Former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has been reportedly involved in illegal timber trade in Guinea Bissau using The Gambian Embassy in the troubled country.
A veteran Guinean journalist, A.O. Dabo, said high ranking officers in the Guinean army, including the late General Batista Tagm Na Wai, former chief of staff of the armed forces, were deeply involved in the timber trafficking.
“…About connection with the Yahya Jammeh regime, in 2006, Gambian head of state visited Guinea-Bissau during Nino Vieira’s second government. Yahya financed his nephew Aziz Kujabi to carry out operations of timber logging in coordination with Abdu Jarju of Gambian embassy in Bissau,” Dabo alleged.
Illegal timber logging in Bissau started in 2005 during Nino Vieira’s regime but it reached its peak in 2012 through to 2014 during the parliamentary and presidential elections.
Dabo said the timber and drug trafficking money was used to finance the 2005 and 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Former chief of staff of the armed forces, General Antonio Ndiaye, supported openly Nuno Na Bian during 2014 presidential second round against Jose Mario Vaz. General Antonio Ndiaye reportedly becomes a rich man thanks to drug and timber trafficking.
Timber logging in Bissau was around the north and south where Bissau has a huge concentration of tick wood or Pau de Sangue as it is called in the small country.
However, in 2015, Domingos Simoes Pereira’s cabinet approved a moratorium suspending any timber cutting or exportation of timber for five years.
Though the Gambia has a little forest cover and has banned illegal logging for some time now, timber export from the small country is only next to Nigeria in size.
In 2015, an ecologist and former Senegalese Environment Minister Haidar El Ali revealed that export of wood from the Gambia amasses more than USD $238 million.
Bissau is a key transit point for South American cocaine destined for Europe and it has seen a boom in illegal logging over the past five years that has threatened the country’s ecological balance.
Environmentalists have since complained of depleting forest cover in both Bissau and Casamance. Forty percent of Senegal is covered by forest, most of it in its Casamance region. 20 percent of this is its primary forest. Senegal’s Casamance has 30,000 hectares of forest remaining and The Gambia just 4,000 hectares.
All of the timber exported out of The Gambia primarily to China is from Senegal and Bissau; making all of the timber exported from The Gambia illegal, experts said.
But since then Casamance has lost more than a million trees and from 2010 to 2013, exportation of timber from The Gambia went from 6,734 m3 to 121,938 m3; from USD $2,871,421 to USD $66,665,881 in revenue and from one container to 10 per day with the accelerated depletion of Casamance forest cover being registered.
60% of China’s import of timber is from Africa and nearly half of this, about 31 percent of its total imports is from The Gambia.