Bar­row to go af­ter Jam­meh plun­der

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

BAN­JUL — Gam­bian Pres­i­dent Adama Bar­row’s team an­nounced on Mon­day his vice-pres­i­dent would be a woman who has vowed to pros­e­cute for­mer leader Yahya Jam­meh and take back as­sets she says were stolen from the na­tion.

The al­leged plun­der of some $11m by Jam­meh as he clung on to power in re­cent weeks has left the tiny African coun­try in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty, a Bar­row aide said.

Bar­row, who was sworn in as the new head of state on Jan­uary 19 at his coun­try’s em­bassy in neigh­bour­ing Sene­gal, has put off his re­turn over fears for his safety.

As the na­tion waits, Bar­row’s sec­ond-in-com­mand was named as Fa­toumata Jal­low-tam­ba­jang, who be­came a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure af­ter telling The Guardian news­pa­per Jam­meh would be pros­e­cuted for crimes com­mit­ted by his regime.

Jam­meh ini­tially con­ceded de­feat af­ter the De­cem­ber 1 elec­tion, but the mer­cu­rial strong­man an­nounced he no longer recog­nised the re­sult af­ter Jal­low-tam­ba­jang’s com­ments, and af­ter the elec­tion com­mis­sion is­sued re­vised re­sults which made Bar­row’s win nar­rower, al­though still clear.

Lux­ury cars The tim­ing of her ap­point­ment comes af­ter an aide to Bar­row has ac­cused Jam­meh of raid­ing state cof­fers dur­ing his fi­nal days in power.

“Over two weeks, over 500 mil­lion dalasi ($11m) were with­drawn” by Jam­meh, Mai Fatty said on Sun­day in Dakar. “As we take over, the gov­ern­ment of The Gam­bia is in fi­nan­cial dis­tress.”

Jam­meh also took lux­ury cars he piled onto a Cha­dian cargo plane, Fatty said.

A de­vel­op­ment ex­pert who pre­vi­ously worked of the United Na­tions, Jal­low-tam­ba­jang is of­ten de­scribed as the woman who per­suaded The Gam­bia’s di­vided op­po­si­tion par­ties to club to­gether and field a sin­gle can­di­date — Bar­row.she has also ar­gued that a na­tional com­mis­sion for as­set re­cov­ery should be es­tab­lished to take back land and goods Jam­meh is ac­cused of seiz­ing for his own gain.

Im­mu­nity de­bate Un­der the threat of a re­gional military in­ter­ven­tion, Jam­meh chose ex­ile in Equa­to­rial Guinea, which is not party to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, and left The Gam­bia on Satur­day.that means he can­not be ex­tra­dited in the event he is charged with crimes against hu­man­ity or other se­ri­ous of­fences.

A truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion com­mit­tee is Bar­row’s “pre­ferred method” of deal­ing with griev­ances against the regime, his spokesman has said, but many Gam­bians take the harder line of his new vice-pres­i­dent.

Sec­tions of the se­cu­rity ser­vices were un­der Jam­meh’s per­sonal con­trol and are re­spon­si­ble for ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, tor­ture and ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion, rights groups say.

Bar­row has as­sured Jam­meh he will have all the rights legally en­sured to an ex-pres­i­dent, which un­der Gam­bian law in­cludes im­mu­nity from prose­cu­tion, bar­ring a vote by two-thirds of the na­tional assem­bly.

How­ever, the new pres­i­dent is keen to break with the re­pres­sion of the past and his spokesman an­nounced Mon­day that the right to due process would now be re­spected.

“There shall be no de­tainee with­out trial un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion,” spokesman Hal­ifa Sal­lah said.

Crit­ics have raised con­cerns over a state­ment is­sued by the United Na­tions, re­gional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union that seemed to of­fer Jam­meh com­fort­able guar­an­tees in re­turn for his exit. The state­ment said “no leg­isla­tive mea­sures” would be taken that against Jam­meh or his fam­ily, not­ing that he could re­turn when he pleased and that prop­erty “law­fully” be­long­ing to him would not be seized.

Prepa­ra­tions for re­turn Mean­while on the streets of Ban­jul, troops from five west African na­tions were se­cur­ing the cap­i­tal and its sur­rounds to en­sure Bar­row’s safe re­turn.

The Sene­galese gen­eral lead­ing the op­er­a­tion, Fran­cois Ndi­aye, came to Ban­jul to meet Gam­bian top brass, a state­ment by his of­fice said, and to “re­as­sure” the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion.

Bar­row hopes some of the 7,000 troops mo­bilised ear­lier this month by Sene­gal and four other na­tions would re­main in place af­ter his ar­rival.

“I know that ev­ery­one is anx­ious that he comes,” Bar­row spokesman Sal­lah said, also on Mon­day. “Ev­ery­body recog­nises we do not need any vac­uum.”

The Gam­bia’s army chief said Mon­day the re­gional troops were wel­comed with open arms.

Chief of de­fence staff Ous­man Bad­jie told AFP the Malian, Sene­galese, To­golese, Nige­rian and Ghana­ian sol­diers “are our broth­ers,” adding “we are happy that they are here to com­ple­ment our ef­forts.” — AFP

GAM­BIA’S de­feated leader Yahya Jam­meh waves to sup­port­ers as he de­parts at ban­jul air­port last satur­day.

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