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Gambia's President Barrow removes heads of army, prisons

BANJUL Gambian President Adama Barrow replaced the heads of the army and the prisons system, both considered pillars of his predecessor’s repressive government, officials said on Monday.

The moves were the latest in a series of personnel changes by Barrow, who is seeking to assert his control following the end of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule. Jammeh fled into exile last month after refusing to accept his election defeat.

Jammeh was himself an army officer, seizing power in a coup in 1994, and he leaned heavily on the military to bolster his grip on the country, which is a popular destination with European tourists.

General Ousman Badjie, the defence chief of staff, was removed along with 10 other senior officers, including the directors of operations and intelligence, army spokesman Lieutenant Kemo Kanuteh said.

Badjie’s loyalty appeared to vacillate between Jammeh and Barrow in the wake of the Dec. 1 election.

He finally publicly recognised Barrow as commander-in-chief last month as a regional intervention force closed in on the capital Banjul to remove Jammeh, stating he would welcome the force “with flowers and make them a cup of tea”.

Badjie will be replaced by Barrow’s military advisor Massaneh Kinteh, who was also a defence chief of staff under Jammeh.

About 20 army officers, including those suspected of involvement in a failed 2014 coup against Jammeh, were also reinstated, Kanuteh said.

The presidency said Barrow also removed David Colley, the director of the prison system, where human rights groups say Jammeh’s perceived opponents were tortured and in some cases died.

Another former prisons director was arrested last month. And Jammeh’s head of the National Intelligence Agency and other several others were charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader last week.

(Reporting by Pap Saine and Lamin Jahateh,; Writing by Joe Bavier, Editing by Angus MacSwan)