Friday, July 11, 2014

BRG drops Jammeh, spends over $2.5 million since 1995

BRG Government Affairs LLC a lobbying firm in Washington DC has terminated its contract with the regime of Yaya Jammeh, according to filings of the firm with the United States department of Justice.

The dictatorship has come under tremendous pressure from opposition groups abroad about his lobby contracts with firms in Washington DC.

The irony is the most anti-American regime in Africa depends on American lobbyists to help him spruce up his battered image - an image that is irreparable.

It could be recalled that this blog ran a couple of posts on the subject matter last year regarding this lobbying contract.  Our BRG Government Affairs LLC blog posts were to draw attention to the fact that such a reputable firm where a former Republican Governor of Mississippi is a partner risks its reputation by lobbying for a notorious dictator with a prolific record of human right abuses, especially when his reputation has already been mortally damaged.

DUGA, a Washington-based civic group made up of Gambians exiles and non-exiles alike also staged a protest in front of the corporate offices of BRG to draw attention to the lobbying contract.

BRG filings suggest that the contract was terminated on 31 December 2013 after paying $405,000.  Jammeh was invoiced an additional $45,000 to cover 9 months of of what appears to be for expenses.  Whether this amount has been paid is unknown, but going by Yaya Jammeh's track record, this amount is probably still outstanding, and will be recovered only through court action.  Yaya Jammeh is a bad customer, period.

The Department of Justice's report show that since Jammeh seized power in July 1994, he has signed seven separate contracts with four different lobbying firms.  Three of those lobbying contracts were with Washington World Group Ltd. the first of which was an 8-week binding contract for the sum of $22, 250 signed in April 1995.  Subsequently, two other contracts were signed in successive years in the amount of
$180,000 and $300,000 which terminated in December 1999.

In September 2001, Jammeh signed a new lobby contract with EAW Group Inc.valued at $500,000.  This particular contract ended acrimoniously which ended in the Washington DC courts before Jammeh found another flamboyant lobbyist in the name of Richard T. Hines, a former South Carolina State Senator who always introduced himself as Senator Hines from South Carolina to leave the impression that he's a Federal Senator, a completely different job.  The two signed a contract for $300,000.

This lobbying contract and Mr. Hine's visit to Banjul after contract signing found me at the Foreign Ministry.  I received a call one morning from the then Chief of Protocol asking me whether I have one Senator Hines with me, and when it became obvious that I had no idea of the existence of a Senator Hines much less a visit, the COP quickly dropped the line without warning.

The discourteous behavior of the Chief of Protocol immediately made me suspicious, prompting me to call the American Ambassador to inquire about a Senator Hines of South Carolina on a visit to Banjul.  He replied 'there's no US Senator Hines from South Carolina'.  In fact, there was no US Senator on a visit to The Gambia.

Years later, I reminded my Ambassador friend of the episode.  He just shook his head with a smile. Working for Jammeh can be risky business.  Everybody is at risk, even Ambassadors.  Even though neither of us were supposed to know about Hines's trip or meet him, I was lucky to have met up with Mr. Hines at the airport lounge when both were travelling out of Banjul.  He introduced himself to me as Mr. Hines and we proceeded to have an engaging conversation.

The last firm (prior to BRG) to have signed and subsequent terminated the contract was with JWI which was also terminated. The entire value of lobbying contract Jammeh has signed with Washington DC/American firms totals $2,587,250.

Reputable American firms have finally gotten the hang of it.  They now know how terrible Jammeh is and will not risk tarnishing their reputation for dealing with the most prolific abuser of human rights in Africa.  Good riddance.