Sunday, April 6, 2014

The seizure of Olympic House

Faced with an increasing internal opposition to his rogue and corrupt regime, the Gambian dictator has struck once more; this time against the independent, non-governmental Olympic House- home of the Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOC).

This  move is yet another ammunition in Jammeh's arsenal to divert the attention of Gambians away from their current misery of going for three weeks without ferry services that connect the two halves of the country, and midst of food shortages and high prices of daily necessities of life, like a loaf of bread which is now out of reach of ordinary Gambians.

The GNOC, like any of the over 200 National Olympic Committees across the globe, is an integral part of the Olympic Movement, and to a member of the Movement in good standing, each and every National Committee must adhere to the rules and norms governing the organization.

Building a peaceful and better world by youth through sport is a cardinal aim of the Olympic Movement, and to be part of this Movement every Organizing Committee must comply with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the International Olympic Committee.

In a nutshell, this is the spirit of Olympianism, and one of the cornerstone of a sports philosophy, inscribed in the IOC Charter that "sports occurs within a framework of society, sports organization within the Olympic Movement, shall have the rights and obligations of AUTONOMY, which includes freely establishing and controlling the rules of sport, determining the structure and governance of their organizations, enjoying the rights of elections, free from outside influence and the responsibility for ensuring that principles of good governance are applied."

The seizure of the Olympic House came without notice.  Staff reporting for work Thursday morning were greeted at the gates by paramilitary police who had already surrounded the offices as if it was the residence of a drug kingpin.  A staff member was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that the police told them that "we have instructions not to allow you to enter, because the new interim committee is coming to take over the premises."

In a typical cowardly fashion that has come to characterize this brutal and insidious regime, this police action took place when both GNOC president, Momodou Dibba, and GNOC first vice president, Beatrice Allen, were reportedly out of the country.   This move came two weeks after the GNOC held its Annual General Meeting.

Following the outcome of the elections of the current holder of office at GNOC, the dictatorial regime stepped in, using an inexperienced Sports Minister who lacks basic managerial skills, to set up an Interim Committee filled with cronies (al topehs, in Wollof) and APRC party apparatchiks to run the GNOC until further notice.  Meanwhile, the regime claimed to have barred the GNOC members from travelling because they were not the true representatives of the Gambian sports.

We have seen this movie before in the continued politicization of Gambian sports by an unpopular and corrupt regime that sees it as a promotional vehicle through which it can advance its political agenda. It is a regime that has destroyed Gambian football (soccer) by stacking the previous Gambia Football Federation with army officers who cannot tell Pele from Eve and who ended up recruiting 27 year olds to represent Gambia in the Under-17 World Cup.  Gambia did win but when MRI scans were employed to help determine the true age of the players, we all know the results produced by the true Under-17s.

The seizure of the Olympic House is just the beginning of a long drown-out campaign against the officials who were legitimately elected by the membership of  individual Sports Clubs.  The previous Executive Committee Members of the GFF were unfairly banned for 5 years from the sport they love by a heavy-handed government using proxies to do its dirty work.  Although they were subsequently unbanned, the damage to football had already been inflicted.

The same scenario is being repeated.  Momodou Dibba, Beautrice Allen and the entire Executive of GNOC must brace themselves for a vicious campaign - a  campaign of intimidation and slander will be waged against them by a regime that is on its death dead.  All said and done, and just as we have seen during the GFF election, if fresh elections are forced on the GNOC, assuming the International Olympic Committee supports the actions of a dictatorial regime, and they are conducted freely and fairly, the same officials will be returned to their posts.  The same usual suspects involved in the Gambia Football Federation debacle are at work here too.  We will not hesitate to campaign against them too. The campaign against this brutal and corrupt regime has just begun.