Though media reports say there was a coup attempt in the Gambia earlier this week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh denied that there was any effort by the Gambian military to overthrow his regime, claiming instead that the attack on the presidential palace was initiated by dissidents based in the US, Germany and the UK.
“The Gambian armed forces are very loyal as far as we are concerned—there isn’t any single participation of the armed forces except nullifying the attack,” Jammeh, who was out of the country during the attack but has since returned, said in a television interview on Wednesday night. “So this cannot be called a military coup—this was an attack by a terrorist group backed by some powers that I would not name.”
Jammeh has been in power since 1994 and has frequently drawn the ire of the West during the past two decades because of his willingness to loudly stand up to Western powers. A prime example was his decision in 2013 to leave the 50-member Commonwealth of Nations, saying it will not be part of an “institution that represents an extension of colonialism.”
The Commonwealth, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is mostly made up of former territories of the British Empire.
Jammeh also announced in 2013 that he wanted to shift the country’s official language from English to a local language, saying, “We no longer subscribe to the belief that for you to be a government you should speak English language. We should speak our language.”
“The British did not care about education, that means they were not practicing good governance,” he added. “All they did was loot and loot and loot.”
There was heavy gunfire heard on Tuesday near the presidential palace in Banjul, but few details were emerging.
Jammeh said he would make “an example” of anyone who had been part of the attack. Sources told the BBC that Gambian forces have detained several relatives of alleged coup leader Lt. Col Lamin Sanneh, who is among five people said to have been killed during the attack. Sanneh, former head of the presidential guards, moved to the U.S. after disagreements with Jammeh.
According to a report on Gambian state TV, a large number of weapons was seized during Tuesday’s fighting.
Despite Jammeh’s accusations, the U.S. government, as expected, denied a role in the alleged coup attempt.
With a population of two million, The Gambia is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal.