last month following threat from the regional grouping ECOWAS to oust him by force.

APA

Dogara Commends Buhari, ECOWAS Leaders Over Gambia

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara has commended President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the Economic Community of West African States for the role they played in averting major political crisis in the Gambia.
In a statement issued on Sunday, by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan,  Dogara, said President  Buhari and his colleagues have averted a major political crisis that could have engulfed not only the Gambia but the entire West African sub region.
The speaker said that the leaders masterfully deployed diplomacy backed with potential military action to compell former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power to President Adama Barrow.
 “The leaders have demonstrated their readiness and strong resolve to defend democracy on the continent.”
“This would send strong signal to the world that democracy has come to stay in Africa. There is no room any longer for tyrants and dictators in the continent”, he said.
The  speaker maintained that inspite of any misgivings about democracy and it’s impact on the lives of the people, it still remains the best form of government and that “The will of the people and the consent of the governed  remains the only  basis of any government.”
Dogara said that the task ahead of African leaders is to fashion ways of making the system better  to deliver the greatest good to the greater number of people in order to enthrone good government, defeat poverty, engender patriotism and trust in the democratic system of government.

Jammeh Leaves Banjul Today into Exile

Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh will now leave Banjul on Saturday with President Alpha Conde of Guinea, to begin a new life in exile.

This followed Friday’s final peace move by Conde and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The two West African leaders travelled to Banjul to persuade the long ruling Jammeh to leave peacefully before West African forces pounced on him.

In a statement issued on state TV Friday night, Jammeh announced that he was stepping down, a superfluous announcement as he was already no more the leader, having been denied recognition by the world.

All indications are that Jammeh will be going into exile in Guinea.

A senior adviser to new President Adama Barrow said talks to finalise the exile deal were holding up his exit.

“I can assure you that he has agreed to leave,” Mai Ahmad Fatty, Barrow’s special advisor, told Reuters in Senegal’s capital Dakar. He could not say where Jammeh would go into exile.

President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow had earlier confirmed Yahya Jammeh’s stepping down.

Barrow, on his twitter handle on Friday, @adama_barrow said: “I would like to inform you that Yahya Jammeh has agreed to step down.

“He is scheduled to depart Gambia today. #NewGambia.”

Barrow on Thursday took the oath of office as Gambia’s new president.

He was sworn-in about 5p.m. Senegalese time at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar, Senegal.

Barrow succeeded Yahya Jammeh, who lost in the Dec. 1 presidential election and refused to vacate office when his term expired midnight on Thursday.

Gambia’s Chief of Defence, Ousman Badjie, on Friday pledged loyalty to President Barrow.

“West African troops that crossed from neighbouring Senegal into Gambia to help unseat Jammeh would be welcomed “with a cup of tea,’’ said Badjie.

ECOWAS armies halted Operation Restore Democracy aimed at installing the country’s new president, Adama Barrow, on Thursday so regional leaders could make one last attempt to convince long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh to step aside.

In Dakar, the Nigerian force Commander, Operation Restore Democracy, Air Commodore Tajudeen Yusuf, said the ECOWAS forces will not let down their guard, inspite of negotiations for the former Gambian president, Alhaji Yahaya Jammeh to leave office.

He said the troops are awaiting briefing by the political leaders.

Yusuf made the statement while briefing newsmen in Dakar, on Friday.

“Even if he quits we are not letting down our guard, our mandate is to restore peace in Gambia.

“We have been on standby, and the troops are still on a very high alert, depending on the outcome of political negotiations.

“We are not letting down our guard; our mandate is to restore democracy in Gambia,’’ Yusuf said.

Yusuf added that the mandate given to them was to restore peace and nothing else.

He promised to carry out his responsibilities professionally while waiting for further directive from the political masters.

Jammeh, in power since a 1994 coup, initially conceded defeat to Barrow following a Dec. 1 election before back-tracking, saying the vote was flawed.

NAN

Gambia’s Jammeh Finally Steps Down

Defeated leader of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has finally agreed to step down a day after President-elect, Adama Barrow was sworn in as the President of the tiny West African country.

Mr. Jammeh who dissolved his cabinet on Thursday after Barrow’s inauguration, has also agreed to depart the tiny West African country.

Jammeh’s decision to stand down from the number one position in the country was announced on micro blogging site, Twitter on Friday by the new President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow.

“I would like to inform you that Yahya Jammeh has agreed to step down. He is scheduled to depart Gambia today. #NewGambia“, Barrow tweeted.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barrow was sworn in on Thursday, days after seeking shelter in Dakar with incumbent Yahya Jammeh still refusing to step down after losing the December 2016 Presidential election.

The new President of The Gambia took the oath of office in the country’s embassy in Senegal on Thursday, January 19.

As at the time of filing this report, Yahya Jammeh was yet to make a statement as regards Barrow’s announcement.

Adama Barrow Sworn In

Adama Barrow has taken the oath of office as Gambia’s new president.

He was sworn-in about 5pm Senegalese time at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

He succeeds Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, who lost in the 1 December presidential election and has refused to vacate office when his term expired midnight yesterday.

“This is a victory of the Gambian nation. Our national flag will fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world. #Gambia,” read a tweet after the ceremony.

Western ambassadors to Senegal, the UN envoy for West Africa and top officials from the regional bloc Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) attended the ceremony, while hundreds of Gambian expatriates gathered outside the compound.

“I, Adama Barrow, do swear that I’ll well and truly prosecute the functions of office the president of the Republic of The Gambia. That I will preserve and defend the constitution,” he said.

In his inauguration speech, he ordered all members of The Gambia’s armed forces to remain in their barracks.

“Those found illegally holding arms will be considered rebels,” he warned.

West African military forces, stationed at the border, say they are ready to enforce a transfer of power in The Gambia, a popular beach destination among European holidaymakers.

Nigeria said on Thursday that its “armed reconnaissance air force are over Gambia”, the AFP reports.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS troops halted their march into Gambia Thursday night to give former president Yahya Jammeh, one more last chance to leave Banjul. Jammeh has up till noon to leave, in the new deadline given by ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc.

If he fails to do so, the troops under Operation Restore Democracy, will continue their march into the capital. There was no resistance by Gambian troops at the border when the West African soldiers entered Thursday.

“We think that up until the last minute there is still a solution through dialogue,” said Marcel de Souza, head of the ECOWAS commission, explaining the decision to suspend the advance to reporters in Dakar late on Thursday.

ECOWAS will send a team led by Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, and including the presidents of Liberia and Mauritania to Banjul on Friday, de Souza said.

If the mission succeeds, Jammeh will travel to Guinea before choosing a country of exile.

“It’s out of the question that he stays in place. … We propose that he leaves in an honourable manner and with respect,” said de Souza, who added that regional leaders were open to the possibility of an amnesty as part of a deal.

*With reports by BBC

Gambia’s Jammeh Insists He Won’t Hand Over Power

President Yahya Jammeh on Thursday in Banjul reiterated his stand that he would not step down as Gambian leader when his mandate ends on Wednesday.

The information ministry said in a statement read on national television that Jammeh was planning to remain in office until the Supreme Court decides on a petition he filed.

Jammeh is challenging the result of the Dec. 1 presidential election he lost to Adama Barrow.

Barrow, a former real estate agent who was little known before he announced his candidacy, meanwhile has also reiterated he is planning to take office on Jan. 19, as scheduled.

Earlier this week, Gambia’s dysfunctional Supreme Court adjourned hearing Jammeh’s petition to Monday, since only one of a required minimum of five judges were present.

Experts however believe it will be highly unlikely that four additional judges will be present on Monday.

This is because the Supreme Court has not been operational since Jammeh fired several of the court’s judges in mid-2016.

All other eligible Court of Appeal judges left the country after the December election.

Observers fear that delays to the planned hand-over of power could lead to violence as Gambia has been in a political lockdown since Jammeh refused to accept the result.

Meanwhile, some West African leaders, including Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, are expected to arrive in Gambia to convince Jammeh to respect the constitution and hand over the presidency.

NAN

Why Ekweremadu Is Wrong On The Gambian Crisis By Jideofor Adibe

The recent warning by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu that any use of military might to force Jammeh out of office in The Gambia could have dire consequences for the country and the West African sub-region was a well- intentioned intervention. However, it is a classic case of where the unintended consequences of a good intention could be far more damaging than what the good intention was meant to avert. Yahya Jammeh has vowed not to step down after initially conceding defeat in the 2016 presidential election in The Gambia.

In a statement issued through his media adviser Uche Anichukwu, Ike Ekweremadu was quoted as saying: “We must all acknowledge the fact that Gambia is a sovereign state. If her Constitution and electoral laws allow for judicial role in resolving electoral disputes, then the Gambian constitutional courts must be allowed to count in resolving the political impasse.” Ekweremadu, a lawyer and former Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Parliament), urged the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government as well as the international community to explore dialogue and to allow The Gambian laws to prevail as a sovereign nation. Ekweremadu said he was concerned that the sub-region has been a theater of much bloodletting and instability.

Born on May 25, 1965, Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, who goes by several official titles including “His Excellency,” “Sheikh,” “Professor” “Alhaji” and “Doctor” transformed himself into a civilian President of his country in 1996. He had seized power in his tourism-dependent country of only 1.9 million people on July 22, 1994, after toppling the country’s President Sir Dawda Jawara. Jammeh, then a lieutenant in the army, was only 29 years old. After two years of ruling his tiny country as a military dictator, he sought to legitimate his rule by founding the political party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, through which he transformed himself into a civilian President in September 1996 – amid charges that the election was rigged. He was re-elected in 2001, 2006 and 2011 for his second, third and fourth terms respectively. He ran into difficulties in his quest for a fifth term last year when he was defeated by Adama Barrow. He conceded defeat on 9 December 2016 but reversed himself days later and rejected the result citing “unacceptable abnormalities.” He filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the Gambia, which was expected to deliver judgment in the case on January 10, 2017. Meanwhile, ECOWAS threatened that it would use force if Jammeh failed to step down by January 18, 2017, when a new President is expected to be sworn in.

Ekweremadu advanced two grounds for objecting to the use of military force against Jammeh – the need to respect Gambia’s sovereignty and to avert bloodshed. I will like to interrogate these grounds:

On the need to respect Gambia’s sovereignty, it must be emphasized that the doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state has evolved. In fact, since the 1990s, there has been a normative shift away from the traditional understanding of state sovereignty to an acceptance of sovereignty as responsibility. This is the underlying premise of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, a commitment which was endorsed by all the member states of the United Nations in 2005 to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Part of the arguments of R2P, which was based on the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, is that in a globalized world, where what affects one country often has repercussion on several others, the doctrine of ‘non-interference’ should have the doctrines of ‘non-indifference’ and R2P as its checks. In the case of The Gambia, the relevant question is: should the international community remain indifferent when Gambians are seemingly incapable of extricating themselves from the rule of a President who was apparently rejected at the poll but who has vowed to rule the country for one billion years – “if Allah wills”? In this respect, the Responsibility to Protect and the doctrine of non-indifference are to be seen in the same light as the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. Sure, there are always concerns that big powers could abuse the R2P to pursue their own agenda in smaller states. But the Gambian case does not fall into such a category. What could be the vested interest of the ECOWAS members that have urged Jammeh to step down and offered him assurances of protection from witch hunt? I am not sure any ECOWAS member country or any member of the international community is interested in taking over the country’s tourism.

In countries where the institutions are strong, there could be some hope (as Ekweremadu inferred) that the judges could be relied upon to do the right thing. But this is not the case in The Gambia, which like most African countries, could qualify to be called a ‘Banana Republic.’ For instance, Jammeh recently appointed six new judges to the Supreme Court of The Gambia, having sacked all but one in 2015. Does anyone really expect these new Judges to pass a judgment that will be unfavorable to Jammeh?

Ekweremadu’s second ground of objection- namely that intervention could lead to loss of lives and could worsen the political instability in the sub-region – is also problematic. The truth is that denying Barrow his victory on the altar of expediency could also lead to violence, especially if his supporters choose to take the laws into their hands. The greater danger, however, is that if Jammeh is allowed to have his way, it could incentivize a new form of coup-making where leaders who lose at the polls will refuse to step down and use state machinery to browbeat the opposition. Africa has passed through phases of coup-making– from military coups to ‘constitutional coups’ and now ‘election coups’ (where incumbents who lose try to use subterfuges to hang on to power). It will be a tragedy if Africans allow this new form of coup making to take root.

Across Africa, liberal or Western democracy is being universalized, usually with term limits. Liberal democracy is not perfect, but there is no credible alternative – despite the rhetoric of some revisionists. The continent’s liberal democracy project faces resistance from three forces: adventurist soldiers who nurse nostalgia for the period when the military was the shortest route to political power in Africa, political leaders who nurse nostalgia for the period of one-party dictatorships and life presidencies, and rulers who refuse to quit after losing elections. Following from this, to buy Ekweremadu’s argument would not only be a dangerous PR for Jammeh but also a gross disservice for the continent’s fledgling democracy project. ECOWAS should do the needful in The Gambia. That is one way to discourage the new phenomenon of ‘election coup’ from taking root in the continent.

While vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty, we must also begin honest conversations on why some leaders are unwilling to quit in Africa. One of the reasons Jammeh was suspected to have changed his mind after conceding defeat initially was the triumphalism of Barrow’s supporters who had arrogantly announced that they would probe Jammeh for corruption and human rights abuses. Studies have shown that fear of persecution is one of the reasons for the phenomenon of ‘sit-tightism’ among African leaders in Africa. It also explains why some of us have been consistently against efforts to demonize or humiliate former President Jonathan who helped to avert bloodshed in the country by conceding defeat after losing in the March 2015 presidential election. In Africa’s transition period, leaders who willingly concede power ought to have some form of immunity from persecution.

Gambian Electoral Commission Chairman Flees Country

The Chairman of the Gambian Electoral Commission has fled the country following threats to his life, his nephew said on Tuesday.

Alieu Momar Njai had declared Adama Barrow the winner of the Dec. 1 presidential election, but President Yahya Jammeh has refused to relinquish power, challenging the election results in court.

Modou Njai told journalists that his uncle had left the country because of the threats.

“He was not willing to leave but the family had to put pressure on him.

“I understand that he is currently outside Gambia,’’ he said.

Security forces had earlier occupied the office of the electoral commission and denied staff access for weeks, but have since left the premises.

Mr. Barrow said on Monday that he would take power on Jan. 19 as mandated by the constitution, in spite of Mr. Jammeh’s court challenge.

After over two decades in power, Mr. Jammeh, 51, lost the election to Mr. Barrow, a former real estate agent who was little known even in Gambia before he announced his candidacy.