Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An Open Letter to Mohamed Ibn Chambas

Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Special Representative, West Africa of UN Secretary General
US Secretary General's Office 
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Ibn Chambas,

On the eve of your mission to Banjul as Special Representative for West Africa on behalf of the Secretary General, I thought I'd jot down few ideas that I hope will be of some help in putting focus on issues dear to the hearts and minds of ordinary Gambian citizens.

In doing so, I want to assure you and all others that I am neither claiming to be the official spokesperson of Gambians nor representing any particular opposition or dissident group.  I am speaking as a Gambian who has dedicated 40 years of his life in service to The Gambia and Africa.  I cannot stand idly by while I see my work and those of my compatriots and former colleagues across Africa being destroyed by African leaders the likes of Yaya Jammeh.

Following the 30 December events at the State House in Banjul, the U.N. Secretary General deplored the use of extra-constitutional means to displace a sitting government.  Mr. Ban Ki-moon in his statement was also quick to caution the Jammeh government about the use of further violence and was encouraging for the "establishment of a transparent investigations into the events of 30 December, in compliance with due process and the respect for the rule of law."

We hope you will press on this point because, as I write this note, reports reaching us is that mass arrests of mothers, fathers, relatives and friends of anyone alleged to have been involved in the 30 December events are still being carried out and are being detained in undisclosed 'black sites.'  The detainees include a 14-year old son of one of the accused attackers.  These are innocent victims who neither took part in or collaborated with anyone.  You must insist, therefore, for their immediate and unconditional release.

You must also insist of flying out with the bodies of the fallen, most of whom, we understand, are American citizens.  The bodies must be handed over to families and loved ones for proper and fitting burial.

As former Secretary General of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), you must appreciate the regional implications and the economic and security challenges facing the Region.  The 1990's were particularly challenging - a violent and disruptive period that registered serious setbacks in the region's economic development prospects, and from which we were about to emerge before AQIM reared its ugly head, plunging Mali into total anarchy until the French intervened with the collaboration of West African contingents.  Now we have Boka Haram.  Who knows what other forces are lurking.

West Africa has become a hub for global crude oil theft and also for money laundering, illegal arms and drug trafficking, human smuggling, environmental crimes, dumping of toxic waste and maritime terrorism.  All of this to say what?  West Africa has enough problems.  We cannot afford to be cuddling yet another human disaster in Yaya Jammeh.

The international community, particularly ECOWAS, Senegal, the Gambian Opposition Parties, dissidents groups on the United States, Europe and Africa must join any future dialogue that will collectively and orderly agree on ways and means of putting an end to the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh.

Gambians have suffered long enough.  We say, 20 years of Jammeh's dictatorship is enough.  He should resign, hand over power to an Interim/Transition Government whose main task will be to institute electoral reforms in readiness for fresh elections in which the ruling party is free to participate by selecting a new presidential candidate.

We wish you every success in your mission.

Sincerely yours

Sidi Sanneh
Former Senior civil servant
Former Foreign Minister and Ambassador
Former Executive Director of the AfDB