Gambia's army chief sacked as new president cleans house

The country's new president has been trying to assert control and clear out vestiges of former ruler Jammeh's feared regime.

The new president, Adama Barrow, has pledged to investigate human rights abuses during Jammeh's reign. (Reuters/Thierry Gouegnon)

The new president, Adama Barrow, has pledged to investigate human rights abuses during Jammeh's reign. (Reuters/Thierry Gouegnon)

Gambian President Adama Barrow on Monday sacked the head of the army and dismissed several other officers, as the new leader seeks to clear out former security officials from his predecessor Yahya Jammeh’s iron-fisted government.

General Ousman Badjie was replaced by Barrow’s military advisor Massaneh Kinteh. Ten other senior officers, including the directors of operations and intelligence, were also removed, army spokesman Lieutenant Kemo Kanuteh said.

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Barrow is trying to assert control following the end of Jammeh’s 22-year rule. The former president fled the country last month after West African regional powers intervened to force him to accept Barrow’s December election victory.

Badjie’s loyalty was under question as he appeared to sit on the fence during the crisis, pledging allegiance along with other top officials on January 20, a day before Jammeh fled. He will now be posted to a foreign mission, a military official said.

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The new president has pledged to investigate human rights abuses during Jammeh’s reign, expand freedoms and release prisoners being held without trial. The United Nations and human rights groups accused Gambia’s security forces under Jammeh of multiple abuses, including arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial killings and torture.

Last week, the country’s intelligence chief, Yankuba Badjie, and the head of the national prison system, David Colley, were dismissed.  Colley was arrested on Monday, police public relations officer Foday Conta said.

Conta added that four suspected members of Jammeh’s alleged death squads, known as the Jungulars, are being held in police custody. Another five have been arrested by military police.

Separately, army spokesman Lieutenant Kanuteh said about 20 army officers dismissed by Jammeh had been reinstated, including some suspected in a 2014 failed coup attempt.

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