The United States has reacted decisively to actions by two of our citizens accused of helping to finance and lead an unsuccessful coup attempt in Gambia.
Federal prosecutors have charged a Texas businessman and a former U.S. Army sergeant with conspiring with a group of Gambian dissidents to orchestrate a deadly takeover of the small West African nation last month. Cherno Njie and Papa Faal, both American citizens of Gambian descent, were charged with conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act, a 1935 law that prohibits Americans from fighting a nation at peace with the United States.
Njie allegedly provided funds to Faal and a group of Gambian dissidents to purchase arms for an attack in Gambia’s capital, Banjul. The aim was to topple long-time President Yahya Jammeh and replace him, at least on an interim basis, with Njie. The plot fell apart when State House guards overwhelmed the attackers, leaving many dead and wounded. Both men fled the country and were arrested upon returning to the U.S.
U.S. law enforcement action in this matter highlights the importance we place on preventing our citizens from taking part in violence of this nature overseas, and our commitment to addressing such issues through the criminal justice system.
In 1984, for example, Americans conspiring with a group of Haitian nationals were arrested after meeting with an illegal arms dealer seeking weapons to overthrow the Haitian government. In 2004, three Virginia men were found guilty of conspiring to aid the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba. And in 2006, an American was charged with working with a former military leader of the Hmong peoples in Laos of preparing to wage war against the government of Laos.
The United States reiterates our strong condemnation of any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means.
As the investigation of the plot continues in Gambia, we call on the Government of The Gambia to avoid arbitrary arrests based on a person’s perceived links to the alleged plotters, and respect human rights and the rule of law.