Prior to the removal of Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jammeh from power, the former Gambian leader reportedly had over 110 properties, several luxurious cars and a well oiled oppressive regime. The dictator, who had ruled and looted The Gambia from 1996 until 2017, ran away to Equatorial Guinea where he has been offered refuge by President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Mbasogo has been in power since 1979.

The Gambia’s current president, Adama Barrow accused Jammeh of embezzling $100m during his 22 year rule. The Gambia is currently selling off Jammeh’s properties due to mounting debts. In May last year, the government seized $50m in assets, numerous properties and froze more than 80 bank accounts linked to Jammeh.

The Finance Minister of The Gambia, Amadou Sanneh said the fleet of vehicles at State House and the three planes bought by Jammeh have been put on sale and the process will be publicised.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) found out that The Gambia’s debt stock had risen to about 130 per cent at the end of 2017. Jammeh lost elections in 2016 and accepted defeat but later on changed his word, which led to an intervention by the regional body.

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Other African dictators that have looted

Few other African countries are plagued by dictators whose high levels of corruption have driven their countries to the ground. Jammeh isn’t the only African dictator to have looted the natural resources of his country and lost his wealth when he left power. Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada took over power in 1971 and ruled in 1979. A report by the new government that took over after Amin’s  concluded that “eight years of sustained mismanagement and gross maladministration of Uganda have ruined virtually every economic and social sector of the country.”

Nigeria’s former military leader Sani Abacha Photo: Premium times

Uganda at that time had $200,000 in its foreign reserves, and had a debt of $250 million. Amin went into exile in Saudi Arabia where he quietly disappeared out of the public’s eye. A study between 1970 and 1978 by the European Economic Community showed that the production of key export crops like coffee, tea, cotton and sugar fell by 51%. Mining activities went down by 82%, thus killing the Ugandan economy.

Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire looted his country to poverty and stashed huge sums of money in Switzerland worth $6.68 million. His properties worth millions were later auctioned off. Mobutu’s ill-gotten wealth was estimated to be $5 billion.  In a report by the Economist, “Between 1965 and 1987, GDP per head fell by 2.4%. In 1987 a zaire was worth about one US cent. By October 1993 there were 6.9m to the dollar.” When it came to Mobutu and money, “His bank account was indistinguishable from the national treasury.”

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The wealth looted could have been used to develop the health sector or infrastructure of the country. The DRC has a terrible railway system that has made movement round the country difficult. Till today, despite the huge amounts of money the Nigerian government has recovered from Switzerland from Sani Abacha’s loot, the money has not been injected into major sectors of the economy.