Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ebola: Let us dial down the hysteria

The first reported victim of the deadly virus was a 2-year old Guinean who died on 6th December 2013.

By late March, according to the Huffington Post and Bloomberg, Ebola had killed 66 people, and by April, it had crossed the border into Liberia.

In early July, the death toll had reached 600 and climbing.  Despite the rapid spread of the virus, the world community didn't start paying serious attention to the problem until a couple of months ago.

While the virus was picking up speed, the World Health Organization (WHO) was predicting on May 8th that it was in its last days.  International response was undoubtedly slow.  Medical officials and governments had been equally slow in their respective responses.

The Guinean president left the crisis behind, even though Guinea is considered the epicenter, to attend the US-Africa Summit, while his counterparts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire stayed home to manage the outbreak.

The rapid spread of the virus to Sierra Leone, then to parts of Nigeria, and now a single case in Senegal, has has finally driven the message home, that the Ebola is not on its last days.   In fact, the WHO is now estimating that there could be 12,000 cases already.  It is being reported that half of all those infected have died, and in a worst case scenario 10,000 people would have died when everything is said and done, based on WHO's estimate that 20,000 people will be infected in West Africa.

The slow response in tackling the virus is as undesirable and a hysterical approach to it, as we are beginning to notice, especially in social media.  Understanding the nature of the virus, how it spreads, preventative measures, role of local health authorities and interior ministries responsible for border control go a long way in mitigating.

We need to dial down the hysteria, especially at a time when local authorities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are beginning to get a handle of the problem.  To do otherwise is to distract from the real problem of containing the virus from spreading from the epicenter to front line countries like Senegal, Guinea, Mali and The Gambia.

Politicization of the diedliest Ebola in human history is unacceptable and should be discouraged.  Apart from the human toll the virus is likely to claim, the economic and financial costs, we will come to realize, are going to be astronomical when all is told.

The affected countries have already started seeing cancellations of charter tourist flights which threaten the 2014/15 tourist season.  In The Gambia, a tour operator has already announced cancellations of scheduled flights for now which is subject to review in December.  It will not come as a surprise if other operators to not follow suit.  For countries that depend heavily on tourism like The Gambia specifically and other countries in the region, the impact of their respective budgets could be devastating.

Tourism contributes 10% to Gambia's GDP, down from 12% in 2011 - a sector that was on the path to recovery but will be slowed in the coming year even if all (but one) the other tour operators decide to start the season as scheduled.  Many hotels are staring closure in face which threatens the jobs of many hotel workers in an economy that is under-performing.

The potential devastation of the virus cannot be underestimated, and neither are we trying to trivialize or minimizing the horrendous misery of contracting Ebola, but we must also put the virus in proper perspective. If it helps, HIV/AIDS is considered to be a super-disease because of the complex nature of the virus.  It is more complex and because of it, it took over 15 years and millions of lives before antiretroviral therapy came into the picture.  Although the therapy is still unavailable to millions of Africans, it has more to do with politics and costs than technical constraints.  Malaria, on the other hand, kills millions more each year.

We must be mindful of these facts in dealing with the Ebola outbreak.  Yes, the potential of it turning into a pandemic is real, but we must also cast it in realistic terms.  We cannot, however, do so if, we, the social media activists, do not fully understand the problem that allows us to put it in its proper perspective so that we can positively and meaningfully contribute to the sensitization campaign.  


Friday, August 29, 2014

Brikama clubs deny nominating Lamin Kaba Bajo

The report by the Daily Observer that Lamin Kaba Bajo, former Minister and latterly Ambassador to Morocco, has been nominated by all seven regional Football Associations (except Lower River) to head the Gambia Football Association (GFF) has been denied by Brikama United and Bombada FC.
Kebbeh and Star Janneh

Buba Star Janneh, president of the Bombada FC is quoted denying that his club ever nominated the former Minister who is generally known as a political hack and an AFRC member and apologist.  All his professional life revolved around the dictatorship, moving intermittently from one ministerial post to another in perpetual servitude.

Mr. Janneh also denied that Lamin Kaba Bajo was ever, neither is he currently, Vice President of the Brikama-based Bombada FC.

Alhagie S. Darboe, Secretary General of Brikama United also denied that his club nominated Kaba Bajo.  In denying the nomination, an observation was attributed to Mr. Darboe who said that Mr. Bajo was seen at a recent football activity where he looked odd because he is not a football enthusiast.  He knows nothing about football.

The Daily Observer's apparent false claims which were attributable to "sources close to Kaba Bajo" and being denied by both Star Janneh of Bombada FC's Star Janneh and Brikama United's Darboe should be investigated by the Normalization Committee.
Lamin Kaba Bajo

Kaba Bajo has never played nor officiated league football.  He is not an ardent fan of the game and thus is ignorant of the rules of the game.

Mr. Bajo is being brought into the game simply to politicize it for the benefit of the dictatorship that increasingly see the game as a vehicle through which the regime can control and influence the Gambian youth.

To this regime, winning championships abroad is the surest way of scoring propaganda points at home, even if it means cheating as we have seen in the U-17 World Championships.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nine extrajudicial executions by Yaya Jammeh and two years later, still no answers

Thursday 23rd August 2012 will live in infamy in the history of The Gambia.  It marked the day, a mad man portraying himself as President of the Republic of The Gambia and goes by the name His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdulaziz Jamus Jungkung Jammeh Nasuru Deen Babilli Mansa, when in the dead of night, he sent in his executioners to collect nine death row inmates from their cells at the notorious Mile II Prisons.

That is all we know for certain, including the fact that they were executed extrajudicially because we know that all of the victims' rights of appeal have not been exhausted.  We also know,  through an eyewitness account for a former Minister of Communication who was also on death row, that one of the prisoners, while being carried away, shouted out loud in the local vernacular to the minister that he, the prisoner, was being carried away to be executed.   At great risk to the former minister, he managed to get the word out to the outside world of what was going on inside the Mile II Prisons.

When questions about the executions were posed to the regime, it was denied instantaneously on state television.  The regime's rapid response teams were deployed by the regime to counter the increasing  international outcry of the barbarism of an evil government.

When the regime realized that their lies were not being bought and that there was the imminent possibility of being confronted with proof, Jammeh blinked and admitted that the executions did take place, but they didn't take place on Thursday 23rd August as claimed by his accusers but on Sunday 26th August, as if it mattered.

He went further by threatening Gambians and the international community that more executions will take place in the following few weeks.  No known execution has taken place since the threat from the Gambian dictator.

It has been two years, and still no answers are forthcoming as to how these death row prisoners were murdered.  Among the executed was an inmate whose death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment and, thus, should not have been on death row.  Yet he was murdered.

The nine included two Senegalese nationals, one of whom was a woman.  It was also reported that a mentally-challenged inmate who belonged in a psychiatric ward than in prison was among the murdered.  Most, if not all, shared one thing in common, they were executed extrajudicially by a very violent regime that continues to promote violence among and within a society already held to ransom by a corrupt and inept regime.

Two years have past without answers as to what has happened to the bodies of the nine murdered inmates. Even if all the legal remedies have been exhausted, and that the executions were legal, the executions should have been announced officially in the Government Gazette, the families of the inmates notified of the execution dates and be given the option to be present.  After the executions, the bodies were to have been handed the bodies of their loved ones for appropriate burial rites to be performed before being final burial. That is what civilized governments do.

Until we get answers to these and similar related questions specific to individual inmates, the families of the nine inmates will not rest, the international community will not rest, the dissidents abroad will not rest, and neither shall we at sidisanneh.blogspot.com

May the souls of all the victims of the hideous regime of Yaya Jammeh rest in eternal and perfect peace. Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Proposed Food Security Corporation is a bad idea

Gambian women in their rice fields in Kaur
Dr. Nwenze, IFAD President
The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa with a total arable land of about 558,000 ha of which 320,000 ha or 57% of that is cropped annually.  The country's economy is agriculture based with the sector contributing approximately 30%  of GDP in 2009 and employing over 70% of Gambians.

With these figures steering Yaya Jammeh straight in the eye, and in spite of his regime's mantra of 'eat what you grow and grow what you eat', he has been investing less than 3% of the budget on the sector since he seized power.  As a signatory to the Maputo Declaration that recommends African countries commit 10% of their budget to agriculture, Jammeh has woefully failed in his commitment to the sector.  Admittedly, the trend has improved from 2.75 to 8% but not before he was literally shamed by the dismal numbers such as spending less on agricultural R&D than any other country in Africa.

Gambia is one of the least food secure countries in Africa, in part because of the lack of coherent and consistent policy measures, a problem cited by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President during Day 1 or a two-day visit to Banjul.  The IFAD President also expressed a degree of angst, predicated by a plea to ensure "that project implementation frameworks are respected in order to ensure that partnerships, particularly in decision making, is highly participatory."

By Day 2, The IFAD President's tone changed to sound like someone cuddling a dictator who stands to threaten the rural economic policy infrastructure through his proposed Food Security Corporation (FSC), using the IFAD-funded $65 million NEMA Project.  As we have said in an early post, and outlined in our open letter to the IFAD President, no national honors and medals conferred on Jammeh's guest can conceal the fact that transferring "all excess agricultural land" to the FSC, as announced by Jammeh is a very bad idea.

To put it bluntly, it is a dangerous idea and should be opposed at every turn.  And to hear the IFAD President say that while attaining self-sufficiency in rice in 18 months is ambitious but achievable is disappointing coming from the head of one of the most respected UN Agencies.  The idea is not a serious one and thus should not have been dignified with an endorsement from IFAD.

It should, therefore, be opposed by all those who continue to have trust in the rural economy, sustained in no small measure, by the hard-working rural women of The Gambia, and men too  The traditional land system which has served the rural population well, is the cornerstone of the rural economy that is being threatened by an inept and corrupt regime.

No excess agricultural land should be deeded to a Corporation thus denying villagers access.  Any fundamental structural change to the traditional tenure system will inevitable reverberate throughout the rural economy, threatening livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of rural women, men and children. IFAD should not be seen to be condoning such an irresponsible policy by an equally irresponsible and idiosyncratic dictator.

As we write, there are 10 highly trained agriculturalists in jail.  They have been arrested and in custody on flimsy charges.  In July, 17 rural women, all from one village, were arrested in their rice farms and charged for planting beyond what the perimeters demarcated by the  local District Tribunal.

The Project Director of NEMA, Momodou Gassama, was dismissed from his job in June only to be quietly reinstated a fortnight ago, in time for Dr. Nwenze's visit.  As soon as he departs, Yaya Jammeh will continue to meddle, not only in project implementation but in what the IFAD President referred to as the "decision making" process.




Thursday, August 21, 2014

FREE THE 17 MBAYEN WOMEN FARMERS

Gambian dictator Jammeh
President of IFAD
As the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) starts his two-day official visit to The Gambia,  it is only appropriate to bring to the notice of Dr. Kanayo Nwanze and the other development partners the plight of 17 women arrested on 21st July in their fields while cultivating rice in Mbayen, Niamina East in the Central Region of the country.

According to the police commissioner of the jurisdiction, the women were arrested for breaching the order of the district tribunal by planting beyond the boundary demarcated by the tribunal.

The 17 women farmers arrested were : Haddy Mbaye, Fatou Mbaye, Fanta Mbye, Jarra Mbye, Rouhiatou Mbye, Ramaata Mbye, Awa Ceesay,  Jay Mbye, Jainaba Jeng, Huja Mbye, Ada Ceesay, Guma Mbye, Sohna Mbye, Yassin Boye, Aramatta Mbye, Chibu Mbye and Jay Ceesay.

These arrests took place during the holy month of Ramadan, and for this reason 5 of the 17 women were released to allow them to go prepare Iftar for the husbands.  However, there was a catch, the husbands had to trade place with their wives behind bars.  The treatment of these women is both demeaning and medieval, only in Yaya Jammeh's Gambia.that such a ridiculous abuse of power can take place.

IFAD's main mission is focused on small holder agriculture, with women and youth as the main target groups., the very groups that are the victims of the Gambian dictatorships.  Their labor is regularly exploited by using it in Jammeh-owned farms across the country.

We hope the plights of these 17 hard working women farmers are brought to the attention of Yaya Jammeh by the IFAD Mission to The Gambia in addition to the Agriculture 10 who were dismissed and charged under the most suspicious of circumstances.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gambia : Corruption under Jammeh (Babilli Mansa, Nasurul Deen)

Babilli Mansa, Nasurul Deen Jammeh
Official corruption in full display 










Transparency International is nonpartisan nongovernmental organization that started publishing the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of countries in 1995, a year after Jammeh and his gang seized power in Banjul.  

The first CPI contained only 41 countries, a figure that grew over time to 180 countries.

Gambia was not part of the exercise until 2004 when it was perceived as the 90th most corrupt country out of 145 countries surveyed.   The Jammeh regime was ranked higher than countries like Benin, Mali and Senegal and thus more corrupt but ranked lower and thus less corrupt than Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.  

In 2005, Gambia slid to 103rd position out of 153 countries even though more countries were added to the list but still less corrupt than Eritrea, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Still Senegal, together with Algeria, Malawi and Mozambique, were deemed to be less corrupt. 

From 2006 to 2008, The Gambia saw its ranking plummet from 121 to 143 to 158 while countries like Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Liberia and Benin that were more corrupt had improved to position up the scale to become less corrupt than The Gambia.

Something strange and unusual happened in 2009.  The Gambia actually improved its CPI by being ranked 106th out of 180 countries.  That year, The Gambia shared the 106 position with Argentina, Benin and Gabon, ahead of Algeria, Djibouti and Egypt but behind Senegal, Zambia and Madagascar.

In 2010, further improvement in Gambia’s position took place with a ranking of 91 out of 178 countries. In 2011 there was further improvement to 77 place in the scale. 

But in 2012, the level of corruption spiked, relegating The Gambia to 105 position out of 180 countries ahead of Mali, Ethiopia and Niger but behind Senegal, Tanzania and Algeria.

In 2013, Gambia’s position deteriorated further to 127 out of 175 countries, making it less corrupt than Lebanon,  Mali, Madagascar and Cote d’Ivoire but more so than Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Gabon.

We will allow folks to have the CPI stare you in the face before you decide whether the “soldiers with a difference”, as they called themselves back in 1994, have fulfilled their promise to, at least, reduce the scourge of corruption. 

Even in the absence of CPI during the 30-year administration of Sir Dawda Jawara, it is safe to say that the regime of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh Nasirul Deen Babilli Mansa.  



Monday, August 18, 2014

FREE THE AGRICULTURE 10

Fafanding Fatajo
The regime's hammer came down hard on ten highly trained and experienced agriculturists whose expertise are needed in an agriculture-based economy.

In July this year, Fafanding Fatajo the Project Manager of FASDEP, Lamin Fatajo Project Coordinator of Rural Finance, Foday Jadama, Regional Director and seven other officers were arrested, dismissed from their jobs and placed in cells for a variety of unsubstantiated allegations.

It is now over 35 days since they have been arrested without charge or bail.   What is so extraordinary about these officials is that some of them are seconded officials from government to United Nations agencies operating in The Gambia.

Kutuba Sanyang, Project Coordinator of the Cowpea project,  Dr. Saikou Sanyang, the Regional Director of the North Bank were also among the ten arrested.

The Gambia is currently faced with serious problems and the agriculture sector is no exception.  The 2014 season is off to a bad start and the agriculture is no exception.  Food deficits have become a permanent fixture because of poor agricultural policies, although inadequate rains has also contributed to the problem.

These officials must be released or charged and taken to court. Their freedom cannot be denied because it is wish of the dictatorship.

FREE THE AGRICULTURE 10

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A message from Gunjur

British Ambassador to The Gambia - H.E. Colin Crorkin

Banjul's Standard newspaper reported Thursday on the British Ambassador's visit to the village of Gunjur, in a town hall set-up, to discuss development issues and challenges facing the village and surroundings.  

There, for all intents and purposes, he warned about the impending financial fallout that may result as a result of the continued stonewalling by the regime regarding the demands by the European Union, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others to meet specific demands relating to the regime's record.  A lot is hanging in the balance that impacts directly communities like Gunjur from across the country. 

Ambassador Colin Crorkin told Gunjurians that they, together with the rest of the country, stand to lose € 150 million in development assistance because of the regime's refusal to come clean on several fronts, ranging from human rights abuses that includes extrajudicial killings to how it manages aid already disbursed. 

What is also striking about the Ambassador's visit was how direct and personal the Ambassador got with the people of Gunjur when he said " I see it my job to establish a closer relationship with the president, the vice president and the foreign minister...and to take forward the relationship so that EDF money, which will be important in helping to create more jobs, is released into the communities for various projects. 

The Ambassador said, in what he hopes will be a 4-year tour of duty in a country that has a history of sending diplomats packing for the most asinine of reasons, Article 8 discussions in April went well and he hopes the November rounds of discussions will produce further progress. 

It is very revealing that The Daily Observer did not report on the Ambassador's visit nor on a very important speech, events which might have added to foreign minister Senghore's woes that led to his swift remove. He's just coming from the US-Africa Summit where the dictator was holed up for almost a full day by Gambian protesters, causing him to miss important events.  Their visit culminated in several altercations between protesters and members of Jammeh's security detail leading to some being invited by the Secret Service and the Washington DC Police for questioning.  

To add to an already chaotic foreign policy situation, the two United Nations missions by the Rapporteurs on Torture and Extrajudicial Killings were abruptly halted by the regime thus breaking a promise Jammeh made to the UN Secretary General last year.  As always, the blame goes to everyone but Jammeh.  As we go to press, Dr. Senghore's replacement has not been named officially which is understandable.  Finding Gambians to serve has become a huge challenge for an increasingly unpopular regime.  It is also a high risk endeavor, with a possible jail time on trumped up charges.  Therefore, trained and experienced Gambians will not risk their careers, especially young professionals, to serve in a disreputable regime like the one in Banjul. 


Friday, August 15, 2014

A "Struggle" of mixed messages

"The Struggle", as the dissident opposition groupings
abroad are collective known, specializes in sending mixed messages to the dictatorship in Banjul as well as to diaspora activists.

After some fits and starts resulting from opposition activities that saw a mixture of successes and failures in efforts towards a unified leadership, the recent Washington Hay Adams Hotel provided the needed push in that direction.

The Gambian dictator was successfully holed up in his hotel for an entire day that saw him miss the most important events ( necessarily from Jammeh's point of view) of the US - Africa Summit which were the Business Forum and the Round Table of Heads of State that discussed the way Forward for Africa.

The dissidents scored additional, and very critical political points, by causing the security details of the dictatorship to assault some protesters at the Hay Adams Hotel that drew national and international coverage.  This was a significant breakthrough because up to that point The Struggle can only claim occasional reference to its fight against Jammeh in the Senegalese press.

Instead of riding the wave created by the Washington protests, manufactured incidence of infiltration of "The Struggle" by spies immediately became a source of distraction.  Although the effort was squashed but not before some of the luster was taken off the victory at Hay Adams.  Some amount of finger pointing took place that was unnecessary and should have been avoided because most of the claims about spy infiltration turned out to be false.

Discussions of late has been around the Gambia's 1997 Constitution.  An inordinate time has already been spent, and a valuable online radio airtime committed, on a document that has been, and continues to be, abrogated by Yaya Jammeh and his regime to a point where Jammeh is the Constitution and the Constitution is Jammeh.  It should, therefore, be clear to all and sundry by now that to engage in this type of discussion is a futile exercise.  A more useful exercise would be to discuss what should constitution a successor Constitution.  That is a debate worth having, in our view.

We now hear that there is another proposal that would send a delegation to Banjul to open a dialogue with Jammeh which would require him to step down - a demand that is a non-starter.  It is, of course, perfectly within the rights of every person to say or do anything - even the ridiculous.  But it is also our right to say if we are to be taken seriously, we must put forward serious and well thought out proposals for the world to take us seriously.  No proposal of the serious nature expected of us will be tabled in the absence of the emergence of the face of The Struggle.

Using the background of the Washington Summit, the leaders of the various dissident groupings used their common desire to see the back of Jammeh, set their differences aside to work together.  It is hoped that a foundation has been laid upon which their efforts will bear the fruits of a United Front against the dictatorship. Anything less will only prolong the agony of Gambians in the face of an increasingly repressive dictatorship.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

US Embassy in Banjul to Jammeh : Stop manipulating images of President and First Lady Obama, retrieve T-shirts

We have seen them being worn by supporters of Yaya Jammeh when he arrived at the Banjul International Airport.  Those T-shirts.

T-shirts with imprints of the now famous photo of  the President of the United States and First Lady with Yaya Jammeh and wife were distributed to supporters before Jammeh disembarked from the plane for purely personally political purposes.

How many of these T-shirts were printed in the United States prior to Jammeh's departure last Saturday is unknown but, according to a source, "hundreds were printed with thousands more on order for future delivery".

The U.S  government, through its Embassy in Banjul, has instructed the regime of Yaya Jammeh in a "cease and desist" letter demanding that the T-shirts be collected and not to be circulated any more.   They are manipulative designed to suggest approval or endorsement of President Obama, Michelle Obama or the White House.

We will recall the US government issued a statement immediately following the end of the US - Africa Summit. reminding the African Heads of State that the photographic images are for their personal use only, and not they should not be manipulated in any way.  The images, the warning continues, "may not be used for political or commercial materials...products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Lady or the White House."

As we write, the APRC Party militants are busy collecting the T-shirts from the Green Boys and Green Girls, including those shown here.  The official mouthpiece of the regime, The Daily Observer, has been busy pulling down all images plastered across its pages when they covered the 'tumultuous reception of the dictator at the airport.

Finally, Jammeh's behavior of exploiting the only occasion he had, throughout the Summit to come in direct personal contact with the American President, has left a poor taste in the mouth of White House.  They feel duped by Jammeh, and he may not be the only one.

Other tyrants who made it to the White House may have similar ideas of manipulating the White House photos for their own political ends.  We hope the White House has also learned its lesson so that future invitations are much more selective and restrictive. Dictators of flawed character like Jammeh are not worth being invited.

We welcome IFAD President's visit to The Gambia

Last May, we wrote an open letter to Dr. Nwanze, President of IFAD, International Fund for Agricultural
Development to express concern about the sudden push to establish a Food Security Corporation (FSC) by Yaya Jammeh as part of his food security strategy.  Next week, the IFAD President will be in Banjul for a two-day mission which will include an audience with Jammeh.


The FSC, according to Jammeh, is a component of a larger scheme known as "Rice/Food Self-Sufficiency, otherwise known as Vision 2016".

Prior to the day of the announcement, which was made during his first day of Jammeh's "Dialogue with the people's tour", no one in The Gambia ever heard of the scheme, including his Minister of Agriculture. At the time of the announcement, and as we have outlined in our letter to the IFAD President, we observed that even the farmers were surprised at the suggestion that the newly proposed Food Security Corporation.

We expressed concern about the far-reaching powers that will be vested in the FSC. Under the scheme, " a comprehensive review of land use will be conducted and all excess land will be freed for agricultural production. The FSC will act as a land bank. 

We feel that the FSC threatens the traditional land tenure system that has served the rural farming community well.  It threatens the social and cultural cohesion that has glued the rural communities through the traditional system.  We said then, and we maintain now, that FSC is a dangerous idea and should never be established.

As we suggested to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, we would like them to study Vision 2016 within the context of the IFAD-financed US$65 million national Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (NEMA).  The Appraisal Report for NEMA has confirmed that it is viable proposition, both from the financial and technical standpoint, and should therefore remain  as a free-standing project, unaltered.  To change it would require a fresh look at the entire project. 

We welcome President Nwanze's two-day mission to The Gambia where, we hope, all issues of concern will be discussed with both Jammeh, his Agriculture Minister and the Project Manager of NEMA who was arrested and dismissed from his job.  It was only a couple of weeks ago that he was quietly reinstated.  Now we know why.  

NEMA's resources should never be part of any of this ill-conceived, undocumented and haphazardly-prepared scheme called Vision 2016 which is driven more by politics than economics.  What is at stake is more than the US$65 million. The social and cultural fabric that glued the rural communities for decades is equally at stake and IFAD should not stand by and watch a bad idea threatens the fine work of IFAD.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our editorial independence is paramount

As the blog clocks its first anniversary, we want to refresh our commitment to our growing readership to a free and unfettered access to the news and our views of the news.   In doing so, we want to reassure everyone of our editorial independence.

We have tried in the first twelve months of our existence to fill a void by providing content and perspective that is based on facts. We will endeavor to maintain the standards we have set for ourselves, and to continue to improve on them.

You, the readers, deserve better, especially the young unemployed and under-employed Gambians who brave the odds to again access to a computer to read us.

We find it necessary to restate our editorial position because of recent developments following the just concluded US-Africa Summit in Washington DC where Gambian dissident protesters succeeded, once more, in preventing Yaya Jammeh from fully taking part.

We join others in acknowledging this significant development and continue to urge the leadership of "The Struggle" to stay the course and ready to resist the ensuing distractions that might emanate from the agents of the regime or those sympathetic to or in the pay of Yaya Jammeh.  

The success of the Gambian dissidents against the dictatorship immediately came under attack by nitpicking and spurious allegation about the sourcing of our reporting of the events in Washington - reporting we are proud of, and for which we have received positive reaction from you, the readers.

We are proud of, and continue to have full confidence in, our sources who constantly provide us with reliable and quality information from the epicenter of where news is being made, and at great risk.

Our blog does not belong to, or affiliated with, any political party, dissident groupings in America or elsewhere.  We will remain unaffiliated in the interest of our readership that has doubled in the second quarter of this year, with the Gambia responsible for approximately 50% of that growth.

The number of our Facebook friends have shown similar growth patterns, thus providing us with the youthful participation in the lively debate that takes place in our page at www.facebook.com/sidi.sanneh.1 on topics of interest.

Like the blog, the editorial content of our Facebook page is also a 'no go' area for those who'd like to influence the content of the page.  Facebook policy rules in this instance, and not some obscure caller to an online radio show.

Finally, we encourage the readership to continue reading us, and making copies for parents, friends and colleagues, especially those in the rural areas, and to provide us with your feed-back through our Facebook page.        

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back: Jammeh retaliates; withdraws invitations for UN Rapporteurs on human rights to visit Gambia

" The political fall-out has already begun" says Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh, political activist and former Information Minister, following the news that the Government of the Gambia has withdrawn both invitations for the United Nations rapporteurs to visit The Gambia which should have been on Monday.

The timing of the withdrawals appear to suggest that Jammeh issued the directives for the government to withdraw the invitations in retaliation to the humiliating treatment he received at the hands of the Gambian dissidents in Washington DC during the past several days.

Reasons for the withdrawals were not given.  Whether the visits will be rescheduled is not evident either.

The invitation to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other inhumane degrading treatment, and a similar invitation to the other Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions were extended by the government of the Gambia to visit the country.

The visits were to take place from 11-18 August 2014, including possibly a two-day visit to Dakar.

The regime's invitations to the Rapporteurs were more of a surprise because of its poor human rights record with numerous documented extrajudicial killings and executions than their withdrawal because of Yaya Jammeh's predictable trait of lashing out at his "enemies", real and perceived.   He withdrew the country's membership in the Commonwealth and he broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan after suffering similar humiliating treatment at the hands of the same group of dissidents during last year's UN general Assembly.

This is the opening salvo of what is going to be a series of retaliatory measures against poor defenseless Gambians and innocent civil servants who will be blamed for what has taken place at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington DC.  That is his way of exerting revenge.  That's just who Yaya Jammeh is.  The sooner the international community is aware of this monster's makeup, the better.

A thoroughly disgraced Jammeh returns home today

"No greeters at the airport" was Jammeh's last instructions to his hosts as he prepares to return to Banjul from Andrews Air Force Base located outside of Washington DC in the next few hours.

After a highly eventful US - Africa Summit trip full of embarrassing moments. it must be good riddance for the Secret Service and the District Police for having spent a disproportionate amount of their time tending to the security needs of a tyrant from tiny Gambia.

Even before his departure this evening, Jammeh is not hesitating to display his displeasure, at least within US laws, by directing that he doesn't want to see any of his Washington DC Embassy staff to see him off, including the Deputy Head of Mission, Omar Faye.  No Washington DC Embassy staff member will be at AAFB this evening.  One can only imagine what awaits the members of the security forces, President's Office and Foerign Ministry staff once the dictator sets foot at Banjul International Airport.

Unlike the former Foreign Minister Tangara, who was at the center of the controversy during last year's New York anti-Jammeh protests by the same protesters to the point of engaging in physical altercations,  DHM Faye has proven to be the opposite of Momodou Tangara which he has displayed in his short stay in Washington when he has tried to engage Jammeh's opponents and his attitude can only be described as accommodating.

For example, Mr. Faye has received dissidents members of the exile community in his office to discuss their differences with the hope, perhaps, of 'softening' their stance against Jammeh, an impossible fete under any circumstances.  Although outnumbered by the dissident protesters, a handful of APRC (Gambia's ruling party) supporters did show up at the Hay Adams Hotel where Jammeh was holed up which, we are told, was organized by Mr. Faye.  Unfortunately, his good faith measures did not seem to have impressed his boss who believes in confrontational politics, and the use of force against "the enemy".  Force, to Jammeh, is the only means of achieving his goals.   Anything short of that is a sign of weakness.

The Embassy staff, including the Deputy Chief of Mission, ignored by Jammeh throughout his stay must be in a state of despondency.  As a normal diplomatic practice and time permitting, Heads of State usually visit their Embassy to thank staff for their work.  Jammeh has refused to extend similar courtesies to his own Embassy staff.

The violence that was unleashed on a group of protesters at Jammeh hotel a few days ago led to a female journalist, Fatou Camara, being sent a female journalist to the hospital, and an Embassy staff, Pierre Minteh, being called in for questioning by the Washington DC police.

The fact that the assaults against unarmed protesters took place at all was disgraceful enough.  When considered against the background that there were 50 other delegations in Washington (with only one other known similar incident involving the DRC delegation), criminal assaults of the nature committed by some members of Jammeh's entourage, further degrades the Office of the President and Jammeh's own image, especially among his counterparts.  There were a great deal of sneering and snickering within some delegations, and among the diplomatic community.  

Before coming to Washington, Jammeh left behind a political minefield of missteps of his own making, the consequences of which will haunt him for the rest of his stay at State House.   He took into custody a highly respected 80-year old Imam for three days because, the regime alleges, he defied a Jammeh-issued Fatwa that banned Eid prayers outside of the officially recognized date.  The frail cleric was shuttled between several police station before finally being released on Day 3 of his ordeal on bail.

During the same period i.e. the end of Ramadan, Jammeh managed to stir more trouble for himself by speaking disparagingly about the politically powerful and Senegal-based Mouride sect whose followers have provided free labor to Jammeh's farms during harvest time.   Their labor may be withheld this and future seasons as a result.   More political fallout is expected upon Jammeh's return to Banjul later today.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Where's Yaya Jammeh?


Speculation is rife as to the whereabouts of Yaya Jammeh is presently following his three days of humiliation at the hands of Gambia protesters which, everyone agrees, is worse than the one he experienced at the hands of the same protesters last year in New York.

Immediately upon arrival, Jammeh requested that his departure be changed from Thursday, 7th August at 9:30 PM to Saturday the 9th (tomorrow).

Obviously, Jammeh had every intention of moving to his $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, MD for relaxation with his wife and kids after the U.S. - Africa Leader Summit.  Of course what he was oblivious of at the time he made the request was the potential danger lurking around the Hay Adams Hotel, not to his person but to his reputation as a person, and as someone who claims to be a Head of State.  He's not the only one here in Washington.  There are almost fifty of his counterparts here but it is only Yaya Jammeh who has generated so much bad publicity for The Gambia and the Gambian people.

Faced with a ferocious crowd of protesters around his hotel and at the State Department which culminated in the assault of Gambians journalists and protesters which led to Pierre Minteh taken in for questioning, Jammeh suddenly realizes that he was receiving more than he bargained for.  

Pierre Minteh is the first confirmable victim of the protests when the US government ask him to leave the country.  When this will take effect is what is uncertain at this point in time.  It is still possible that he will join Jammeh plane tomorrow, if the plane is going to be used by Jammeh on the outward journey.

Caught in the mess he finds himself, Jammeh decided to float the false information that he's was leaving on his initially designated departure date of Thursday (yesterday), designed to ease the pressure on the hotel exerted by an animated group of protesters so that he can make his getaway with the help of the Secret Service and the District Police Department.

Our suspicion is that he made his clean getaway to his Potomac mansion with his wife where they will join the rest of his family.  It is also very possible that Jammeh is still in the hotel.  Either way, he's still in the Washington area. Let us emphasis that this is just our suspicion based on all the information we have.  

Given Jammeh propensity to do unpresidential things, other theories have emerged which cannot be dispelled as outside the realm of possibilities.  One of those possibilities is that Jammeh might have taken a special flight or has hitched a ride ( more likely) with his Mauritanian friend and Head of State to Nouakchott where his (Jammeh) plane will pick him up for his journey to Banjul.

With this scenario, his plane will maintain its initial departure slot of tomorrow with the Chief of Protocol, GRTS's Kebba Dibba, Ebou Njie Tarru and the rest of his security detail who were into implicated in the assault of Fatou Camara and others.  They will join their boss in Nouakchott for the final leg of the journey to Banjul.

Our call is that Jammeh is in the Washington area and that includes his Potomac address, ready to depart from AAFB tomorrow, Saturday 9th August.  Those wishing to receive the escapee from Hay Adams Hotel should be at the Banjul International Airport one hour before arrival.  No ceremonial displays, be they military or cultural because Jammeh will be in no mood for that after Washington DC experience.





Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jammeh still in the Washington DC area - Updated version

Despite earlier reports that Jammeh is on his way to Banjul, our sources maintain their claim that Jammeh is in the Washington DC area.

As far as we can verify, Jammeh is either still cooped up at the Hay Adams Hotel or has managed to escape to his $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Maryland.

Attempts by Jammeh to play hide-and-seek with Gambian protesters who are armed with only their voices is further indication that his regime has failed to live up to expectations.

The protesters that forced him to stay in his hotel room for the second time in less than a year, though larger in numbers, are ordinary Gambians demanding accountability, transparency and probity.

In addition to the solid sources we have, another telltale sign that Jammeh is still in town is that GRTS staff, specifically Kebba Dibba and State House photographer Ebou Njie Tarru, have been spotted in town late afternoon looking for something to eat.

Obviously, they have been abandoned (or probably forgotten) by Jammeh as a result of the protests that denied him the photo op moments at meetings that would have served as perfect backdrop for photos and a couple of propaganda clips and interviewed by Kebba Dibba for GRTS.  These poor folks may have been on stand-by since Tuesday, and in Jammeh's Gambia once on stand-by, you are not expected to move even if it means for a whole day without food.

Regarding the case of Pierre Minteh, we stand by our stories and sources, especially as police investigations are still in full throttle.  To be declared a persona non grata doesn't necessarily mean he has to leave in 24, 48, or 72 hours.  He could be around for a while long before he departs US shores.

We will continue, meanwhile, to monitor the situation.   "One thing is certain" a diplomat of a foreign country told me over the phone, "this man will never return to the United States if he has any shame."  There are many diplomats in this town who hold similar views.

Note: The last we checked at 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Thursday 7th, Jammeh's flight is still slotted to take off from Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday at 9:30 PM.

UPDATE : Pierre Minteh declared persona non grata, Jammeh's hotel still treated as crime scene

As we post this blog, Hay Adams Hotel, one of the most prestigious addresses in the world, is still treated as a crime scene, closed to the public with barricades all around the magnificent building. And you think that's good for the image and the business of the hotel?

These pictures were taken Thursday August 7th at 2:00 PM Eastern Standard US time, and somewhere inside that massive hotel building situated across the White House is Yaya Jammeh, prevented from going out because of a group of protesters.

The richest and the most powerful individuals around the world use the Hay Adams as their Washington DC address.  Most of the current occupants have chosen to leave for other hotels because of Yaya Jammeh and his group of bandits who have created an atmosphere of chaos and lawlessness that promises to be a permanent blemish on the image of The Gambia.

One such lawless individual is Pierre Minteh who was called in for questioning yesterday.  Today he's been declared person non grata by the U.S. government.  He will probably board Yaya Jammeh's plane on Saturday, August 9th  for Banjul - good riddance.  In America, the rule of law prevails over any living human being.

The rest of the NIA agents still cooped up in the hotel in the company of Yaya Jammeh will be dealt with as soon as the police investigations are have been completed.   Those who are suspected of assaulting Fatou Camara, Sam Phatey, Pa Samba Jow and Ousainou Mbenga will be appropriately charged and tried.

Yaya Jammeh is immune from prosecution which saved him from prosecution because, according to reports, eye witnesses who where in the hotel lobby over-heard Jammeh instructing his security men to go after Fatou Camara and others. He was the instigator of the violent spree that took place around the Hay Adams Hotel that will never accept Jammeh or members of his regime as guests.

What has transpired in Washington DC over the last several days is nothing short of a national disgrace. Yaya Jammeh should be ashamed of himself for bringing more shame and disrepute to a Gambia that was once the bastion of African democracy and the rule of law - a country that Jammeh has transformed into one of the least respected regimes in the world, along the rank of North Korea.

Update :  It is now being reported that Jammeh has left and he's on his way to Banjul.  As we have reported yesterday, his initial date of departure was scheduled for today.  On Tuesday, the indicated to authorities that they will leave Saturday 9th August.  It is now evident that the change in departure date was a ploy to throw protesters off or Jammeh was advised to depart as scheduled to avoid further chaos.  

As we speak, we have learn that Pierre Minteh is in his office.  What we have is a regime that governs by secrecy, the most opaque regime on earth.  This is obviously a developing story.

Statement on the assault of Fatou Camara, Ousainou Mbenga, Sam Phatey and Coach Pa-Samba Jow

The assault on Fatou Camara, Ousainou Mbenga, Sam Phatey and Coach Pa-Samba Jow by some members of Jammeh's security detail must be roundly condemned by freedom-loving Gambians and non-Gambians alike.

All of those assaulted where engaged in a two-day protest against what is generally agreed to be a dictatorship in The Gambia that must be replaced.

Unlike the Gambia under Yaya Jammeh, the United States Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of humans to associate and assemble, and provides several means for THE PEOPLE to express their views in a peaceful and orderly manner.

After 20 years of brutal and corrupt dictatorship, we asked all like-minded people everywhere join DUGA, CORDEG, GDAG, CCG, GGC and all other Gambian groups in their fight against the regime in Banjul so as to re-establish the democratic credentials of The Gambia of twenty years ago.

Meanwhile, join us, sidisanneh.blogspot.com, in our immediate and urgent efforts to ensure that those responsible for the assault on the protesters are brought to justice.

Sidi Sanneh    

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jammeh's hotel becomes a crime scene - PHOTOS

Fatou Camara after being assaulted by Jammeh's NIA
Washington DC police in crime scene
More District police after the assault of Fatou Camara
Jammeh's hotel barricaded

Photos: courtesy of Fatu Camara Facebook page

Jammeh plans to prolong stay in the United States

We have been reliably informed that Yaya Jammeh will prolong his stay in the United States.

The authorities concerned were informed yesterday morning that Jammeh intends to depart Washington on Saturday the 9th instead of Thursday 7th (today).

The two-day extension of Jammeh's visits came prior to the ensuing crescendo that led to assault of Fatou Camara, the journalist and former Press Director-turned tormentor of Yaya Jammeh.

Developing story

The true character of Jammeh's regime exposed

The thuggery displayed in Washington DC over the past couple of days by the official delegation of Yaya Jammeh to the U.S - Africa Leaders Summit marks the end of the international community's continued pretension that ignoring the Gambian problem will go away.

Unconfirmed reports have it that Jammeh was heard in his hotel lobby giving instructions to his security details to attack Gambian dissident protesters who have successfully barred him from attending most of the events of this very important Summit of Africa's heads of State - a first in U.S history.   If confirmed, Jammeh's person is protected by his own immunity.  Those without immunity, which includes Jammeh's entire security detail who are nothing but a group of illerate thugs, US law may delay their departure from the United States.

The assault on Fatou Camara, a Gambian journalist who, until a few months ago, was Yaya Jammeh's Press Director is the second in two days.  She was chased by the same thugs who pose as security of the Gambian dictator.  She escaped narrowly yesterday only to be attacked today by the same group of thugs from the Jammeh security entourage.  The assault resulted in the journalist being taken to the hospital with wounds to unspecified parts of her body.  The gravity of the infliction is also unknown at this point but serious enough to warrant an ambulance that transported her to a local hospital.  It is reported that Pierre Minter, former Youth Mobilizer of Jammeh's APRC has been taking in by the District police for questioning.
Pierre Minteh taken in for questioning

The run-in with Jammeh has been brewing since Fatou Camara and a group of dissident protesters arrived in Washington DC on Tuesday to express their opposition of a very brutal and highly corrupt regime.   Reminiscent of a similar but smaller protests which took place at last year's United Nations General Assembly which prevented Jammeh from attending his sides meetings because the entrance of his hotel was blocked by a handful of dissidents, the protests that have been taking place in Washington are larger, more organized and highly vocal.  The protests have already taken their toll on the image of the Gambia by successfully preventing Jammeh from attending the Business Forum, the Heads of States Round Table and many of events organized around The Summit.

A FatuRadio presenter and Security Specialist, Sam Phatey has reported that a Washington DC policeman has been another victim of the Jammeh thugs.  It is alleged that the DC officer assaulted by members of the Jammeh security elements which can only add to an already precarious criminal liability of the entire security detail that accompanied Jammeh.

Security and police presence in and around Jammeh's hotel as we write is further tarnishment of a regime that has relied on brute force for all these years.   of and Jammeh has been going on this morning when the Gambian dictator personally requested that the journalist be thrown out of the conference.  According to reports, Jammeh felt threatened by the presence of Fatou which precipitated his demand to the Security Service to eject the journalist from the conference hall.

This is a developing story that has serious political implications.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The triumph of Sheikh Muheideen Hydara over evil

Sheikh Muheideen Hydara
The octogenarian Muslim cleric, Sheikh Muheideen Hydara, Khaliph General of Dasilami Sanajorr, has been released from police custody after defying the Fatwa issued by the Gambian dictator banning the Khaliph and other Imams from Eid prayers signalling the end of Ramadan.

The 80 year plus retired religious leader was arrested because he led his followers in prayers on a day the Gambian dictator has prohibited anyone from praying.

Since his arrest on Tuesday, he was being shuttled from one police station to another - a time honored tactic utilized by the regime - to intimidate the frail Muslim cleric into submission. When he refused to apologize neither to the dictator nor to the Islamic Council, he was transferred to another police station in appears to be a final attempt to "break the frail old man" as described by an eyewitness.

Sheikh Muheideen Hydara's hands-off relations with the Jammeh regime is legendary.  He has refused to bow to the temptingly corrupting modus operandi of a regime that offers huge sums of bribe money to Supreme Islamic Council and Muslim Elders in exchange for their support, religious freedoms and independence.   This was Jammeh's last chance to rein in the fiercely independent cleric who strongly believes in the principle of the separation of religion from the affairs of State, and he (Jammeh) failed miserably.

It is being reported that the Minister of Interior personally drove to the Yundum police to issue the lame excuse that the Gambian dictator was unaware of the cleric's traumatic predicament of the previous several days.  In attempting to excuse the dictator who issued the Fatwa in the first instance, the Interior Minister is clearly attempting to distance themselves from a potentially explosive internal crisis that threatens the regime on the eve of the dictator's visit to Washington to attend the US - African Leaders Summit.

The Khalif was finally released on bail and released to the custody of his loved ones.  The revered cleric is to report to the authorities next week after being in the hands of the regime three days.

The significance of the triumph of an 80-year old frail cleric over a vicious dictatorship is real and it sends a clear message to the rest of the country that it is time to openly and steadfastly defy an illegitimate, repressive, corrupt and morally bankrupt regime.  It looks like it will take the religious community and not the political opposition to grab the bull by the horn and say enough is enough.      

Jammeh denies Gambia is a sex trade heaven

The U.S. State Department's Trafficking in  Person's (TIP) Report for 2014 that was released in June downgrading Malaysia, Thailand, Venezuela and The Gambia from Tier 2 to Tier 3, the lowest grading possible, has finally drawn a defiantly-worded reaction from the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The 2014 TIP Report described The Gambia as " a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking", the majority of whom are sexually exploited by European sex tourists.  A German travel blog, Brothel Sex, has cited two night spots, "Wow", Binnis" and "Totties" in the tourism area where hookers frequent.  "It is possible to book a girl for several days or during your whole stay" according to the German website.

It is believed that organizing sex trafficking networks collude with European and Gambian travel agencies to promote child sex tourism.  It is also widely believed locally that Jammeh's immediate family members, some of whom hold diplomatic posts abroad, including the Gulf, are immensely involved in the trade.

The "Lebanon Connection" has been identified and Gambian girls who pleaded with authorities for help to be extricated from the servitude they find themselves have gone unanswered.  The police in Banjul claimed they cannot intervene in the case because the parents of the girls in Lebanon refuse to cooperate with authorities because they want to protect the identity of the victims - a lame excuse of inaction because influential Gambians, especially Jammeh's cronies, are key elements of the sex trade network. network.

Gambian boys, the State Department reports, attend Kuranic schools where some corrupt and unscrupulous teachers forces these kids into the streets to beg for money.   Gambian children have been identified, according to the report, as victims of forced labor in neighboring countries of Senegal and Ghana.

In downgrading the Gambia to Tier 3, the  State Department concluded that The Gambia did not meet the minimum standard for the elimination of trafficking and the regime is not making any "significant effort to do so."  The regime did not provide comprehensive enforcement data resulting in trafficking offenses, something being disputed by the regime. The regime's prevention efforts have been described as modest during the reporting period which is consistent with the fact during the "Lebanon Connection" cases were in the news involving those closely associated with Jammeh.

Vigorous investigations and prosecution of trafficking offenses, among other measures, must be taken by the Jammeh regime if the downgrade is to be reversed.