U.S. sanction of Jammeh,‘Victory for Gambia’

Friday, December 22, 2017

A leading, Washington-based international human rights campaigner has described as “a massive victory” for all Gambians the decision by the U.S. government to officially sanction Yahya Jammeh and Yankuba Badjie,

Reacting to the Trump Administration’s announced a global freeze order on assets of Yahya Jammeh, and a list of many other international investments related with the exiled dictator, Mr. Smith said it is “a further testament to the collective tenacity of their allies who’ve sought to hold the past regime accountable and help the country move on to a brighter, more prosperous and democratic future,”.

Smith, one of the key human rights campaigners who lobbied for this measure against Jammeh since 2014, said for too long, Jammeh and his “purveyors of terror” in Gambia received a free pass from the international community for their heinous crimes. 

In December 2014, Mr. Smith had activists Fatu Camara and Amadou Scattred Janneh met at the White House with Obama’s staff to raise this.

The sanctions order which came into effect yesterday, forms part of a new U.S. “executive order” seeking to implement Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

This Act provides for the U.S. Treasury to impose sanctions against “malign actors” worldwide, and targets human rights abusers and corrupt actors around the world.  It builds on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act passed by the US Congress last year.

“During his tenure, Jammeh used a number of corrupt schemes to plunder The Gambia’s state coffers or otherwise siphon off state funds for his personal gain,” a release from the U.S. Treasury said yesterday.

It added that ongoing investigations continue to “reveal Jammeh’s large-scale theft from state coffers prior to his departure”. 

President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order yesterday declaring a national emergency with respect to serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world and providing for the imposition of sanctions on actors engaged in these malign activities. 

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said the enforcement of the law means the United States is taking “a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally…”

U.S. says it will shut these bad actors out of its financial system: “Treasury is freezing their assets and publicly denouncing the egregious acts they’ve committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds,” Secretary Mnuchinsaid.

Yahya Jammeh

The release from the U.S. Treasury said Yahya Jammeh has a long history of engaging in serious human rights abuses and corruption.

“Jammeh created a terror and assassination squad called the ‘Junglers’ that answered directly to him. Jammeh used the Junglers to threaten, terrorise, interrogate, and kill individuals whom Jammeh assessed to be threats.” 

During Jammeh’s tenure, he ordered the Junglers to kill a local religious leader, journalists, members of the political opposition, and former members of the government, among others. 

Jammeh used the Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as a repressive tool of the regime – torturing political opponents and journalists. Throughout his presidency, Jammeh routinely ordered the abuse and murder of those he suspected of undermining his authority.

In a related action, U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Africada Airways, Kanilai Group International, KanilaiWorni Family Farms Ltd, Royal Africa Capital Holding Ltd, Africada Financial Service & Bureau de Change Ltd, Africada Micro-Finance Ltd, Africada Insurance Company, Kora Media Corporation Ltd, Atlantic Pelican Company Ltd, Palm Grove Africa Dev’t Corp. Ltd, Patriot Insurance Brokers Co. Ltd, and Royal Africa Securities Brokerage Co Ltd.

All of the listed assets within U.S. jurisdiction of the individuals and entities included in the Annex to the Order or designated by OFAC have been blocked. “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” the release added.

Yankuba Badjie

Yankuba Badjie former Director General of the NIA is also reported as one who “presided over abuses throughout his tenure.”

“During Badjie’s tenure as director general, abuses were prevalent and routine within the NIA, consisting of physical trauma and other mistreatment.”

In April 2016, Badjie oversaw the detention and murder of Solo Sandeng, a member of the political opposition.  In February 2017, Badjie was charged along with eight subordinates with Sandeng’s murder. 

Prior to becoming director general, Badjie served as the NIA deputy director general for Operations, and he once led a paramilitary group known as the Junglers to the NIA’s headquarters to beat a prisoner for approximately three hours, leaving the prisoner unconscious and with broken hands. 

The following day, Badjie and the Junglers returned to beat the prisoner again, leaving him on the verge of death.

There has been intense lobbying going on for the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to be expanded over the years… Sohna Sallah, chairperson of the Gambian Diaspora Civil Society group DUGA, said it is not a surprise for Jammeh to fall in the web of the U.S. Justice Department once it was expanded.

“Despite the fact that it is something we have expected, we are still thrilled that the voices of Gambians and the advocacy that have been going on for many, many, years has been heard, and the US Justice Department has acted,” Ms. Sallah said yesterday.

“We hope that this sanctions and assets freeze expand beyond the United States, to wherever Jammeh may have hid his ill-gotten wealth or has invested so that Gambia would be able to recoup those assets,” she added.

Author: Sanna Camara