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Equatorial Guinea says it will protect former Gambian leader

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The former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh is living in exile in Equatorial Guinea

The president of Equatorial Guinea has pledged to protect the former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, who is living in exile in the tiny central African country.

Jammeh left the Gambia with his family, trusted military officers and a fleet of luxury cars last year after a prolonged political crisis that followed his defeat in the presidential election.

A host of west African presidents including Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Guinea’s Alpha Condé and Liberia’s then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tried to negotiate his exit, and Teodoro Obiang, who has been president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, gave him refuge.

Jammeh has lived undisturbed in Equatorial Guinea for over a year. In the Gambia, he stands accused of a litany of human rights abuses during his 22-year rule including torture, killings, and forcing Gambians to take his herbal HIV “treatments”.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian last week Adama Barrow, the new president of the Gambia, said he was “more than willing” to open discussions about Jammeh’s extradition, “because as a country we believe in justice and rule of law”.

He was responding to a statement Obiang made that if asked for Jammeh’s extradition, he would consider it with his lawyers.

Obiang appears to have changed his mind, perhaps after learning of Barrow’s comments.

“I believe that the stance of protecting former heads of state is a correct one,” he said after meeting with Condé, who is also the African Union president. “I hail Alpha Condé who told me he will not accept any demand for Yahya Jammeh’s extradition. Even I will not accept it.

“We are in full agreement that Yahya Jammeh must be protected. He must be respected as a former African leader. Because this is a guarantee for other African leaders that they will not be harassed after they leave power,” he said.

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