Gambia’s Dictator Is Hiring Mercenaries After His Election Defeat

Gambia’s Dictator Is Hiring Mercenaries After His Election Defeat

“Jammeh is ready to fight to the teeth and spend money to stay in power,” said an ex-Liberian soldier who said he is being recruited by the strongman’s forces.

Mitch Prothero

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh Thierry Gouegnon / Reuters

DAKAR, Senegal — Gambia’s longtime president has begun recruiting mercenaries with ties to other West African regimes in the wake of his stunning election defeat, sources tell BuzzFeed News.

President Yahya Jammeh is ignoring regional pressure to step down and recruiting foreign fighters as he faces one of the biggest tests in his 22 years in power, according to an ex-soldier being recruited and a West African intelligence official.

Jammeh, an eccentric megalomaniac best known for claiming to have invented a homemade herbal cure for AIDS, made a dramatic U-turn a week after losing the Dec. 1 election. After initially conceding defeat, he pledged to stay in power until a recount in a bizarre televised address. His appeal of the election is due to be heard on Jan. 10 by the Supreme Court, which hasn’t heard a case in years.

“Jammeh is ready to fight to the teeth and spend money to stay in power,” said a former Liberian army commander who asked not to be identified for his safety. The commander — who fought for deposed Liberian dictator Charles Taylor before later working as a mercenary during decades-long conflicts in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast — described an effort across the Liberian diaspora in West Africa to recruit former soldiers and rebels.

The reasons Jammeh’s forces are recruiting mercenaries remain unclear in the authoritarian state, which briefly blocked the internet for its 1.9 million citizens after the vote and has since forced at least two private radio stations to shut down and arrested several outspoken opposition supporters. Jammeh could be amassing these ex-soldiers to help him resist calls to be taken to court for his alleged crimes and abuses in power. Or he could be plotting an attempt to remain in power by force.

“There’s about 20,000 decommissioned [Liberian] soldiers and rebels throughout Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast,” said the former commander. “They’re all very poor and living in refugee camps so many will take any chance to make some money with the skills they have, which is fighting.”

“They don’t care what side of a fight they are on and will work with former enemies, nobody cares about this as long as they’re getting paid,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

The effort has been led by a former Liberian general and one-time Taylor loyalist who has recruited ex-fighters for other conflicts in West Africa and personally met with Jammeh in Gambia in mid-December, according to the former commander, who was briefed on the meeting by the general.

In that meeting, the commander said, Jammeh offered to hire as many fighters as could be delivered from the Liberian diaspora as a backstop to any efforts by the international community to enforce the outcome of the election that deposed Jammeh.

“There’s a vast recruitment of ex-Ivorian militants and Liberian mercenaries underway, headed by former officers of Charles Taylor,” a senior intelligence officer in Ivory Coast told BuzzFeed News by phone. “These recruitments are taking place in southwestern Ivory Coast, around San Pedro, Grabo, Tai, and Toulepelu.” 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.”

Gambia’s Information Minister Sherrif Bojang did not respond to requests seeking comment by Thursday.

A man walks on a ripped poster from Jammeh’s campaign three days after the president lost the election. Seyllou / AFP / Getty Images

The recruitment drive could entice many ex-soldiers from West African conflicts, for whom Jammeh’s cash would be a windfall.

“There is talk in the ex-fighters circle of going to Gambia, 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,” said Kone Kader, a former Ivorian militant.

The recruiting activity has been brazen enough to come to the attention of West African experts and analysts outside the region.

“Credible sources in the region have been telling us for a few weeks now about the efforts by Jammeh to recruit former Liberian fighters loyal to Charles Taylor,” said Alex Yearsley, managing director of Martello Risk, a political risk consultant group based in the UK.

“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.

Meanwhile, Jammeh’s attempts to persuade Senegalese separatists in the Casamance region to join his cause have so far been rebuffed, a security source within the Gambian presidential palace told BuzzFeed News.

“They have refused to fight for Jammeh,” a top security source close to Jammeh said in mid-December.” The rebel fighters from Casamance made it clear they will not take up arms for Jammeh. The other mercenaries contacted in Bissau Guinea also said the same.

The recruitment of mercenaries is certain to fuel unease in the tiny West African country, where a transition is scheduled to take place on Jan. 19. Jammeh, who seized power in a coup, is only the second person to hold power since the country’s independence in 1965 and there is no political precedent for a peaceful transition of power.

Gambia has a standing military of roughly 1,000 troops, which Jammeh could easily confront with mercenaries, while his core of presidential guardsmen have superior arms and are handpicked for political and tribal loyalty. In addition, the head of the army, General Ousman Badjie, pledged his support to Jammeh within weeks of the disputed election.

Ecowas, a regional organization of 15 countries, has said it stands with President-elect Adama Barrow. After Jammeh continued to dig in following mediation efforts, the body said it would take “all necessary actions” to resolve the impasse. Senegal, which surrounds Gambia on all sides but an ocean border, has troops on “alert,” the commission’s chairman said.

Another scenario could see a repeat of a bizarre situation that ensued during regional neighbor Ivory Coast’s 2011 election. Then, the incumbent also tried to tinker with results after a shock defeat, eventually refusing to step down — leading to two presidents entrenched in separate parts of the capital for five months until the opposition candidate’s forces, backed by those from the UN and France, arrested the country’s president.

Jammeh’s decision to reject the results came after one opposition coalition member vowed to bring charges against him for alleged crimes against humanity during his 22-year reign.

“The diplomatic route is ongoing, and we must give it the space to operate in,” said Lamin Tunkara, an executive member of the coalition opposing Jammeh. “Certain pronouncements can only add fuel to the fire.”

  1. Anonymous

    This story is false . What is the name of the recruiter. You said Ousman badgie family were out of Gambia but that was also a lie and you claimed to know that through human intelligence. Too much of fake news . Buzz news are false .


    Bah do not waste your time they will ever remain in denial. He did not even read the story. Look at him bringing in Ousman Badjie thinking that this story was posted by Essa not knowing that our journal is run by a team. If i remember well it is essa who made a video about Badjie!

    Did he even read this part of the Buzz story? “Credible sources in the region have been telling us for a few weeks now about the efforts by Jammeh to recruit former Liberian fighters loyal to Charles Taylor,” said Alex Yearsley, managing director of Martello Risk, a political risk consultant group based in the UK.

  3. Mr Khan AKA Unbiase Prince GB

    @Bah and Ebou Colley,

    ‘Anonymous’ cannot be far off the fact that, this whole story is a fabricated one to burn Gambians spirits and desires to flush Yaya Jammeh out of their affaires in coming days.

    And because you guys did not do your homework before you could be heard sounding scared out of your wits hence your judgement of the whole thing was over shadowed by the careful penning of the article in question at unusual source, you become the laughing fools in your comments.

    Yes, Essa B Sey might have not gotten his deems on this post, but it suddenly left me wonder, for why didn’t Mr Baba Aidara checked the meaning and basic facts of the story before publishing it knowingly well that there are loopholes all over it?

    The reporter said;
    “Jammeh is ready to fight to the teeth and spend money to stay in power,” said a former Liberian army commander who asked not to be identified for his safety”. Is this capable of believing or does it have basic facts of capable convincing competent and an intelligent person to say the least?

    Anyway, Yaya Jammeh Hiring Mercenaries after losing the election to Mr Adam Barrow, so that they could do the bidding for him to clinch on power, is nothing of the extraordinary my fellows.
    But why getting them from afar and not within the grasp of his so call ‘control of Genies or Shytanic phantasms’ as that could have been beyond exceptional in such conduits, is the thing of needs checking with Yaya Jammeh’s mental status.


  4. anonymous

    hello to all

    Babili Mansa is the choice of the people not the fat belly and ugly wheelbarrow. if the diaspora gambians think they can manipulate the results by bribing the IEC Chief Robber by fixing results they are fools. we the people in The Gambia cannot be fooled by you. We know who is giving us progress and development. We will stand our hero Yahya Jammeh till the end. His love for Gambia cannot march you the hypocrits Diasporan Gambians who looted our monies and fled and now you want to come back by bribing the electoral chief robber to fix figures. Jammeh is not a fool neither a coward.

  5. Mr Khan AKA Unbiase Prince GB

    Mrs Babu Soli Jammeh AKA APRC1 She-Devil

    Time is at your obliviously of conquering incongruousness within waited for so for long while therein were the grave patients of many people. Yet none of practical stupidity here, and elsewhere that you keep polishing like new hence magnifying it like never before, yet at your own hideously, won’t distract its efficiency in shaping and putting the Gambian featurism at deservedly only.


  6. Sulayman Ceesay

    What is happening here on the ground in The Gambia is becoming increasingly clear. Yes indeed, the Sore Looser of the Presidential election is very jittery at the moment and does not trust the vast number of the soldiers in the army who have quietly expressed disquiet at his behaviour and vowed not to sacrifice their lives to defend the Sore Looser. As a consequence, he’s turning to regional foreign mercenaries with offers of money stolen from the public purse. This is credible and don’t mind the detractors. The game plan of the Sore Looser is this: he’s been assured by the APRC Chief Justice that the Supreme Court will rule in his favour by overturning the election results and declaring the Sore Looser as the winner, so forget the talk about having another “unlawful” Presidential election. On that basis he will arrange for his own swearing-in between 15 and 18 January and declare himself President and then use that self-anointed status to declare the Coalition leaders traitors when they attempt to swear Adama Barrow on 19 January and have them arrested on treason charges. But folks, no need to be overly concerned. We are also making our own plans as is ECOWAS. Before the Nigerian judges put the lives of Gambians on the bloodline, we will spill their blood first. Everybody knows the precedent in the Supreme Court which had in the past clearly held a petition bad and dismissed it on account of the fact that all the proper parties were not included in the petition. Furthermore, an election petition is required to be filed within 10 days of the election results being declared and any amendment to the petition must also be effected within the same period. There is no room for manoeuvre; the rule is fixed and is strict. That is our law according to legal experts! The APRC realized the fatal error they made in the first petition that was filed within time because that petition did not name the declared winner of the election – Adama Barrow. Now, well after the statutory period for the filing of a petition, the APRC files another petition on the advice of the APRC Chief Justice. That petition deserves to be thrown out from the onset of the sitting of the Supreme Court if the judges are true to their profession in applying Gambian law and relying on the precedent of the same Supreme Court. Here is the other laughable thing: the nominated Supreme Court judges are arriving in The Gambia this weekend to be sworn in by the same Sore Loser so they can sit and hear the Sore Loser’s petition! This is highly irregular and the Bar Association is right that the entire system will be tainted. Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done. No judge worth his or salt would accept to be placed in such an insidious position to the detriment of his or her professional reputation – that is if he or she has such reputation at all! Gambia, we are ready this time. We will not let this Sore Looser and his heartless so-called supporters steal away our power properly exercised in the December 1 election. If one cannot accept defeat, then the person has no business running for political office. The Sore Looser forced himself on us in 1994; we will not let history repeat itself on us this time.

  7. APRC-1

    You fools will have the shock of your lives come January 19th. There is no turning back unless you all run away like the cowards you are. We are very determined to defend our country and we are waiting to be tested by anyone or force that believe they have the power to test us. Talk as much as you like, we do not care. On the 19th is when we shall see who the cowards are.

  8. Sapper

    Copy and paste the following one by one and paste it on search on google maps and you will see why nobody has to visit places to target them only copy number sequence like 7C555XFX+57 and not name of places

    7C5576J2+83 sanyang
    7C55FC4G+G3. State house
    7C555XFX+57 KANILI
    7C556WW6+G8 Jetty for boat from Banjul

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