Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why are the youth fleeing Gambia?

Mrs. Mai Manneh, "I sold for my son to enter Europe"
Mai Manneh of Basse, a town located in far eastern Gambia, is quoted in the Daily Observer - the official mouthpiece of the dictatorship - saying that she sold two landed properties just to see her son enter Europe through the "Back Way."

The treacherous route that traverses Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya en route to Italy by the Mediterranean, at a cost in the loss of huge human lives, is what is referred to in The Gambia as the "Back Way."

The Back Way phenomenon is nothing new, as a way of escaping poverty and misery brought about by a repressive and corrupt regime that has implanted itself into power by torture, execution and forced exiling of the regime's opponents.

There has been a steady out-flow of Gambia's youth since 2000 when Gambia's economy started taking a turn for the worse.  The incidence of poverty has been on the increase - from 50% in 2000 to an alarming rate of over 70% - reflected in Gambia's position in the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of 149 out of 161 in 2001 to 155 out of 177 in 2004.  

In 2014, the Gambia still sits at 172 position out of 187 countries.  It is this persistent level of poverty that has led Gambians to look for reprieve elsewhere, including in neighboring African countries like Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.  Gambians can be found in far-flung countries in southern Africa.

By the regime's own admission in the preamble of its current Youth Policy, it states that "...even a casual observation of the situation of young people in the country would reveal that the goals set in the last National Youth Policy 1999 - 2008 are far from being realized."  The same document also acknowledged high youth unemployment and the fact that the "majority of the youth is poor"and that the "male youth are more likely to be poor than their female counterparts."

Therefore, as long as the regime of Yaya Jammeh is in power, there will be more Mai Mannehs and not less, because the level of poverty and the repressive nature of the government will worsen further stoking the mass exodus fire - an exodus that will continue to be exploited by the human traffickers in The Gambia who are in cahoots with the regime.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

#FreeJusuphaLowe : A minor jailed for his dad's alleged involvement in a coup.

Gambian women and youth demand that Jammeh steps down

United Democratic Party (UDP), Gambia's largest opposition party, has just concluded, what can only be described as, a highly successful tour of the country.  

The tour was originally planned to last 10 days but had to be curtailed because of the refusal of the dictatorship to allow the entourage safe passage on the first day of the tour.

The stand-off at Fass Njagga Choi lasted five days before the government relented by providing the opposition party leader with the necessary permit to allow his entourage to proceed.

The tour route went through Niumi, Jorkadu, Baddibu, Niani, Sami, Jarra, Kiang to the Kombos. Along the way, particularly as the entourage reached the urban districts, the demands from the women and youth of The Gambia became louder that Yaya Jammeh steps down.

The new demands coming from the grass roots of the UDP poses a dilemma for the leadership that has, up to now, been very cautious about calling for the dictatorship to step down - a position this blog has supported since December 2013.

The Gambian youth has been particularly disappointed with a regime that has promised them the moon but fail to deliver on any of its promises.  The regime's failure at job creation and the provision of quality education has led to the massive exodus of Gambia's youth towards Europe leading to the disastrous humanitarian emergency the world is witnessing in the Mediterranean since last year, and has grown worse this year.

The disproportionate share of the deaths by drowning of Gambian youth has raised the alarm and trained the eyes of the world on The Gambia and the repressive regime of Yaya Jammeh.  Faced with high unemployment due to bad economic policies and an increasingly repressive measures adopted by the Jammeh regime, the youth only option is to look for reprieve outside their own country.

The challenge now is on the United Democratic Party in particular, as the biggest opposition party, and also because the call is coming from its women and youth supporters for Jammeh to step down. The UDP must now take the lead so that rest of the opposition can follow.  We will all be watching.

U.D.P country tour in pictures: Crowds calling for Jammeh to step down

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Is the Jammeh regime complicit in the human trafficking syndicate being investigated by the Italian authorities?

Africans/Gambian immigrants arriving in Catania
The Italian authorities have arrested a Tunisian and a Syrian.  Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, is the Tunisian who captained the boat that sank on Sunday, drowning 800 Africans, the majority of whom were reported to be from the Gambia, the smallest country in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world.  A crew member identified as Mahmoud Bikhit, 25, from Syria, was also arrested.  The two were trying to blend in but were identified by the African immigrants.

Evidence continue to mount, linking these human traffickers to an organized criminal syndicate in Libya and Italy.  According to HuffPost, Italy, the two denied the charges of illegal transportation of immigrants and Malek face an additional charge of reckless endangerment of human lives.
Malek and Bikhit arrested and in custody (pictured here) 

The caravan route across the Sahara is a well-beaten path of the African immigrants that links the main population centers of western African of  Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and The Gambia with Libya, and onward to Italy suggesting that the criminal ring extends beyond the Italy - Libya axis to connect the human trafficking syndicate to far flung places.

The Gambian capital city of Banjul is one such center as we have tried to show here where "agents" charge upwards of D 100,000 or $ 2,000 per passenger per trip to Bamako in full view of the authorities.  It is inconceivable that the authorities are unaware of what's going on when most, if not all, of all those making the trip are young Gambians.

Although the U.S State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report identified the Gambia as a source and destination country for the trafficking in minors who are subject to forced labor and sex trafficking, it appears that the traffickers have focused their attention more and more on the equally lucrative "Back Way" route to Libya.  It must be noted that the same Report found The Gambia not to be in full compliance with the minimum standards for the eradication of trafficking.  The regime was also found to be making any effort in that direction.

Although The Gambia has one of the most stringent laws that the regime brandishes as evident of its commitment to the elimination of the scourge, the State Department found that there has been a dramatic decline in anti-trafficking law enforcement during the reporting period.

The conclusion of the State Department's Report did not come as a surprise because of the intimate relations between the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the "agents" who transport the youth to Mali.  These agents are known to the authorities in The Gambia.  They are also known to have close ties to the regime and are prominent members of the APRC which is the ruling party.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jammeh must step down for failing the country's youth

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Since the loss of over 1,500 human lives in the Mediterranean in two successive boat disasters, there has been spontaneous and sympathetic reactions across the world to the plight of the African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.

The European Union has called for an emergency meeting and other world organizations and leaders have also expressed their profound concern about the human tragedy that is unfolding.  Similar sentiments have been expressed by the African Union, ECOWAS and many others.  Ban Ki-moon was "shocked and saddened" by the human tragedy and has urged Europe to take in the refugees.

Conspicuously absent from the list of leaders expressing condolences or issuing any statement is Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator.  Instead, he elected to condemn the Swedish Foreign Minister for criticizing Saudi Arabia over its human rights record. Headlining the Swedish minister's statement at a time when the citizens of the Gambia are drowning in record numbers in the Mediterranean is callous and irresponsible,  Yaya Jammeh and his regime must say something.  He, in particular, owes it to the families of those whose lives have been lost and to those who survived miraculously. .

The Gambian dictator was able to consolidate power because of his early courting of the youth vote. He won their support by promising them a new beginning after 30 years of P.P.P rule.  His numerous promises included jobs and free, quality education.  He delivered on neither.  Meanwhile, youth unemployment has been on the rise since 1994 as a result of the inability of the regime to spur economic growth and development that results in employment creation.

 Faced with poor job prospects and an increasingly repressive regime, Gambian youth elected to vote with their feet instead in search of greener pastures.  The mass exodus seen in the recent past is a direct result of the government policy failures which led to a total collapse of a once thriving economy brought about primarily by incompetence and corruption.  It is no wonder that in 2015, Gambia, the smallest (2M inhabitants) of all the countries, has registered the highest death toll and also the highest number of those who landed in Italy by sea.

The fact that the regime has not made any pronouncement and/or acknowledgement of the tragic humanitarian emergency unfolding in the Mediterranean involving a disproportionate number of Gambian youth, makes it an accomplice.

It is only a callous and irresponsible government that will ignore the recent events by attempting to divert local attention away from the tragedy by condemning a foreign minister for criticizing Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Jammeh has shirked his responsibility of not serving and protecting the lives and interests of the youths of the Gambia.  Jammeh should, therefore resign forthwith, barring which he should step down after the end of his current term in 2016.

Gambia's bail-out application to the IMF

            THE GAMBIA

                                                                     Letter of Intent    

                                                       Banjul, The Gambia, March 4, 2015

Ms. Christine Lagarde
Managing Director International Monetary Fund
Washington, DC 20431

Dear Ms. Lagarde:

1. The regional Ebola outbreak has had a major impact on The Gambia’s balance of payments and fiscal outlook. Although The Gambia remains Ebola free, we are facing an urgent balance of payments need triggered by the shock’s impact on tourism. The fiscal impact of the shock, at a time when we were dealing with fiscal pressures from legacy problems of key public enterprises and some policy slippages, has pushed off track the economic and financial programme supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) that was approved by the IMF’s Executive Board on May 25, 2012. We need urgent financial assistance to help us cope with the shock, but recognize that it will not be possible to complete any further reviews under the ECF. Accordingly, as detailed below, we would like to request support under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and notify our decision to cancel the ECF arrangement effective immediately prior to the approval of the RCF disbursement.

2. Our immediate priority is to restore macroeconomic stability and bring policy implementation back on track. To this end, we are committed to implementing strong upfront fiscal measures, taking steps to put the public utility companies on a sound financial footing expeditiously, and safeguarding foreign exchange reserves. To assist us in fulfilling the pressing priority, we are counting on the financial support from the international community, which is necessary to cope with the acute impact of the shock. We are asking the IMF to provide immediate support in the form of a disbursement under the RCF in an amount equivalent to 25 percent of quota, or SDR 7.775 million that would be disbursed to the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG). The CBG will then on-lend SDR 5.67 million to the Government for budgetary support.

3. We are interested in a successor ECF arrangement to help maintain economic stability and make progress towards inclusive growth and poverty reduction over the medium term. We recognize the need to re-establish a track record of strong policy implementation before moving to a new arrangement. We will need close engagement with the IMF staff to guide policy implementation and articulate medium-term adjustment measures during 2015. Therefore, we THE GAMBIA 2 request that IMF staff monitors the implementation of our economic programme covering the period March 2015 to March 2016.

4. The attached Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) describes the policies that we plan to implement during the year 2015. It emphasizes policies—particularly fiscal policy and public enterprise reforms—that will enable us to obtain rapid results to address our chronic fiscal problems and restore confidence in economic policies. In turn, this will also help stabilize our balance of payments position. The Government has revived a high level economic committee comprised of the Vice-President, the Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the CBG to provide the political leadership required to ensure that the programme remains on track.

5. We believe that the policies and measures included in this MEFP are adequate to achieve the objectives of our programme, but we will take any further measures that may become appropriate for this purpose. We will consult with the IMF staff prior to any revisions to the policies contained in the MEFP, in accordance with the IMF’s policies on such consultations. We will continue to provide to the IMF staff on a timely basis the information required to monitor accurately the staff-monitored programme. We will fully cooperate with the IMF to achieve our policy objectives, and undertake furthermore not to introduce measures to compound the current balance of payments difficulties in The Gambia, including but not limited to an introduction or intensification of exchange and trade restrictions. The CBG will undergo a safeguards assessment before a successor IMF arrangement is in place. We will authorize the external auditors of the CBG to share relevant documents and hold discussions with the IMF staff.

6. The Gambian authorities agree to the publication of this Letter of Intent (LOI) and the attached MEFP and Technical Memorandum of Understanding (TMU), as well as the IMF staff report related to the request for a disbursement under the RCF and the proposed staffmonitored programme. We hereby authorize their publication and posting on the IMF website after approval by the Executive Board of the IMF.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Kebba Touray Amadou Colley Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs

 /s/ Governor, Central Bank of The Gambia


1. Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP)
2. Technical Memorandum of Understanding (TMU)

* For the full application and above-cited attachments containing the details (where the devil resides), please access it at the IMF website which you can find here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean : Gambia's disproportionate share of the mass exodus and why

The European Union, United States and rest of the international community are finally taking notice of one of the biggest wave of human migration in human history that is resulting in the unimaginable loss of human life.

The Italian prime minister has called for an emergency European summit this week.  United Nation's Ban Ki-moon who was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the recent tragic events resulting in at least, over 1,500 death by drowning in the past week along, has appealed to Europeans to take in the refugees.

The statement issued by the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland captures the complex nature of the problem when, referring to the mass exodus, he said "(F)rom Syria to Iraq, from South Sudan to Yemen, multiplying conflicts, human rights violations, statelessness and the effects of climate change, and food and water insecurity are all contributing to millions being forced from their homes in search of safety and survival."

The disaster has been looming for several years in full view of coastal European countries along the Mediterranean.  Overwhelmed by the inflow, Europe sees as a threat - real and imagined - to its own way of life, leading to the tightening of their immigration laws as a solution to a much wider problem that resembles more like the picture painted by Senator Cardin.

The response from countries of southern Europe - who are closer to Libya as the source of the illegal migration -  adopted proactive policies that have proven to be ineffectual.  It is true that Italy's success at rescuing refugees in decrepit boats in the Mediterranean had resulted in the winding down of the effort which was later seen to be encouraging more Africans to venture the route. Consequently rescue missions were curtailed resulting in the humanitarian disaster that is currently unfolding.

The assumption that led to the disastrous policy change was that if more refugees were allowed to drown, it will act as a deterrent,  Apart from the irony and the macabre nature of the reasoning, the equation left our an important variable i.e. the organized gangs of human traffickers in Libya.  By curtailing Italian Coast Guard rescue missions, it opened up the sea lanes for more and bigger rickety boats to ply the Mediterranean unhindered, resulting in high death tolls of monumental proportions.

Italy has not only been rescuing refugees but its government has also been providing bilateral aid to countries like The Gambia that is one of the principal source of the refugee problem currently facing Europe and the world.  The aid provides vehicles, presumably to patrol Gambia's borders to prevent Gambian from leaving a country that is now referred to as the North Korea of Africa.  It also include a repatriation component that allows for the deportation of Gambians that includes cash inducement for the government.  Malta recently signed a similar Agreement with the Gambia.  Spain has also signed a similar Agreement.

Needless to say that these programs have failed.  The reasons for failure are two-fold (i) the narrow definition of the problem which led to wrong solutions and (ii) a corrupt regime that pockets aid proceeds.  In the case of the Gambia, the vehicles meant for border patrol are diverted for other inappropriate uses.

It is for these reasons that we addressed an Open Letter to prime minister Joseph Muscat of Malta opposing the Agreement his Foreign Minister signed with the Gambia last year because to deport the 80 Gambians, as the government planned to do, wold have meant certain imprisonment and torture for many.

It is no coincidence that Eritrea and The Gambia, two of the smallest countries without internal civil strife, constitute about 25% of immigrate arrival in Italy in the first quarter of 2015, according to Italy's Interior Ministry figures. The two also are considered to be the most repressive, not only in Africa but anywhere in the world with,  The total number of deaths in the first four months of 2014 were 96.  The figured jumped to 1,500 and counting for the same period this year.  This figure is already 50 times greater than the same period last year.

To illustrate our claim that the regime in The Gambia benefits from this humanitarian catastrophe, the "agents" in the Gambia - who are all Gambian nationals - transact business openly, freely and are well known to their respective communities, and some are known to have connections with agents of the notorious National Intelligence Agency known by its acronym NIA.

These "agents" charge D 100,000 ($2,000) which guarantees a one-way trip to Bamako, Mali from where these young Gambians are left on their own devices to find their way to Libya via Burkina Faso and Niger; a treacherous journey referred to locally as the "Back Way".  Parents have been known to sell their landed properties to pay for the exorbitant fare with the hope that their children will make it to Europe and start sending remittances.  Of course, what these unscrupulous "agents" omit to mention in their sales pitch is the changing mood of what has become 'Fortress Europe' that is still recovering from the Great Recession of 2007.  

It is inconceivable that the regime is unaware of this form of human trafficking that has been in operation for quite some time.  It is, therefore, hypocritical of the regime to give Italy, Spain, Malta and others that the leadership is committed to stemming a tide that they are exploiting  financially from both ends of the "Back Way."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Oumie and Alagie: The invisible victims of Jammeh's bad policies

Oumie and Alhagie at the Bansang Hospital 

Needless to say that both these Gambian children, Oumie and Alhagie, are seriously ill.  Oumie is suffering from the nutritional disorder kwashiorkor and Alhagie is severely malnourised.  They are presently under the loving care of the stretched and strained but dedicated nursing staff of the Bansang Hospital.  Oumie and Alhagie are among the few lucky Gambian children in the Central River to receive treatment, and the attention necessary to see them to full recovery.

Tens of thousands not-so-lucky Gambian children are suffering from the same nutritional disorders because of lack of food, and are currently without medical care.  The best-in-Africa Primary Health Care System the dictator inherited from the previous government he replaced through a coup d'etat has been completely disseminated through ignorance, incompetence and corruption.

The Central River Region of the country is the most severely affected by hunger.  It is also the same region where the most intensive rice cultivation is taking place in what used to be communally- held land, and the ownership of which has now been taken over by the country's dictator.  The Patcharr rice fields, which were communal land, have also been annexed by the dictator

The illegal transfer of agricultural land is not only threatening the tradition tenure system that has held the communities together for centuries but it has also threatened the traditional food/nutritional supply chain by denying the local population access to agricultural land.  The same phenomenon is taken place in urban areas as well, where land is confiscated outright or less than fair price being offered for a landed property or risk going to jail or worse.

Poor agricultural policies, such as the ill-advised Vision 2016, has contributed immensely to the deteriorating state of Gambia's economy, resulting in severe food shortages in the rural areas and higher and unaffordable food prices in the urban centers.

There are several highly reputable and internationally-known NGOs operating in The Gambia. Please check their listings and support a worthy cause by contributing to any one of them.  Because of the repressive and vindictive nature of the regime in the Gambia, we cannot identify the NGOs by name for fear of reprisals.  We thank you in advance of your anticipated kind and generous contributions to your NGO of choice.

Day 4 of the standoff

Commissioner of Police, North Bank 
Everything appears to be quite on the Western Front, as the saying goes.  But is it the calm before the storm?  Or will Jammeh be true to his word by ensuring that safe passage is granted to Ousainou Darboe and his UDP entourage to continue on their tour of the country?

In as much as we'd like to see a peaceful resolution of an otherwise avoidable standoff caused by the extremely repressive regime, we must also be realistic enough to move with cautious optimism in dealing with a high unreliable and deceptive character in Jammeh.

Why decide to reverse an earlier decision to issue a permit to enable the UDP to use a PA system? Why wait until Monday for a simple permit to be issued when it could have been issued instantaneously and on site?  These must be some questions presently preoccupying the minds of those on the ground as we move into Day 4 of the standoff.

Vigilance is the name of the game.  Jammeh has something up his sleeves as we blogged yesterday.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

SECURITY ALERT issued by Jammeh

Commissioner of Police, North Bank
We have just been alerted that the security forces have mounted check points at Essau, Fass and Buniadu in an attempt to intercept UDP supporters trying to converge on to Fass Njagga Choi where party leader Ousaion Darboe and his supporters have been holed up for the last three days.

The intent of the security forces appears to be to interdict supporters coming from Jokadu, Baddibu and beyond.

From what we have been able to gather thus far, what the regime is trying to do is to try to lure Ousainou Darboe and his supporters into thinking that all is clear before his forces pounce.

The opposition must continue to be vigilant because the true and full intent of the regime is unclear at this point. This is no time to celebrate.  The real work of the opposition politicians and activitists have just started.  Jammeh is someone who will not surrender that easily.

The standoff reveals Jammeh's insidious tactic of dividing the opposition forces

UDP Leader , Ousainou Darboe
As we enter Day 3 of the standoff between the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the security forces of the regime at Fass Njagga Choi in the north of the country, it may appear to be too early to draw lessons when the stalemate is still playing out.  While it may be premature to draw lessons, we beleive observations are in order at this point.

When the UDP applied for the use of a public address system (PA system) for their proposed 10-day tour of the country, it took an inordinate time - a well tested routine of the regime to discourage and demoralize the applicants - so Ousainou Darboe decided to go on with the tour without the use of the PA system which exempt him from securing a permit.

According to those familiar with the electoral laws, the UDP did not need neither a permit nor permission from Yaya Jammeh to conduct a village-to-village and people-to-people tour across the country.

In the case of Omar Jallow (OJ) when he organized the PPP rally in Brikama, he applied for a permit, and when it was not forthcoming, he led a delegation to the Inspector General's Office to demand the reason or reasons for the delay.   The IG issued the permit on the spot for the use of the PA system.

It is not certain whether it was because OJ told him that the rally will proceed even if he had to shout from the top of his lungs for his message to be heard by those who took their time and risk the wrath of the security forces.  We now know that persistent defiance is one language that this regime comprehends very well.

At the precise time the Brikama rally was on, PDOIS party stalwarts were in Kartong on their village-to-village tour, unhindered, and rightfully so.  Since they were not using a PA system, they did not need a permit.  Halifa and leadership of PDOIS have been carrying out their sensitization tours, as far as we can ascertain, since the ban on political activities/campaign was lifted in 1996.

Why is it that the UDP is now being denied the same right guaranteed by the same law that protects PDOIS.  UDP has made it clear that they will not use a PA system.  They were on their way to conduct the same people-to-people tour that PDOIS has been engaged in for nearly two decades.

What is still puzzling to us is this:  If no permit is necessary to conduct political tours, and rallies (provided a PA system is not used), why didn't the opposition employed the people-to-people or the retail politics approach sooner to bring this vexing issue to a head much earlier than now?

In spite of it all, we continue to support the stance taken by UDP to demand equal treatment under the law.  We will continue to speak clearly and openly (on behalf of the non-players) about what is being spoken behind closed doors for fear of being branded.  We do not mind the branding at

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is Gambia descending into chaos?

Dictator Yaya Jammeh 
The standoff at Fass Njagga Choi in the North Bank of the country between the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the para-military forces of the Jammeh regime is entering Day 2 with no sign of neither party climbing down.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, the UDP leader declared his intention to carry on with his party's 10-day tour of the country regardless of the number of troops the government is prepared to deploy to block the main road.

The regime shocked by the precipitous drop in its popularity has become extremely nervous of, and sensitive to. the increasing level of criticism, by the opposition, of the management of the economy, the high level of corruption and the increasing level of human rights abuses.  This has resulted in regimes extreme reaction of attempting to deny the country's single biggest opposition party from taking the issues to the people.

The regime has come under tremendous pressure lately from Gambian exiles in the United State and Europe diaspora culminating in the 30 December 2014 military-style attack on State House resulting in several deaths.  The alleged attackers and those considered to be accomplices have been tried in a secret court marshal and found guilty of treason.  Most have been condemned to death.

These events have resulted in heightened security to suffocating levels - in the literal as well as the figurative sense - resulting in prolonged travel time and thus adding to the coat of doing business. Small business have closed as a result of the heavy handedness of the military and the corrupt practices of government and area council revenue collectors.

The recent unilateral and illegal decision of the regime to transfer revenue collection authority from the City, Municipal and Area Councils to central government has resulted in absolute chaos in the financing of normal functions assigned to these entities by law.  As a consequence of this arbitrary and callous decision, Council employees salaries have been delayed, refuse go uncollected posing serious health problems for urban dwellers.  These entities levy rates to finance their operations. Delay in the transfer of these proceeds from central government has caused havoc, resulting in heightened frustration and rising tension.  Persistent lack of electricity can only add to the tension.

In our Facebook post, we suggested that Jammeh and his APRC are shocked by the precipitous fall in the popularity of the regime because of failed policies, high level of corruption and the constant and persistent abuse of human rights.  The unpopularity of the regime is self-inflicting and has transformed the urban areas into tinderboxes, ready to explode.  All it takes is a spark, and we are looking at the spark in the standoff at Fass Njagga Choi.

It is a standoff that the United Democratic Party's leader, Ousainou Darboe, has vowed not to back down.  The next move is Yaya Jammeh's which is not an envious place to be for a dictator and a regime that is under siege from Omar Jallow (OJ), Ousianou Darboe and the international human rights organizations around the world.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Macky Sall to Yaya Jammeh : "I am a democrat, my preoccupation is the development of Senegal"

After ignoring the Gambian dictator's tirade directed at Senegal, the Senegalese president has finally broken his silence on his relations with Yaya Jammeh.

Last week, the Gambian dictator accused the Senegalese leader of not only harboring dissident Gambians but actively encouraging them to subvert his regime.

The Gambia dissidents who are political refugees seeking asylum in Europe and America have been a source of conflict between the two countries. Jammeh has been trying for several years and on numerous occasions to have some of the dissidents extradited to Banjul, and on each occasion Senegal has refused because it contravenes international law.

Sall's response is uncharacteristic of the calm and almost serine demeanor of the Senegalese leader by suggesting to Jammeh that he (Sall) is not only a democrat but has, as his major preoccupation, the development of Senegal, implying that Jammeh is neither a democrat nor is he someone who occupies himself with the development of his own country.

The Senegalese president also reaffirms, in the strongest of terms, his position on the Gambian dissidents resident in Senegal.  Gambians, like other refugees resident in Senegal, enjoy the same privileges and responsibilities as Senegalese.   Senegal, according to President Sall, is a welcoming country, and thus dissidents of all nationalities, especially Gambians, are welcome.

Reacting to Jammeh's tirades of last Saturday in the presence of some Senegalese entertainers, president Macky Sall also appears to be sending a subtle message to Eume Sene (the Senegalese wrestler) and Koutchia (a Senegalese comedian) to stay clear of  Yaya Jammeh and in what is fast becoming a diplomatic minefield.


Yaya Jammeh sends troops to block opposition party from touring the country

The United Democratic Party (UDP) leader, Ousainou Darboe and his supporters have been blocked by government troops to prevent them from proceeding on a 10-day tour of the country.

The para-military forces known as the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) under the direct command of Yaya Jammeh engaged the UDP entourage in Nuimi, North Bank Region of the country by blocking the only road leading to an from the area.

Troop reinforcements have arrived after 5 hours of stand-off. The leader of the UDP, in a FatuRadio interview, indicated that the authorities will have to arrest them because he has no intention of cancelling his planned tour of the country.
 As night falls, the stand-off is tense and there is increasing concern that it may lead to violence because the regime is notorious for conducting its most violent operations at night. It is reported that the troops are armed which has heightened the concern for violence.

Supporters of the UDP in the area are being prevented by the paramilitary from reaching their party leader and comrades to act as reinforcement.   Party leaders are determined to continue the tour, and thus far, it appears that the paratroopers were also steadfast in their stance.  When the stalemate will be resolved is anybody's guess.            

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 10th - 11th Washington protests, biggest ever

According to organizers of the protests against the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh and in support of the student victims of the April 10 -11, 2000, toady's were the biggest ever organized.

Protesters came from New York, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and several other states.

Now that the notorious Gambian dictatorship has finally gained the attention of the international press arena, many news agencies and human rights organizations are in Washington to cover the events.

According to Coach Pa Samba Jow, a prominent human rights activist and a leader of DUGA, the British Guardian, Vice news and Texas Monthly Magazine and the Washington Post staff writer were also around to report on the protests. newspaper.  Among the human rights organizations present were Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.

These protests are part of a larger campaign to demand justice for those killed and the survivors of the deadliest day in the history of the Gambia.

These school children were murdered by police and security elements of the dictatorship at the order of Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, who uttered the words "kill the bastards" from his Havana hotel where he was on a state visit.Upon his return, he immediately indemnified the killers and ignored the survivors, some of whom eventually sought asylum in neighboring Senegal. 

These protests are organized by a group of Gambian human rights activists and allied organizations from New York, North Carolina and Georgia to draw the attention of the international community, and especially to the Obama Administration, to the plight of the surviving students who have been neglected, and some exiled, by the very regime that killed colleagues and maimed others.

At the time of going to press, the protesters were moving towards the front of the White House which has been on alert due to some emergency.  We will continue to keep you abreast of developments as the protest continue.

"Kill the bastards" commands Yaya Jammeh resulting in 14 dead students and numerous others wounded

Jammeh who issue the order "kill the bastards"
Some of the survivors of the April 10-11 student massacre
Vice president lied that students were armed
Amnesty International-sponsored demo in the U.K,
Gambian protesters against the dictatorship

When the Gambian dictator gave the order to his security forces to "kill the bastards", he was in Havana, Cuba on a state visit.  Those three words resulted in a carnage never witness before in the history of The Gambia, leaving in its wake 14 dead students and numerous wounded, mentally scared and physically disabled for the rest of their lives.  The only crime committed by these student was to peacefully protest the murder of a fellow student named Ebrima Barry and another school girl colleague of theirs raped by the security forced of the dictatorship.

In the absence of Yaya Jammeh, his Vice President, Isatou Njie-Saidy oversaw the carnage which she blamed the students for firing live bullets at the security forces.  This was, of course, a lie.  The kids were never armed and never provoked the security forces at any time before, during or after they were mowed with AK-47s.

Those responsible for killing our children were later indemnified by the one who gave the order to kill - Yaya Jammeh. Therefore, those cowards who pulled the trigger that took 14 young lives will never be brought to justice if Jammeh has his wish.  But we, Gambians, will demand that a successor to Yaya Jammeh must pledge to nullify the law that protects all those who took part in the massacre so that they can be tried in a court of law.  We will never rest until justice is done in the name of all the victims of the April 10th - 11th 2000.  That is our pledge to the students.

More survivors of the student massacre  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Kathryn's legacy on the balance?

Kathryn Hall is the name of the young American volunteer who witnessed a botched c-section operation in a rural Gambian hospital due to lack of electricity that inspired her into action; the result is "Power Up Gambia" (PUG) that harnesses the sun to generate electricity for rural health centers.

The Sulayman Junkung General Hospital (SJGH), named after Yaya Jammeh's father, where the botched operation took place was the beneficiary of the transformation of a fuel-based to solar-based electricity supply grid.   The old batteries in the system had to be replaced and the gas oil-driven generators were expensive and inefficient to run and maintain.

According to those familiar with the project, Phase I of the project went very well which led to the preparation of Phase II of the project which proposes to significantly increases the electricity generating capacity in excess of the immediate needs of of SJGH.

What to do with the excess is what appears to be the issue that faces the new management and Board of Power Up Gambia.  Kathryn, the initiator and inspirator of the project has since moved on and so has the membership of the original Board.

The previous Board of Power Up Gambia moved cautiously and purposefully on how to utilize the excess electricity that Phase II of the project will yield because the sustainability of this very important project, which has been successful up to this point, depends on the collectability of the anticipated revenue generated from the excess electricity generated.  We hope that cautious approach is maintained, however difficult the environment.

The CEO of the SJGH was quoted in the official newspaper of the government that the "management of SJGH wants to sell electricity to NAWEC through our third project called 'banking scheme', and we have now finalized some kind of relationship with them."  According to him, SJGH plans to connect to the national grid to make it possible to supply electricity from Mandinaba to Kalagi. Revenue generated from this is estimated at D 48 million annually.

When contacted to express our concerns, the Executive Director of Power Up Gambia, Lynn McConville assured us that "we are investigating the potential of utilizing solar power as a revenue generation opportunity for hospitals under the 2013 Gambian Renewable Energy Law."  The Executive Director has also assured us that discussions are ongoing that involves NAWEC and the IMF among other relevant agencies.  Thus according to Power Up Gambia's McConville, "no final agreements are in place at this time."

We agree with PUG that the potential exist for renewable energy to advance agriculture, which was what we suggested as possible sector intervention, we are extremely concern able the 'banking scheme' described, however imprecise his description, that involves partnering with NAWEC - an institution that is effectively a bankrupt public enterprise.  How much does central government owes NAWEC?   It runs in the billions of dalasis.

We owe it to Kathryn and to the Gambian rural population to ensure the sustainability of the project which is the challenge facing the management and the current Board of Power Up Gambia.   Staying true to the Mission of PUG is reassuring especially when the assurances are coming from none other than the Executive Director of Power Up Gambia.