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Gambia's Attempted Coup Blamed on Lack of Security Reforms

FILE - Soldiers check a motorcyclist at the entrance of the State House compound in Banjul, Gambia, Jan. 24, 2017.
FILE - Soldiers check a motorcyclist at the entrance of the State House compound in Banjul, Gambia, Jan. 24, 2017.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have condemned an alleged coup attempt in Gambia. The Gambian government says it arrested four troops planning to overthrow President Adama Barrow. Political analysts say a lack of security reforms is to blame for this latest coup attempt in the small West African nation.

The Gambian government said in a statement on Wednesday based on intelligence reports that some soldiers in the army were plotting to overthrow the democratically elected government.

Gambian political analyst Sait Matty Jaw says people are worried about their economic situation but do not support military involvement in the country's political affairs.

"There are so many other issues people are worried about, but we also know that the majority of Gambians are anti-coup based on survey data. This has been part of the conversation," Jaw said. "It was shocking to hear it was being led by a land corporal. So today, there are people questioning whether this was even a plot."


Four soldiers have been arrested and the army is in pursuit of three alleged accomplices.

President Barrow was reelected in December 2021, securing a second five-year term.

Barrow first came to power in 2016 after defeating the country's authoritarian president Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years.

Coup attempts are common in the West African nation. Jammeh himself took power in a coup in 1994 and averted several attempts to overthrow him.

In 2017 eight soldiers who had a link to the former president tried to overthrow Barrow.

Jaw says lack of security reforms is to blame for Wednesday’s coup attempt.

"People are raising questions in terms of the speed of this reform and some of these things are part of what is increasing the insecurity and the need to speed this process," Jaw said. "The other issue raises questions about the broader transitional justice process because a lot of things need to be done."

West Africa has seen a rash of coups and coup attempts over the past two years. New governments seized power in Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, while Guinea-Bissau averted a coup attempt in February this year.

Ikemesit Effiong is a geopolitical analyst based in Nigeria. He says corruption, economic mismanagement and misuse of power on the continent are to blame for some countries' military attempts or takeovers.

"If you look at the age profile of a lot of coup plotters in places like Mali, Guinea Bissau, in Burkina Faso right across the region, they are relatively young people and for many of them, democracy has not delivered, they are channeling this popular frustration with a democratic ruling in the region into violence military takeovers," Effiong said.

Jaw says the government of Gambia needs to reform the country's political, economic and security structure to stop the military from taking power.

"One way of ensuring that things like this do not happen is to ensure that there are adequate reforms that will address the gaps, the lacuna, but also for the government to be more transparent with the population ensuring that the governance challenges in this country are addressed," Jaw said.

The Economic Community of West Africa States condemned the attempted military takeover of the government and praised the Gambian army for thwarting it.