General News of Monday, 26 January 2015
The Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President John Dramani Mahama, on Sunday stopped over in Banjul on a short solidarity visit following an attempted coup in the small West African country.
Accompanied by the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Toga Gayewea Mcintosh, President Mahama said his visit, though brief, was to show ECOWAS’ solidarity with President Yahya Jammeh and the people of The Gambia.
He told journalists that: “In the African tradition, if anything happens in your brother’s house you have to go and visit and make sure that things are okay, and that is why I came. You also know that our ECOWAS protocols do not support violent overthrow of governments, so we want to remind all member states of the protocols that ECOWAS has, that change of government must be through democratic means and as far as possible we should try and abide by that.”
President Mahama was received at the Banjul International Airport by The Gambian leader, government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, hundreds of Ghanaians living in The Gambia and Gambian nationals.
Mr. Mahama inspected a Guard of Honour mounted by The Gambian Armed Forces both on arrival and before his departure. The almost three-hour stopover, according to Gambian officials, was a major step by President Mahama and ECOWAS to demonstrate its support and cooperation with member states.
Two men were recently charged in the US with attempting to overthrow Jammeh, the US justice department has said.
The defendants, who are of Gambian origin, are accused of conspiring against a friendly nation and conspiring to possess firearms.
Gambian authorities said they thwarted the coup attempt on 30 December, 2014.
Mr Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African nation in 1994 and has been accused of authoritarianism.
He was abroad when gunfire broke out near the presidential palace in the capital, Banjul, on 30 December, the BBC reported.
The president later returned home and accused dissidents based in the US, UK and Germany of being behind the attack.
Between 10 and 12 people had entered The Gambia to overthrow Mr Jammeh, “with the expectation that others in the country would join and assist them”, the US justice department said in a statement.
They included US citizen Cherno Njie, 57, and US-Gambian dual national Papa Faal, 46, it said.
“These defendants stand accused of conspiring to carry out the violent overthrow of a foreign government, in violation of US law,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
“The United States is committed to holding them fully responsible for their actions.”