Profile of the Out Going First Lady Zineb Zuma Jammeh

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Zineb Zuma-Jammeh married Dictator Yaya Jammeh 18year ago in 1999, since then Zineb has slowly not only isolated Yaya Jammeh from his immediate family and friends but also encouraged Jammeh to loot the meager resources of the Gambia to sustain her taste for a luxurious and privileged lifestyle. Nicknamed the “Simone Bagbo of Gambia”, Zineb Zuma has been instrumental in aiding and abetting not just Jammeh’s economic crimes against the state but also turning a complete blind eye to human rights violations committed by her husband despite numerous calls for her to intervene. Zineb Zuma a Guinean belly dancer, was literally picked up from the streets of Libya and introduced to Yaya Jammeh by his then good friend Baba Jobe, who Jammeh later murdered. Many believe that Baba Jobe had an affair with Zineb in Libya and While Jammeh’s wife at the time Tuti Faal travelled, the late Baba Jobe introduced Zineb to Jammeh for the sole purpose of Zineb entertaining Jammeh. To Jobe’s surprise Yaya fell in love with Zineb and divorced the then first First lady Tuti Faal Jammeh to marry Zineb after the then former first lady found out that Zineb was in her marital bed while she was away on a pilgrimage to Mecca with Yaya Jammeh’s mother Asombi Bojang. First Lady Zineb is born to a Guinean dad and Morrocan mother and thus was not entitled to a Morrocan passport, this changed when she married Jammeh in 1999 when she pressured Jammeh to lobby the Morrocan royal family to make an exception in her case and grant her a Morrocan passport, which at the time was her first goal.

Zineb Zuma Jammeh went on to have two children with Yaya Jammeh (Mariam “mimi” and Muhammed Jammeh), both born in the USA despite Jammeh’s claims of being a Pan-Africanist and building state of the art hospitals in Gambia. Zineb realising that the hospitals are not just lacking in maintenance and doctors but have no equipments or medication and thus choose not to give birth in them. Many thought Zineb would work on improving the hospitals but she never bothered and out of the 18years she spend as first lady, Zineb only started engaging with Gambians 2years ago through a foundation that many believe was just a cover for her to lobby international grants from donors and divert the money for her personal use. Zineb’s lack of engagement and total disconnect with the Gambian reality was more evident in October 2016 when she organised a gala dinner to supposedly raise money for her foundation, where she charged Gambians who live under a $1 per day to spend a whopping $10000 for a table of ten to have dinner with her and her special guest Dubai’s Princess Haya who never showed up. Many Gambians spoke against this, calling it “daylight robbery” to almost force struggling corporations and businesses in Gambia to pay in foreign currency $10000 to have dinner with Zineb considering the economic situation of the country. In January 2017 during the height of the crisis on Jammeh’s refusal to leave office Zineb Jammeh was again seen at the children’s hospital where medication and equipments are lacking including incubators to save the lives of preterm babies and patients share hospital beds, wearing a $4290 valentino top. This was seen as a huge affront by many Gambians who would have to work years to earn the cost of that single top she wore for the hospital visit. This was for many civil servants especially the military a turning point as they realised that the only reason Zineb was supporting and pushing Jammeh to cling on to power was so she can afford the lifestyle and luxury she has become accustomed as first lady since 1999 when she married Yaya Jammeh.

Outgoing First Lady Zineb Jammeh during her 18yrs of life in Gambia refused to make friends with any Gambians, preferring instead to rid the State House of all Gambian helpers by employing cooks, maids, hairdressers, a massage person and all support staff from her native Morocco, costing the Gambia tax payers millions as all these staff are paid in US dollars. The only Gambian staff around her are security, who she makes redundant when she travels by hiring foreign security and some few Gambians in her office who help her with her once a year interactions with Gambians through her foundation and office. The fact that Zineb having lived in Gambia for 18years has not learned a single local language nor her children and hires nurses and school teachers from the USA to look after her children despite her husband’s hateful rhetoric against the “West” and USA in particular has long highlighted her disregard and disrespect for anything and anyone Gambian. “Zineb is so rude and unpleasant, she will use a hand sanitiser after shaking hands with Gambians and will order for her house or room to be sprayed because she claims Gambians smell” said a security officer attached to her.

Cracks in Zineb and Jammeh’s marriage went public in 2010, when Yaya Jammeh married then 17year old Halima Sallah in October 2010 whose face he saw on a billboard on his way to his hometown of Kanilia in rural Gambia. By then it was becoming obvious that Zineb’s frequent travels out of Gambia, “sometimes twice or three times in a single month all by privately chartered plane or the state airplane” were beginning to take it’s toll on Jammeh not just financially but emotionally too. Just like with his first wife Tuti Faal who was away when Jammeh brought Zineb to statehouse, rumours began to circulate that Yaya Jammeh was back to his womanising and will bring young girls into statehouse and sometimes on the bed he shares with Zineb everytime she travels out of the country and when she refused to follow him to his native village of Kanilia for the weekends. Zineb Jammeh would not accompany her husband on his bi-annual “meet the people tours” and that was also another opportunity for Yaya Jammeh to take along with him female protocol officers and Ministers, who his security later reveal share his bed during these tours and whenever Zineb travels. Jammeh’s marriage to Halima Sallah a young lady with an uncanny resembles to Zineb was short lived when Zineb found out and used her children as leverage to get Jammeh to divorce the girl. “When Zineb found out about Jammeh’s marriage to Halima, she packed her things and left for the USA with her children, knowing how Jammeh loves his children, she told him that he will never see them again if he stays married to Halima” narrated a former aide to Zineb, this led Jammeh to abandon and later divorce the young girl and send Zineb thousands of dollars as a gift for her to shop for her favourite designer brands and return to Gambia with her children.

In her 18years as First Lady of the Gambia, Zineb Jammeh has amassed so much wealth very proportional to the poverty being experienced by Gambians to the extend that the middle class is now no more. Aides at the state house say that everytime they hear the word “Cherie”, they know Zineb is about to ask Jammeh for more money and “always in her favourite currency the US Dollar and in excess of $100,000. She will also go into Jammeh’s room and steal his money which Jammeh will blame on the guards on duty and order for their arrest. Zineb will never intervene to get the guards released from prison despite the fact that she took the money, this is how heartless Zineb Jammeh is ” said a former security officer at the State House.

First lady Zineb Zuma-Jammeh has acquired numerous properties around the world and various businesses and investments all done outside of the Gambia and funded by money looted from The Gambia and through funds given to her as aid for Gambia, which she diverts for personal use. “Never has Zineb ever travelled and pay in money to the government coffers from gifts given to her for the Gambia, you will not find any financial plus in our accounting books from any trip by Zineb or Yaya Jammeh despite the many gifts given to them for Gambians”, a source at the finance department said. Zineb made Yaya buy luxurious mansions in all her favourite holiday destinations and at the most prestigious neighbourhoods. In the US they have a property at Potomac Washington DC now valued at $4.3million, Zineb Jammeh owns properties in Morrocco, Guinea, Dubai, France and timeshare options at exotic destinations valued at millions of US dollars, no small achievement for a former belly dancer in Libya with no cent or investments in her name when she married Jammeh in 1999.

Zineb Zuma Jammeh’s business portfolio from 1999 when she married Yaya Jammeh to date is just as impressive with businesses in Morrocco and Guinea run by her friends and relatives. She runs huge malls in both countries, with merchandise that she buys from the US, China and other places. She also brought properties and apartment complexes in Morrocco and Guinea, which she rents out and gets paid rent on a monthly and yearly basis on these properties. Zineb Zuma-Jammeh operates bank accounts in USA, Morrocco and Guinea, where she also operates impressive investment portfolios, this lead both Zineb and her Daugther Mariam commonly known as Mimi to brag to friends that they are “millionaires and will never be poor in their lives”. 

It is believed that Jammeh only started stealing from the government coffers after his marriage to Zineb Zuma Jammeh who travels sometimes more than once per single month with always a huge entourage who are all paid by the government and in her 18years as first lady has never accepted travelling on any commercial flight but instead has to travel using the state air craft or a private chartered flight just for her and her entourage costing hundred thousands of dollars per trip. “Zineb’s jetset lifestyle and taste for everything designer led to Jammeh dipping into the foreign reserves at the Central Bank when he runs low to fund her private chartered flights. She holidays with a huge entourage of friends, family and support staff including a hairdresser, nanny, nurse etc all paid monthly in US dollars, designer shopping and private school fees in USA for her daughter Mariam who Zineb insisted will attend only the most exclusive high school in USA.” It is very obvious that Jammeh’s presidential salary can not accommodate Zineb’s travels and lifestlye and he was “desperate” to keep her, thus Jammeh started ordering for large amounts of foreign currency to be delivered to him at statehouse from the central bank without any paperwork or justification, this escalated into demanding money from parastatals and private companies to fund Zineb. “When Zineb demands money, Jammeh will do anything to give it to her even if it means taking money allocated to other departments or projects, this is how Jammeh became trapped in this vicious cycle of mismanagement and corruption against his earlier principles in 1994 when he took over”. Zineb began to advise Jammeh to “invest” in businesses and properties overseas, meaning more money was taken from the struggling economy to finance their now unfetted appetite for foreign currency.

When Jammeh lost the December 2016 Presidential elections, reports emerged that Zineb and few close allies were instrumental in forcing Jammeh to rescind his earlier decision accepting defeat by convincing an isolated and paranoid Jammeh that he was loved and had support from the people and the army to annul the results and organise fresh elections where he will be guaranteed victory. Amidst the political crisis, Zineb Zuma Jammeh traveled to the USA a move many believe will make Jammeh follow suit. Gambian Activist DUGA DC and other concerned Gambians staged two demonstrations at the potomac mansion Zineb was staying to prevail on her to convince her husband to handover power peacefully. These protests were part of a wider call by what we believe includes the US state department, the Morrocan diplomats etc for Zineb to pravail on Jammeh to peacefully handover power after his polls defeat. These calls fell on deaf ears as protocol and security personnel assigned to Zineb in USA who later absconded said Zineb would call Jammeh from the USA every evening and sometimes during office hours to tell him that he has to “fight for his rights and not let anyone tell him what to do”, this rhetoric angered her security detail so much that they decided to abandon their post and disappeared in US. Zineb herself left the US for Banjul just before New Year’s December 2016 and went on to make that ill fated visit to the children’s hospital in Banjul and in her now infamous Valentino top, where she made a public statement for the first time in her 18years as first lady expressing her “love and support” for her husband Yaya Jammeh, decribing herself as the “mother of the nation” (a statement many Gambians found insulting since none of her children were even born in Gambia) and saying that people “Should fight for their rights”. Zineb left the country again on the state aircraft that same night for Guinea, leaving Jammeh instructions that under no circumstance should he relinquish power to the New President Elect Adama Barrow.

Zineb Jammeh was recently discribed by a close state house aid as the “Silent President of The Gambia, who fanns the flames from behind the scenes by always encouraging Yaya Jammeh to use force to maintain his grip on power”, another aide said “Zineb is the only person Yaya Jammeh respects and listens to and her position throughout this election crisis has been for Jammeh to remain defiant and remain President at all cost”, he continued to say that it is not because Zineb herself loves Jammeh but because she is use to the private planes and luxury lifestlye which she knows Jammeh can only maintain by having unchallenged access to state resources including the central Bank of the Gambia, which the Jammeh’s use as a personal bank. Zineb Zuma Jammeh a poor girl from Guinea, who found herself in Libya as a belly dancer during Gaddafi’s era and stuck gold when she married Yaya Jammeh, will most likely be remembered as the out going first lady who when Gambia was at a cross road, instead of prevailing on her husband to handover power peacefully after he lost elections that he himself dictated the terms of; fanned the flames of conflict and unrest by encouraging her husband to forcefully remain in power at any cost and despite the odds against his every illegal move to remain in power unconstitutionally.

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