Defeated Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh drained state coffers before he fled the country, his successor President Adama Barrow said on Sunday.
Jammeh flew into exile late Saturday in Equatorial Guinea, which is not a state party to the International Criminal Court, ending weeks of tension in the Gambia.
It has now emerged that before he fled, Jammeh ‘stole’ the state’s funds totaling US$11.4 million (KSh1.2 billion), Barrow claimed on Senegalese radio, the Deutsche Welle reports.
“According to information we received, there is no money in the coffers. It’s what we have been told, but the day we actually take office we will clarify all of it,” Barrow told “RFM.”
A senior adviser of Barrow said Jammeh stole US$11.4 million (10.6 million euros) in his final weeks in power and flew luxury vehicles out by cargo plane.
“The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact,” Mai Ahmad Fatty told journalists in Senegal.
“It has been confirmed by technicians in the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia.”
Jammeh had refused to hand over power despite losing his mandate, prompting a six-week crisis during which Barrow took refuge in neighboring Senegal, fearing for his safety.
His exit brought to an end tension, which was rising by the day, as thousands of troops from Senegal and Nigeria who entered the tiny country on Thursday were poised to swoop on the capital Banjul.
It has also paved the way for the return home of Barrow, who was sworn in as leader at the Gambian embassy in Senegal last Thursday.
Jammeh took power in a coup in 1994, and his government is accused of torturing and killing perceived opponents. There were few celebrations in Banjul as news of his departure spread, but some people said they felt relief after years of fear.
“The rule of fear has been banished from Gambia for good,” Barrow told a crowd at a Dakar hotel on Friday, once it became clear a deal had been struck for Jammeh to relinquish power.
“To all of you forced by political circumstances to flee our country, you now have the liberty to return home,” said Barrow, 51, who worked as a property developer and led an opposition coalition few thought would win the December 1 vote.
Jammeh demanded amnesty, the right to go to and from Gambia and recognition for his political party as a price for leaving. But no deal on amnesty was finalized, according to Barrow.
Jammeh was accompanied onto the plane by Guinean President Alpha Conde, who mediated the terms of his exit with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and others. A separate plane would take out his family and aides, diplomats said.
Some Gambians said they had feared Jammeh might change his mind at the last moment. He conceded defeat to Barrow but backtracked a week later. Others said they were angry he was able to negotiate at all.