The political party of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced on Sunday an alliance with the ruling party three months before the presidential election, casting doubt on the willingness to prosecute the former leader for alleged human rights violations.
The secretary general of Yahya Jammeh's APRC party, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, told a news conference in Banjul that his party had reached an agreement with President Adama Barrow's National Peoples Party (NPP) to support him in the December 4 presidential election.
He did not give more details on the terms of the agreement with the NPP.
"Our goal is that former President Jammeh returns to this country peacefully and with dignity," he said, suggesting that a return from exile of the former dictator in case of re-election of Mr. Barrow was one of the clauses of the agreement.
Human rights groups called the alliance a betrayal, according to local media, and questioned the government's willingness to prosecute Yahya Jammeh. A commission of inquiry into crimes committed during his presidency is due to report its findings to President Barrow in September.
Mr. Jammeh took power in 1994 in a bloodless military coup.
He ruled the small West African country with an iron fist until January 2017, when he fled to Equatorial Guinea after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow, a relative unknown at the time.
The government then established a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate crimes committed during Yahya Jammeh's 22-year rule.
The commission heard chilling testimony about state-sanctioned torture, death squads and the climate of terror that Mr. Jammeh maintained, including among those closest to him.
Its findings are eagerly awaited by NGOs, which hope that the commission will recommend prosecuting the 56-year-old former dictator.
Mr. Barrow had long indicated that he would wait for the commission's recommendations before possibly calling for legal action against his predecessor.
The TRRC's chief prosecutor, Essa Faal, announced his candidacy for the December 4 presidential election in late August.