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Gambia Opposition Rejects Jammeh's Graft Fight

By Peter Clottey
13 October 2009

Gambia's opposition has dismissed President Yahya Jammeh's sacking of the head of the army on suspicion of graft as a propaganda move.

General Lang Tombong Tamba was arrested shortly after being fired as the head of the army for allegedly failing to account for funds earmarked for military projects.

General Tombong is expected to be charged within the next few days.

In a televised speech, President Jammeh vowed to weed out what he described as endemic corruption in the army.

But the opposition rejected Jammeh's statement as a calculated ploy to confuse ordinary voters ahead of the next presidential election.

Publisher Halifa Sallah of Gambia's independent Foroyaa newspaper said that Gambians seem not to comprehend President Jammeh's plans.

"What is apparent is that the president himself has been going about to defend institutions, ensuring that the Gambian people will see that he is ready to work. But there are many people in his cabinet and other institutions who are not ready to serve," Sallah said.

He said President Jammeh has failed to keep his promises to Gambians.

"As far as I am concerned, what is important is to see that after 15 years, the government has not been able to achieve the fundamental aspirations of the Gambian people," he said.

Sallah said the alleged arrest of the army chief has not been confirmed despite government claims to the contrary.

"We are not very much aware of the arrest per se. Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba has been involved in sports and apparently has been out of the country. What is very clear is that he has been dismissed. Whether there has been any arrest is yet to be confirmed," Sallah said.

He said President Jammeh dismissed the army chief among others after a recent visit to the barracks.

"It became very apparent that on TV the president visited one of the headquarters of the armed forces and was very much dissatisfied … and what he indicated right there was that he provided resources for development to take place, but that development has not taken place to his satisfaction, and therefore those responsible for them had to be removed," he said.

Sallah said it is often tricky to understand President Jammeh's moves.

"I can emphasize to you that these things happen in such a haphazard manner that it is very difficult for many people to conceptualize reasons and grounds for certain developments," Sallah said.

The international community has often accused President Jammeh of treating his critics harshly, especially writers and reporters singled out by Banjul as "opposition journalists."

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