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Gambia’s president extends mandate of West African forces

Gambia’s President Adama Barrow on a meeting with regional leaders that backed his presidency has extended the mandate of West African troops deployed to stabilize mainland Africa’s smallest nation.

The mandate of the ECOMIG force has been extended for a year, according to a senior government official, following a deadly confrontation between supporters of ex-President Yahya Jammeh and security forces.

The country is struggling to rebuild its armed forces with those loyal to Jammeh still embedded within the military. Some Gambian soldiers are being accused of joining protesters on Friday and openly expressing disdain at the presence of the regional troops.

West African forces and supporters of the former president, Yahya Jammeh clashed on Friday leaving at least one person dead and several people injured.

Angry residents in Foni, where Jammeh still has backing demanded the withdrawal of the military force from their region and a return of Jammeh’s assets seized by the state.

The Gambia’s army, for the most part, has been blamed for the deployment of the troops. It has backed Jammeh for decades and committed human rights abuses.

Jammeh only fled the country after losing elections to real estate developer, Adama Barrow and refusing to cede power when his loyalist could not match the military superiority of West African forces that were poised to depose him and uphold the outcome of the elections.

Dozens of Gambian soldiers have been arrested and detained for human rights abuses and crimes against the state since Jammeh’s ouster.

Mass graves were discovered in March and police believe the victims were killed by members of the Gambian army, on orders from Jammeh, who had commissioned a special paramilitary hit squad targeting his perceived enemies.

Gambia’s new leader, President Adama Barrow is rolling out a reform program for the army and has resolved to banish those enlisted into the army without due process.

A vetting process with the help of West African troops and international partners is expected to be started in earnest and would see tens of Gambian soldiers, especially from the elite presidential guards unit expelled.

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