Monday, November 18, 2013

Yaya Jammeh demanded more that $ 10 million in cash from Taiwan in January

The revelation by the Taiwanese Foreign Minister that Yaya Jammeh demanded more than $10 million in cash from the Taiwanese government is only the tip of the revelation iceberg.  When every thing is said and done, we will come to realize that the Taiwan - Gambia diplomatic relations was a marriage of convenience between a country that was and still is yearning for international recognition, and a military-cum-civilian regime that was desperately in search of legitimacy and financial aid to stay afloat, in the midst of international condemnation following a military seizure of power in 1994.

The diplomatic break-up announced officially in Banjul last Friday took every body by surprise - everybody but Jammeh and a couple of his drinking buddies.  His Ambassador to Taipei was unaware, and so was his Foreign Minister and the entire cabinet. The Taiwan dossier is a closely held secret in The Gambia which is and personally managed by Yaya Jammeh.  The idea to established diplomatic relations came from a couple of civilians, one of whom was a journalist, who suggested it to the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC).  The Chairman of the AFPRC was convinced of a financial windfall of not only his cash-strapped government but to individual members of the ruling council, all of whom have never seen a $100 bill prior to seizing power.

The prospects of receiving financial aid package from Taiwan in the midst of an international sanctions against the military regime while enriching themselves, all at once, was an irresistible proposition.  Diplomatic relations were established in 1995 and the marriage was immediately consummated with a $ 35 million financial aid package.  How that money was spent, and who got what, is still being debated within Gambian circles.  It is hoped that the Taiwanese will assist those interested in, and similar cases involving the use of financial aid to The Gambia meant to improve the lives of ordinary Gambians.

Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, in responding to a legislator's questions, confirmed that Jammeh "made a financial request" in January.  During the exchange at the meeting of the legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, the minister did not deny the lawmaker's assertion that "the request was for more than US $10 million in cash".  This specific request was made by Jammeh in January for non-project related matters which was the basis for Taiwan's refusal to grant the request.  It is hoped that the authorities will catalogue the number of times similar requests (if any) for cash were made by the Gambian leader.  Since it is against official foreign aid policy to grant such requests, we are assuming that even if cash requests were made by Jammeh, they were all denied.  Of equal importance to Gambians is whether other senior Gambian officials, acting in the name of the Gambian people, have made similar cash demands from the Taiwanese government.  Gambians deserve answers from Taiwan even as Jammeh has decided to part company.

The fact that Yaya Jammeh made cash demands to Taiwan is a shameful act, and we are glad that his request was turned down by Taiwan.  To make cash requests in my name, and in the name of every Gambian is criminal.  The revelations coming from Taipei also serve as notice to mainland China, that establishing diplomatic relations with The Gambia under the present regime is a treacherous venture fraught with risks.  It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to ensure that mitigating measures are taken before consummating the marriage between Banjul and Beijing.  The interest of ordinary Gambians, in whose name these illegal and personal cash demands are made by Jammeh, must be protected against a very corrupt regime.