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Yahya Jammeh reportedly wants to Return to The Gambia

The West African nation’s longtime strongman Yahya Jammeh, who fled into exile in 2016 after an election loss to the incumbent President Adama Barrow. The former dictator has announced plans to return to The Gambia.

FILE – In this file photo dated Saturday Jan. 21, 2017, Gambia’s defeated leader Yahya Jammeh, wearing white, departs at Banjul airport. Gambia’s longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh, who fled into exile three years ago after an election loss, says he wants to return home, according to an audio recording released by his political party Tuesday Jan. 14, 2020.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, FILE)

The interim leader of Mr Jammeh’s party, Ousman Rambo Jatta, refused to say exactly when the ousted leader would arrive in The Gambia.

“He is on his way… He can be here any time,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule in Gambia was marked by widespread abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention. He sought exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after losing the December 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow.

In October 2017, Gambian and international rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, launched the “Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice” (#Jammeh2Justice), which calls for prosecuting Jammeh and others who bear the greatest responsibility for his government’s crimes under international fair trial standards.

The Barrow government reported that Jammeh stole at least $50m from the country while in office.

Equatorial Guinea, led by the same president for more than 40 years, is unlikely to extradite Jammeh.

It is unclear what measures Gambian authorities would take if Jammeh voluntarily returned home.

While he has not been charged in Gambia with a crime, witnesses have testified before an ongoing Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, some saying they had carried out summary executions at his direction.

Authorities also have suggested Jammeh could face economic crimes for pillaging state coffers before he fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017.

It’s unclear what measures Gambian authorities would take if Jammeh voluntarily returned home.

Jammeh to face the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission if he returns

Do Sannoh, an adviser to Gambian President Adama Barrow, told AP news agency, Sunday he was unaware of any ongoing negotiations over Jammeh’s possible return. But he said the former leader would be welcome to appear before the commission that has been investigating alleged abuses during his rule.

“He is a citizen. He has every right to stay in his hometown and go and answer to the law,” he said.

The audio recordings prompted outcry from the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, which said the government should arrest Jammeh if he sets foot in the country.

“Former President Yahya Jammeh’s rule in The Gambia was a tyrannical and brutal dictatorship,” said Sheriff Kijera, the center’s chairman. “He is a fugitive from justice and a subject of serious allegations of human rights violations.”

Kijera added: “If former president Jammeh is authorized to return to The Gambia without being arrested, charged and prosecuted for his crimes or transferred to another state for him to face justice, it would be a big failure on the part of the government of The Gambia to uphold its duty to the people of Gambia, as well as its international obligation to provide an effective remedy to victims.” Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. 

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