Gambia to sell off ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s assets to repay debts

The Gambia, like many other African countries, has a growing mountain of debt that has left little or no fiscal space to strengthen the economy. To reduce its pile of debt, the West African country has opted to sell several planes and a fleet of luxury cars bought by former authoritarian President, Yahya Jammeh.

The country, which is considered fragile, has a legacy of authoritarianism, weak public institutions, and political instability. During the administration of Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, Gambians struggled in poverty while Jammeh acquired vast wealth, much of which was gathered in forms of planes, fleet of vehicles and several Rolls-Royces with Jammeh’s name embroidered on their headrest.

Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh noted that most of the country’s debt was acquired during Jammeh’s regime, either through borrowing or the government’s taking the liabilities of state-owned enterprises. To reduce the debt incurred by Jammeh, the country has to sell the assets he left in the Tarmac when he fled the country to Equatorial Guinea. “The fleet of expensive vehicles at State House and the three planes bought by former president Yahya Jammeh have been put on sale,” Sanneh stated.

The country’s decision to take action on its debt crises comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on Wednesday, released a preliminary findings that Gambia’s debt stock had risen further to about 130 percent at end 2017, and that more than half is owed to external creditors.

President Adama Barrow said the government treasury was largely empty. The government stated that about $100 million dollars, more than a third of the government’s annual budget, had been siphoned from state firms.

In order to establish an inventory of Jammeh’s possessions, Barrow set up a commission that visited Jammeh’s properties with the aim of recovering looted assets. The commission discovered an estate with a mosque, a jungle warfare training camp and a vast private safari park. This does not include the properties and cash stashed outside the country.

Opposition from Jammeh’s political party and supporters have accused Barrow’s government of carrying out a witch hunt against the ex-president. Meanwhile, in October 2017, an international campaign was launched against Jammeh for his alleged injustice and crimes during his 22 year reign. This campaign prompted Barrow to set up the government committee that is to look into the former president’s financial deals.