Gambia's exiled leader accused of emptying the country's banks

Yahya Jammeh is now in exile

Gambia's exiled leader accused of emptying the country's banks

Gambia's defeated leader Yahya Jammeh waves to supporters as he departs from Banjul Airport | Image: Jerome Delay AP/Press Association Images

Gambia's outgoing leader, Yahya Jammeh, has been accused of emptying the country's banks of 500m Gambian dalasis (€10.5m) in the last two weeks of his reign.

"The coffers are virtually empty," said Mai Ahmed Fatty, one of the coalition's key leaders and special adviser to the new President, Adama Barrow.

He said talks with the country's Central Bank staff had shown a huge gap in the nation's finances with evidence that Mr Jammeh had loaded his private jet with millions of Gambian dalasis on his way into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

"Within a period of two weeks alone, nearly 500m dalasis were withdrawn by the former President - that's a lot of money," he said.

Mr Fatty went on to urge the thousands of Gambians who fled to safety in neighbouring Senegal to return home.

But he insisted Mr Barrow was "not an ordinary Gambian any more" by way of explanation about why the newly inaugurated leader was still in the Senegalese capital Dakar under heavy security.

The new president wants to return to Gambia "very soon", Mr Fatty said, but would do so only once the security conditions are more stable.

Mr Fatty said Mr Barrow was still awaiting pledges of loyalty from the security services in the country and had urged ECOWAS troops now in the Gambian capital, Banjul, to remain for the foreseeable future to ensure stability.

ECOWAS is the West African economic regional bloc which has taken the lead in the Gambian crisis.

'Avoid non-essential travel'

When Mr Jammeh was finally flown out of the country late on Saturday night, soldiers and police were seen crying on the tarmac.

The leader who ruled Gambia for 22 years is believed to have surrounded himself with mercenaries and security service agents in his last few days.

Mr Jammeh had at first accepted the results of Gambia's December election but did an about-turn a few days later, refusing to go after claiming the electoral commission had mishandled the poll.

His decision to impose a state of emergency the day before he was due to cede power prompted travel agents to instigate an evacuation from the country of holidaymakers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is advising Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel.

There was much tension swirling around on Sunday after it emerged the former leader had agreed with ECOWAS and the African Union that his departure from Gambia was only temporary and he could return at "any time of his choosing".

The Barrow administration appeared to be furious at this "agreement" which they insist they were not party to and felt no duty to honour or respect.

Many Gambians want to see their former leader held to account for a string of human rights abuses he is accused of as well as systemic and prolonged pilfering from the national purse.