A former Liberian military commander who fought for Charles Taylor and now being recruited by forces loyal to the Gambia’s defeated President Yahya Jammeh to join them said: “Jammeh is ready to fight to the teeth and spend money to stay in power.”
U.S. based BuzzFeed News reported that Gambia’s longtime president has begun recruiting mercenaries with ties to other West African regimes in the wake of his stunning election defeat and willing to hire as many as possible to stop an Ecowas military intervention to enforce the outcome of the polls.
The effort, according to BuzzFeed has been led by a former Liberian general and one-time Taylor loyalist who has recruited ex-fighters for other conflicts in West Africa and personally met with Jammeh in Gambia in mid-December
If true, Gambia risk being plunged into a devastating civil war with more than 15,000 former soldiers of West African dictators spread across the region, who may do anything to free themselves from poverty.
“They’re all very poor and living in refugee camps so many will take any chance to make some money with the skills they have, which is fighting,” the former commander said. “They don’t care what side of a fight they are on and will work with former enemies, nobody cares about this as long as they’re getting paid.
Gambia’s military is deeply divided with Jammeh getting most of his support from his elite presidential guard unit. An Ivorian Intelligence source that spoke to BuzzFeed said at least 300 – 400 former fighters have signed up for daily pays of US$100 – $300.
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has until January 18 to hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow, who is backed by seven opposition parties. A standby ECOWAS military force has been authorized by West African leaders to enforce the election results if Jammeh refuses to step down.
First Lady Zineb Jammeh is backing her husband and told reporters the first family will fight for its rights and ould not allow anyone to tell them what to do or what is good for them.
President Yahya Jammeh had been implicated in Sierra Leone’s blood diamond trade and his name came up numerously during Charles Taylor’s trial in The Hague.
(Reporting from BuzzFeed News; Writing by Sam Phatey; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)