Gambia: Former President Jammeh ‘emptied coffers’ before leaving 0

The Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who caused a political crisis in the African country before finally going into exile, has emptied the government’s treasury, plundering millions of dollars in his final weeks in power, says an aide to the country’s new president.

“Over two weeks, over 500 million dalasi (11 million dollars) were withdrawn” by Jammeh, Mai Fatty, an aide to President Adama Barrow, said in the Sengalese capital Dakar on Monday. “As we take over, the government of The Gambia is in financial distress… The coffers are largely empty,” he told reporters.

Long-time ruler Jammeh flew out of The Gambia on Saturday and headed for Equatorial Guinea, where he is expected to settle with his family. Before deciding to leave, he pushed the country to the brink of war by refusing to concede defeat in the presidential election held in December last year. The subsequent political crisis drew in mediators from regional countries, some of which were coping with crises of their own.

Those regional mediating countries also formed up a military force to force Jammeh out of power if he did not step down voluntarily. Jammeh clung to power even for some two days after his mandate expired despite the threat of the use of force but ultimately decided to go into exile. He had been in power since a coup in 1994.

A woman celebrates after hearing about the departure of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, in Banjul, January 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The West African military force entered The Gambia on Sunday to provide security and allow Barrow, who has been staying in neighboring Senegal, to return to The Gambia, whose own military had sided with Jammeh. Barrow is eager to return “as soon as possible,” said his aide, warning that “the state of security in The Gambia is still fragile.”

According to Fatty, President Barrow wants the deployed West African military force to remain in The Gambia for the time being. “We want their mandate to be extended,” Fatty said, explaining that Barrow was waiting for personal assurances of loyalty from national security forces.

He said that after the full transfer of power, the new administration’s first priority will be to ensure the safe return of tens of thousands of people who have fled the country in recent weeks fearing a violent escalation.