Gambian President Accused of Being Part of the Drug Trade

Western African has historically been thought of as a transit point for drugs, a place where South American drug come in and then make their way up to the lucrative drug markets of Europe. At least 27% of all cocaine heading to Europe goes through Western Africa so it’s quite a large percentage which goes through Western Africa. The reason why Western Africa has become such a lucrative spot for drug transit is because of the relative lawlessness of the area combined with corruption which goes right to the top.

One person who is thought of being involved in the drug trade (despite his tough rhetoric on drugs) is the Gambian president. He has been the leader of The Gambia since 1994 when he took power of the country through a military coup. Since then he has been accused of being part of the drug trade, corruption and the arms trade. The accusation that he is part of the drug trade would seem a bit bizarre considering he has publically maintained a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the drug trade.
On an international level he also tries to portray an image of being a heroic non-corrupt fighter against the drug trade. In one wikileaks cable when having a meeting with the US ambassador he told the ambassador about how he was offered $3 million a month to let drug smuggling planes land in The Gambia but turned them down. So publically and internationally he obviously tries to portray a very anti-drug image, privately though there is quite a lot of personal accounts which seem to accuse the president of being complicit in the drug trade.

One such person is Silaba Samateh who has accused the president of smuggling cocaine. Silaba Samateh has spoken on the freedom radio (A Gambian Radio Station based in the Netherlands) about the president being part of drug smuggling. As well as Silaba Samateh, there have been numerous reports in the newspaper of the president links to the drug trade and there have even been court cases where the president has been accused of being part of the drug trade.

In an article in the Freedom News Silaba Samateh talks about one incidence in particular where the president asked if he could use a house owned by Mr Darboe but rented out to Mr Garci for ‘undisclosed business activities’. Mr Garci said he did not own the house and said that he should talk to Mr Darboe about renting the house. Mr Garci was asked one morning to pack up and leave by one of the president’s men who put his guards outside the house where cocaine was incidentally found later. The people who got charged for it though were not the president or his men but it was Mr Garci and several other people.

This seems to highlight how easy it is to get away with things, it is quite easy for a scapegoat to be used when drugs are inadvertently found and it’s vital too if the president wishes to look tough on drugs. As Silaba Samateh says “All his so called zero tolerance for drugs is a mere propaganda to deceive Gambians and the Western world. This man is a drug dealer. There are so many cocaine sites in the Gambia. Bonto is not the only place where cocaine is hidden.”

Mr Samateh continued by saying that the president had a history of hanging around with the regional drug lords including General Bubu who is on the United States state Department watch list for conspiring with South American drug dealers to bring cocaine to the region. The Presidents links to General Bubu have not just been documented by Mr Samateh but by several sources including the former Financial Attaché at The Gambian Embassy in Guinea Bissau, Mr Gomez who said the president and General Bubu frequently had dinner together and were close friends.

Both there links to the drug trade were highlighted by Mr Gomez when he said that “Bubu fled from The Gambia shortly after the murder of Neino, and his army chief. He was trafficking drugs while in The Gambia. Both Bubu, and Jammeh are into drug trafficking”. This seems to indicate despite the presidents tough talk that he is in part implicated in the drug trade maybe his ‘zero tolerance’ is a selective law, aimed at those who are not his partners in crime.

The presidents salary is less than a million dalasis yearly so the money for his lavish lifestyle (including his new $2.1 million mansion) must be coming from somewhere be it drugs, arms or just plain old corruption.  The money he managed to buy 5 Amadus at $923,840 and an S600 Mercedes at $151.625 must be coming from somewhere and considering the amount of press accusing the president of having links to the drug trade there is a real chance that it could be from that.

The fact that the president can afford such a lavished lifestyle cannot be ignored and it does indicate that he is receiving income from another source. Be it drugs (as many accuse), corruption or other means the fact that he can afford so much seems to indicate something is afoot.