Gambia has said it will arrest its former leader Yahya Jammeh if he dares enter the country.
Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou told BBC that he would like to prosecute Jammeh himself over his “brutal” rule.
Jammeh has expressed a desire to return home and recently thousands of his supporters demonstrated on the outskirts of the capital Banjul, demanding his return from self-exile.
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The former dictator hinted in an audio conversation with some members of his party in 2018 of planning a comeback from exile, assuring that he was “working on something”.
In the audio Jammeh could be heard speaking interchangeably in Wolof, Mandinka and English telling his allies, Yankuba Colley and Fabakary Tombong Jatta that Gambians have regretted voting him out of office and they are being punished for it.
The protest calling for Jammeh’s return came days after another audio recording of him emerged in which he insisted that the Gambia guarantee his right to return.
For 22 years, Jammeh ruled The Gambia with an iron fist. In 2017 he fled the West African country after losing to a political novice, Adama Barrow.
“We need him 100 percent. We are ready to die for him,” Ismaila Colleyk, a 26-year-old protester, told AFP news agency, referring to Jammeh.
“Before Jammeh left here for exile, there was an agreement for him to come back into the country after three years.”
Meanwhile, victims of alleged human rights violations by Jammeh called a ban on his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction Party (APRC).
In response to the APRC, Gambia’s Justice Minister Tambadou said: “If former President Yahya Jammeh ever comes back to this country, he will face immediate arrest and charges of the most serious kind, and no amount of irresponsible idle talk or political brinksmanship will prevent this from happening.”
“He will be subjected to an accountability process like any ordinary accused person in this country,” said Tambadou.
Ousman Rambo Jatta, the interim leader of Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that Jammeh should be allowed to return and without facing prosecution.
After losing the 2016 election to Barrow, Jammeh reportedly signed an agreement brokered by the UN, regional body Ecowas and the African Union in 2017, in which he agreed to give up power and go into exile but he could return to The Gambia at any time he wished.
But the Gambian government does not recognize the agreement.