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Gambia: US Sanctions Ex-First Lady for Supporting Corruption

The US State Department has imposed economic sanctions against the former First Lady of The Gambia, Zineb Jammeh.

The sanctions are due to her support for her husband’s “corruption,” the State Department said in an announcement on Tuesday.

“Zineb Jammeh is believed to control many of the overseas assets of her husband, Yahya Jammeh, the notoriously corrupt former leader of The Gambia, who was sanctioned by the Department of the Treasury in 2017,” the statement read in part.

“Zineb Jammeh is designated for her role in materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing support to her husband,” it added.

She “utilized a charitable foundation and charities as cover to facilitate the illicit transfer of funds to her husband.”

The US Secretary of State said Zenib was being punished pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The act empowers the US government to punish foreign government officials involved in human rights abuses around the world.

“The United States uses economic sanctions to promote accountability for those who assist or facilitate the corruption carried out by those like Yahya Jammeh, who abuse their positions of power for their own personal gain,” Mike Pompeo said.

Yahya Jammeh’s reign in The Gambia

Yahya Jammeh took power through a coup in 1994, and held tight to the presidency for 22 years.

Many Gambians considered him a dictator who led the country with an iron fist. Jammeh’s over two-decade-long leadership was characterised by alleged corruption and human rights abuses.

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2013 (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images/Via CNN)

The corruption allegations against him were quite severe, as revealed in 2019, by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

“Yahya Jammeh orchestrated the embezzlement of nearly US$1 billion of public funds and illegal timber revenue during his 22-year rule,” the organisation stated.

Moreover, Jammeh’s human rights records were not clean as well. His security agents were accused of killing a journalist, Deyda Hydara in 2004, but Jammeh denied these allegations. “Other people have also died in this country. So why is Deyda Hydara so special?” he said to the BBC.

After Yahya Jammeh left office, three women accused him of raping them, while he was still president.

The former president is now on exile in Equatorial Guinea. The latest sanctions against his wife might just be an eye-opener for him. They could be seen as proof that his administration cost ordinary Gambians and the economy quite a lot.

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