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Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh, is seeking to return home but the government say it could not guarantee his safety / Photo: Gainako Radio

Gambian govt warns former President Jammeh not to return home

Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh, is seeking to return home but the government say it could not guarantee his safety.

Three years after he was forced to leave The Gambia, former President Yahya Jammeh is seeking to return home and his party, the Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction, is backing him. However, the government of President Adama Barrow is warning the ousted dictator not to return to the country without its consent. Jammeh’s safety couldn’t be guaranteed if he did return without permission, a government spokesman told the BBC.

Jammeh is however insisting that under the agreement he signed with ECOWAS and the African Union, he has the right to return to his home country. The international bodies included the clause that Jammeh could return at “a time of his choosing” in a January 2017 deal to end the month-long political impasse that ended with the departure of Jammeh for Equatorial Guinea, where he has since been living.

The agreement reads that  Jammeh would leave “temporarily” and was “at liberty to return to The Gambia at any time of his choosing in accordance with international human rights law and his rights as a citizen of The Gambia and a former head of state”.

Former President Jammeh (right) and President Alpha Condé of Guinea in the State House, Banjul, on 22 January 2017. Marathon negotiations by Condé and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz with Jammeh led to the agreement that paved way for the exit of the long-term Gambian leader / Photo: OPG

 

However, government spokesman Ebrima Sankareh said he didn’t “know what document the man is talking about” and said President Barrow had never signed any such agreement. If he returns without permission, “the Gambian government cannot guarantee his safety and security”, Mr Sankareh told the BBC.

The possibilities of Jammeh being arrested if he returns doesn’t seem to be deterring him or his supporters.

“He is on his way… He can be here any time,” the interim leader of Jammeh’s party, Ousman Rambo Jatta, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. He however refused to say exactly when the ousted leader would arrive in The Gambia.

He warned that any attempt to arrest  Jammeh would lead to “bloodshed”.

“Nobody will dare to arrest him,” he said.

Barrow’s government is obviously afraid that Jammeh could threaten the stability of his government and the country if he returns and the former leader still has a formidable political structure in place.

Jammeh, who ruled the West African nation for 22 years, was forced into exile after he refused to accept his defeat in elections in December 2016.

The Gambia will hold elections next year at which Barrow is expected to seek re-election despite an earlier agreement to step down after a 3-year transition period.

Adira Kallo

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