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Hungry young lions?

Initial African reaction to the coup in The Gambia was surprisingly sympathetic. Many saw it as a necessary intervention by a young and idealistic group of soldiers. But, as Anver Versi points out, recent pronouncements by the regime are disturbing signs that an autocracy AUTOCRACY. The name of a government where the monarch is unlimited by law. Such is the power of the emperor of Russia, who, following the example of his predecessors, calls himself the autocrat of all the Russias.  is being set in place.

IT now appears that the July 22 coup in The Gambia, which at first sight appeared spontaneous (See AB September 1994), was in fact premeditated pre·med·i·tat·ed  
Characterized by deliberate purpose, previous consideration, and some degree of planning: a premeditated crime.
. The tiny west African West Africa

A region of western Africa between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea. It was largely controlled by colonial powers until the 20th century.

West African adj. & n.
 country's new, and astonishingly a·ston·ish  
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise.
 young rulers have been gradually opening up to the media and displaying an equally surprising articulateness.

The Chairman of the Ruling Council, Lt Yaya Jammeh however, was still insisting that the plan to oust Sir Jawda Jawara who had ruled The Gambia for 29 years, had been hatched over 24 hours.

"When we returned from the airport where we had gone to welcome the President from his annual leave, we were humiliated hu·mil·i·ate  
tr.v. hu·mil·i·at·ed, hu·mil·i·at·ing, hu·mil·i·ates
To lower the pride, dignity, or self-respect of. See Synonyms at degrade.
 publicly. We were accused of plotting to overthrow the government and our weapons were seized. That was the last straw last straw
The last of a series of annoyances or disappointments that leads one to a final loss of patience, temper, trust, or hope.

," he said.

Evidence however suggests that the coup had been planned beforehand but that the young soldiers had waited for the former leader to return before springing. Sir Jawara returned from an extended European trip on the evening of Thursday, July 21. Early on Friday morning, the airport, the radio station and the main roads leading into the capital Banjul were already under army control.

Army units under four lieutenants (who later announced themselves leaders of the new Ruling Council) marched from the barracks bar·rack 1  
tr.v. bar·racked, bar·rack·ing, bar·racks
To house (soldiers, for example) in quarters.

1. A building or group of buildings used to house military personnel.
 towards the State House in Banjul. They encountered some resistance from commando units loyal to the former President but there were no reports of any casualties.

Later that same morning, Sir Jawara and his family, the former Vice-President, Mr Saihou Sabally, the former Finance Minister, Bakary Dabo and the Inspector-General of Police sought refuge aboard a US warship warship, any ship built or armed for naval combat. The forerunners of the modern warship were the men-of-war of the 18th and early 19th cent., such as the ship of the line, frigate, corvette, sloop of war (see sloop), brig, and cutter. , the USS USS
1. United States Senate

2. United States ship

USS abbr (= United States Ship) → Namensteil von Schiffen der Kriegsmarine
 La Moure County before seeking asylum in Senegal. Mr Bakary Dabo was later invited to return and resume his position as Finance Minister in the new cabinet.

The new regime went to great lengths to explain that they had been forced to take action because of rampant corruption. "Although we hated coming to power, because we were not elected" said Lt Jammeh, "we had to make sure that the people had their choice".

He assured all the former politicians that they were free to return to The Gambia and live like ordinary citizens. "We are not here to kill anybody" he said, "and let nobody fear, we are not going to set up any military tribunal A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil matters. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors. It is distinct from the court martial. ".

Elaborating further during a press conference, he added "We are not here to enrich ourselves and to live flamboyant lifestyles. We assure the public that we will not breathe down anybody's necks. We are here to accept ideas and criticism".

Initial reactions to the coup were mixed. Senegal, Sierra Leone Sierra Leone (sēĕr`ə lēō`nē, lēōn`; sēr`ə lēōn), officially Republic of Sierra Leone, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,018,000), 27,699 sq mi (71,740 sq km), W Africa. , Nigeria and Ghana sent messages of goodwill to the new regime and even the former Leader of the Opposition in the Gambian Parliament, Mr Sheriff Dibba gave unqualified support to the junta: "I do not support military regimes in principle but in this case, the military had no choice", he said.

But Chief Emeka Anyaouku, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was less convinced. "The military coup in The Gambia" he said in a statement, "flies in the face of the Commonwealth's fundamental commitment to democracy, the rule of law and constitutionality.

"The developments in The Gambia will therefore not only be condemned but also viewed throughout the Commonwealth as a reversal by the military in that country of the progress which the association has been supporting in its member countries".

War against immorality

Hardly two days had passed after the formal swearing in ceremony when two military officers who had been given cabinet portfolios were arrested and detained because "they had given information to the former President and had also supplied uniforms to renegade ex-soldiers turned looters".

Soon after, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) gained control of Gambia in July 1994, in a military coup d'état. The AFPRC deposed the Dawda Jawara government and banned opposition political activity. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J.  (AFPRC) announced that it was waging war against immorality and warned prostitutes, both male and female, to stop plying their trade in the tourist sector or face severe penalties.

Tourism is the mainstay of The Gambian economy. The industry offers cheap package holidays to Europeans some of whom take advantage of the liberal attitudes in the country to indulge in sex romps with the locals. Reports suggest that Scandinavian women in particular are attracted by the ready availability of male prostitutes. The loose moral tone around tourist resorts, coupled with the glaring disparity between plush tourist areas and the general squalor of local habitation HABITATION, civil law. It was the right of a person to live in the house of another without prejudice to the property.
     2. It differed from a usufruct in this, that the usufructuary might have applied the house to any purpose, as, a store or manufactory; whereas
 has enraged en·rage  
tr.v. en·raged, en·rag·ing, en·rag·es
To put into a rage; infuriate.

[Middle English *enragen, from Old French enrager : en-, causative pref.
 large sections of the population for a long time. Some 85% of the country's population are Muslims and they have often protested against what they term the general "prostitution" of the country to Western tourists.

Thus, while the AFPRC's statement alarmed the already panicky tourism industry, it drew considerable support from the largely poor populace.

However, over the past few weeks, the attitude of the military regime seems to have hardened. Two stringent new decrees have been causing widespread consternation and some fear.

Decree No 3: State Security (Detention of Armed and police Personnel) gives the Vice-Chairman, Lt S.B. Sabally sweeping powers to arrest and detain any member of the forces "in the interest of the security of The Gambia". No court would be allowed to hear any evidence nor would the accused be allowed any representation.

Decree No 4: Political Activities (Suspension) bans all political activity. "No person shall engage in any political propaganda by means of a newspaper, publication or in any other media form for spreading the ideas or ideology of any political party".

Start of autocracy?

This decree effectively bans not only political parties, it gags the press. So much for the regime's earlier promise to listen to public criticism. There is no doubt that the People's Progressive Party There are several parties named People's Progressive Party:
  • People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
  • People's Progressive Party (Guyana)
  • People's Progressive Party (Liberia)
  • People's Progressive Party (Malaysia)
  • People's Progress Party (Papua New Guinea)
 which, under Sir Dawda Jawara Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (born May 16, 1924) was the first leader of The Gambia, serving first as Prime Minister (1962-1970) and then as President (1970 - 1994).

Initially trained as a veterinary surgeon at the Glasgow veterinary school, he served as prime minister from 1962
 ruled The Gambia uninterrupted for almost 30 years had become complacent and vastly corrupt. There has been little real effort to improve the lot of the majority and, apart from the tourist zones, the infrastructure has been left to decay. A well-heeled elite has dominated the political field, both on the left and right and the majority has had no real participation in the democratic process.

Under these circumstances, the coup at first seemed the only method of breaking the cycle and reallocating resources to where they would be most beneficial to the majority. But the recent pronouncements of the military regime indicate that their main preoccupation, at least at present, is to entrench en·trench   also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.

 themselves in power. Initial good intentions, as we have seen in the case of Liberia, Sierra Leone and other countries, can very quickly turn into tyrannical dictatorships.
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Title Annotation:coup in Gambia
Author:Versi, Anver
Publication:African Business
Date:Oct 1, 1994
Previous Article:Broken road to peace.
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