Friday, June 27, 2014

The case of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh: Is the World Bank risking being accessory to travesty of justice?

The trial of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh, former project coordinator of the West African Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP), has been delayed for the umpteenth time because the fourth prosecution witness, Samsideen Kebbeh, decided not to show up in court because of the presence of a World Bank mission in the country.  What has this got to do with a court case?

The prosecution was unaware that Mr. Kebbeh was not going to attend the court, and when State Counsel Agiah called, the witness informed him he cannot be in court because of the presence of a World Bank mission visiting an ongoing project.  We'd like to know if the World Bank mission presence takes precedence over the legal duty of a prosecution witness to attend a court where a former colleague of his is being accused of very serious crimes - charges, in our opinion, that are bogus.

The local World Bank Office must pronounce on this matter because the statement of State Counsel Agiah seem to suggest that it is the Bank's official policy that its missions to host countries takes precedence over the legal duty of witnesses to be in court.

The case of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh is a travesty of justice, and the World Bank or any respectable institution should not be seen to be lending tacit support to the case.  By telling the court that a state witness is indisposed because of the presence of a World Bank mission that will only add to the length of time this case has been dragging on, it gives the impression that the Bank encourages the flouting of the law.  We have expressed our concern about this, and numerous other cases: The pattern of using the judiciary as a blunt instrument by this regime has emerged that is disconcerting at best and sinister at worst.

Sheikh Tejan Sosseh is charged with failure as project manager to apply the entire EU grant implimented by the World Bank on behalf of the European Development Fund of € 5.3 million, approximately US$ 7.3 million.  The balance of the grants that was returned to the Bank was approximately US$ 67,000.  Mr. Sosseh is being charge with 'economic crime' for achieving 92% rate of implementation and, as far as we know, in accordance with the project objectives and grant covenant.

It is not as if Mr. Sosseh pocketed the balance which actually reverted to the Bank to be returned to the EDF.  As we have said earlier,  instead of being commended for the efficient manner he implimented the project, he's being labeled a criminal, dragged into court to sully his reputation.  The World Bank and the European Union should step in and side with Mr. Sosseh who is one more victim in a long line of victims of a callously corrupt regime.

As we speak, there's an addition twelve EU/FAO/WFP project managers and agriculture experts who's services have been summarily terminated, and their persons jailed, for reasons known to the dictatorship and no one else.

A copy of this blog is being made available to the World Bank's Coutry Director for The Gambia.