Gambia’s Army says it has ample reasons to detain more than two dozen soldiers thought to be loyal to ex-dictator, Yahya Jammeh held over human rights and national security threats.
At least 35 soldiers are being held in several military camps, most them at a barracks, 20 miles southwest of the capital, Banjul. Human rights defenders have asked for them to be charged or be released.
Opposition activists have accused the army’s top brass of political bias, purging the military of those they feel were closed to the ex-President Jammeh.
“These are complex issues, linked to the security of the country. There was sufficient justification to go beyond the length of detention. But of course, they will not remain incarcerated indefinitely,” Army Chief Lt. Gen. Masanneh Kinteh told RFI.
Since Jammeh’s ouster, arrested soldiers have helped authorities discover unmarked mass graves dotted around the country. Some of them, including one in which three coup plotters were buried, have been unearthed.
Dozens of people still remain missing after being held by Jammeh’s regime. They are feared dead and military detainees have reportedly confessed to killing some of Jammeh’s perceived enemies and revealed details surrounding covert operations.
Fears are rife that hundreds of soldiers loyal to Jammeh have abandoned the military and are conniving with the ex-leader to start a rebellion. The Gambia’s army, however, dismissed this report.
Gen. Kinteh said fewer than a hundred soldiers loyal to the former President Jammeh have deserted the army and only a hand of top army commanders fled with him to Equatorial Guinea.
At least seven soldiers have been dismissed from the army by Kinteh. They are suspected of passing on intelligence to Jammeh and his generals in his safe haven.
Those expelled from the army this week included a military commander and two intelligence officers. At least one of them, Omar Sadio, supposedly the son of a rebel general in neighboring Senegal is being detained by the country’s intelligence bureau.