Ivorian intelligence officials and West African security experts have confirmed the recruitment of rebels by Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh as a backdrop to stop the international community from enforcing the outcome of the polls he lost.
A senior Ivorian intelligence officer told Mitch Prothero, a Michael Hastings National Security Fellow and BuzzFeed News West Africa correspondent that there is a vast recruitment of ex-Ivorian militants and Liberian mercenaries underway, headed by former officers of Liberia’s jailed leader Charles Taylor.
The recruitments are taking place in southwestern Ivory Coast, around San Pedro, Grabo, Tai, and Toulepelu, according to the intelligence source.
Prothero reported that the towns mentioned are on or near a porous border with Liberia, where mercenaries frequently slipped in during Ivory Coast’s own 2012 civil conflict.
“There’s between 300 to 400 people who have signed up for a fee ranging between $100 to $300 a day,” added the intelligence officer, who said Ivorian officials were “working out how to stop them.”
Kone Kader, a former Ivorian militant said talks are rife in the ex-fighters circle of going to Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest nation, “even if they haven’t actually been solicited yet.”
“It’s an opportunity to fill up pockets — there’s not much to do around these days,” Kone said.
Managing director of Martello Risk, a political risk consultant group based in the UK, Alex Yearsley, said credible sources in the region have been informing them for a few weeks about the efforts by Jammeh to recruit former Liberian fighters loyal to Charles Taylor
“These battle-hardened mercenaries are actively recruiting,” said Yearsley, who previously worked as a human rights investigator for Global Witness and other clients specializing in African issues.
ECOWAS has authorized a standby force to be led by Senegal to flush Jammeh out of power if he refuses to step down when his term expires. Jammeh said it is a “declaration of war” and “would defend The Gambia.”
A senior member of the opposition coalition has warned last month that allowing Jammeh to leave The Gambia may help him fuel an insurgency and called for his prosecution for crimes against the state and rights abuses.
The coalition member and former UN official Fatoumata Tambajang Jallow cited “credible sources” that Jammeh was attempting to smuggle out of The Gambia heavy military weapons across the border into southern Senegal’s Casamance region.
One of the mercenaries to be recruited, a former Charles Taylor military commander said Mr. Jammeh is willing to spend as much to get as many recruits as possible and do anything to remain in power.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall warned there will be dramatic consequences for Jammeh and his allies if he resorts to a military showdown with ECOWAS troops to be led by Senegal.
It will not be the first time foreign troops intervened in The Gambia. For Senegal, it will be the second after it thwarted a rebellion and government take over by Marxist leader Kukoi Samba Sanyang and reinstalled Sir Dawda Jawara as president of The Gambia in the summer of 1981.