News24

Gambia jails ex army, navy chiefs

2011-05-23 22:10

Banjul - Gambia's special criminal court on Monday sentenced the former army and navy chiefs to 20 years in prison for treason for their involvement in a March 2006 coup attempt.

Lang Tombong Tamba, former army chief, already sentenced to death for his role in a foiled coup in 2009, was jailed alongside Sarjo Fofana, former navy chief.

Tamba was sentenced to death alongside seven other top brass in July 2010.

In March 2006, Gambian authorities announced they had foiled an attempted coup to oust President Yahya Jammeh, who himself came to power through a bloodless coup in 1994.

Tamba, then deputy chief of defence staff, was at the time promoted to army chief for his role in foiling the coup.

Former navy chief Sarjo Fofana was the president of the general court martial which convicted and sentenced eleven men to various prisons terms, ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment, for their roles in the abortive coup plot.

The two men were arrested in March last year, accused by prosecutors of failing to report the coup plot within a reasonable period of time.

President Jammeh, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler, is said to rule the country with an iron fist, repressing criticism and brushing off concerns over human rights abuses.

Election a foregone conclusion

He regularly hires and fires officials and reshuffles his cabinet, while he himself runs several ministries.

The leader, who turns 46 on Wednesday and is mostly seen dressed in white flowing robes, will be seeking a fourth term in presidential elections on November 24th.

He said his victory is "a foregone conclusion" and is not even campaigning in the run up.

Gambia is a thin sliver of land situated on the mouth of the River Gambia stretching inland from the Atlantic Ocean for 322km and less than 50km wide on average.

It is surrounded by Senegal on three sides except for some 80km of coastline and is one of the smallest countries on the continent with a population of around 1.8 million.

Popular among European tourists attracted to its palm-fringed beaches, the nation is regularly criticised by groups such as Amnesty International for illegal arrests and detentions and repression of journalists.