How Gambia’s ousted dictator, Jammeh, is living good life in a palace in Equatorial Guinea
Moka Valley is a choice piece of land has been set aside for Gambian ousted dictator, Yahaya Jammeh, to enjoy the wealth made while holding his country captive as a dictator for more than two decade.
He is on exile to Equatorial after ECOWAS intervention troops joined forces to see him unwillingly allowed his successor to be sworn in in Senegal.
An investigation by Foreign Policy suggests that former Gambian president , whose own record of corruption and abuse is being scrutinised by his successor’s administration, has been using Obiang’s personal sanctuary as a sanctuary from Gambian law.
After his brutal, 22-year reign came to a spectacular end in January, Jammeh was welcomed by Obiang, whose country is not a signatory to the statutes of the International Criminal Court.
Jammeh had lost an election in December, conceded defeat, but then refused to step down. He finally fled Gambia on his presidential jet on January 21 as troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) massed on the border, threatening to oust him by force.
Since then, little has been heard of the ex-Gambian dictator beyond claims from the country’s new government that he took $11 million (Dh40 million) from state coffers and a fleet of luxury cars as his parting shot.
His arrival in Equatorial Guinea was greeted by near-silence in his new homeland, save for a single protest banner reportedly unfurled in Malabo, the country’s island capital.
According to Alicante, land has been set aside for him in the Moka Valley, a picturesque tract of mountains and waterfalls which, like Mongomo, is away from Equatorial Guinea’s oppressive coastal humidity.
To date, Jammeh and Obiang have not been seen playing rounds of golf, but an unauthenticated photo that emerged this month shows the two admiring what appears to be Jammeh’s new farm. They previously had a cordial relationship, with Obiang making a state visit to Gambia in 2013. They have also been neighbours before, owning adjacent mansions in the wealthy suburb of Potomac, Maryland, according to The Washington Post.
An unverified photo shared widely on social media shows Jammeh and Obiang admiring what appears to be Jammeh’s new farm in Equatorial Guinea.
But they have more in common than expensive second homes. Both spent decades in office after seizing power in coups. Jammeh ruled for 22 years while Obiang, who has been in office since 1979, is now the world’s longest-serving president. And both have had coup attempts launched against them, which helps explain why Obiang is building Oyala, described by the diplomat in Malabo as “an entire new city carved out of nowhere.”
In February, the country’s entire administration officially relocated to Oyala from Malabo, despite the new city remaining unfinished. Like Naypyidaw in Myanmar, it’s designed to be an alternative capital for the regime to hole up in during an uprising from within or a coup attempt from without. As Obiang put it in a rare BBC interview in 2012, “We need a secure place for my government and for future governments.”
In a region where deposed dictators can quickly find themselves in search of retirement homes, Obiang seems to have recognised that his personalised capital can give him diplomatic power. “I think he saw that Jammeh was behaving outrageously badly and that there was a chance to help out,” said Simon Mann, a former mercenary who tried to overthrow Obiang in the infamous Wonga Coup of 2004, and whom Obiang later pardoned from a 34-year jail sentence in 2009.
Mann added that like his old friend and mentor, the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obiang’s fearsome reputation is partly the result of an act. In person, he said, Obiang is “pleasant” and has a philanthropic side.
But there are those who are determined to force Obiang to reverse his most recent act of Pan-African philanthropy.
Gambian lawyers and human rights activists have already launched a campaign to extradite Jammeh and force him to stand trial at an international court. Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, has been coy about whether Jammeh should be put on trial, wary of being seen as prejudging his predecessor’s guilt. But the new president has pledged to form a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate crimes during the Jammeh era, and his police force is reportedly looking into the cases of at least 30 people who disappeared or were killed under the previous government.
Last month, the head of Jammeh’s intelligence agency, Yankuba Badjie, also appeared in court along with nine other officers accused in last year’s slaying of Solo Sandeng, an opposition leader who died in government custody.
A fortnight after their court appearance, Sandeng’s body was found in an unmarked grave. Police had reportedly been informed of his whereabouts by one of the accused, the agency’s operations director, Saikou Omar Jeng. Gambian officials say now that Jammeh’s former henchmen are facing murder charges, they may directly point to him.
In Sandeng’s case at least, Jammeh can hardly claim ignorance. Last year, when both Amnesty International and the United Nations called for an investigation into Sandeng’s death, Jammeh famously told them to “go to hell.”
In words that may one day come back to haunt him, he said it was “common” for people to die in custody in Gambia.
But building a case against Jammeh is far from the only obstacle. Even if Barrow were to call for his extradition back to Gambia, Obiang is under no obligation to comply. The only thing that is likely to sway him, regional analysts say, is pressure from the regional bloc that ousted Jammeh.