Banjul (Reuters) Tension enveloped the Gambia on Monday as the police arrested 51 supporters of former President Yahya Jammeh for allegedly harassing followers of the country’s new leader, Adama Barrow, casting doubts on suggestions that the newly elected president will not be vindictive.
Jammeh narrowly lost a December 1, 2016 presidential election to Barrow after 22 years of authoritarian rule. Jammeh initially refused to step down but fled to Equatorial Guinea last month as international military forces, led by Nigeria, descended on the capital Banjul to uphold the election result.
The 51 were arrested on Sunday in the western town of Kafenda, a Jammeh stronghold, for insulting people returning from Barrow’s inauguration celebration at the national stadium on Saturday, said police spokesman Foday Conta. Some threw stones, Conta added.
Twenty-six of the arrested were juveniles and were released on bail, while 25 were being detained pending an investigation, Conta said.
A spokesman for the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), Jammeh’s party when he was in power, said those arrested were APRC supporters and were wearing t-shirts bearing an image of Jammeh’s face.
“They were provoked by the supporters of the coalition (Barrow’s party) who … were calling Jammeh all sorts of names and saying he was a killer. Then a quarrel ensued,” said spokesman Seedy Njie.
Human rights groups accuse Jammeh of torturing and killing opponents during his time in power. Barrow has pledged to reverse many of Jammeh’s policies, including arbitrary detention.
Barrow vowed in his Saturday speech to enact sweeping reforms including bolstering a weakened economy.