Dlamini-Zuma calls for calm after failed coup in Gambia

2015-01-01 09:05
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File: AFP)

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File: AFP)

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Banjul - Gambia's iron-fisted ruler Yahya Jammeh said on Wednesday plotters would never win, as fears mounted of possible reprisals by his regime a day after a failed coup.

Jammeh returned overnight on Wednesday from Dubai where he was on a private visit when the putsch attempt was staged in the west African country.

"Those who advocate and sponsor violence for regime change should know that they are not only acting in violation of the human rights and legitimate interest of those affected, but it is also against the will of the Almighty Allah," Jammeh, a devout Muslim, said in a New Year address.

He however did not specifically mention the putschists.

A group of heavily armed men led by an army deserter attacked the presidential palace in the capital Banjul before dawn on Tuesday, but were repelled by forces loyal to Jammeh, who has ruled for 20 years.

Flaws in the military system

Three suspects including the alleged ringleader identified as Lamin Sanneh were killed, according to a military officer.

After returning, Jammeh went directly to the presidential palace where he was shown the damage caused by Tuesday's attack and bodies of the slain assailants, the source told AFP.

The 49-year-old strongman made no public comment but his demeanour was stern and some men "appeared to be nervous", the source said.

The source said there were fears that Jammeh, who himself seized power in a coup in 1994, may launch a purge.

The coup bid "has exposed some flaws in the military system even though the attackers were repelled. Some officers are certain to be singled out."

'Major risk of repression

Jammeh claims to have foiled a succession of coup plots and has come under fire for serious human rights abuses, including repression of the media and the disappearance of rivals.

A Dakar-based researcher, Gilles Yabi, warned of a "major risk of repression extending beyond the military figures involved in the coup attempt".

"There are fears the regime could take advantage of the situation by blaming people who had nothing to do with it".

Jammeh, a former head of military police, has ruled the largely rural nation of some 1.8 million people since he came to power in a coup that toppled founding leader Sir Dawda Jawara.

The United States and Britain voiced concern about the coup attempt in The Gambia.

Neighbouring Senegal "strongly" condemned the coup attempt, which it said was undertaken "by a group of insurgents".

Jammeh was criticised by Washington and London in 2013 for Gambia's human rights record, but Commonwealth nations sprang to his defence on that occasion.

The UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for a probe of the failed coup as the Security Council met to discuss the turmoil. Ban also urged the government, security and defence forces in Banjul to "act in full respect of human rights".

Democracy and respect for human rights

African Union commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also voiced her "preoccupation" and called for calm while stressing the need to deepen "democracy and the respect for human rights".

Banjul, a small tropical city which lies on an island in a river leading to the Atlantic Ocean, was tense but calm on Wednesday, but there were many soldiers and police on the streets.

"Soldiers armed to the teeth are still patrolling the streets of Banjul. Some are on foot and some are on board vehicles," resident Fatu Sall said.

Public offices, banks and shops were open for business after closing on Tuesday while public television and radio, which went off air briefly after the coup bid, were operating again.

Ordinary people were reluctant to speak out about the situation for fear of reprisals by the formidable National Intelligence Agency.

But on social media, people were more open.

"#Gambia if you stage a coup, make sure it is successful. Failure is unforgivable. Jammeh will have your kidneys for dinner! #Gambiacoup", posted Twitter user @FrMkaranja.

Read more on:    au  |  un  |  yahya jammeh  |  nkosazana dlamini zuma  |  ban ki-moon  |  gambia  |  west africa

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