A Gambian military court on Monday sentenced seven soldiers to nine years in jail for plotting to overthrow President Adama Barrow, and handed a three-year prison term to another.
The sentences relate to events in 2017 after the ouster of strongman Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the tiny West African country with an iron fist for 22 years.
The court in Yundum, about 25km from the capital Banjul, acquitted four other soldiers arrested along with the eight who got jail terms.
Tribunal head Colonel Salifu Bojang said two of the 12 soldiers accused had accepted plotting “how to arrest cabinet ministers, the Chief of Defence Staff and battalion commanders of the Gambia Armed Forces.”
He said the soldiers had also created a WhatsApp group where they planned an attack on the West African Military Force (ECOMIG stationed in Gambia to help keep order.
Gambia has set up a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, modelled on South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to shed light on Jammeh’s brutal 22-year reign in the hope of providing justice and closure for victims.
It began its work last October, empowered with the right of investigation and recommendation for prosecution or reparations, but not to pass sentence.
Jammeh fended off several attempted coups during his long reign, including one in December 2014.
He is still a force to reckon with despite living in exile. Last week, he reacted to a recording put up on WhatsApp showing an incident in his native village of Kanilai on March 19 in which a local was injured by a Gambian soldier, saying the “problem will be dealt with”, without elaborating.
Jammeh is accused of spiriting away hundreds of millions of dollars while one estimate put it as high as one billion dollars.