Soldiers take over in Gambia: 2,000 UK tourists trapped

GAMBIAN soldiers who rampaged through the capital, Banjul, on Friday in protest against unpaid wages, have declared a military coup. State radio yesterday said that President Sir Dawda Jawara had fled the country, but he was later reported to be aboard a US warship anchored off Banjul.

With its glorious Atlantic coast beaches, Gambia is a popular destination for British tourists. The Foreign Office estimated there were 2,000 British residents and tourists there; they appeared to be in no danger, it said, but were advised to stay in their homes or hotels.

'This country is being taken over by the Gambian armed forces. The previous political regime has been completely toppled,' a man identifying himself as Lieutenant Yaya Jameh said in a broadcast monitored in neighbouring Senegal. 'The former head of state, Sir Dawda Jawara, has fled the nation. Some former government ministers have been captured and are in safe hands.'

The US State Department said that Sir Dawda, head of state since independence from Britain in 1965, had taken refuge on the Lamoure County, which was off the coast in preparation for manoeuvres with the Gambian navy. In a radio interview from the ship, Sir Dawda Jawara said he hoped to regain power. 'It looks like a coup, but since (the mutineers) have asked to enter into a dialogue one could not say that everything is finalised now,' he said.

Lieutenant Jameh said his men had arrested Vice-President Saihou Sabally and established a provisional ruling council, consisting of himself and three other lieutenants - Sadibu Hydara, F D Sabali and I Signateh. The takeover appears to have begun on Friday when troops rebelled in support of demands for back pay that they had been owed for peace- keeping duties in Liberia. In Washington, the State Department deputy spokeswoman said: 'We have heard reports that the army and the police have not been paid in approximately three months.'

By the end of Friday troops had taken over the international airport, radio station and a power station. International telephone lines went dead and messages to Banjul's public telex office went unanswered. The airport and borders were reported closed yesterday.

Gambia is a tiny nation of a million people, bordered on three sides by Senegal and on the fourth by the Atlantic Ocean. Its 800-strong army was led by a Nigerian colonel under a 1992 agreement between the two former British colonies. There has been no word so far of Colonel Lawan Gwadabe, who took over the command in a routine rotation last month.

In 1982, Sir Dawda led his country into a Senegambia Confederation. The pact collapsed in 1989, mainly because of Gambia's reluctance to speed up trade and customs union, which would have put an end to the lucrative black market trade with Senegal. After that, Gambia increasingly turned to Nigeria for support, and signed a defence pact with it in 1992.

Yesterday the British government said it 'strongly deplored' the mutiny, and Emeka Anyaoku, the Nigerian Commonwealth Secretary-General, condemned the takeover, saying that, if confirmed, it would be 'a tragedy for the Gambia, which has a credible record in the field of human rights'.

The 70-year-old President Jawara saw himself as a staunch defender of Gambia's multi-

party democracy, though opposition groups claimed to have been shut out of power illegally. In 1991 he announced his retirement, but changed his mind to avoid weakening his People's Progressive Party (PPP), and was re-elected for a fifth term in April 1992.

He has survived several coup attempts during his three decades in power, the bloodiest in 1981 while he was in London for the wedding of the Prince of Wales. Gambia, which at the time had no army, called on neighbouring Senegal to put down the revolt, and President Jawara was returned to power after a week of fighting.

Sir Dawda lived for six years in Glasgow, graduating from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1954.

(Map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power