- Jammeh, who has been living in exile in Equatorial Guinea since his ouster in 2017, is wanted for human rights violations during his 22-year reign in Africa’s smallest nation.
Exiled former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s dream of a peaceful return home edged closer last week with the announcement of an unlikely coalition between his party and that of President Adama Barrow.
There has been an outpouring of anger in the country over the move, with human rights campaigners and other parties saying it amounts to betrayal of the victims of Mr Jammeh’s rule of more than 20 years.
Mr Jammeh, who has been living in exile in Equatorial Guinea since his ouster in 2017, is wanted for human rights violations during his 22-year reign in Africa’s smallest nation.
“We have formed an alliance of political parties with the National People’s Party (NPP),” Fabakary Tombong Jatta, APRC’s interim leader, told a meeting of the party’s supporters on Saturday.
“We are convinced that the two parties’ coming together is in the best interest of the Gambia and speedy reconciliation,” he added, noting that the deal was contained in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on September 2.
According to Mr Jatta, the agreement states that APRC will form part of the next government with Barrow’s NPP after the elections slated for December 4.
He also indicated a plan to facilitate the eventual return of their leader.
The announcement ended months of speculation about talks between the parties, ahead of the first election since the disputed poll that saw the end of Jammeh’s rule in 2016.
The coalition that masterminded Jammeh’s downfall has since disintegrated, leading Barrow to form the NPP after ditching his old one over his desire to stay on, against the spirit of an MoU that required him to step down after one term.
Jammeh, a former military head of State, first came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994. He went on to contest elections and won on four occasions.
After conceding defeat in the 2016 election, Jammeh backtracked, citing electoral irregularities.
Weeks later, he was forced to board a plane at the 11th hour of a deadline by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which had threatened military action.
He left the country as part of a deal brokered by the now deposed former Guinean President Alpha Conde.
Jammeh’s reign was marred by reported human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial killings.
The recently concluded hearings of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) unearthed many of those crimes.
Critics, including the political opposition and human rights groups, worry that the alliance between the APRC and the NPP will kill the spirit of the TRRC and deny victims their right to justice.
The Gambia Victims Center, an umbrella body collectively seeking justice for the victims of Jammeh’s rule, described the alliance as “utterly shocking and deplorable”.
“The Victim Center and the community of victims of the former regime of the APRC see the alliance as outrageous and unpatriotic, therefore we expect all Gambians, regardless of party affiliation, to express their disappointment,” the group said in a statement.
The development followed publication of the latest Afrobarometer survey which showed that the majority of Gambians wanted the former Gambian leader extradited to face charges for his alleged crimes.