Yahya Jammeh was both the most famous and notorious president in modern West African history, arguably. The myth, fame and notoriety that surround Jammeh's personality were not only because of his anti-Western rhetoric but because of his survival against numerous assassination attempts.
There were multiple attempted coups against him during his 22-year-old rule, some of which he blamed on the West and Gambian dissidents abroad.
The first coup against Jammeh was in November 1994, less than four months after he was sworn in as the country’s first military ruler. The alleged coupists including Lt. Basiru Barrow, Lt. Abdoulie Dot Faal and Sgt. Fafa Nyang were rounded up and later summarily executed.
In January 1995, his deputy, Lt Sanna Sabally and his interior minister, Lt Sadibou Hydara were arrested and dragged before a court-martial for alleged coup attempt. Hydara died in prison a few months later and Sanna was released in 2004 after more than 8 years at the Mile 2 central prisons.
More assassination and coup attempts against Jammeh followed.
In March 2006, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Col. Ndure Cham also tried to eliminate him but failed woefully. Cham told Jammeh: “…nothing remains permanent except Allah’s Supremacy and that your presidency will one day come to an end,” U.K-based Kairo News revealed.
It is still unclear what exactly happened, but media reports disclosed the colonel absconded to neighbouring Senegal. Some of his men were allegedly killed by soldiers loyal to the government.
Kairo Newsfurther revealed that in 2013, seven years after the attempted coup, Ndure Cham was arrested in his home village of Numu Kunda in the North Bank Region. He allegedly spent one week in solitary confinement before his extrajudicial killing.
The most talked-about failed coup was in 2014. It was planned in the USA and financed by a US-based Gambian multimillionaire, Cherno Momodou Njie.
Two teams of men, some of them former US soldiers, in full assault gear and body armour attacked the State House. Sources revealed their plans were leaked to Jammeh and his loyal soldiers responded with heavy gunfire, killing some of the plotters.
Four of them, who managed to return to the USA, were later convicted and sentenced by U.S federal courts for their roles in the coup.
According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger: “These men placed countless innocents in harm's way when they engaged in a brazen and fatally flawed attempt at regime change. They violated U.S. laws that exist to protect the foreign policy of our country and all Americans both at home and abroad."
Jammeh’s 22-year-old rule ended in 2017 after losing the presidential election against Adama Barrow, an accidental, independent coalition candidate.