Friday, February 28, 2014

Another bad investment by Social Security

Edward Graham, Managing Director

Edward Graham, Managing Director of Gambia's Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) is back to doing what he did that landed him in prison fairly recently, that is investing social security funds in a very callous and indiscriminate manner at the direction of Yaya Jammeh.

It was on the 15th February 2012 that the infamous Cameroon-born Special Criminal Court Judge Emmanuel Nkea - Jammeh's hanging judge who has himself absconded last month - sentenced him to a one-year mandatory prison term with hard labor for causing a D 73,000, equivalent to less than $2,000 (two thousand ) loss to the Home Finance Company, a subsidiary of SSHFC.  He served less than his mandatory sentence before he was strung from prison, by presidential pardon and returned to his position as head of the Agency legally entrusted with the Provident and Pension Funds.

We have been highly critical of the investment strategy of the SSHFC with a portfolio that includes investments in the tourism and transport sectors at a time when both sectors have been under performing. The corporation has also been involved in dubious partnerships with Yaya Jammeh and his business partners in the Gulf that seem to be directed by Zainab Jammeh.  Bad investments in the past have resulted in a weakened the financial integrity of SSHFC to the point that the corporation had to delay paying salaries.

The latest of these highly dubious joint venture partnerships is the United Arab Emirates' BPI Group based in Dubai and headed by one Dimitris Sophocleous.  This new venture is coming at the heels of another failed joint venture between Government/GPA and the Greek company Gallia Holdings which has left two inappropriately-built and ill-fitted ferries costing Gambian tax payers over $ 8 million sitting in the Banjul harbor when the present ferries plying Banjul - Barra are in dangerous disrepair.

It now appears that the same players who brought us the Aljandu and Kansala ferries are the very same people forcing Edward Graham to enter into yet another venture that is bound to fail.

Yaya Jammeh, Zainab Jammeh and their cronies in the Gulf with the Gambian middleman currently stuck in Banjul are responsible for this ill-advised housing venture named the BPI Social Security Housing.

This new partnership puts the social security contributions and, indeed, the pension funds of ordinary Gambian workers in jeopardy by exposing it to a housing market that is under-developed, and actually contracting because of recent government policy of bulldozing houses built by Gambian retirees and foreign investors that the regime consider to have been improperly permitted.

Mr. Graham is obviously following the directives of Yaya Jammeh who will most certainly blame the Managing Director should the venture fail, as it most certainly will, paving the way for him to be returned to Milee II, this time for a very, very long time.  We continue to see this movie over and over again; yet they do not seem to learn.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gambia is a criminal enterprise, and Jammeh should assume personal responsibility

We learned today that one of Jammeh's multitude of former Foreign Ministers, Mambury Njie, has been charged with "neglect of office" and hauled before a magistrate at the Banjul Magistrate's Court.  Mr. Njie, who has been out of a job for a couple of years and cannot travel out of the country because his travel documents have been seized, is being accused of negligence of duty.  Despite the seizure of his passport and the fact that the courts had granted him bail, he is being held at the Burusibi police station, contrary to law.

According to the charge sheet, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has finally come to realize, after 13 years, that Mambury Njie was a negligent officer for failing to advise government properly before a mining concession contract was signed in 2001 between an Australian mining concern, Carnegie Mining, and the Gambia government.

Carnegie an AIM quoted company is a sand mining concern that entered into a 50-50 joint venture agreement with another Chinese mining concern who were engaged in the development of a zircon/rutile mine in The Gambia in 2002.  It was not until in January 2008, six years into its mining concession in The Gambia that the company received a letter from government requesting Carnegie to cease all operations "pending receipt of certain information in relations to its minerals mined and laboratory results."

The government proceeded to give Carnegie 24-hours ultimatum to come clean or face losing its license to operate in The Gambia.  This order was issued by Yaya Jammeh as the country's Minister (at the time called the Secretary of State) for Mineral Resources.  Jammeh accused Carnegie of concealing the actual minerals being mined, and proceeded to arrest and detained the Managing Director of the company.

We have written extensively on this issue, and those who want some of the details, including arbitration actions taken by Carnegie Minerals, can be found here :

The charging of the former Secretary General with negligence of duty is the latest bizarre action by an embattled government that has obviously lost its way in the face of mounting public pressure resulting from the regime's incompetence and high level corruption.  This regime lacks all moral authority to judge anyone because the regime itself is rotten to the core and needs to be uprooted..

It is to be recalled that as recently as January 2014, another bizarre twist to the Carnegie saga took place when a Cameroonian-born judge of the Special Criminal Court named Emmanuel Nkea surprised everyone but Yaya Jammeh by convening his Court to announce that he's found Carnegie guilty of mining uranium and iron on the sandy beaches of Sanyang village.  The judge proceeded to pronounce to an empty court that he has fined Carnegie $ 200 million.  This was at a time that Carnegie's case was, and still is in arbitration before the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a court action we considered a preemptive move on the part of the Jammeh regime.

After delivering his bizarre judgement, Special Criminal Court Judge Emmanuel Nkea went missing only to resurface two weeks later to tender his resignation in absentia - the letter hand delivered by an acquaint.  The judge had already fled the territory.  It is conceivable that Justice Nkea's fleeing the scene of the crime may be related to the Mambury Njie's case.

It is tempting to draw parallels between this case and the one involving the Financial Director and Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) who were both acquitted and discharged by pleading no case to answer.  The two were also charged with negligence of duty when it was proven the power rested with the Task Force created by and operated from the Office of the President.

Similarly, the Ministry of Mineral resources is under the Office of the President with the President as the Minister for Mineral Resources.  It is public knowledge that the mineral resource portfolio is one of the most secretive Ministries, and thus the least known.  In fact, the public knew nothing about it until heavy duty lorries were seen transporting stuff to the ports for export, and they start speculating beofre they started asking questions.

The Carnegie deal, like the petroleum contracts Jammeh has signed with African Petroleum (Gambia) Limited, Buried Hill (Gambia) BV and Oranto Petroleum, was negotiated and sealed in secret with usually only Jammeh and his Secretary General privy to the details.  He now has a Petroleum Minister who was sacked and reinstated in a span of 24 hours.  The Minister is effectively a hostage of a criminal enterprise because she knows too much.  The entire episode has become a theater of the absurd

It is time for Yaya Jammeh to take full responsibility for his incompetence, and for being the head of a criminal enterprise that characterized his A(F)PRC regime instead of putting the blame elsewhere, always.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why are we still paying sales tax and VAT

When the Value Added Tax (VAT) was introduced last year in the midst of confusion within the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Gambian was assured that the new tax was in place of the sales tax.

At the time of the introduction of the VAT, we wrote that the sales tax was still being collected from consumers even when the VAT went into effect.  The Finance Minster at the time reassured his cabinet colleagues and Parliamentarians that the sale tax was no longer being charged.  This assurance is clearly false.  The sales tax is still being collected, and the VAT continues to be misapplied.

Regarding the sales tax, we ask why is the sales tax still being collected when the sales tax portion of the Income and Sales Tax Act of 2004 has been repealed according to the Finance Ministry.  It is unfortunate that this government is in the habit of misleading the people it is supposed to be serving.  This government has great difficulty in presenting facts without distortions.  We ask, if the sales tax was to have ceased and yet the GRA still continues to collect it, where are the proceeds being lodged.

As regards the VAT, we have said in the past, and we do not care repeating again that The Gambia is ill-prepared for a successful implementation of the law.  Back in June 2013,  we said that the GRA responsible for the new law does not understand the VAT, and therefore its implementation will be lackluster at best. We hate to say we have been proven right again.

The new VAT machines are inappropriate because the software is outdated.   We have also commented on the appropriateness of their procurement which we do not wish to revisit but we would like to ask why are those who's VAT bill is more than D 100,000 are being provided a special bank account number to pay in their VAT liabilities.  Why are these proceeds not being lodged in the central government account.

When Jammeh seized power illegally in 1994, be promised Gambians accountability, transparency and probity.  We he's given us instead is an inept, opaque and corrupt government.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is orderly transfer of power possible in The Gambia?

We watched in real time as anti-government protesters in Kiev finally overran the city, after three months of protests against a repressive and corrupt dictatorship similar to what we have in The Gambia.  The Ukrainian protesters proceeded to fill the vacuum left by a fleeing President Viktor Yanukovich by occupying the Presidential offices.

The opposition immediately demanded May elections while the Ukrainian Parliament, under the control Yanukovich's party only hours before, voted almost unanimously to remove him from power.  They also voted to release the former Prime Minister who was being held in a hospital ( not in a prison ) who proceeded immediately to the city square to address the jubilant anti-government protesters. Although Parliament is yet to authorize an interim government, the affairs of state appears to be in the hands of its members.

It is obviously too early for the Ukrainian protesters to declare complete victory, given the complex nature of the competing geopolitical interests at play involving Russia, the U.S. and the European Union with Russia's stake being the highest.  Kiev did not only rain on Putin's Sochi parade both literally and figuratively, (the Sochi Winter Olympics just ending), the crisis has the potential of handing the Russian leader a humiliating defeat he can least afford to suffer at the hands of a strategically important ally of the Russian Federation. Equally unaffordable is for the United States to adopt a zero sum strategy that goes for gold i.e. push for total victory by the anti-government forces, assuming that Russia will not react with severe economic sanctions with the option of the use of military force to keep Ukraine within the orbit of the Russian Federation.  A solution that will help Russia safe face is the likely outcome.

Kiev protesters serving riot police sandwiches

Of course, conditions in Ukraine is far more complex that involve Russia, U.S and the European Union. The strategic importance of Ukraine cannot be compared with Gambia's, but there are lessons that can be drown from the events unfolding in Kiev and around Ukraine.

The protesters at the center of Kiev are yearning for the same things Gambia opposition parties are yearning for - freedom of association, of expression, of assembly, human rights, the rule of law and a government free of corruption. Within a federated Russia, even Ukraine's residual power appears to have been usurped by Putin and his cronies.  Yanukovich was part of Putin's team, but so was the Parliament until it decided, ultimately, to switch teams and join those demanding democratic space and the freedom to decide their own destiny.  They want closer ties with the European Union and the West. Russia, of course, wants to maintain the status quo.

Ordinary Gambians have been deprived of their liberties for twenty years by a repressive and corrupt regime.  The regime has found a dependable ally in the National Assembly that rubber stamps every law that originates from Yaya Jammeh, regardless of the impact of the law.

For example, and by way of illustrating the pathetic state of affairs within Gambia's parliament, the National Assembly passed a law that gives the president the power not only to expel a member from the party for breaking party by-laws but from Parliament as well, even though parliamentarians are directly elected by the people whose interest they are to serve and protect in the National Assembly. We have tried to look for a comparable law under similar circumstances in any country without success, not even in Ukraine.  Gambian parliamentarians have the unique distinction of voluntarily surrendering their mandate to the Gambian dictator who has routinely exercised his extraordinary powers against parliamentarians.

Is a Parliament that is composed of men and women of the caliber that readily surrenders its power to a dictator capable of putting the interest of the Nation ahead of that of a dictator like Jammeh?   Does the Gambia's National Assembly have the capacity to emulate the Ukrainian Parliament by deciding to put the national interest ahead of personal, individual interest?  When the protests persisted for over three months with increasing violence and mounting body counts, and the prospects of civil war staring members of the Ukrainian parliament straight in the face, they decided to abandon their individual interest in favor of the national interest.

Anti-government protesters in improvised Medieval armor - Kiev   

Gambia's National Assembly has been in the clutches of the Gambian dictator for so long that members seemed to have developed the Stockholm Syndrome.  Despite this, it is still possible that the National Assembly can, and with the right conditions will put the interest of the country ahead of individual and/or parochial interest should matters come to a head.  The conditions that exist in the Ukraine as they relate to individual and collective freedoms are similar to those that obtain in The Gambia.  The economic conditions and mismanagement are worse in The Gambia than in the Ukraine, leading to the threat of total collapse of the country's economy. Corruption continues to be rampant and unchecked.  In fact, it has gotten worse.

Our optimism and faith in the National Assembly to put the nation's interest ahead of Jammeh's is based entirely on recent trends observed in the proceedings of the National Assembly's Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC and PEC).   Over the past year, individual parliamentarians, few as they may be, have been unusually vocal.  Some have even ventured to veer away from the official position and toward the public interest at the cost of their membership in the party and in the National Assembly.  But there are still some in the national Assembly who are capable of leading a revolt by first voting to rescend the law empowering Jammeh to expel them as members of Parliament thus restoring their full parliamentary powers.

Parliamentarians have been particularly vocal about the lack of proper groundnut marketing and extension support to farmers, contrary to the regime's official pronouncements. To cite specific instances beyond what we've said here will only expose the concerned parliamentarians to political pressure from Jammeh and his ruling party.  There appears to be the desire to break loose from Jammeh's stranglehold.   With growing recognition of the failure of Jammeh's policies combined with an increasing level of corruption that is threatening the social order, some parliamentarians are ready and willing to side with the interest of Gambia and Gambians.  Of course, the opposition parties must provide the spark necessary to set the stage for a massive protest against tyranny.

We have left the army out of the Gambian equation because it will be last institution to join any popular uprising given its composition, and the corrupted command and control structure designed to make it difficult to act effectively under any command that is not led by Yaya Jammeh. That said, if a parliamentary revolve similar to Ukraine's should take place in the Gambia - it is within the realm of possibility - with politicians from the opposition and the ruling APRC joining forces, Gambia will succeed where many African countries have failed in the transfer of power from dictatorship to a new democratic dispensation with little or no bloodshed.

Are we engaged in wishful thinking?  Perhaps.  But it is also something the APRC parliamentarians should ponder over the next several days or weeks; to convene the National Assembly to remove Yaya Jammeh from power for the abuse of power.  To avoid a vacuum being created as we are are witnessing in Ukraine, the National Assembly should also pass a law ordering a transition government be formed to prepare for fresh, free, fair and transparent elections.  The international community, and especially the regional bodies, will be less hostile to this scenario than your run-of-the-mill military coup d'etat.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Breathing life into Raleigh

We wrote a piece last January that asked, rhetorically, whether Raleigh was dead.  By Raleigh, we were referring, of course, to the political gathering of Gambian political parties and civic societies in the North Carolinian city of the same name which took place last May.  The reason for the question was there was little movement is establishing the Steering Committee mandated by the Raleigh Process.

We wrote a follow-up piece entitled "Is Raleigh dead? : The sequel" in February asking whether Raleigh, the process, was dead.  The response came a week later announcing that the Steering Committee known as The Committee For The Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia or CORDEG had meet to set in motion the nomination process leading to the election of members of the Executive of the Steering Committee.  The process took a little over a week before the results were certified and announced.  It took another fortnight before the first news conference was conducted with the top three executives taking part.

We have been critical in the past of both the process that culminated into what we like to refer to as the Raleigh Process, and the inclusion of the political parties which, in our view, was not the original intent.  We are restating our position here not to re-open the debate but to serve as a reminder that all of the political leaders who participated in Raleigh declined to be members of CORDEG's Executive Committee which makes sense as well as representing a partial validation of our position.  When everything is said and done, political parties, by their very nature, have a singular mission of having its members elected into power, whereas civic organizations' missions vary from organization to organization depending on the sector of society or an issue or a set of issues they are out to champion.  We will continue to keep this truism within radar range as a reference point.

The mandate of CORDEG, as crafted by the Raleigh Process, was explicit i.e. "the crafting and representation of the Agenda for Democratic Change in The Gambia." To fulfill its mandate, CORDEG need to raise money to facilitate its work, but also must raise enough to finance any subsequent stage of the process going forward, including the financing of opposition political parties in their fight to uproot the dictatorship in The Gambia.

The size of CORDEG (about 25 or 26 members) spanning three continents and numerous time zones will undoubtedly prove to be a huge challenge for the organization, even in the age of Skype and Viber.  The election of the Executive was obviously CORDEG's response to the mammoth task the size of the group poses.  Managing a group as diverse, politically speaking, with different political hue and individual agendas, will be the single biggest challenge the new Executive Committee will face in fulfilling its mandate.

Although the nomination process adopted by CORDEG, and the subsequent elections that led to the installation of the new Executive Committee led by Dr. Abdoulaye Saine had raised questions in some quarters, it is only prudent at this point to lend full and unconditional support to Ablaye and his Team.   In moving forward, may we remind all that success will come only if the process is transparent and inclusive, particularly as it pertains to the entire membership of CORDEG who must feel to be part of the decision making process.

Finally, we draw solace in the fact that if there's someone who can resuscitate and breath life into Raleigh, it will be Dr. Saine.  We therefore wish him and his Team every success.

Yaya Jammeh robbed the funeral of solemnity

The Archbishop was laid to rest this evening, but not before Yaya Jammeh succeeded in robbing the funeral of the solemnity that it could have been had the Church not been denied using McCarthy Square for the ceremonies.  Not that the Anglican Church of The Gambia and friends of the Church did not do everything within their power to maintain a solemn and dignified atmosphere.  

A reasonable degree solemnity was achieved in spite of the government's determined resolve to erect road blocks along the route instead of putting the power and resources of the State at the disposal of the Church and the family.  That's what normal governments do, but we do not have a normal government in The Gambia. What we have is a rogue regime instead. 

In spite of the odds placed before the Church by the Jammeh regime, the Anglican community and Banjulians have done an extraordinary job of welcoming their foreign guests from across Africa, and the globe with pride and dignity in the true Gambia tradition despite the odds.  Don't think for a minute that our guests are not aware of what's going on in The Gambia.  They are very well aware.

The fact that 5 Archbishops and approximately 10-15 Bishops from Africa, and around the globe attended the funeral is clear testimony to the important role the late Archbishop played in the Church.  

After creating all this confusion in a desperate attempt to rob the proceedings of solemnity, Yaya Jammeh ordered a black-out of the proceedings.  The national radio and television services were barred from carry them live or live stream them through the internet.  He then takes off for Morocco for a three-day private visit - another slap in the face of the larger community of Gambians.  

To top it all off, he decided to add salt to the wound by sending two lowest ranking Ministers he could find from his cabinet to represent the State at the funeral of the Archbishop of the Province of West Africa and former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ports Authority's former Managing Director and Financial Director acquitted

With the threat of 40 million Euro lawsuit hanging over the regime of Yaya Jammeh, by Gallia Holdings ( a Greek company) over the purchase of the two ferries, the former Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority Abdoulie Tambadou and his former Financial Director Hali Abdoulie Gai have both been acquitted of all charges leveled against them by the Banjul Magistrate Court.  The acquittal occured on the eve of Gambia's 49th Independence Anniversary.

This blog has been reporting on this scandal, and we cannot help but to think that over extensive coverage with hard evidence has contributed immensely to bringing international focus to this case thus forcing the hands of Yaya Jammeh to look elsewhere for scapegoats.

What we have been able to glean from an unusually long account of the judgement by the official mouthpiece of Jammeh, The Daily Observer (DO), is that the Task Force set up in the Office of the President charged with the "restructuring of the ferry services" was the driving force behind the purchases, and we know what that means when such structures are established under Jammeh's office and Chaired by his Secretary General, in this case the former Secretary General who is already serving a two-year prison sentence on other charges.

The judgement, as reported by DO, confirms all of what was reported here.  We now know from the judgement that the ferry "Aljamdu" was priced at 1.7 million Euros and that it was to be paid by a loan from the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation.  In short, from your pension contributions.  Nothing was said of the sister ferry "Kansala".  Both ferries are moored at the Banjul harbor and deemed inoperable because of structural defects and some serious design faults.

Another interesting fact to have emerged from the case was that the Financial Director, Gai, was not answerable to his Managing Director but to the then Chairman of the Task Force, former Secretary General Njogu Bah.  Jammeh was, therefore, pulling the strings as always.

We will delve into the details of the ruling and the figures quoted in Court which we maintain are incorrect. We, therefore, stand by our figures.  For now, we can only say that we are happy that Messrs. Tambadou and Gai are free men today because of the fact that their case was broadcast beyond the Gambian borders, and that a lot of people, including insurance companies and other interested parties, are watching. The Joint Venture partners certainly are equally interested in the evolution of the case of the two ferries "Aljamdu" and "Kansala".

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let the Archbishop rest peacefully

West African Archbishops and their wives, Westminster Abbey
The late Archbishop
On the eve of the interment of Archbishop Solomon Telewa Johnson, we pay our final respects to the man who stood up for the Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia, the rule of law and the dignity of every Gambian, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and animists alike, and for which the dictatorship tried to extract as many pounds of flesh as it could with little discernible success, except, perhaps, the story you are about to read.

Sidi Sanneh

Bishop Solomon Telewa Johnson became the first Gambian to be elevated to the level of Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Province of West Africa in September 2012.  He met his untimely death last month on the tennis court from an apparent heart attack while engaging in one of his favorite pastimes.

While the nation and the entire Anglican community around the world were in shock and eulogizing the Archbishop in their own individual ways, the dictatorship in Banjul under the active leadership of Yaya Jammeh, continue to engage in, what can only be described as, disdainful acts, yes, even in death, against the Archbishop, his family, his Church, his countrymen and countrywomen.

The Archbishop ran afoul of the dictatorship for being the only IEC Chairman to take the regime to task for failing to comply with the Local Government Act governing the conduct of elections.   He also insisted on on-the-spot counting of ballots and not to have them transported distances from the polling stations, inviting vote tampering, ballot stuffing and other shenanigans.

This single action by the then Chairman may have protected the vote but it also succeeded in placing him within crosshair range of a regime that had no intention of continuing Jawara's democratic tradition - a tradition the Archbishop obviously shared and cherished. His actions clearly displeased the anti-democratic regime whose leader didn't hesitate to remind the Anglican Church, the Christian community and Gambians of his displeasure by refusing to receive him at State House when he was elevated to the post of Archbishop.  Jammeh's most reliable sidekick named Isatou Njie-Saidy did the honors instead.

It is an open secret that the regime of Yaya Jammeh has been at war with this man of God since his unceremonious removal from the Chairmanship of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for exercising his duties, under Gambian Law, to ensure a free, fair and transparent election.  He was on the verge of seeking redress from the Supreme Court of The Gambia for the regime's none compliance of the country's electoral laws when he was preemptively dismissed by Jammeh.

While preparations for the Archbishop's funeral is underway, indications from Banjul are that the regime of Yaya Jammeh is not ready to call a truce in a war he declared against the Archbishop even in death.  The Church has tried and failed to secure the permission Yaya Jammeh to hold the funeral and Requiem Mass at the McCarthy Square close to the Anglican Church located on the corner of Independence Drive and Allen Street.  Since Banjul is expecting to welcome a huge crowd, including Bishops from the West African region and other dignitaries, to pay its last respects, they cannot all be accommodated in the Church, and thus the McCarthy Square venue.  When the Church bells toll, it will within ears reach.

Yaya Jammeh personally refused the request and suggested that the Mass be held at the Hostel of the Independence Stadium, away from public view.  The denial is not only a slap in the face of the Anglican community but it is an insult to every decent Gambian regardless of religion or tribe.  By forcing the Anglicans out of the middle of Banjul, and exiling them to the boondocks, the Church is being forced to hold the viewing of the corps at Christ Church in Serrekunda and the Requiem Mass at the Independence Stadium Hostel instead of the Archbishop's own Anglican Church and McCarthy Square in Banjul respectively.  It is, in our view, a funeral arrangements unbefitting the Head of the Anglican Church in The Gambia.

The refusal of the regime to accommodate the wishes of the family and Church poses will further inconvenience by posing unnecessary logistical challenges - easily avoidable otherwise - to the thousands of people expected to attend the funeral of the Archbishop.  They will now have to move from Serrekunda to Independence Stadium and an additional six miles trek to Bishop's Court in Banjul for the interment. Expression of condolences to the family will then move to Marina International Hall across the Banjul highway.  The whole idea makes no sense.  But nothing makes sense anymore in Jammeh's Gambia.

In death, as in life, the regime has carried on with his private war against the venerable Archbishop.  In case, skeptics and supporters of this repressive dictatorship still need further evidence of government campaign against the Archbishop here are few examples:  He's never received a national honor from the regime of Jammeh, and there's no reason to expect on posthumously.  There has been no official mourning period for the first Gambian Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Province of West Africa - not even the symbolic lowering of flags at half mast in honor of one of our own.  Not a single official delegation higher than members of the so-called Muslim Elders of Banjul since his death has been sent to express condolences to the family.  There has been no Vice President and no member of Cabinet to visit the family to expend their condolences on behalf of the government.  How low can this regime go to show disdain for the Archbishop.

Here, there's more: This regime deprived the Archbishop and his wife of travelling abroad on diplomatic passports which were taken away when he was illegally and constitutionally dismissed by Yaya Jammeh instead of the National Assembly as prescribed by law. And when the then Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission reminded Yaya Jammeh that the power of dismissal rests with Gambia's National Assembly, the was threatened with jail.  If it weren't for the intervention of the late Mustapha Wadda in his capacity as Secretary General and a senior Minister, the Archbishop would have been jailed, illegally, of course.  Shame on Yaya Jammeh and his callously vindictive government.

To conclude: May the soul of the first Gambian Archbishop of the Provence of West Africa rest in perfect peace.  To those he left behind, it's imperative to continue celebrating his exemplary life as a person of God and as a full-blooded Gambian.

DISCLAIMER:  The views expressed herein are those of the and, thus do not necessarily represent the views of the Anglican Church, family members, colleagues or friends of the late Archbishop.

Correction:  Date of publication:  For the record, this piece was finalized and published, Thursday 20th February 2014. The drafting started Monday, 17th February 2014.  My apologies for the sequencing of the blog.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's the economy, stupid !

The dogged pursuit of irrational economic policies by the Jammeh regime has accelerated the deteriorating conditions of the Gambian economy, and yet neither the political parties on the ground nor the dissident community abroad is able and willing to capitalize on the bad numbers to effect political transitional change.

Why is this the case?  In the next few paragraphs, we will attempt to show how Jammeh succeeded in holding off IMF and World Bank scrutiny, and thus giving the general population the impression that the economy is not as bad as critics claim. But first, let us look at the strategy that Jammeh adopted in dealing with the Bretton Woods institutions that made it possible to hold them off for so long despite the regime's persistent failure to adhere to its undertakings with donors in the maintenance of prudent fiscal and monetary policies.

When Jammeh was Chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) in 1994, he learned early the importance of donor resources, and how vital they are to the viability of a small economy like Gambia's.  He recognized early also that the Taiwan resources he was able to tap into were temporary at best, and which he later transformed into a fund he managed personally with great discretionary powers as to how to target them.  We now know that most went into highly dubious projects such as the Vegetable and Fruit Plantation Project was was funded to the tune of $ 15 million with little or nothing to show for it.

After Jammeh successfully maneuvered his way into the Presidency as a civilian head of state, he continued to cultivate unconventional sources of development assistance while trying to normalize relations with traditional donors who had walked off the stage following the military coup.  During the transition, with donors refusing to continue disbursements, the economy suffered but not in the magnitude expected because (i) despite the propaganda from anti-PPP forces at the time, the economy was in a far better shape than they would want Gambians to believe, and (ii) Taiwan and other unconventional funds were flowing freely using unconventional disbursement procedures which allowed quicker expenditure patterns thus bypassing all internationally recognized tender procedures.

It was during this period that Gambia Radio and Television Studios and Building, Banjul International Airport Terminal Building and the 22nd July Arch were built which proved highly successful in holding back any rising opposition to a regime that was increasingly displaying violence as a means of keeping the opposition in check with murders, tortures, disappearances and the suppression of press freedom.   When critics point to human rights violations, Jammeh points to the edifices he's built in the name of the Revolution, as progress.

When donor missions to Banjul resumed and traditional aid started flowing after the transition to "civilian" rule, the regime, while privately recognizing the vital role that these 'colonial' (to borrow Jammeh's characterization) institutions was publicly chastising them as exploitative, and thus anti-development, with little regard for the welfare of the rural population.  Despite these public tirades at political rallies, Jammeh was quietly falling in line with the norms and procedures of the World Bank, IMF, AfDB, UK and the EU not only because they were the biggest donors to The Gambia but also because the absence of the balance of payment support, and other direct assistance in support of the recurrent budget has started manifested itself in the general operations of government.

Normal government operations were further aggravated by a new civilian administration that was discovering that it was easier to shed the military uniform that the military mentality. The ensuing disruption of normal administration was impacting the economy in many ways, including but not limited to revenue collections.  Hiring and firing of civil servants at will only made matters worse.  Not lost in all of this confusion, however, was the recognition of importance of external funds to Jammeh's own political survival, and the need to play ball with the World Bank and the IMF; never mind the anti-colonialist, Marxist, Pan-Africanist rhetoric Jammeh picked up while making his way to State House via the student radical circuit and the military police.

Jammeh learned  very quickly that you can agree with all the parameters agreed to between government officials and the donors, specifically the World Bank and the IMF, and yet bulk when it comes to implementing the program with little or not consequence. I believe Jammeh has not observed a single promise he's made to the Fund about containing domestic debt to a manageable level in over a decade, and within that period he's been sanctions in any significant way a single time; that was when the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) was caught cooking the books, and the Fund ask for a refund of the funds released as a result the false figures provided by CBG.

Since then, there has been the standard issue template written admonition of failing to "adhere to prudent fiscal and/or monetary policy".  Jammeh has been borrow locally to finance his pet projects, especially in a run up to presidential election time, thus depriving the private sector of much needed bank loan for growth and expansion.  No wonder the private sector is shrinking with many investors fleeing Gambia in droves.  Of course, the anti-private sector policies, including the confiscatory machinery unleashed on private sector operators by Yaya Jammeh like the National Intelligence Agency and the recently-formed Gambia Revenue Agency has accelerated the exodus to neighboring countries with friendlier investment climate.

Jammeh routinely ignores policy agreed between government and donors, including the IMF, a practice that has gone unchecked and unsanctioned until recently when the European Union issued it's 17 points demand that addressed key human rights reforms, such as the abolition of the death penalty, re-opening of newspapers and private radio stations and the like.  This development, however late in coming, was not a surprise because the focus of dissidents and international organization such as Amnesty International has always been on human rights issues at the expense of the rights to basic needs of the population, even though grave economic mismanagement has been proven to be the shortest route to a change in government.

High unemployment, rampant corruption, hyper-inflationary pressures-cum-high food prices and shortages of basic commodities tend to spring the population faster into action against a government than the denial of human rights, yet activists, dissidents and opposition politicians hardly delve into, what we consider as the soft underbelly of the Jammeh regime.  It is a regime that seized power under the pretext of coming to eradicate corruption and reduce poverty only to turn Gambia into the most corrupt in the sub-region while increasing the incidence of poverty from 50% in 1994 to its current deplorable level of approximately 66%.

Jammeh's use of state resources to advance his private business ventures, and to further enrich himself has gone unabated, making him the single biggest private businessman in the small Gambian economy.  And because of the size of his private holdings, Jammeh is able to influence the local market ranging from prices of food stuffs to local foreign exchange rates.  In fact, he interferes openly and regularly without apparent restraint from donors.  We must acknowledge that last June, the IMF did issue a lukewarm warning refraining the Office of The President from interfering with the local forex market which Jammeh ignored a month later with yet another executive order setting new rates for the US dollar.

Economic management issues, as important as they are in impacting the lives of the 1.7 million Gambians, have not been exploited fully, neither by civic society groups nor by politicians.  It is more perplexing when the regime has clearly demonstrated its ineptitude and lack of depth in managing a previously well-managed economy they inherited from the administration of Jawara.  Youth unemployment is higher now than when Jammeh seized power in 1994 which has resulted in an apparent shift in political support when the youth of Banjul voted in an Independent candidate for Mayor of the capital city instead of the ruling party that had a stranglehold on the youth vote.  It is time the dissident opposition community abroad and politicians at home take their cue from the young by focusing more attention in future campaign on the economic management issues that this regime continues to mishandle.

Note:  To my friend Omar Jallow (OJ), the Interim Leader of the PPP -  I am happy that you have started highlighting the economic issues facing The Gambia resulting from the mismanagement and the continued domination of the local market by Yaya Jammeh.      


Friday, February 14, 2014

Let us walk and chew gum at the same time

I woke up a snowy morning, couldn't get to the family car which was buried under a foot of snow.  Schools and offices were closed, while Washington area governments and municipalities struggled to make the streets passable - a huge challenge for these parts; ask Atlanta and Raleigh.

Since I was trapped and plenty of time at my disposal, I ventured into thinking out loud on my Facebook page by crying out for Banjul, the town of my birth with a short sentence which read thus:  "My Banjul used to be nice, clean, small town; not anymore" which was enough to generate the passion that, on second thought, should be expected.

Banjul is not only the capital, but it was until in the early 1980's the biggest city as well.  On paper, it is still the capital but has lost almost half of its 1980 population to the outlying communities we now call The Greater Banjul Area or GBA.

We Banjulians must first own up to the fact that we are equally responsible for abandoning the city we claim to love for the suburbs.  We did not only abandon it, but some who lived on the Wellington, Cotton, Hagan, Brown, Wilberforce, Buckle Streets corridor, actually obstructed government from buying off some properties to allow for the expansion of the operations of the Gambia Ports Authority.  Part of the refusal was the price on offer but the majority was because of the cultural attachment to the notion of "kerr chosan" ( traditional family compound) that should be kept within the family in perpetuity.  Eventually, the threat of using government's right to apply "eminent domain" forced them to sell for cash and a plot of land in the GBA.

The above is just to cite examples to show that we are as culpable as central government and Banjul City Council (BCC) whose primary source of revenue is compound or yard rates and daily rates it collects from operators of market stalls and businesses in the commercial districts around Wellington Street.  When businesses and residents started moving to the GBA, where tourism (another contributors to Banjul's decline) is heavily concentrated, the rate base started to erode faster than BCC can devise other means of generating income.

The transition from civilian to military rule in 1994 dramatically altered the relationship between the City and central government.  The coup makers saw Banjul as the treasure trove of young voters who were disillusioned with the PPP government, and thus good candidates to help 'the boys' cement their grip on power for the long haul.  We all know that they were right because Banjul, until the last couple of years ago, was the bastion of A(F)PRC regimes.

It is no secret that the loss of political support of the ruling party in Banjul that led to the election of an Independent candidate as Mayor is directly related to the regime's failure in solving the pressing needs of the youth of Banjul relating to job creation and basic amenities like passable roads, clean cutters, functional sewage system and reliable electricity supply.  The problems of the city multiplies during the rainy season when the gutters become clogged, sewers back-up and malaria-carrying mosquitoes feast on residents in a darkened city.

It goes without saying that "central to all these development goals and objectives is the issue of governance" to quote a statement in reaction to my post on Banjul.  Prior to this comment, there were earlier comment making reference to Gambia's colonial past, the exploitative nature of colonialism, Marxist rhetoric (not my cup of tea) and the like, which,  in my view, misses the point.  We are, therefore, obliged to state once and for all that because we suggest solutions to matters of fundamental importance of returning The Gambia to sanity doesn't mean that the issue of governance is less important.  This blog is not just about governance, per se, although , we can still argue, successfully, we believe, most of our coverage have been governance to the core.  We are trying, and we will continue to try not to stray into the weeds.  We write for the general readership and therefore we are mindful of them at all time.

We all agree that Gambia is faced with a multitude of problems.  In fact, the entire economy based on free market principles with government playing a regulatory role, has been destroyed.  Most, if not all of our institutions are in tatters.  The judiciary and the civil service must be completely overhauled.  These are monumental tasks in themselves which we have tried to address when and where appropriate.  The challenges are monumental.  Therefore, nothing should prevent us, especially those with expertise and/or relevant experience in these areas to share their views and solutions without being asked to concentrate on governance.

We will let the political and civic organs in the diaspora, together with the political parties and their supporters on the ground handle those aspects dealing with transition, political transfer of power etc. while we deal with issues that are, in our view, of equal importance, including matters that are purely political governance related.  For instance, the problems facing the economy and the governance matters are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they are so intertwined that to try to isolate them and treat them independent of one another is like trying to isolate the milk already poured into your cup of coffee.  Since these issues are inseparable, we must try to deal with them in a integrated fashion, if and when we can.  In short, let us try to walk and chew gum all at once.        

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Serving notice to Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle

This blog has dedicated itself to monitoring the judiciary, particularly the performance of those judges within the system who distinguish themselves as 'mercenary judges', and to bring their behavior and judicial comportment to the attention of the appropriate authorities in their home countries and international organizations that monitor the legal profession.  Meanwhile, we take note that 5 judges from the sub-region are presently in Banjul to attend the Supreme Court sittings.  We hope that this will be extended to include lower court sittings, particularly the Special Criminal Court headed by Justice Emmanuel Nkea of Cameroon.  

We wrote these words back in October.  Now that Emmanuel Nkea has abruptly resigned and fled territorial Gambia to save his skin, we are determined more than ever to continue to pursue these mercenary judges wherever they may be. Terminating their services with the dictatorship and/or fleeing The Gambia will neither prevent us from monitoring their professional activities, at home and abroad nor obviate the need to doggedly pursue them with the view to exposing their lack of professionalism and their corrupt practices.

As regards the newly appointed Acting Chief Justice, Emmanuel Fagbenle, we will continue to monitor his professional behavior and the manner he conducts himself on the bench.  We intend to open a communication channel with both the Government of Nigeria and the Nigeria Bar Association regarding Fagbenle's present and future conduct.  The Gambian judiciary must not continue to be used by the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh as an instrument of repression with the help of the likes of Emmanuel Fagbenle.  We are serving notice to all other judges who fit the description outlined above.    

Friday, February 7, 2014

Our failing schools

54% of all girls in Upper River Division drop out of school before completing primary school.  The drop out rate for boys is not significantly different at 44%.

As always, schools officials representing the official view of this regime rather than offer their independent professional expertise, are quick to point fingers at parents for refusing to enroll their kids in school without stopping for a minute to ask why suddenly the drop out rate is suddenly headed south.  This is in spite of the fact that government's own Education Policy 2004 -2015 states categorically that their own data show 'the more affluent households...enroll more of their children and retain them for longer periods..."

The regime of Yaya Jammeh also touted the issue of access as another influencing factor that increases enrollment.  Girls enrollment will also increase if all of the above holds true and that parents do not pull them out of school to give their hands to marriage. 

Throughout the 1990's and into the 21st century, school enrollment figures had gone up, and some would argue, including yours truly, at the expense of quality which seemed OK for a regime that was and still is more interested in scoring propaganda points than doing the right thing.

What is now happening in Basse is probably happening in Pakalinding, Kerewan and throughout The Gambia.  Gains made in school enrollments are slowing being lost because the economic conditions of theses rural areas have plummeted in the last decade, causing parents to withdraw their kids from school or withhold them altogether.  

Parents can on longer afford the fees (there's nothing like free primary education in The Gambia - its an urban myth concocted by the regime), and besides, the kids cannot find work even when they complete the primary cycle.  Therefore, get them out of schools, keep them enrolled in 'madrassas' while they teach the boys to be good farmers and send the girls off to marriage. 

These are hard economic choices being forced on to farmers by government, and the latter ends up being blamed for actions resulting from inappropriate government policies. 

In stead of the school officials blaming parents and planning "sensitization workshops", they should urge the regime to take a serious look at their own set of policies that have not worked in nearly two decades.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Justice Fagbenle: Gambia's new Chief Justice

The Gambian dictator has appointed a Nigerian as Acting Chief Justice of The Gambia, the third person to hold the position in a little over 6 months.  Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle replaces Ghanaian born former Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang who was sacked, and the one before her is serving jail time for abuse of office.

Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle appears to have initially entered the Gambian judiciary as a Nigerian technical assistance.  He later secured a Gambia government contract, as most mercenary judges employed by Yaya Jammeh.

According to statement issued by the Office of the President, Justice Fagbenle is being appointed as "acting Chief Justice" to replace Ghanaian born Mabel Agyemang who "was relieved of her appointment" without explanation last Monday.

The official statement announcing Justice Fagbenle's appointment gave no biographical detail, and a search provided little by way of background of Gambia's new Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  One would expect a detailed resume that includes his professional experience, positions held, writings, memberships in legal organizations and the like.  The only record we have shows that he was appointed Appeals Court judge five years ago, and nothing else.  This is obviously a cause for concern.

This blog will continue to follow developments in the Gambian judiciary which is in a pathetic state, and an embarrassment to legal profession and to the Gambia judiciary alike.  We will liaise with the international legal bodies regarding the professional behavior of this caliber of judges who receive instructions from the Gambian dictator.  These judges serve the dictatorship, and not justice.

Justice Emmanuel Nkea resigns

The main pillar of Jammeh's judicial assault team, Justice Emmanuel Nkea, has tendered his resignation, effective immediately.  No reason was given for the sudden and unexpected resignation, and none is being advanced at the moment.

The Cameroonian born judge of the Special Criminal Court who was on a two-week vacation, resumed duties a few days ago only to spring a surprise on a regime that it losing popular support because of high level corruption, general incompetence, and the use, or more appropriately, the abuse of the judiciary to put away its real and perceived political enemies.  Justice Nkea has been an important part of that judicial team that Gambians have grown to despise.

During his two-week absence, speculation was rife that he was being whisked away by a regime that was increasingly under pressure because of its use of the judiciary to put away its opponents, and also because because of Nkea's intimate involvement in this judicial scheme to deny Gambians their due process.

The Special Criminal Court judge was personally recruited by the former Solicitor General and close ally of the Gambian dictator, Ben Jammeh who has since fallen afoul of the regime, and currently in exile in Senegal.


The resignation of Justice Nkea is coming at the heels of the dismissals of the Ghanaian born Chief Justice, Justice Mabel Agyemang who was under contract with the Commonwealth Secretariat up to the time the dictator unilaterally pulled Gambia's membership from the organization.  It is unclear how her salary was being met after the pull-out.  Her replacement as Chief Justice is reportedly a Nigerian Appeals Court Judge Emmanuel Fagbenle who originally came to The Gambia via Nigerian bilateral assistance program.

Emmanuel Nkea was described by this blog back in October as "the new eye of the storm" as he was tapped to replace Justice Wowo after his elevation to Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from which he was abruptly dismissed, arrested, charged and subsequently imprisoned for two years on numerous charges including abuse of office.

Justice Nkea was as proactive on the bench as he was off it.  He was seen more as a political wheeler-dealer than a legal luminary, and was more interested in firmly locking up Jammeh's political enemies at the notorious Mile II prisons than dispensing justice.   Justice Emmanuel Nkea served Jammeh, not justice.

His resignation will leave the Gambian judiciary in further shambles.  It will also cause the regime to consider whether it is advisable to provide safe passage for the Cameroonian judge.  The chances are Nkea will not be allowed to leave Gambia without being accused of something by a displeased dictator.   We will see how this saga ends.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ghanaian-born Chief Justice of The Gambia fired

The Ghanaian born Chief Justice of The Gambia, Justice Mabel Agyemang has been fired by the Gambian dictator for unspecified reasons, according to reliable sources.  Justice Agyemang was confirmed as Chief Justice on 30th of July 2013, and sworn in on 1st August of the same year at State House by Yaya Jammeh as the first female Chief Justice of The Gambia.

Justice Agyemang became the second Ghanaian Chief Justice of The Gambia after a tumultuous year for the Gambian judiciary which saw the sacking of the Nigerian-born of the Acting Chief Justice Wowo who was previously arrested and remanded in prison for providing false information to a public officer.  The embattled Nigerian mercenary judge who fell afoul of the dictates of Yaya Jammeh has since been found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of office, conspiracy to defeat justice and interference with witnesses, among a litany of other charges.  Former Justice Minister was found guilty of similar charges and received a similar sentence. 

During the swearing in ceremony of the Ghanaian-born former Chief Justice, the Gambian dictator reminded those present why he pays particular attention to the judiciary because, according to him "whatever decision is taken there ( in the judiciary), has direct bearing on governance, and to me as the head of state of this country and it is the reason why I pay particular attention to the judiciary."  

The dictator continued his sermon with the following words to the audience and the nation "I want to make sure my conscience is clear whenever somebody is sent to jail, and I want to make sure that when someone has to face the ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime he/she has committed, I would go to bed easily knowing that justice has been done." 

Justice Agyemang was called to the Ghanaian Bar in 1987.  She worked under contract with the Commonwealth Secretariat as an expert judge in 2004 in The Gambia for a period of four years before moving on to Swaziland.   She returned to The Gambia in 2010 as an Appeals Court Judge, still under Commonwealth Secretariat contract before being elevated to the highest judicial position in The Gambia. 

It is unclear at this point whether she was still under contract with the Commonwealth Secretariat when she became the Chief Justice, and if so, whether her contract status changed after the dictator's unilateral decision to withdraw Gambia's membership from the Commonwealth.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Raleigh dead? : The sequel

Raleigh was a brilliant idea.  But it was also a dumb idea.  We must qualify our first statement for it to be correct by saying that the initial idea of Raleigh was brilliant. Raleigh was initially intended to be a meeting of political activists that excluded political parties and their surrogates.  In fact, the initial attempt to have the meeting funded by Fredrick Hubert Foundation failed, in part, because of the intention of the organizers to include political parties and/or politicians.  Because of the sloppy handling of the initial efforts by organizers, the idea of including politicians blended into the bigger picture as the venue moved from Dakar to Raleigh.

Was the incorporation of the political parties an inadvertent act of not paying attention to detail or was it a deliberate calculation on the part of some 'activists' who harbor political ambition of their own to achieve a higher profile for Raleigh. We may never know for certain.  The presence of political party leaders, however vilified and caricatured at the hands of some diasporan activists, in Raleigh was seen as a valuable validator of the process.  Leading up to Raleigh, frantic efforts were made to get as many politicians and other personalities to the North Carolinian capital.  This strategy, we believe, was driven more by optics than anything else.  The one opposition party of note that decided to stay away probably saw this from afar too. After all, there were enough of its active members involved in the process as activists instead of the party apparatchiks that they are;  but so are members of other political party apparatchiks donning their civic organization hats too.

Like many other Gambian organizations in the diaspora, Raleigh suffers from the same ailment or condition I refer to as transparency deficiency syndrome.  The organizers played their cards too close to their collective chests throughout the process, especially after Raleigh, and after the formation of the Steering Committee charged by the Conference to "pursue an Agenda for Democratic Change in The Gambia." Every critical comment, however trivial, is met with aggressive response, laced with insinuations bordering on the hysterical.  Exclusionary references to age and previous service in the APRC government are common tactics to silence critics. When these tactics fail to act as effective deterrent, some resort to 'anti-intellectual' tirades, as if, educational attainment is a disqualifying factor, as employed by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.  Needless to say, these tactics hardly work.  In fact, it energizes those of us who believe in the democratic process.  If we demand accountability from Yaya Jammeh, why not from our politicians and activists.

The Steering Committee has been slow in its deliberations. Eight months after members were given their marching orders by the Raleigh Conference, it is yet to select a Chairperson.  Despite what organizers would want you to believe, a membership of 27, spanning three continents, is too large and unwieldy to accomplish much.  If the number was kept to a manageable size, there would not have been the need to select an Executive of the Committee, thus adding a layer to the bureaucracy, which would then have to clear everything it does with the Steering Committee. Another criticism of the Steering Committee, and indeed the entire Raleigh Process, is its inability to shake off the old faces who have become permanent fixtures in the civic/activism landscape for the past 15 years without a notable record of achievement in the unification of the opposition parties.  Their conspicuous and ubiquitous presence in every conceivable organization is mind numbing.  If one cannot effect change after a decade, it is time to call it a day and allow fresh blood to flow into a decaying process, with the hope of reviving it.

All said, it may not be too late to save Raleigh from itself.  First, the process should only be for civic/activist groups. Political parties should be excluded, as originally intended.  Note is taken of the fact that one political party has withdrawn, and it is hoped the rest will follow suit.  Participating political parties should not be subject to one set of rules while non-participating ones are free from being encumbered with rules and regulations constructed on the fly by activists cum politicians.  It has become a nuisance; constantly being on defense in the face of a barrage of accusations and innuendos over opposition strategy.

CORDEG should be purely a civic group, in our view, and the political parties should do what they do best, remain political.  Although they may sound different in their public declarations, they are actually similar in, at least one facet, both have political ambitions.  The activists may proclaim publicly their neutrality, but most, if not all, are either affiliated with political parties or harbor political ambition.  There lies the problem of CORDEG as currently configured.  Therefore, it will help if those who want to be President of the Republic, Ministers, Managing Directors of Parastatals and/or occupy other political offices, to publicly declare their intent and stop pretending otherwise. They must also make the journey to Banjul to start forming their political organizations, and introduce themselves to the Gambian electorate. The professional politicians are no fools. They have seen through the shenanigans, and will pull away from the process the moment they smell that there's something rotten in state of Denmark.  Sorry Denmark.

Post script: We've come to learn, as we were about to post this blog, that Dr. Abdoulaye Saine and Mr. Ablie Jobe have been elected Head and Secretary General of CORDEG respectively.  We have also been informed through unofficial channels that Mai Ahmed Fatty, Leader of GMC, has withdrawn it's membership in CORDEG. While extending our congratulations to Messrs. Saine and Jobe, we urge them to rethink CORDEG in light of the current state of inertia that seem to grip the organization.  The status of political parties within the organization must also be clearly defined.