A day after a failed coup against his government, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said Wednesday that those plotting against his government would never win. Jammeh’s remarks came amid mounting fears of reprisals by his regime, according to Agence France-Presse.
"Those who advocate and sponsor violence for regime change should know that they are not only acting in violation of the human rights and legitimate interest of those affected, but it is also against the will of the almighty Allah," Jammeh said during his New Year’s address. The leader returned to Gambia Wednesday after a trip to Dubai and immediately surveyed the damage done to the presidential palace, the target of the attempted coup.
Military officials in the tiny West African nation said a takeover plot was thwarted after a group of heavily armed men attacked the palace early Tuesday. Gambia’s capital, Banjul, remained under lockdown for much of the day, with many residents confined to their homes as loyalist troops patrolled the streets.
Three suspects were killed by Jammeh’s forces, including the alleged ringleader of the plot, Lamin Sanneh, an army deserter, AFP reported. A Gambian source told the news agency there are fears that the leader, who came to power in a 1994 coup, may launch a purge of army officers as the takeover attempt “exposed some flaws in the military system.”
The fear of reprisals was echoed by the United States, which urged calm on Tuesday. "We strongly condemn any attempt to seize power through extraconstitutional means, and we call for calm and for all parties to refrain from further violence," said a State Department spokesman, according to Reuters. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged restraint while calling for a transparent investigation of the attack.
Jammeh’s forces foiled a coup attempt in 2006. In the aftermath of that incident, human rights groups like Amnesty International voiced fears that the alleged plotters were executed without a trial. The 49-year-old leader’s iron rule has promoted internal political instability amid a frequent reshuffling of senior military and civilian officials, according to the Guardian.