Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said he is eager to build relations with President Adama Barrow just a few months after a leaked intel report pointed to his country for hosting deserted soldiers.
Mr. Abdel Aziz and Guinea’s Lansana Conte opposed military intervention to oust Jammeh and were prominent in last-minute diplomatic efforts to have him hand over power to Barrow.
Jammeh had declined all enticements to depart peacefully until Gambia’s former Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Ousman Bargie refused to order his men to fight West African forces.
Abdel Aziz and Conte negotiated with the regional leaders, giving Jammeh two days beyond the expiration of his mandate to leave for Equatorial Guinea.
But this past summer, a leaked intelligence brief noted that Gambian soldiers loyal to former President Jammeh, who have deserted the army were camping in Mauritania, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau plotting an armed opposition to the Barrow regime.
Senegal’s Army Chief, Gen. Cheikh Gueye in July traveled to Mauritania in July. Mauritanian authorities denied the presence of Jammeh’s loyalists and so did Gambia’s army, which swept the report under the rug.
Gambia’s Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Masanneh Kinteh said fewer than 90 soldiers deserted the army. But Gambian authorities since July arrested nearly two dozen soldiers for plotting a revolt against Barrow.
Jammeh, Abdel Aziz, and Conte were close allies but Abdel Aziz attended President Barrow’s official swearing-in on the sidelines of the country’s 52 independence anniversary, a sign of rapidly changing foreign policy positions.
Mauritania’s Ambassador to The Gambia, Mr. El Hacen Mohamed Awan conveyed President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s eagerness to strengthen the relationship between the two countries to President Adama Barrow.
Mauritanians own a good chunk of Gambia’s small business sector. Their economic contributions are critical to both nations, but most especially to The Gambia.
Abdel Aziz and Barrow build strong ties could see Jammeh’s men in hiding in Mauritania scrambling for a safety net somewhere else but would be an important message that they would be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives.