EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Today is exactly five years since the last attempted coup d’état broke out to depose Gambia’s now exiled- former President Yahya Jammeh, during the night of 30 December 2014. Gunfire erupted in the capital, Banjul between a team led by Mr Jammeh’s one-time state house commander and soldiers loyal to him.
This was among several coup attempts that Mr Jammeh survived. On his return from an overseas trip following the attack, Mr Jammeh snubbed it as being an attempted coup, saying it was a terrorist act led by disgruntled dissidents in the UK, US and other countries.
Today is some of the days that still remain in the memories of Gambian people as they reflect on the Jammeh era. In the last quarters of his rule, people begin to grow tired of Jammeh’s totalitarian rule under which no one would dare to defy him or express their right to protest against him when .
Many Gambians both home and abroad, including politicians and the current Army chief had criticised the 2014 attempted coup, calling it unlawful. President Barrow was also blamed for not taking step in prosecution the coupist.
In 2013, Mr Jammeh relieved the 2014 coup leader, Lieutenant Colonel Lamin Sanneh as his commander of Presidential Guard. Sanneh then fled to the United Sates where he met Njaga Jagne, a fellow refugee from the Gambia and former officer of the Kentucky National Guard and later planned the attack.
Many have called Mr Jammeh a survivor who maintained a strong propagation to his followers the belief that not election or human power can bring him down. Other called him a stringent dictator who covers himself with the Islamic region to win the heart of the people.
In 2015, Jammeh took a unilateral decision to declare Gambian as an Islamic state and forced women in public institutions, including the military to put on veils at work.
Jammeh came to power in July 1994 in which he led a bloodless coup d’etat that overthrew the government of Dawda Jawara and installed himself as chairman of AFPRC, a military junta, and ruled by decree until his election as president in 1996. He was re-elected as president in 2001, 2006 and 2011, but lost to Adama Barrow in 2016.
His 22-year rule of the small West African nation was marred with the authoritarian oppression of journalists, opposition parties and gross human right violations. His foreign policy led to a constantly strained relationship with the country’s closest neighbor Senegal. In 2013, he withdrew the Gambia from the Commonwealth of Nations, and in 2016 he began the process of withdrawing it from the International Criminal Court which was later rescinded by the Barrow government.
His dictatorial rule brought fear among the military as he hold rigid decision and never take mistakes for granted. As he rule the small West African nation with iron fist and control the military through divide and rule tactic, distrust grew within the army many of who were competing to win his trust.
On the night of Monday 29 to Tuesday 30 December, former Gambian soldiers undertook an attempted coup d’état at the presidential palace in the capital, Banjul while Jammeh was on a private visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
At the time of the coup attempt Jammeh was out of the country, with sources differing on whether he was in France or Dubai. Jammeh, who himself came to power through a coup in 1994, had experienced several attempted coups against his regime, and sometimes accused the United Kingdom and United States of being behind the attempts.
When the 2014 coupist returned to The Gambia some month after Mr Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 general election, they were given heroic welcome which was also snubbed by many Gambians and political analysts.
When the attack broke out, soldiers blocked several points of entry to the city and a full blackout of the state radio and television was placed into effect.
The fighting subsided later during the day but banks and other businesses remained closed, with state radio playing traditional music and mentioning nothing of the night’s events.
Four people, including Sanneh and Njaga Jagne, were killed, and several more injured after the gunmen failed to consolidate control, leading to the failure of the coup. Jammeh returned the following day reshuffled his cabinet on January 10.