Yahya Jammeh faces arrest if he returns to Gambia - minister

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Yahya Jammeh (file photo)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia for 22 years

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh will be arrested if he attempts to return to the country, a minister has told the BBC.

Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou said he would like to prosecute Mr Jammeh himself over his "brutal" rule.

Mr Jammeh has expressed his desire to return home and his supporters say arresting him will lead to "bloodshed".

The former leader has been in exile in Equatorial Guinea since being removed from power in 2017.

He refused to accept defeat in December 2016 elections and The Gambia's neighbours sent troops to force him out.

The justice minister's comments come days after Mr Jammeh's supporters held a large protest demanding their former leader's safe return to the country.

Mr Jammeh ruled The Gambia for 22 years and has been accused of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention.

The Gambian government, lead by President Adama Barrow, has set up a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate the alleged rights violations and come up with recommendations.

Mr Jammeh has refused to co-operate with the commission.

Does Jammeh have the right to go home?

The justice minister accused Mr Jammeh's supporters of "political brinkmanship" because they knew he would not actually go home.

"They [Mr Jammeh and his supporters] are sure as daylight that he is not coming back, although if he ever does come back, he will face immediate arrest and the most serious charges," Mr Tambadou told the BBC.

He also accused the former president of being a "megalomaniac" and destroying "every fabric of Gambian society".

"It will take us a generation or two to rebuild our country," he said.

Yahya Jammeh: At a glance

  • Born in May 1965
  • Seized power in a coup in 1994
  • In 2013, he vowed to stay in power for "a billion years" if God wills
  • He also ordered the execution of criminals and political opponents on death row
  • Claimed in 2007 he could cure Aids and infertility with herbal concoctions
  • Warned in 2008 that gay people would be beheaded
  • Denied his security agents killed journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004

Ousman Rambo Jatta, the interim leader of Mr Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party, recently told the BBC's Focus on Africa that Mr Jammeh should be allowed to return and without facing prosecution.

Mr Jatta said that the former president had the right to go back home.

After losing the 2016 election to Mr Barrow, Mr Jammeh signed an agreement brokered by the UN, regional body Ecowas and the African Union in 2017, in which he agreed to give up power and go into exile but he could return to The Gambia at any time he wished.

However, the Gambian government does not recognise this agreement.

Mr Jatta said that arresting Mr Jammeh would lead to "bloodshed".

"Nobody will dare to arrest him," he added.

Media caption,

'I refused to marry Yahya Jammeh - then he raped me'

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