Tuesday, 27 December 2022

Lust For Luxury: Yahya Jammeh’s Car Collection


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

''Western medicine says you can't cure asthma. I cure asthma in five minutes.'' (By Yahya Jammeh)
 
The Gambia's ousted President Yahya Jammeh had the curious distinction of having Africa's largest luxury car collection and the continent's largest VIP aircraft while being the head of the smallest country (within mainland Africa). He accomplished these feats as his country ranked as one of the poorest in the world, with half of its population living on less than $2 a day. [1] During his 22-year long tenture, Jammeh embezzled tens of million dollars from state enterprises and even used the State's Pension Fund to purchase one of his private jets. [2] From his entry into power after a coup d'etat in 1994 to his ousting in 2017, Jammeh spend much of his ill-gotten fortune on luxury cars, private jets and his palaces.
 
Born in the backwater village of Kanilai near the country's border with Senegal, Jammeh set out to transform the village into a showpiece of his rule and image, carrying out an extensive programme to expand the former village into his main base. This included the construction of a presidential palace, residences for his family and most ardent supporters, a luxury hotel, a mosque, a private zoo and for some reason a wrestling arena. [3] The large compound was heavily guarded by an army equipped with T-54 MBTs, BRDM-2 AFVs and 23mm ZU-23 AA guns. This private army also accompanied him on his infamous drives through the country in one of his seven Hummer H2 (SUT) limousines.
 
Rather than gracefully resigning after his defeat in 2017, Jammeh dragged on his refusal to recognise his opponent's election victory as long as possible in an effort to (succesfully) empty the state's treasury and fly out as many of his cars out of the country, before going into exile in Equatorial Guinea. In fact, a deal facilitating Jammeh's exit out of The Gambia was only struck after guarantees were made by the new President Adama Barrow that allowed Jammeh to keep thirteen of his favourite cars, which he could fly out to his home in exile in Equatorial Guinea! [4] The reason for Jammeh's electoral defeat was his conviction in securing an easy victory, and thus failing to properly cheat.

Whether Jammeh continues his practices as a supposed healer of patients with HIV/AIDS, asthma and infertility after his departure to Equatorial Guinea is unknown, and one of his few lasting legacies might actually be the paved roads he had constructed throughout The Gambia to ease his drives from one palace to another. When in 2017 authorities searched Jammeh's properties located throughout the country, they encountered a fleet of more than 100 vehicles owned by Jammeh either for his own personal use or for his security detail. [5] All of his vehicles were engraved with his name: His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa.
 

Thirteen of Jammeh's cars await their flight out to Equatorial Guinea after Jammeh's exile to the country.

The cars owned by Jammeh were predominantly sourced from the U.S., Germany and the United Kingdom. Jammeh apparently had a soft spot for Mercedes-Benz S-Class' and Rolls-Royce Phantoms, but there was no car type he liked as much as the Hummer H2 (SUT) Limousine. Over the course of several years, he purchased a total of seven Hummer H2 Limousines. Two of these took part in a convoy of over 100 cars during a visit of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2008, with Gaddafi ironically taking seat in the epitome of Americanism. [6] Jammeh also owned two Chinese Great Wall Hover Pi Limousines which he received after switching his country's political recognition from Taiwan to China.
 
Jammeh never purchased any true sport cars, as these are generally unsuitable for use in The Gambia. To make up for it, Jammeh did purchase a Su-25 attack aircraft from Georgia for use as a crowd pleaser during his parades (that is until he fired the pilot, after which the plane was abandoned). [7] Jammeh was well known known for his erratic behavior and decision-making. After losing the election to Barrow, Jammeh went as far as calling him live on State Television to congratulate him on his victory, declaring his election the ''Will of Allah''. [8] Just days later, Jammeh made another appearance on State TV, this time to announce the ''Total rejection of the electoral results and thereby annuling the election in its entirety''. [9]

As fate would have it, Jammeh agreed to a peaceful transfer of power, but only after emptying the State's Treasury and after reassurances that he could keep thirteen of his cars. Whether these were ever actually flown out remains unconfirmed, although a Chadian Government C-130H-30 is believed to have brought over at least three of them. [10] After Jammeh's departure, the new Gambian government offered 30 of his cars, and all of his aircraft for sale, hoping to raise at least $10 million. Selling even the most modern cars from such a desolate location is difficult (as proven by Papua New Guinea's bid to sell 40 Maseratis for a steal in 2018), and it is unknown if any were actually sold. [11]

Yahya Jammeh, the man who once said he could "rule for a billion years" and that he would never leave office unless ''Allah says so'' ultimately agreed to his expulsion in return for keeping thirteen of his beloved luxury cars. [10] [11] There can scarcely have been a more shameful end to a reign that was itself an unparalleled disgrace, and the one silver lining is that Jammeh's lust for luxury managed to spare the people of The Gambia a potential bloody civil war. Leaving the lunacy that marked his rule behind, hopefully they can now work towards a system where the prosperity of its population is valued over the excesses of its rulers.
 
The following list attempts to keep track of Yahya Jammeh's cars at the time of his ousting in 2017. This list only includes his personal cars, not those used by his large security detail following his every move (or drive). When including these as well, the number of luxury cars used by him and his entourage easily numbers above 150.
 
(Click on the vehicle number to get a picture of Jammeh's cars)
 

Cars (At least 44)


Motorcycles (3)

  • 1 Harley-Davidson MT500: (1)
  • Missing flag.png 2 Unknown Motorcycles: (1 and 2) 

 

Aircraft (8)

 

Yahya Jammeh steps out one of his Rolls-Royce Phantom Saloons for the final time as he departs The Gambia for Equatorial Guinea, where he still resides today.

[1] COVID-19 Elevated Poverty in The Gambia https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/11/09/covid-19-elevated-poverty-in-the-gambia
[2] New claims over scale of ex-Gambian leader's theft from state coffers https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/23/the-gambia-debt-theft-mismanagement-jammeh-allegations 
[3] Gambia searches Jammeh's palaces for missing millions https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gambia-politics-assets-idUSKBN19Y274
[6] Gaddafi's Arrival in the Gambia https://youtu.be/fK52c4K-ekA?t=330
[7] African MiGs Volume 1: Angola to Ivory Coast https://www.harpia-publishing.com/galleries/AfrM1/index.html
[8]Yahya Jammeh rejects election outcome days after conceding to Adama Barrow  https://youtu.be/EZXpiTGCw1M?t=43
[9] Yahya Jammeh rejects election outcome days after conceding to Adama Barrow https://youtu.be/EZXpiTGCw1M?t=17
[10] Gambia Got Robbed: Jammeh’s Cars Being Loaded Into An Awaiting Cargo Plane - Photos https://www.gistmania.com/talk/topic,323209.0.html
[11] PNG admits Maserati purchase was ‘terrible mistake’ as they go on sale at discounted price https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/01/png-admits-maserati-purchase-was-terrible-mistake-as-they-go-on-sale-at-discounted-price  
[12] Gambia's Jammeh loses to Adama Barrow in shock election result https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38183906
[13] Gambia's Yahya Jammeh won't step down https://youtu.be/oVt5HkNCal8
 
Recommended Articles: