Gambia undergoes regime change (with a little help)
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, is a straight-up nutjob. The problem was, he was also the strongman dictator of the small West African country of The Gambia for the past couple decades.
In case you haven’t heard of this character, he claims to hold a colonel’s commission in Kentucky, an Admiral’s in Nebraska, threatened to cut off the heads of any homosexuals in the country, claimed he can cure AIDS with bananas, survived a dozen attempts to dethrone him both real and imagined, and has had over 1,000 of his
subjects citizens kidnapped re-educated after they were accused of being witches.
Back in 2014, a group of four American citizens with ties the country decided to overthrow Jammeh of Gambia, in a story that I covered extensively.
The would-be revolutionaries had military backgrounds to one degree or another to include one, Papa Faal, 47, of Minnesota, who was a long-time veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force that included recent combat service in Afghanistan.
Well, that effort tanked but Jammeh was unsurprisingly voted out in an election last year that he vowed to abide by at first, then ordered the election commission disbanded.
As President-elect Adama Barrow fled the country, Jammeh reportedly imported foreign mercenaries to help provide some extra muscle to help put down Barrow supporters if the 1,600-strong Gambian Armed Forces (GAF) couldn’t be fully counted on.
The outside mercs were reportedly out of work West African rebels and child soldiers (“ex-Ivorian militants and Liberian mercenaries underway, headed by former officers of Charles Taylor” …” 300 to 400 people who have signed up for a fee ranging between $100 to $300 a day”).
Then, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS– a regional group of 15 West African countries which Gambia is a member of– decided to step in and drop the hammer on 19 January.
As noted by War Is Boring:
As the crisis deepened, more than 1,000 Senegalese troops crossed the border into The Gambia, set to march to the capital Banjul and force Jammeh to step down. The contingent had air cover from combat-loaded Nigerian armed reconnaissance jets, helicopters, and other personnel.
Senegal and Nigeria are both members of ECOWAS. The regional bloc instructed the Gambian military to remain in its barracks.
The Nigerian Air Force contributed a couple surplus German Alpha Jets for air cover as well as some light transport (C-130H, AW109) and ISAR craft as part of the ECOWAS force. As the Gambian military only has a single SU-25 bought from Georgia in static display condition more than a decade ago, the Nigerians were likely to have total air superiority.
Below is NAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, hyping the contingent up before leaving for Dakar, where they operated from.
As this happened, officials swore in Adama Barrow as the internationally recognized president of the country in the Gambian embassy in Dakar (Senegal).
As the Senegalese troops moved in on Banjul, and Jammeh’s mercenaries lost their interest in taking on the tough British/French-trained and U.S.-equipped regulars who have been France’s watchdogs in Africa for generations (the Senegalese, with the help of a pair of SAS troopers, helped put down a coup in 1981 in The Gambia in less than a week), the dictator decided to split Saturday night, recognising Barrow as leader. Senegal has also had extensive ties to AFRICOM who no doubt provided some behind the scenes assistance.
Gambia’s army commander, Ousman Badjie, made a point of greeting the incoming troops and celebrating with the pro-Barrow crowd, showing that Jammeh was probably right about those mercenaries in the first place.
However, the unemployed dictator reportedly absconded with most of what the impoverished country had in the bank:
Underscoring the challenges facing the new administration, [Barrow’s special adviser Mai Ahmad] Fatty confirmed that Jammeh made off with more than $11.4 million during a two-week period alone. That is only what they have discovered so far since Jammeh and his family took an offer of exile after more than 22 years in power and departed late Saturday.
“The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact,” Fatty told journalists. “It has been confirmed by technicians in the ministry of finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia.”
Though the foreign troops will be in place for now, “ECOWAS will halt any military operations in The Gambia and will continue to pursue peaceful and political resolution of the crisis,” noted the group Saturday.
From the U.S. State Department late Sunday:
The United States welcomes the on-going peaceful transition of power in The Gambia and congratulates President Adama Barrow on his inauguration. We applaud the commitment to democracy and the restraint shown by the Gambian people over the past weeks.
We commend the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional partners for their leadership in addressing the situation. We appreciate the decision by Yahya Jammeh to depart The Gambia peacefully and echo President Barrow’s call for Gambians to unite and work together as brothers and sisters for the future of The Gambia.
The United States is proud of our close ties to the people of The Gambia and looks forward to working closely with President Barrow and his team to achieve the aspirations of all Gambians.
As for Jammeh, he says he is only in exile in nearby Equatorial Guinea for now.
In related news, the British Army this month deployed 90 soldiers from 1st The Queen’s Dragoons Guards’ ‘B’ Squadron alongside 25 soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces for a jungle exercise in that nearby (to Gambia) country– the first of its kind in that country. The fact that a company-sized force was within a short airlift away from the former British colony during all this is noteworthy.
Britain recently launched a new Defence Section in Senegal and has had 350 troops in Nigeria where 22,000 Nigerian military personnel have been trained since April 2015.
Here is a look at the UK’s commitment to Africa.