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‘We were aware civil war could kick off at any point’ - charity founder tells of her experiences in The Gambia

PUBLISHED: 20:30 22 January 2017 | UPDATED: 20:30 22 January 2017

Janet Clark, left, and Jane Moore in The Gambia.

Janet Clark, left, and Jane Moore in The Gambia.

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A charity founder who has returned home from The Gambia has described her experiences during the country’s state of emergency and expressed her concerns for the children she went to help.

Gambia's president Yahya Jammeh shows his inked finger before voting in Banjul, Gambia. Gambia's ruler of more than 22 years now says he won't accept defeat in the presidential election, reversing course a week after he conceded defeat. In a speech on state television aired late Friday, Dec. 9, 2016,, President Yahya Jammeh said that investigations had revealed voting irregularities that he called unacceptable.  (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)Gambia's president Yahya Jammeh shows his inked finger before voting in Banjul, Gambia. Gambia's ruler of more than 22 years now says he won't accept defeat in the presidential election, reversing course a week after he conceded defeat. In a speech on state television aired late Friday, Dec. 9, 2016,, President Yahya Jammeh said that investigations had revealed voting irregularities that he called unacceptable. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Janet Clark, from Mattishall near Dereham, and co-worker Jane Moore, from Taverham near Norwich, landed at Gatwick Airport early on Saturday.

They flew to The Gambia on Monday but within 24 hours of arriving at Badala Park Hotel, near Banjul, they were told the Foreign Office had advised against all but essential travel to the west African country with president Yahya Jammeh refusing to stand down.

Mrs Clark, 73, who founded Gambian Aid Through Education (GATE) in 2005 with her husband Les, and visits The Gambia every year to provide equipment for schools, said: “It was a very scary situation. On many occasions we saw soldiers carrying guns and we saw some Nigerian army ships. They were coming to detain Jammeh.

“We went to the airport on Wednesday but couldn’t get a flight and had to go back to the hotel. We couldn’t get a flight until Friday.

“I didn’t, at any point, feel in direct danger but we were aware a civil war could kick off at any point and felt very vulnerable.”

Mrs Clark and Mrs Moore had planned to deliver clothes, including Dereham Town football strips, books and seeds to five schools in the Upper River Division in the east of The Gambia, as well as a laptop computer to one head teacher.

Mrs Clark said: “The schools were all closed so we’ve given everything to a Gambian lady who I’ve known for many year, to pass them on.”

She added: “When we returned to the hotel on Wednesday it was eerily quiet because everyone had left.

“The hotels and restaurants closed down; the people lost their jobs and many became homeless.

“The schools were all closed. It’s very sad.

“I can’t afford to go there again this year but will return next year and ship things over.

“God is telling me to help the Gambian people and I will continue to do so.”

To help Gambian Aid Through Education, visit www.helpthegambia.co.uk or call Mrs Clark on 01362 858221.

Within 24 hours of charity workers Janet Clark and Jane Moore arriving in The Gambia they were told the Foreign Office had advised against all but essential travel to The Gambia.

President Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency the day before he was due to hand over power to Adama Barrow, who won last month’s election, and refused to stand down. Mr Jammeh has now left The Gambia and travelled to exile in Equatorial Guinea.

He seized power in a coup in 1994. Mr Jammeh had ordered the execution of criminals and political opponents and warned in 2008 that gay people would be beheaded. Mr Jammeh claimed in 2007 he could cure Aids and infertility with herbal concoctions.

Mr Barrow wants to create a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during Mr Jammeh’s time in office


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