Two Gambian army generals who returned from accompanying exiled former president Yahya Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea last year have been acquitted and discharged by a military court.They were arrested and charged with desertion as serving members of the Gambian Armed Forces at the time they were leaving with Jammeh into exile shortly after a political impasse over the disputed outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Generals Ansumana Tamba and Umpa Mendy were not found guilty of deserting the army and were therefore freed after Monday’s ruling of their case at the Yundum Barracks which was crowded with people who had trooped there to witness the verdict.
Both generals who were close to former president Jammeh appeared triumphant while speaking to a gaggle of reporters shortly after walking out of the court martial in full military regalia.
While feeling vindicated, the pair said their patriotic fervor directed toward serving their country in the wake of the landmark verdict is far from diminished.
Mendy and Tamba were charged by the Gambian Armed Forces with illegally deserting the army shortly after returning to Banjul from Malabo where they had lived in exile with Jammeh for a year.
If they were found guilty, the duo could have been jailed for more than five years, military sources say.
Both generals have been under detention at a military barracks outside Banjul since their unexpected return to the country in January 2018, a year after accompanying their ousted boss who continues to live in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
The fallout from their apparent breach of security at Gambia’s only airport caused heightened public anxiety and triggered one of President Adama Barrow’s first sacking sprees targeting the intelligence community since assuming office in 2017.
An uneasy calm had prevailed among Gambians as widespread panic greeted news of their largely unexpected return aboard a Royal Air Maroc flight from Malabo, apparently slipping through airport security.
Intelligence sources at the time said both men were later trailed by operatives and subsequently arrested, questioned, detained and eventually charged with desertion.