Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Press Release: Gambia: New Access to Information lobby launched as Presidential polls near

Gambia: New Access to Information lobby launched as Presidential polls near-

Electoral Commission first to be targeted for evidence

Banjul- 20 October 2016- Individuals with professional backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations, law, communications and academics, have mobilized to form an Access to Information lobby to pressure key institutions like the Independent Elections Commission and other state entities like the Gambia Bureau of Statistics to voluntarily disclose data, statistics, finances and funding models being utilized to conduct the 2016 presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections. 

The Right to Know (R2K) Gambia Coalition stated that the upcoming December Presidential election is being organized against the backdrop of the total personalisation of the state and its institutions by President Jammeh. This, it says, has resulted in increasing abuse of rights and disregard of the rule of law, while state institutions and public enterprises have weakened.

“State and democratic institutions that are supposed to ensure transparency and be accountable to the people, remain under the firm grip of the President who has subverted all democratic processes to serve only his political and commercial interests. Thus the space for popular participation, access to information and freedom of association have been severely curtailed by legislative repression and enforced by military and police brutality,” said a spokesperson for the group.

The group believes that the retrieval of information, which in other countries is normal routine, is actually near impossible in The Gambia, given the heightened levels of illegality by the state, whose actions are often shrouded in secrecy. It is this culture of secrecy, and abuse of regulatory frameworks by a paranoid regime, say the R2K-Gambia, that they will confront.

The R2K fired its first salvo yesterday, 19 October 2016, when it sent a three page letter requesting for information from the Chairperson of the Gambia Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Mr. Njie, on key issues pertaining to the running of the upcoming elections exercise.  The detailed questions, which totalled 17, ranged from population data, supplementary voter registration results, and utilization of elections Acts to funding, budgets, procurement of the BVR system and gifts received by the IEC and its Commissioners from President Yahya Jammeh.

“R2K has stated from the onset that it is spearheading this campaign in the spirit of partnership and civic duty, it is a non-partisan entity that focuses on rule of law and democracy, good governance, human rights and the principles of access to information,”  said an R2K Gambia spokesperson.

However, there are doubts whether state institutions in The Gambia will heed to the requests likely to come from the R2K in the coming weeks. This has not deterred the group, which states that it is important to get answers to the questions being asked, which it believes is relevant, legal and an obligation from entities approached to respond. 

 “If they refuse to respond to the requests being made by the R2K Gambia Coalition, who are Gambians, then it means that they have absolutely no respect for our Constitution, the ECOWAS Protocol, AU treaty mechanisms and the citizenry. That alone is evidence that something is not right in this election process and therefore they have something to hide.”

The R2K Gambia Coalition has committed to elevate the principles of Access to Information on elections and stated that they will make public all information sent to, and received from, state and non-state entities in the country.  It has already shared the request for information with all Gambian political parties, ECOWAS, AU and UN.

For more information please contact:



R2K Gambia is a made up of a grouping of individuals with professional backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations and law, communications, and academia.  All members are human rights activists.  We are located in US, UK, West and Southern Africa. We are a non-partisan entity that focuses on rule of law and democracy, good governance, human rights and the principles of access to information.  

Disclosure :  I am a member of the R2K Gambia 

Letter to IEC Chairman from Right2Know - Gambia - Abuja - Amsterdam - Banjul - Dakar - Johannesburg - Washington 

Mr. Alieu Momar N’jie
Chairperson, Independent Electoral Commission
Election House,
KSMD, The Gambia
17 October, 2016

Dear Commissioner Alieu Momar Njie:

Request for information
The Right 2 Know Coalition-Gambia extends its greetings and compliments to you and the IEC. We write in the true spirit of partnership, with the aim of assisting your Commission better deploy its mandate at this critical time, as The Gambia heads for elections on 1st December, 2016.  The R2K Coalition has sought to obtain information on how these upcoming polls are being conducted by your good offices, but has not been successful.  The IEC website is inaccessible and has remained so for well over a year. The Commission’s URL:  is not working and has a message which reads: “IEC.GM is Under Construction. Come Back Soon.”

As the lead agency tasked with conducting elections in The Gambia, the IEC’s awesome responsibility of upholding and adhering to its legal mandate and principles of integrity and fair play, cannot be overstated.  We realize the responsibility entrusted to it by the constitution and the various legislative frameworks that legalizes its existence.   It is in this regard that the R2K Coalition-Gambia wishes to enquire from the IEC several critical aspects of the management of the elections process as we inch closer to the December Presidential elections in 2016 and the National Assembly elections in 2017.

The R2K Coalition Gambia is therefore asking the IEC to provide answers to the following questions:

The Gambia has not officially released the 2013 decennial national census. The last census that was officially released was in 2003.  The unexplained delay in publishing the results of what was a well-funded, planned and executed 2013 census enumeration, makes it impossible to conduct any verification exercises against statistics presented by any state or non-state actor on the country’s population, socio-economic and age brackets to mention but a few social segments of the national make up. It is now on record that the voter list has ballooned from 796,929 in 2011 to 886,578 in 2016- an increase of almost 90,000 voters- in a country of 1.8 million. 
  1. What population data is the IEC using in its registration exercise?
2.    What other data is informing the voter register?
The Electoral Amendment Act 2015,  which was presented as a Bill on June 30, 2015, prior to passage of the Elections Amendment on July 7, 2015; and  Gazetted as Act No: 6 of 2015, has been used in the past to  urge political parties to register. 

A deadline of March 31st 2016 was given by the then IEC Chairperson, Mr. Carayol, for all political parties to register.  Notwithstanding the IEC’s use of the Amendment Act, it has, as recently as 6 September 2016, made official pronouncements on the conducting of the polls, in which the Elections Amendment Act was never featured or cited.  Instead the 1996 and subsequent provisions of the constitution and the elections Act were cited.
.      Which electoral Act is IEC using to conduct the 2016 Presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections?
From 14 January to 12 March 2016, voter supplementary registration by the IEC, since the passage of the Amendment Act 2015 was undertaken, the data was as  follows: Banjul: 649, KMC: 5,001, Brikama 13,039, Kerewan 6,245, Mansakonko 2,732, Janjanbureh 9,639 and Basse 7242 respectively.   Janjanbureh, which is the least populated in all the districts listed, had the highest number of registered voters.  It also had the highest number of registered voters, more than Banjul, Mansakonko and KMC combined.
4.    What informed the results of the IEC’s supplementary voter registration of 14 January to 12 March 2016?
On or about January 27th 2016, the previous Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alhaji Mustapha Carayol, confirmed that the development of a biometric voters' registration process will cost the government 33 million dalasi (US$833,000) at the time of calculation.
5.   Who/which company was contracted to supply the BVR technology and was there an open tender process?
6.      Has the IEC finalized the procurement of the BVR?
7.      What was the eventual cost and payment made for the BVR?
On or about 11 February 2015, the previous Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alhaji Mustapha Carayol, explained to the PAC in the National Assembly that IEC spent D40 million in 2011, and said if they are to combine the two elections (Presidential and National Assembly polls) it could go up to 120 million dalasis or more.
8.      What was the budget for 2016/2017 elections?
9.      How much of that budget has been met?
10.  Who are the donors?
11.  How much did each door pledge?
12.  How much did each donor honour and when?
13.  How much is Gambia government financing?
14.  Has IEC or its Commissioners received any gifts from President Yaya Jammeh and what are those gift?
15.Has IEC or its commissioners received any gifts from non-governmental organisations/development partners?
6.  Why is the IEC Website not accessible?
17.  When will the IEC website be accessible?
We now wish to lean on the principles of the ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security’s Section II- Elections, Article 3: The bodies responsible for organising the elections shall be independent or neutral and shall have the confidence of all the political actors. Where necessary, appropriate national consultations shall be organised to determine the nature and the structure of the bodies; Article 5: The voters’ lists shall be prepared in a transparent and reliable manner, with the collaboration of the political parties and voters who may have access to them whenever the need arises; Article 6: The preparation and conduct of elections and the announcement of results shall be done in a transparent manner; and Article 8: Member States shall use the services of civil society organisations involved in electoral matters to educate and enlighten the public on the need for peaceful elections devoid of all acts of violence;
The African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance, which came into force in February 2012, which Gambia has not ratified but signed on 29 January, 2008, which states in Article 17, under  Democratic Elections, that:
“State parties must establish and strengthen independent and impartial electoral commissions responsible for the management of elections”; and
The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, which Gambia ratified on 30 April 2009, which is in force.  Under Art 9:
“Each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures to give effect to the right of access to any information that is required to assist in the fight against corruption and related offences.”

These principles are the corner stone of the R2K-Gambia team’s campaign, which is why we demand access to information that legally must be made available to all citizens as a right.  We hope that the IEC will also embrace these principles and ensure that Gambians, especially in these elections, are afforded the opportunity to be equipped with the right information, at the right time to inform their decisions.  It is also imperative that citizens are afforded the opportunity to cross reference and verify the election process. 

The R2K Coalition is therefore looking forward to receiving feedback on the request for information from the IEC on matters that we deem fundamental in any democracy, and absolutely critical to the delivery of free, fair, and transparent elections.    

R2K Coalition- Gambia



R2K Gambia is a made up of a grouping of individuals with professional backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations and law, communications, and academia.  But all members are human rights activists.  We are located in US, UK, West and Southern Africa. We are a non-partisan entity that focuses on rule of law and democracy, good governance, human rights and the principles of access to information.  

Disclosure:  I am a member of the R2K Gambia 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How WestWood Company Ltd. and Yaya Jammeh collude to defraud the Gambian people - Part I

Nicholae Bogdan Buzaianu,  Gambian Ambassador

The name Nicholae Bogdan Buzaianu may not ring a bell to many Gambians despite being one of Yaya Jammeh's closest and consequential but one of the most illusive business partners.  He is also one of the most illusive who prefers travelling in and out of Banjul in his private jet to supervise his business interest, expatriate physical transporting business proceeds in contravention of Gambian and, perhaps, international law, according to a source in Banjul.

Mr. Buzaianu is a naturalized Swiss citizen of Romanian origin who was involved in a gold scam worth $ 7 million that was seized by Zambian drug authorities in 2007.  The late Zambian president Michael Sata implicated the Swiss businessman which led him to threaten to sue the government of Zambia and the Zambian press for $100M.  The threat was never carried out.

Returning to Switzerland, Mr. Buzaianu focused his attention on restoring what he saw as a soiled reputation from the gold scandal that was widely publicized in the Zambian press by engaging in environmental causes.  He immediately declared war on plastic bags as an environmental hazard - an effort he said should be replicated in Africa because of his Zambian experience.

Although he never returned to Lusaka, he took his project to The Gambia where he was able to convince the Gambian dictator to put a ban on plastic bags without providing the general population with environmentally-friendly bags as sustainable alternative.   For a more elaborate and dramatic narration of how he got in the environment business, visit his blog post here.

Saving the planet one plastic bag at a time was not the surest way of getting rich.  So Mr. Buzaianu's primary business interest in this slither of a land in West Africa was the limited natural resource endowment that Yaya Jammeh was prepared to illegally supplement Gambia's limited forest cover with a relatively larger supply of timber in neighboring Senegal.

Mr. Buzaianu formed the WestWood Company Ltd. several years ago (precise date unknown) but has been exporting forest products, primarily African mahogany and keno for the past three years, according to shipping records.  Because Jammeh granted WestWood Company monopoly power to export wood products to China, it became a brisk and profitable business which, in turn, accelerated the exploitation of the forest resources, primarily in the Casamance.

A former Senegalese Minister of the Environment raised the alarm at the unsustainable rate of exploitation of southern Senegal's forest cover which he attributed primarily to traffickers operating from Gambian territory.  One million trees have been felled by loggers illegally, according to the former Senegalese Minister who claimed that at that rate Casamance will lose all of its forest cover by 2018.      

Mr. Buzaianu may be a Romanian-born naturalized Swiss national but he became Gambia's Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014 which should make him a Gambian citizen as well, flying around the world with Gambian diplomatic passport.  According to, he presented his letters of credence to Abdoullah bin Mohammed bin Butti AI Hamed, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Swiss businessman is also listed as Consul of The Gambia in Monaco.   Before he fell out with the late President Sata of Zambia, Mr. Buzaianu was also Zambia's Ambassador to the UNESCO suggesting he has a special affinity to diplomatic assignment to go along his African business ventures.  we wonder why.


Part II will look at WestWood's operations in the Gambia and how the public treasury is losing money as a result of the monopoly status and other export concessions accorded to WestWood by Jammeh.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fears of retribution as excuse for continued APRC support are without basis

As the coalition talks intensify among opposition parties for a unified leadership to contest the scheduled December presidential elections against the Gambian dictator, increasing chatter clutters the online media advancing all sorts of theories attributed to primarily supporters of the newly-formed Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) relating to what it would take for them to join and remain in an opposition coalition.

According to several sources, key members of the GDC have been quoted expressing concern in the event of a UDP-led opposition coalition victory over Jammeh and his ruling APRC.  They fear retribution in the event of a UDP-led win in December - a fear that has its origins in the anti-UDP propaganda machine of a dictatorship that has tried to exploit the delicate tribal balance to his advantage.  As part of his intricate plan to cling on to power, Jammeh unfairly and incorrectly labeled UDP a Mandinka party and proceeded to accuse its members, a good number of whom are non-Mamdinkas, of being tribalists who are driven more by the desire to exact revenge should the UDP ever gain political power.

The fear of retribution or settling of scores in the event of a UDP victory is without basis and runs contrary to the national character.  That said, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission or something along those lines must be established in addition to Judicial Commission to look into the crimes committed by Yaya Jammeh and members of his regime spanning the 22 years of the dictatorship unless Jammeh can reach a negotiated safe passage as part of a negotiated settlement package.

The general sense today is there must be justice for the thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of victims of the regime to obtain closure for those who have been killed, maimed, tortured and those who have disappeared and still unaccounted for.  Families must have closure.

Because most, if not all, of GDC support base is presumed to be composed of disgruntled members of the APRC, reportedly disenchanted with Jammeh's style of leadership, they find solace in the Mamma Kandeh-led GDC who logged a 20-year stint in the National Assembly under the APRC banner before his expulsion from the party.  It appears, at least, some elements within the former APRC members in the GDC, are trying to associate a UDP-led opposition successor government to the inevitability of the settling of scores demanded by the accumulation of grudges during Jammeh's dictatorship despite the lack of evidence.

As we have stated in  previous blogs on the issue of tribalism and despite Jammeh accusing the UDP of being a tribal party, The Gambia is still one of the few countries where tribal affiliation plays little or no significant role, either in the daily lives of Gambians or their politics.  Of course, there are few odd balls - the crazy uncle syndrome - everywhere, and The Gambia is  no exception.   Jammeh is the exception.  He has adopted tribal politics and has used it, with minimal degree of success, to divide Gambians for the purposes of retaining power.

It is obvious that there are members of the APRC who are utilizing the tribal card in a futile attempt to divide an emboldened opposition both at home and abroad. Leaders of the GDC must be mindful of this fact and to guard against being used to advance a failed ARPC regime that is on its final death throes.

Our advise to Mamma Kandeh, Yusupha Jaiteh and the rest of the executive of the GDC is to hop on board the opposition train while it is still on the station.   Only a unified opposition can defeat Jammeh.  


Monday, October 10, 2016

Jammeh still holds the disqualification card

IEC Chairman, Alieu Momar Njie
As the opposition parties immerse themselves in negotiations to forge an alliance of the willing in time for the scheduled December presidential elections, Jammeh is also busy planning on how to swing the advantage in his favor after his party's apparent loss of support primarily to the new formed Gambia Democratic Congress of Mamma Kandeh.

The swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction is noticeable enough to warrant the summoning of the APRC Yayi Compins, some of whom were accused of being part of a larger conspiracy to weaken the ruling party by delivering supporters to GDC, according to a source.  When some felt verbally threaten. they decided to leave the country.  This is how seriously Jammeh has taken the erosion of his support base.

If Jammeh can threaten women who have supported him throughout his 22-year dictatorship with jail time, he will not spare opposition leaders and their supporters.  Every attempt will be made to stymie any of the opposition's effort to construct a viable united front with a singular leader  to head the ticket in the scheduled December presidential elections.

Jammeh is not going to go down without a fight.  He's also fully aware that a united opposition is the surest way of defeating him at the polls, and with his dwindling support across the country, an opposition victory is more likely than not.  He will therefore try to prevent the opposition from coming together by sowing the seeds of discord - an effort that is a already under way.

If he succeeds in preventing the opposition parties from coalescing around a flag bearer, individual parties will be highly vulnerable to the dictates of Jammeh, especially those tempted to complete individually at the presidential elections.

At the instruction of Jammeh, the IEC Chairman can declare individual party leaders ineligible for nomination based on the flimsiest of reasons without repercussion, unlike declaring a single presidential candidate of the opposition ineligible which would be unimaginable to declare ineligible. If he does, he'll have to go to the polls unopposed - a highly unlikely outcome, one more incentive for the opposition to coalesce around a single leader. Besides, no single party can defeat Jammeh and no single party - big or small, new or old - is immune from being disqualified under these circumstances.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

As the opposition inch towards a single flag bearer, a worried Jammeh decides to go on provincial tour

APRC women in ashobi 
The venerable Imam Baba Leigh drew our attention to the fact that Jammeh has been uncharacteristically silent and away from the limelight for over four months for good reason..

Apart from a brief end of Eid message to Gambians, Jammeh has stayed away from the political scene and for good reason.  He has nothing good or positive to report to the Gambian people about.

The economy continues to slide and with it the living standard of the majority of Gambians, the unemployment rate, especially of the youth is going through the roof resulting in a mass exodus of the country's young in rates never seen before. Meanwhile,  the country's isolation from the rest of the world continues to deepen to pariah state levels, thanks to the belligerent mannerisms and style of governance Gambia is facing increasing threats of sanctions from development partners that can only make matters worse for ordinary person.

As Jammeh shuttles between Banjul and Kanilai, he has his finger at the pulse of the opposition - to see how they respond to the challenge before them of forming a unified front by selecting a single flag bearer to contest the scheduled December presidential elections.

Jammeh was and still hoping that the opposition parties will fail in securing a unified front.  But because significantly noticeable progress was registered during the two successive meetings of the opposition, Jammeh is sufficiently worried to instruct the APRC party stalwarts to get ready for a campaign tour.  The entire civil service/government machinery is being activated for the campaign because of the oppositions successful efforts thus far in unifying behind a single candidate.

According to our sources, the tour could start as early as tomorrow (Monday October 10th) but a more reasonable date would be later in the week or next week Monday.  Regardless of the date, we continue to implore the opposition to coalesce around a single candidate as the only way of ridding the Gambia of the cancer that is Yaya Jammeh.  We continue to encourage all opposition leaders to build on the successes registered thus far.          

Friday, October 7, 2016

Failure to unite is not an option

Gambia's Opposition Leaders 
Failure to unite under a single leadership, this time around, to contest the scheduled December presidential elections is not an option for the leaders of the opposition because a  majority of Gambian voters and non-voters demand it.

With the ghosts of 2006 and 2011 still hovering above their heads, the opposition leaders cannot afford another disastrous outcome at a time when the stakes are higher than ever before.

The mishandling of the economy continues unabated under Jammeh, especially since the last presidential elections leaving a trail of dismal growth rates, the lowest average rates in decades). Unemployment remains high, and youth unemployment is at an all time high despite the massive exodus of the young towards Europe.  The human rights environment is increasingly getting more hostile for the general population as well as the political class.

As testimony to this  truism,  Solo Sandeng, youth leader and executive member of the UDP lost his life while under the custody of the National Intelligence Agency. As we speak, Ousainou Darboe, the titular leader of the UDP, together with the entire party executive committee members, together with dozens of other officials and supporters are presently serving three-year prison terms for simply exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest against what they saw as unfair laws.

22-years of one of Africa's most horrid dictatorship has taken its toll, not only on the rights of Gambians and the economy, but also on the international reputation of a once respected country, internationally, transforming the country into a pariah status.

We are not being hyperbolic when we say that The Gambia is on a slide down a slippery slope that threatens not only the security of the country but the region's security as well.   And as long as Jammeh stays in power, threats will become existential in nature.  Jammeh must, therefore, be peacefully removed  through the ballot which cannot be accomplished by any single political party.

All of the opposition parties must coalesce around a single standard bearer if there is s slither of a chance that he is defeated.  Our position has been no elections unless there is comprehensive electoral reform.  Realistically, this is not possible unless the elections are postponed for at least six months which is the precise length of time between amending the electoral laws and the elections as per ECOWAS protocol.  It is for this reason that we are supporting the efforts of the opposition parties at trying to forge an electoral alliance against Jammeh.

For the individual opposition parties leaders, they must step up to the plate, put their individual political interest aside in favor of the national interest by selecting the best candidate among themselves to lead them to the December presidential elections.  We will be addressing the much neglected but extremely important parliamentary elections which should form part of the negotiations at the appropriate time.