Gambians celebrate US confiscation of ex-President Jammeh’s Potomac mansion

Photo Archive: Gambian Activists including those interview in story protesting at Jammeh Potomac Mansion

Following the landmark ruling by a US judge in Maryland District Court ordering for the confiscation of ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s multi-million-dollar Potomac mansion, Gambians mostly activists who were leading protests at the mansion, have welcome and celebrated the verdict, describing it as one step towards holding Jammeh and his close associates accountable.

In July, US Government filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Maryland seeking the forfeiture of the six-bedroom, nine-bathroom home at Bentcross Drive, Potomac, Maryland costing more than $3.5M

In the landmark default judgment, made available to The Alkamba Times, Deborah K. Chasanow, United States District Judge, ruled:

“The Court concludes that it should grant the United States’ motion and enter final judgment. Accordingly, it is hereby ordered, adjudicated and decreed that: This Court has jurisdiction over the Defendant Property in this action; The United States’ Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and Final Order of Forfeiture is granted….”

Coach Pa Samba Jow is a prominent Gambian political activist based around Washington DC area and led many protests against Jammeh’s acquisition of the multi-million-dollar residence.

He told Alkamba Times: “This is a great day for justice and the global fight against corruption. It is quite unconscionable for anyone, especially Jammeh who is a purported pan-African and fighter of corruption, to pillage $3.5 million to buy such a luxurious house.”

This decision, Mr. Jow continued, has reinforced “how small a place the world has become. I hope current and future leaders will take heed and understand that the culture of impunity is a thing of the past.”

Jow believes Jammeh will also have his day in court.

“The next step is to ensure Jammeh’s prosecution for the many vicious human rights violations against Gambians and non-Gambians. The current president and his NPP should be ashamed of themselves for associating with a man who has done such irreparable damage to our country and people. Jammeh cannot be shielded from the long arm of justice. No coalition can save him from accountability. Like Dr [Martin] King said ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.”

Also reacting to the news, the former Barrow minister of information and veteran journalist, Demba Ali Jawo, told The Alkamba Times: “I welcome the forfeiture of former president Jammeh’s $3.5 million mansion in the Washington neighborhood of Potomac, but I think this is just half of the story. According to the court ruling, the mansion should be forfeited to the US government, which I have a problem with. It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that President Jammeh looted the Gambia’s resources in order to acquire that property and as such, I feel it should have instead been given back to the Gambian people rather than forfeited to the US government. According to the U. S. State Department during the court proceedings, ‘Yahya Jammeh corruptly obtained millions of dollars through the embezzlement of public funds and the solicitation of bribes’ from businesses seeking to obtain monopoly rights over petroleum, telecommunications and other sectors of the Gambian economy. Therefore, I would expect the government of The Gambia to lodge a claim with the US government for the property to be given to Gambian people as it was bought from their own money.”

Sohna Sallah, another activist who staged several protests at the luxurious mansion, said the verdict is a great victory for the people of The Gambia.

“I welcome the judge’s decision and I am happy with the outcome of the case. I have been following the case since it was brought to the court in Maryland in the summer of 2020 and despite Jammeh and government of Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to try and shield him and his wife from being served documents relating to this case. I am very pleased with the outcome. I hope Gambia government will take charge and take ownership of the property on behalf of the Gambian people.”

She said the verdict has set a precedent for The Gambia, hoping “this will serve as an example for present and future leaders that the money that has been entrusted to them as leaders of our country by Gambian people is not for them and is not for their personal use. Rather, entrusted to them for the welfare of the Gambian people.”

Bala Musa Ceesay lives in Maryland and he had also joined protesters at Jammeh’s plush Potomac mansion.

He said their fight for accountability finally bears fruits with the verdict ordering the confiscation of the property.

“It’s a great victory for us,” he told The Alkamba Times from his base in Maryland.

Jeffrey Smith, founding director of Vanguard Africa, who was involved with Gambian activists in the fight against Jammeh dictatorship, also added his voice to the celebrations following the verdict.

He said: “This court Judgement is a huge victory for accountability, and above all, a testament to the persistence and hard work of Gambian activists. Corrupt dictators like Yahya Jammeh should not be allowed to stash their stolen loot abroad, nor able to purchase U.S. properties with blood money. It’s unacceptable.

It seems a lifetime ago that we started reaching out to, and meeting with, officials at the U.S. Justice Department to put this issue on their radar to demand action. That these efforts over the years ultimately came to fruition is both rewarding and will provide some motivation to keep moving forward, despite the long shot odds.

The many Gambian activists involved in this process should be immensely proud.”

The Gambia Government hasn’t however made any public statements regarding the verdict.

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Sainey M.K. Marenah
Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.


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