Monday, August 31, 2015

If it is good enough for Gambia's Vice President, it should be good enough for the dictator's wife

Mrs. Zainab Suma Jammeh

By presidential decree, the Gambian dictator commanded that all senior civil servants lead their respective ministerial and departmental delegations to the seasonal farm weeding exercise at his village farm in Kanilai, 120 miles away from the capital city of Banjul.

The Executive Order as it is dubbed in The Gambia, effectively shut down the government for three days, in a country that could least afford it because of its current precarious economic condition that requires an emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Isatou Njie-Saidy, the 62-year old Vice President of the Gambia can be seen her, hoe in hand in the ruling political party's green colors (a mandatory attire), in a back-breaking exercise of weeding her boss's farm while Mrs. Zainab Jammeh, the Moroccan-born wife of the Gambian dictator is in the United States to accompany her daughter to start her second year of High School in Manhattan and some shopping before she returns to The Gambia.   His daughter's last year's annual tuition at the New York school was $ 80,000.  This year, the figure is likely to go up.

The photo at the top is a private jet configuration of one of many options available to her when she travels at tax payers expense while the Vice President of the country, judges, magistrates, ministers and ordinary Gambians toil in her husband's private farm.

Thanks to the weeding exercise, the entire government was shut down for three days in a country that is on a four-day work week and where an average Gambian lives on $ 1.25 per day and where 600,000 or nearly half of the population of one of the most impoverished country on earth is food insecure.  It is not uncommon to find farmers abandoning their own farms for Jammeh's farms for fear of  reprisals.

In the interest of equal treatment of Gambians and Mrs. Jammeh, we'd like to suggest to the Gambian dictator that he requires his wife to join the Gambian Vice President in all future weeding exercises.  If weeding is good enough for the Gambian Vice President it should be good enough for the much younger wife of the Gambian dictator.

It is time for change #JammehMustGo

Thank you Demba N. Njie of Sweden for giving me the idea. :)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Are "pardoned" prisoners being ritually executed by Jammeh ?

The notorious Mile II prison, one of the ten worst in the world
When Yaya Jammeh, the idiosyncratic Gambian dictator suddenly announced the "pardoning" of two hundred and twenty-nine prisoner, we cautioned against, what we considered to be premature, in the showering of praise to a regime that has proven, in its 21-year brutal history, to be as deceitful and unreliable as dictators come.

The "pardoned" prisoner figures have varied from two hundred and twenty-nine which was the initial announced figure, to"three hundred and something" by both Jammeh's Foreign Minister and his Vice President.  The fact that the regime refuses, to date, to release an official list of all those "pardoned" prisoners is reason to question the motive behind the regime's stonewalling.

With time, a pattern has begun to emerge since the "pardoned" prisoner release.  Families of prisoners who have meet all of the criteria are beginning to step out of the shadows to ask the whereabouts of their loved ones who were supposed to have been released according to family members.

Two weeks ago, the family of Seedy Jaiteh went to the offices of Foroyaa newspaper to ask about the whereabouts of their loved one.  Seedy Jaiteh was the Human Resource Director of GAMTEL, the government telecommunication company, who was arrested from his office over 400 days ago, according to the newspaper's account.  His whereabouts remain unknown to this day, even though he's eligible for release or, at least, to be charged and taken to court.  The regime is silent to this day about Mr. Jaiteh who is reported to have been arrested because he's a Mandinka tribe whose members have been accused of destroying GAMTEL even though since seizing power, Jammeh has only appointed members of other tribes to run the company.

This week, a former soldier named Samba Bah, who was among the prisoners "pardoned" died at the Royal Victoria Hospital.  He had complained of leg pain.  He was in leg irons for the nine years he had been incarcerated accused of being part of the 2006 coup attempt.  His death is a sign of things to come for those known "pardoned" prisoners.  Released prisoners on public display at the town square for the purpose of expressing gratitude to the Dear Leader and Savior of the Gambian People appear weak and unhealthy.  More will die of diseases contracted or injuries inflicted while at Mile II.  It is just a matter of time.

Also this week, Foroyaa is reporting that the family of a mentally challenged prisoner named Ambu Drammeh, was arrested and rearrested numerous times before his case was referred to the psychiatric hospital.  Despite his metal condition, Mr. Drammeh was arrested from the village where he was being treated in the local tradition and taken to Mile II.  The family of Mr. Drammeh was highly optimistic and confident when they learned of the prisoner release program that their loved one would be among those release.  His whereabouts, like Seedy Jaiteh's, remain unknown.  We asked in the case of Seedy Jaiteh: How many Seedy Jaitehs are there.  We will repeat the same in the case of Ambu Drammeh : How many Ambu Drammehs are there.

Every life is precious and thus we must, as a civilized society, place the ultimate premium on it.  In the name of human decency,  we demand a complete and exhaustive list of all "pardoned" prisoners with their full personal details so that every life is accounted for.  Anything less will only cast more suspicion on a regime whose credibility is already among the lowest of any government anywhere on earth.

The disastrous consequences of the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2015

Bah, Darboe, Asst. Mayor of Raleigh, NC and O.J. 
When you try logging on to IEC website this is the message that greets you "IEC.GM is Under Construction. Come Back Soon." Yet, the Electoral Commission is churning our "press statements" at breakneck speed warning opposition parties of the catastrophic impediments they are likely to face as a result of the recently passed "Election (Amendment) Act 2015".

The most recent press statement from the IEC as reported by The Point newspaper (The Daily Observer would rather carry a story by one Alhagie Balla Musa Wally who discovered recently that the Diaspora news outlets are the most boring in the world because they focus on the negatives of Jammeh) is urging political parties to regularize their respective statuses to enable them to contest in the upcoming presidential elections slated for 2016.

The statement goes on to state that "...all political parties are to ensure that all their executive members are resident in the country and that all political parties have a secretariat in each Administrative Region and that the Constitution of the Party requires it to hold a biennial congress."

The IEC statement goes further to say that ",,,in accordance with the said laws, each existing part shall write an undertaking that it shall submit its yearly audited accounts to the Commission." The statement ends in what is referred to in journalism as the 'kicker' (I learned the term from Coach - Dr. Ebrima Ceesay) which says "[T]he above criteria AND ANY OTHER (emphasis ours) as enshrined in the Electoral Laws of The Gambia shall be met by all existing political parties latest 31st March 2016 as per the Election (Amendment Act 2015.

To cap it off, the statement reminded all parties that to field a presidential candidate it will cost each party D 500,000 ( $11,000) and D 50,000 for each parliamentary candidate in a forty-eight seat parliament that the regime is proposing to increase to fifty-three if the Chairman has his way.

The fears we expressed recently are beginning to be confirmed in slow motion by the Chairman of the IEC who is illegally occupying the seat.  In characteristic style, with the full endorsement of the membership of a rubber stamp Commission, Chairman Carayol is slowing but surely unveiling the Electoral (Amendment) Act that we described in our previous blog post as “posing a great threat to the electoral landscape”, because it is a bad and punitive law designed to limit opposition access to the electoral process by excessive and unrealistic entry fees and other draconian measures.

Can the IEC dictate to political parties what should be in their Constitutions of Party Manifestos? Can the IEC demand audited accounts of political parties that will reveal their sources of financing without the requirement having a damping effect by scaring off potential donors to the opposition? Do we know all that's in the law?  We venture to respond in the negative.  The provisions that made it into the Election (Amendment) Act 2015 are there for a reason and it is time the Opposition start asking the right questions and to take - head on -  a Commission that is callously leading the Gambia down the path to absolute electoral chaos that will inevitable threaten the peace and stability of The Gambia.  All opposition parties must speak up now or forever hold their peace.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Independent Electoral Commission Chairman Mustapha Carayol is endangering the peace

Mustapha Carayol, IEC Chairman
The Chairman of the so-called Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), a Commission that is anything but independent, has once more demonstrated his recklessness in carrying out his IEC functions, a position he's occupying illegally, by continually advancing the singular political agenda of the Gambian dictator.

Mr. Carayol must realize that he's illegally occupying a position in an institution that impacts the lives of every Gambian, at home and abroad.  Despite a letter to him, signed by the Group of Six - all of the six opposition party leaders - cautioning him, back in April 2012 that he was unconstitutionally occupying the Chairmanship of the IEC, he continues to defy the wishes of the opposition and by extension a significant portion of the Gambian electorate.  Such a contemptuous behavior is unbecoming of an election officer whose primary duty is to protect the sanctity of vote of every eligible Gambian voter. However to do so, he must be legally occupying the position.

According to Section 42, subsection 4 of the 1997 Constitution which states that "...members of the Commission shall be appointed for a period of 7 years, and may be re-appointed for one further term."  Mr. Carayol has served as member of the Commission since the inception of the IEC in 1997. He assumed the Chairmanship when the late Bishop Telewa Johnson was unceremoniously fired by the Gambian dictator for trying to implement the letter and the spirit of the law.  The late former Chairman believed in the rule of law and the sanctity of the vote.

There is little doubt that Mr. Carayol is occupying the Chairmanship illegally.  Yet, he continues to take profound decisions concerning future elections in The Gambia, backed by extensive revisions - they refer to as reforms - that he threatens to enshrine into law, further skewing the playing field by making it harder for the opposition and their supporters to exercise their right to vote.

In addition to the draconian "Electoral Reform Act of 2015" which has been recently signed into law, the IEC Chairman has announced the creation of five more constituency, increasing the number of constituencies to fifty-three.  We are told that the "IEC undertook the assignment of demarcation with a lot of cautious commitment", the IEC Chairman's lame attempt to placate Gambians.

The combination of these so-called electoral reforms is posing a great threat to the electoral landscape that is coming in right at the heels of the 2016 elections, designed to destabilize the opposition and confuse the international community by giving the impression that the reforms demanded by the opposition are being attended to by the regime when the opposite is the case.

By playing this dangerous game of tampering with the electoral laws and the constituency boundaries to tilt them in Jammeh's favor, Chairman Carayol is endangering the peace of the country.  He must stop these illegal actions of his by resigning his Chairmanship.  This is the second time we are demanding his resignation.  We did so the first time in October 2013.  The rest of the Commission members should also resign because Gambians have lost all confidence in their independence and impartiality.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

GAMBIA: A case against a 5th term for Jammeh

When Jammeh seized power illegally in 1994, he promised Gambians that his Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council "will never introduce military dictatorship"which became headline news splashed on papers across the country.

This promise, one of many made by Jammeh as Chairman of the military council, turned out to be one of cruelest hoax Jammeh and members of the junta have perpetrated against an unsuspecting citizenry.

Of course, the real intention of the junta was the opposite i.e to devise ways and means of transforming themselves from  military to civilian regime even as Jammeh continued assuring Gambians that he had no interest in being president in a civilian government.  His reasoning at the time was that he was not a politician and never intended on becoming one.  According to him, politicians are inherent liars and essentially corrupt beings which disqualifies him for ever becoming a politician because his exemplary character.

Unfortunately, Jammeh's public utterances during the transition to civilian rule did not match his actions and internal maneuverings designed to position himself and his fellow military junta members to trade in their military uniforms for civilian muftis.  By his first year as Chairman of the Provisional Council,  Jammeh's deceitful demeanor has started taking a discernible  pattern with a degree of frequency that can only be described as pathological.  21 years hence, the description has proven to be apt and indisputable.

The brutal dictatorship could not have been firmly implanted for over two decades without a robust legal infrastructure constructed with the deliberate objective of confiscating the fundamental rights of Gambians and non-Gambian alike.   The chief architect of the legal construct that has made it possible for Yaya Jammeh and his military buddies to survive the provisional military council was the first substantive holder of the position of Attorney General and  Minister of Justice - Fafa Edrissa Mbai - who held a similar position in the toppled civilian government of Sir Dawda K. Jawara.

It didn't take long for the legal luminary - a self-proclaimed accolade -  to display his  proficiency as a prolific generator of the most obnoxious and repressive Decrees that provided the backdrop and the character of Alhagie Sheikh Professor Doctor Yahya A.J.J.Jammeh , Balili Mansa, Nasurudeen, one of Africa's most brutal, corrupt, incompetent and idiosyncratic dictators, to rival Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada and Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Uganda and Central African Republic respectively.

History will show that Fafa Edrissa Mbai, the drafter of the first 30 of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council Decrees, is the principle architect of the most draconian laws that has transformed our beloved country into the North Korea of Africa by providing the legal framework and justification for the vile regime that is now the Jammeh dictatorship.

Decree No.1 gave birth to the Armed Force Provisional Ruling Council, Decree No. 4 proscribed all political parties and Decree No. 30, the last of Mr. Mbai's masterpieces, acted as a quasi Constitution for the military junta.  We have counted thus far 67 Decrees out of a total of approximately 96 Decrees passed by the AFPRC in a span of 30 months.

The Decrees became the drug that Jammeh and his military junta got addicted to even after they transform themselves into civilians.   Thus the newly-minted 1997 Constitution became more of a nuisance and an obstacle to the dictatorial powers Jammeh has become accustomed to under the Decree-driven environment during the Transition period.

Jammeh cannot and will not change because he's been conditioned by the environment that his handlers created that gave him absolute power.   It is now time to say to him and all those who have been supporting him and sustaining his corrupt and incompetent regime through sycophantic chants and letters of appreciation to the Dear and Visionary Leader that it is time for him to vacate State House.  We are, therefore, encouraging Yaya Jammeh to either resign now or not to seek a fifth term at the end of his current term which expires in October 2016.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Letters of gratitude to Jammeh are conditions for release of "pardoned" prisoners

"Pardoned"prisoner mug shot 
When the regime of Yaya Jammeh decided to "pardoned" prisoners, we advised caution "not to over celebrate" before the premature celebration became contagious because the release was a scheme designed to placate the international donor community, especially the European Development Fund that held $ 36 million in escrow.

The regime had budgetary gaps the size of the Grand Canyon that can only be filled by the EU funds.  Because the  EU 17-point demands from the Jammeh regime were still outstanding, and most of the demands are related to human rights issues and the condition and treatment of prisoners in Gambia's prisons, Jammeh is left with little option but to relent after a year of foot-dragging.  Gambia's economy is on the verge of collapse.  Extra-ordinary circumstances require extra-ordinary actions.  His prisons were filled to the brink and it was proving challenging for the budget.

The prison authorities admitted that it required D 1,250,000 monthly to maintain the prisoners and the facilities.  Since the EU demands included a request for an estimate of the rehabilitation cost of the notorious Mile II and other prisons, emptying them now could mean release of funds.  Our conclusion then that the scheme was just that, a scheme to access the EU funds and not to correct the deplorable state of the human rights environment.

We are now learning that, in addition to refusing the "pardoned" prisoners travel documents and IDs, as part of the condition of release is to write a letter of gratitude to the Gambian dictator for their release.  Praising Jammeh, his magnanimity and his "act of humanness"  as his former Solicitor General, Pa Harry Jammeh, said in his letter - a letter, his family was reported to have sworn never to stoop so law, especially when the "pardoned" prisoner had already served his entire prison term, and thus saw no reason to "beg" the dictator.  It is now obvious that he would have suffered the same fate as Amadou Sanneh, an opposition leader, whose refusal to conditional release is reported the reason for his continued incarceration.

The  official mouthpiece of the regime, the Daily Observer, has been religiously printing these letters of gratitude and of praise to a dictator that see great propaganda value in these monotonous letters of praise, at least locally, even where it has little or no value internationally.

Letter of praise and gratitude has a long history under Jammeh.  Lang Conteh, a former Central Bank official wrote a letter of praise after he was allowed to return from exile in Dakar.  Mr. Conteh has found himself in court again for stealing.  Magistrate Moses Richards also was required to write a similar letter as condition of release.  In fact, in his case, we have been reliably informed that his letter was drafted by officials for his signature.

Eventually and as stories of the "pardoned"prisoners start to make it to the international press, the prisoner release scheme will be seen for what it really is - a propaganda ploy designed by a desperate regime that is financially strapped, hoping to gain access to the EDF funds.

Jammeh's youth problem

Retired U.S. Ambassador Stafford
African immigrants 

The landslide victory of Lower Saloum constituency by-elections a few weeks ago by the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the second biggest opposition party represented, sent the most sobering message Yaya Jammeh has ever received in his 21-year dictatorial rule.  It may have been sobering but far from humbling the former military police lieutenant who seized power unconstitutionally because he reacted to the defeat in the characteristic Jammeh style by dissolving the party structures in the constituency and shut down its regional party headquarters and dismissing staff in the process.

Buried in all the chaos is a significant piece of data that is important as it is instructive.  According to the final tally of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) - which we all agree that it is anything but independent -  showed that 95% of all those who cast their votes were women, driving the body to immediately suggest that investigation of the vote was in order.  The opposition defeated the ruling party candidate by more than a 2:1 margin in a constituency that was never in the hands of the opposition which means that the majority of the women ( very close to the 2:1 margin of victory) voted for the opposition.

The women vote is one of the two solid pillars of support of the Gambian dictator.  The other pillar is the youth vote, a reliable constituency of Jammeh's A(F)PRC political party since 1994 has been less than solid. The youth vote is less certain and can be described as wobbly at best for several reasons, some of which have been the topic of discussion on this blog.   As if to remind the regime of the pending tsunami descending on Jammeh and his political party, the United States Charge d'Affairs Amb. Joseph Stafford prior to his departure from the Gambia where he was filling in for the substantive American Ambassador who's await Senate confirmation, reminded an assembly of 75 parliamentarian of the intricate relationship between accountability and growth and strengthening of democracy.

The veteran diplomat acknowledged a very well known fact common in Africa, and universally, that politicians "sweep under the rug" issue and problems close to the hearts of the youth, implying that all politicians are interested in is their vote on election day an after that they are left to fend for themselves, despite the fact that" there are real and pressing problems" affecting the youth. He gave employment as one such pressing employment problem that appears to worsen because of the economy's inability to create jobs for a growing youth population.  Consequently, "nearly 60% of Gambia's poor are under the age of 20" according to Amb. Joseph Stafford.

"When constituents are not heard, or their legislators become unresponsive, the system breaks down" the American diplomat told the young parliamentarians, as if describing the current Gambian political environment where the central government machinery, including the judiciary and the parliamentary, has come to a complete standstill.  Nothing appears to work except the presidential security infrastructure built around Jammeh for his own personal safety and that of his immediate family members.  The welfare of the youth without whose support Jammeh would not be at State House has been neglected, despite promises, resulting in mass exodus of the young and increasingly restless Gambians.

It is not coincidental that according to the EU, about 10,500 Gambian immigrants sought asylum in Europe between January and June of this year alone - a phenomenal figure considering it is a six months period from a country that is less than 2 million inhabitants.  These are the lucky ones who made it across the gang-infested Sahara and the treacherous Mediterranean crossing where last year 14% of the drownings of two boats were Gambian citizens, an equally disproportionate figure for a small country like The Gambia.

The inability or lack of commitment to the youth has resulted in loss in confidence in the Jammeh regime, and most are voting with their feet as both economic and political migrants.  Whereas more of the youth are fleeing economic hardship due to bad and inappropriate policies, the human rights environment is also taking its toll with increasing repressive measures being adopted to keep the population under control as the economy deteriorates.

If the results of the Lower Saloum election results are indicative of the mood among Gambian women, combined with a disillusionment of a growing number of youth that are unemployed in a depressed economic environment, Jammeh is going to find it difficult to hold his coalition together.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

How Jammeh is saddling Gambian taxpayers with expensive loans

Gambia's ex-Finance Minister, Kebba S. Touray at Ex-Im 

In January 2015, The Economist magazine had an editorial piece entitled "Not Contagious :The Gambia's financial woes do not portend an African public debt crisis, suggesting the unique nature of the country's unfavorable debt profile which implied that it is, almost, self-inflicting.

Although the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia did not reach Gambia, its devastating effects were felt, particularly in the tourism sector, the country second largest foreign exchange earner after agriculture.

The 60% fall in tourism, coupled with a fall in commodity prices - principally wood and nuts - resulted in 12% drop in the value of the local currency.  And because Gambia imports just about everything from the basic food of rice, flour and cooking oil to cement and other building materials interest rates were raised from 12% to 22% in two years in an attempt to prop up the dalasi.

However, The Economist was quick to point out that main reason for the financial woes of the Jammeh regime was "the mismanagement of the government finances that has pushed The Gambia over the edge.

From 2009 - 2014, Gambia's debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 18%.  According to The Economist this increase is higher than all countries in sub-Saharan Africa except Ghana and Cape Verde.  With the ratio that currently stands at 80%, it is highest in the region - a figure that is expected to be surpassed thanks to the 2015 budget that increased spending by 11%.

Gambia's debt problems is not just because they are growing as a faster rate but the types of loans being contracted by the government are of "usually short maturity".  What are the specifics of these short maturity and higher-than-normal interest loans for a poor and indebted country like The Gambia.

The regime of Jammeh decided to search for other sources of financing for his ill-conceived and poorly prepared because they cannot pass the stringent requirements, including but not limited to the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies and other tests.  This is not say the Ex-Im of India's requirements are less stringent but because the overriding mission of such financing institution is to promote national exports.

For instance, the first of five Lines of Credit (LOC) with the Ex-Im Bank of India was approved in November 2005 in the amount of US $ 6.7 million for the supply of 500 Mahindra tractors. Gambians are still asking the whereabouts of all these tractors.  And what impact, if any, they have on our agricultural production.

The second LOC approved in August 2008 was for US $ 10 million for the financing of the National Assembly Building.  Apparently, the estimated cost fell far short by US $ 16.88 million, an amount that was requested by the regime and approved in October 2012 for the completion of the National Assembly Building.  The fact that the price appeared to have been underestimated by almost 170% raised eyebrows in many quarters did not prevent the loan from being approved, bringing the total cost of the building to US $ 27 million.

Two additional LOCs have been approved since,  both coincidentally in similar amounts of US $ 22.50 million for the financing of the replacement of asbestos water pipes in the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) and for the financing of what is described as"electrification expansion project for the GBA.

These two loans add up to US $ 45 million bring the total loan envelop from Ex-Im Bank of India to US $ 80 million in 10 years.  All of these loans have reached maturity and are being serviced as commercial or near commercial rates.  Unlike IDA or AfDB credits which are on concessional terms with 30-year repayment period as opposed to higher interest rates and shorter maturities for the tyep of loans that the Jammeh regime elected to contract.

Yaya Jammeh's incompetent and corrupt regime in pictures: Gambia's capital when it rains

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The Gambia, under the dictatorial leadership of Yaya Jammeh , has been reduced to this.  When it rains for a duration of thirty minutes, all of the roads in the capital city of Banjul are rendered impassable,  The same applies to the two primary roads, Bond Road and Independence Drive, the main thoroughfares leading into and out of Banjul - an island city - are all impassable.

Of course, the health and well-being of citizens are threatened by raw sewerage that spills into the streets from broken down and dysfunctional sewage system.  Cholera outbreak cannot be ruled out.  Commerce comes to a stand still and so is traffic with stalled vehicles everywhere.

Gambians have been living in such misery for 21 years of high level corruption and a degree of incompetence never experienced in the 50-year history of Independent Gambia.   While an entire city has been brought to a standstill with major disruption of basic services to the citizenry, the dictator and his entire cabinet and bureaucrats are in his home village of Kanilai for an entire week, effectively shutting down the machinery of government for the duration of what has become an annual jamboree that includes wining and dining of senior officials at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer.

The dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh has proven, in the 21 years (it will 22 years next year when his current term ends) of its existence that came through unconstitutional means, that it is incompetent and incapable of governing which has led to current dysfunctional environment that Gambians  are forced to live in through repressive means employed by one of the most violent regimes in the world.   The human rights of Gambians are being violated every day.  The economy is being mismanaged, including the pilfering of the public coffers.

It is, therefore, an absolute must that the Jammeh regime be replaced.  Gambians are saying that 21 years of dictatorial rule is enough, especially one that has failed in protecting the security and welfare of the citizens, and has continually mismanaged the economy resulting in the deepening of the level of poverty in the country.

We say to Yaya Jammeh : 22 years in 2016 is enough.  You must step down and allow another member of your party be its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential elections which must be conducted under new and fairer electoral laws that guarantee free and fair elections. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Toward a fairer and equitable approach to the prisoner release scheme

Some of the "pardoned" prisoners in  The Gambia
The contention that the case of Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay of Teranga FM radio did not become a cause celebre because the "case did not go viral" in social media parlance implies that we have not been doing enough - advocacy-wise - about his case. It is a valid point and, in my view, deserves further examination.

To do a reasonable job of analyzing the issue , we must first ask the question: Was it a deliberate and conscious act of omission? We do not want to think so because true and genuine human rights activists do not discriminate. We have seen it demonstrated numerous times.  Activists were the ones, in a sea of mullahs, who stood their ground and led the fight in support of the LGBT community when assumed members were being arrested and tortured by Jammeh - assumed, because agents of the security forces were roaming the tourist hotel areas and arresting anyone identified as gay by police informers.

If the act of omission was not deliberate in the case of Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, then it must have been something else. That something else is what all of us should focus our attention to, and that is the fact that Jammeh is arresting, abducting and incarcerating Gambians at a faster rate than we can keep up with. 

The case of Seedy Jaiteh, GAMTEL's Director of Human Resources, is a case in point. He was taken into custody by the NIA over 400 days ago, and thanks to Foroyaa, we had all forgotten about him. But how many Seedy Jaitehs are there? No one can say with any degree of accuracy. The best we can do is - guess.

This brings me to a way forward. 

First, let us demand from the regime of Yaya Jammeh a comprehensive list of all those he claimed to have released and pardoned. I do not see how we can really start ensuring equality of treatment of
Jammeh's victims if we do not have any idea of the magnitude of the problem. 

Second, the list is a necessary first step to accounting for every single life threatened or taken away by this vile regime.

Seedy Jaiteh's family is wondering about his whereabouts. They were expecting him to be released because he appears to have fulfilled all of the criteria outlined by the regime, and yet he has not returned home. Where is he? Without an official (gazetted) list, who can say for certain where Seedy Jaiteh is. What if the regime claims that he's was among the "three hundred and something" prisoners released, where is the proof to dispute the regime's claim, even if the claim is spurious.

We have seen a list of 20 Gambians whose release is being demanded from the Jammeh regime because the assumption is that they are alive and still in Mile II - a reasonable and plausible assumption. However, we find this to be a flawed approach that is open to criticism.  How do we know there are only 20 and not 21 or 50 or 100 lesser known Gambians and foreigners languishing in jail for a longer period and under harsher conditions than the 20 prisoners listed. The fairer and more inclusive approach is to demand a comprehensive list from the regime and even there, we may still not be able to account for every victim of the Jammeh regime - EVER.  But, at least, it is a start.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gambia's failing schools

Fatou Lamin Faye, Minister of Basic and Secondary Education
The rate at which teachers in upper basic schools are leaving the profession is "accelerating" at an alarming rate, according to a recently concluded study by The University of The Gambia.

The dwindling supply of teachers couple with the rapid rate of expansion of schools, is creating an imbalance in the ratio of teachers to pupils that can only affect the quality of instruction the students receive and the overall quality of education the students receive.

The study also confirms a long established truism that there is strong correlation between teacher quality cum quality instruction and student performance.  It is because of this well established fact that priority was given to continuous teacher training and in-service training of primary and secondary school teachers, to continually upgrade their skills and to keep them motivated.

Teachers are leaving the profession for higher paying jobs, according to the study.  But previous studies have also shown that, while higher salaries contribute to the attrition rate, other factors including housing in duty stations, career advancement within the education ministry and/or the wider civil service, are equally important factors in contributing to the retention of qualified teachers.

Others find their way, according to the study, into private sector employment, mainly as bank tellers. Some of these former teachers, we are told, are being replaced by members of the Green Boys brigade who can neither read nor write - they are functional illiterates who are now teaching our children in our schools.

Even when the Ministry tries to address the problem by introducing incentives such as hardship and retention allowances, the study concludes that these efforts "have not been successful" because it did not stem the tide.

Why are the efforts failing where they succeeded in the past?  The teaching profession has been degraded under the A(F)PRC regime.  It is a regime that has successfully elevated the status of professional politicians that most of the teachers in the field have transformed themselves into the local APRC apparatchiks.

They are now the local Councillors, party operatives and parliamentarians. Leadership is lacking both at the level of the Ministry of Basic Education and at the level of the presidency where the priorities are more about creating the illusion that everything is fine and dandy as long as you keep the people occupied with celebrations, "Benachin and Soulouh Balahh" cooking competition and high school girls beauty pageant competition.  

It is also very common to find former teachers among the thousands of Gambians who've elected to vote with their feet by joining the mass exodus to Europe via the Mediterranean who are driven more by the dire economic condition that the country finds itself with little hope of recovery in sight.            

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gambia must mend ways to play full role in the international arena says US Ambassador-designate

The U.S. Ambassador-designate to The Gambia acknowledged during her Senate confirmation hearing last week Thursday, the important U.N. peacekeeping role the country presently plays and its substantial presence in Darfur, but warned that the country "will not be able to play that role to the fullest without making changes at home."

Ambassador-designate Carolyn P. Alsup  issued the warning as part of  her opening statement before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the 30th of July 2014.

She said that the U.S. "is concerned about the downward trajectory of The Gambia's human rights record", making specific and pointed references to arbitrary arrests and many who are subjected to being detained beyond the 72-hours allowed under law.   In addition to arbitrary arrests, "discriminatory legislation and verbal and physical abuse have been targeted against the LGBT community."

The cases of Alhagie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe - the two Gambian-American who went missing inside The Gambia over two years ago - were also cited by the Ambassador-designate in her statement as cause for concern.  Obviously, the United State would require that the government of The Gambia to account for them so that they can rejoin their families in the U.S.

Human rights is the cornerstone of America's foreign policy. "Respecting and upholding human rights is also cornerstone of maintaining a just and peaceful society and mitigating the lure of violent extremism", she said.

If confirmed,  Ambassador-designate Alsup promised to seek regular dialogue with the Jammeh regime but also with "political parties, civil society, journalists, youth and women to emphasize the importance of the respect for, and the protection of, all human rights."

Her statement before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is a reaffirmation of the Press Statement issued by the State Department after the release of the "pardoned" prisoners by the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh in which while taking note of the prisoner release, urged the regime to abide by its own laws of not detaining Gambians beyond the 72-hours without charge and demanded the release of the missing Americans.

In this regard, it is worth noting that the Ambassador-designate promised that if confirmed she will make top priority the safety and security of the nearly 2,000 U.S. citizens, in the Gambia, about half of whom are minors.

Friday, August 7, 2015

An economic meltdown: The chickens are here to roost

It may have taken 21 years for Yaya Jammeh to destroy a functioning economy but it is finally here - the total obliteration of a once thriving and well-managed economy that was the envy of the region.

Jammeh inherited an economy from Sir Dawda Jawara that held promise to 2 million Gambians, which has now dissipated into a dysfunctionality only a military regime can achieve with absolute ease, made possible by total ignorance of the basic principles of economic management.

Speaking to reporters in his capacity as Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Mr. Colley, Governor of the Central Bank confirmed what former Minister of Finance warned Gambians last year that "next year - referring to 2015 - will be a very difficult year."

Indeed, it is proving to be an extremely difficult year, especially for ordinary citizens who have seen their food security blanket removed by a regime that insists on spending scares resources irresponsibly, in sectors that ensure the perpetuation of the dictatorship rather than help alleviate poverty. The result is that 600,000 Gambians are now food insecure.  A figure that has the potential of exploding to 800,000 by the end of the year, representing half of the country.

According to the Governor, the year to end in June 2015, the domestic debt has ballooned to D 19.1 billion or almost 50% of GDP from 30.4% only a year ago.  Based on local reporting of the CBG figures, the D 2.23 billion of the D 19.1 billion was accumulated in the first half of this year calendar year alone.  Treasury bills account for 69% of the domestic debt.  The 1% of GDP annual ceiling agreed to with the IMF is out the window as we predicted immediately following the announcement of the financial bailout of the regime.

Price inflation is also on the rise to worrying levels, further putting a squeeze on a population that is already hard pressed to make ends meet.  There has been a 1.8% increase in inflation from 5.4% in June 2014 to 7.2% in June 2015.  Failure to act against these heightened pressures may cause prices to accelerate further thus entrenching higher rates of inflation.

Clearly, out-of-control spending is fueling inflation.  Therefore, unless government curtail spending, especially in the defense and security sectors, and reorder its priorities - less expenditures on non-productive activities, like celebrations and frivolous engagements - in a significant way, rate of inflation will continue to rise.

The economy has also fail to grow.  It went from a negative 0.7% in 2013 to an adjusted figure of 0.5% in 2014 at a period when African countries, south of the Sahara are among the fastest growing economies in the world at between 8% and 10%.   Even post-conflict countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia are growing faster than The Gambia.  The reason being an incompetent leadership that is also highly corrupt.  In fact, Jammeh and his handlers seem to encourage corruption.

The burden of Gambia's debt which now stands at almost 50% of GDP is unsustainable.  We wrote last year, citing The Economist magazine, and suggesting that exponential growth in the debt is, in part, due to the usually short maturity of the type of loans the regime is contracting.

For example, the regime has opened eight different lines of credit with the Ex-Im Bank of India - including a $ 27 million National Assembly Building, that are now fall due with non-concessionary terms associated with each of these loans.  Most of these projects fall within the non-generating revenue category and thus are not self-financing.  Government must service these loans.  No wonder interest payments alone have increased by 81%, according to the Central Bank Governor.

The trajectory of the public debt is not only unsustainable but worrying.  Worrying because of the inability or unwillingness of the Jammeh regime to address its addiction to cash.  Jammeh will find every excuse under the sun to borrow money for expenditures that will bring neither growth to the economy nor development in the country.  Instead, we are saddle with a mountain of debt that generations of Gambians yet unborn will have to pay.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Gambians to Jammeh : "We have had enough, Step Down

Members of the Gambian army celebrating Jammeh's presidential election victory in 2011
The ruling party of Yaya Jammeh, has been handed a devastating electoral defeat in one of his strongest areas of political support in the country.  The opposition candidate trounced the ruling party's candidate by over a 2:1 margin - 2,754  votes to 1,618 in the Lower Saloum Constituency by-elections.  The constituency has been in APRC hands since 1996, and this is the first time the seat has changed hands.  

The opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) defeated the APRC candidate in a contest that saw the ruling party stalwarts led by the Works and Infrastructure Minister, Balla Jahumpa, Tourism Minister Benjamin Roberts, former Ambassador Cherno Touray a native of the area, both current and former Governors of the Region and many more traversed the constituency touting the development programs that Jammeh has brought to the area.   Despite all the efforts, Yaya Jammeh and his ruling party were trounced resoundingly.

The humiliating defeat is a repudiation of the failed policies of a regime that have plunged the country into absolute chaos with a negative growth of an economy that has been contracting for over a five year period.   Poverty is on the increase and 600,000 Gambians or a third of the population is food insecure.  It is estimated that the figure will increase to 800,000 or one half of the population by the end of the year.

The victory by the NRP is, in our view, should not be observed in a celebratory fashion because the elections were conducted under the newly passed electoral reform laws which increased the presidential candidate deposit from D 10,000 to D 1 million, later reduced to D 500,000 and the parliamentary candidates must deposit D 5,000 from D 50,000.  

A cautionary note to the opposition is in order - never allow the new law to become the law of the land because, as we have argued before, the new rates are a form of a poll tax designed to destroy the opposition.  

The 2016 elections should be conducted under the previous rates, or at lower rates.  The electoral process must be accommodating and political party-friendly that encourages increased participation of the parties and the electorate alike and not to restrict them.  The new law restricts participation of Gambians and the political parties in the electoral process.  

We must also continue to demand that Jammeh not be allowed to present himself as a presidential candidate in any future election.  The Lower Saloum electorate have spoken in a very loud and clear voice, despite that the elections were conducted under a flawed and inequitable electoral laws, that they have had enough of Yaya Jammeh and his corrupt and repressive regime.  The Lower Saloum voters have spoken for the entire Gambian people as well. 

Why is Jammeh suddenly acting nice towards former American Ambassador Joseph Stafford

Former Ambassador now Charge d'Affairs Stafford and Jammeh
When the former Ambassador to The Gambia, Joseph Stafford, currently serving as Charge d'Affairs, tour of duty came to an end and he tried to beg leave of the president of his Host country as dictated by diplomatic protocol, Jammeh refused to receive him.  He settled for Gambia's vice president. That was 2005.

Fast forward to almost a decade to the day, in 2015, the same Joseph Stafford, now retired and taken out of retirement to hold the fort while a substantive Ambassador is going through the confirmation process,  is now being royally received at State House by one of Africa's most corrupt and brutal leader to earn his country -The Gambia - The North Korea of Africa.

Why the sudden change in attitude towards the United States by a country with one of the worst human rights record in Africa, if not the world, and where anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric flourishes because the U.S. and the E.U's constant poor assessment of the country's deteriorating human rights environment.

Both the United States Department of State and the European Union's External Relations Department have regularly cited human rights violations that culminated in the EU's 17 - point demand to the government of Yaya Jammeh to address the severe deficiencies in its prison facilities which are congested, filthy and act as torture chambers.  The judiciary came under heavy criticism as well from the EU for its lack of due process and acting in cahoots with the executive branch in the execution of its judicial functions which calls for fundamental changes.

The security services, especially the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the police, also came under fire from not only the EU by also from the United Nation's Human Rights Commission who accused the authorities in Banjul of "arresting first and then investigating" thus denying the accused the constitutional guarantee of not detaining anyone beyond 72 hours without charge.

As a result of these, and other violations involving the rights of members of the LGBT community in the Gambia who are constantly and personally threatened by the Gambian dictator, the EU suspended disbursement of much-needed development assistance funds amounting to approximately $ 36 million.  The resultant effect of such an action is the worsening of the country's balance of payment, further plunging the economy into a free fall.

The regime needs money to prevent total collapse of the economy.  The International Monetary Fund stepped in after the regime promised to follow prudent fiscal policy that the Fund had been recommending for a very long time.  Limiting domestic borrowing to 1% of GDP that the Fund was promised is probably already violated given the established pattern of domestic borrowing the regime has grown used to.

The United States became visibly active on the diplomatic only after the violent treatment of the LGBT community in The Gambia following rampant arrests, detentions and tortures of those identified as gays or lesbians by informers of the regime.  It was only after the LGBT communities in the United States started raising concerns and demanding action from the Obama Administration that they have all being removed from detention and subsequently charged with "aggravated homosexuality", discharged and released by the courts - courts that that instructions from Jammeh rather than dispensing justice independent of the executive.

The Gambian dictator is clearly under tremendous pressure from several sources, the least of which is the United States and thus the imperative to  go on a diplomatic charm offensive.  Ambassador Joseph Stafford, someone I am proud to call a friend, and who was refused audience with and by Jammeh, is now being decorated by the very same Jammeh.

If I were Jammeh, I'd probably be acting nice to America, and to my friend as well, to avert being slapped with a travel ban to add to my woes. We hope America will not buy the bail of goods the dictator is trying to sell.  We hope the same applies to the European Union as well with regards to the blocked funds.  Yaya Jammeh is a menace to Gambian society, to the regional peace and an unreliable partner to both the United States and western European countries.

GAMBIA: The regime is still not releasing the official list of "pardoned" prisoners

Jammeh going to the polls
Following the release of the "pardoned" prisoners and the demands from the public and opponents of the regime for an official list, with names, addresses and other personal details, the regime is still dragging its feet on the issue.

To simply say to Gambians and the world that 229 prisoners have been pardoned by the Benevolent Leader is clearly not enough as we have shown in our previous posts.  You can find them here and here.

It is only reasonable to provide Gambians with details of each and every prisoner released under the scheme so that the list can be checked against every single prisoner "pardoned" to ensure proper and accurate accounting of every human life under the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

To refuse this simple request would mean that Gambians will never know how many prisoners have actually been released and their actual identities.  What would prevent the regime from claiming, a month or a year from now that prisoner X has been released when in actual fact the contrary is the case.

As we have seen in the case of the Gambian journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who was arrested by security agents from his Daily Observer offices and has never been seen since.  yet, the regime is claiming to this day that the journalist is not in their custody, and in fact, he's been sited in America or or other undisclosed country when Chief Manneh has been tortured to death and his body disposed of.

In the absence of the list, Gambians and the international community cannot verify current and subsequent claims by a regime notorious for putting out false claims, regarding the number of prisoners affected and their whereabouts.

We must hold the regime to account for every prisoner that is in their custody as well as those released to ensure that Jammeh will not claim that prisoners have been released when he has murdered them.  We must continue to be vigilant. Otherwise a lot of Gambian lives will be lost between now and October 2016 when Jammeh's current term comes to a close.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Petition to impose a travel ban on senior officials of the Jammeh dictatorship

Gambia has been under a dictatorship for over 21 years during the period when citizens and non-citizens alike have been subjected to extra-judicial executions,  torturing, maiming, assassinating, forced disappearances including involuntary exiling opponents - both real and perceived - with no end in sight.
We welcome the State Department's recent Press Statement that insisted on the release of political prisoners, including the radio journalist who has been abducted for the second time in a month, and tortured, on both occasions at the hands of the notorious National Intelligence Agency.  But The United States must do more.
The radio journalist that was referenced in the State Department's Statement has been produced by the authorities but he has been accused of sedition for sending images by email to friends that depict the Gambian dictator with a gun in one hand and a cell in the other.  In The Gambia, depicting the president in unfavorable light constitutes a seditious act. 
Gambians have continued to be denied their fundamental rights and freedoms to live in dignity since the army seized power in 1994.  The human rights environment continues to deteriorate with no sign of improvement.  Ordinary Gambians are still been arrested and held for years without charge. 
We support the numerous human rights organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in urging the U.S. Department of State to impose travel ban on senior officials of the dictatorship in The Gambia.
NOTE :  If you support this initiative, please go to and sign the petition. THANK YOU.     

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Journalist charged with sedition

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, Radio Journalist
The regime of Yaya Jammeh has charged radio journalist, Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay with sedition, after he was abducted and held at the notorious National Intelligence Agency’s custody on July 17th until he was arraigned in court on Tuesday. 

This is the journalist’s second abduction at the hands of a regime that is highly intolerant of criticism.  During his first abduction, the journalist was held in custody for eleven days, tortured and then dumped by security agents a few miles from his residence near the Banjul International Airport.

Even before the ink is dry on the so-called prisoner pardon scheme and the exact numbers of the released are known, than Yaya Jammeh is at his old tricks again of intimidating, harassing and jailing ordinary Gambians, and on his way to filling our prisons again with fudged and imagined charges against law abiding citizens.

When the United States demanded the release of the twice-abducted radio journalist in a press release acknowledging the prisoner release, he was suddenly charged with sedition.  Initially, the concocted charge was that the journalist encouraged Gambians not to attend the 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations back in February which resulted in a low turn-out. 

Realizing that that would be a ridiculous charge to defend even in a dictatorship and with the U.S. breathing down Jammeh's neck,  it was quickly changed to the ludicrous tale that he sent a photo via email to two females depicting Jammeh holding a gun on one hand and a cell phone on the other.  According to the regime, this constitute spreading hatred towards the dictator and thus seditious. 

The prosecution will now recruit two witnesses – most likely total strangers to the journalist – who will testify against a journalist they have never met before.  So many innocent Gambians and non-Gambians alike have been farmed in this that they find themselves locked up in Mile II for a decade or more.

The first time Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay was abducted, he was tortured that required medical attention.  His second abduction lasted over two weeks, and the reason he's been sent to Mile II is most likely because he has been tortured again.  The hope is that his prison stay will allow time for his wounds to heel. 

It is the same scenario that plays out every time because the caliber of people employed by this regime is so low, they are less imaginative than third graders.  All they are good at is torturing the innocent and incarcerating the enemy - real and imagined - on trump-up charges and paying witnesses to testify against the accused.  


Has Jammeh bankrupted Social Security?

Edward Graham, MD - SSHFC
Disturbing news coming out of Banjul is that the finances of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) are in such a precarious state that the Corporation has been unable, lately, to raise funds to pay contractors to complete works on the estates they sold plots to.

We have been critical of SSHFC in the past because of the risky investments it has been engaged in at the urging of the Gambian dictator who has financial interests in them, including the public transport sector, putting the Pension Fund at risk at the detriment of the thousands of private sector pensioners.  We have warned that such exposure that the Managing Director is subjecting the corporation that threatens both the organization and the economy as a whole.

The finances of SSHFC are reported to have been dwindled to D 100 million from D 600 million.  It is also being reported that the Office of he President - read Yaya Jammeh - is withdrawing about D 5 million per month.  The assault on the finances of this public corporation by Jammeh and his cronies appears to have intensified now that the Gambia Ports Authority, GAMTEL and NAWEC are financially insolvent, thanks to a level of corruption never seen before.

You will recall that the two ferries - 'Kansala' and 'Aljamdu' - where purchased from a Greek company named Gallia Holdings Ltd that was in a joint venture deal with Yaya Jammeh.  Curiously, the company is registered in the Marshall Islands, an offshore business destination.  The deal went sour when the two ferries arrived amidst a huge fanfare only to be deemed being of the wrong design.  Consequently, they have since been moored at the Banjul port awaiting possible legal litigation. 

Sources close to the regime are accusing Jammeh of working with foreign banks to siphon off Social Security funds/bonds days before they mature which has accrued losses to the corporation that runs into the millions of dollars.  The timing of the withdrawals by Jammeh is determined by information provided to him by insiders strategically planted in commercial banks with details of SSHFC investments portfolio.  Staff of the State House are then instructed to withdraw funds from the corporation's accounts abroad.

When we say that what we have in Banjul is a criminal syndicate headed by Jammeh who uses civil servants to act criminally, we are not engaging in a smear campaign or hyperbole but calling it as it is.   Every effort must, therefore, be made to get rid of the cancer in Gambia's body politic that is metastasizing.

Political prisoners and their trials: The case of Ballo Kanteh, Sulayman Sarr and others

The notorious Mile II prisons
This blog post is by a guest writer who prefers anonymity.  The writer has brought it to our attention that the blog post is based, in large part, on the reporting of FOROYAA newspaper (2005 edition)

We allowed this contribution because we hope it will help shed light on a vexing issue of the state of the judiciary in The Gambia where the dictatorship has successfully blurred the boundaries between the judiciary and the executive branches of government in 21 years at the detriment of those who seek justice.

We hope this will be a first in a series of articles about the Gambian judiciary and how it has been corrupted by the Jammeh regime.

Sidi Sanneh

It was like a bolt in the blue when murder and treason convicts brazenly told the Supreme Court that their appeals were torn by a prison warden and that they filed their appeals several years ago contrary to the information on their appeals. The appellants wasted no time in exposing certain things which they felt are abnormal.

The Farafenni attackers namely, Sulayman Sarr, Alieu Bah and Omar Dampha together with Lamin Fatty, a murder convict, clarified issues when they told the Supreme Court that they had filed their appeals several years ago. Sulayman Sarr, Ballo Kanteh and Omar Dampha were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after they were found guilty of committing treason. Readers could recall that Sarr, Kanteh and Dampha were arrested and tried at the High Court after they were indicted for attacking Farafenni Military barracks and killing some soldiers.

However, during Monday’s sitting of the court, some of the inmates at Mile Two Central Prisons claimed that they had filed appeals immediately after they were convicted. But the information on their appeals have it that they appealed recently, and as a result, the court had to strike out their appeals because it found out that the appeals were incompetent and were made beyond the time limit set for appeals. It must be noted that most of the prisoners who were in the dock were illiterates who do not know how the courts operate. They (Prisoners) spoke local languages. However, Lamin Fatty an ex-police officer who was convicted for committing murder said his appeal was torn by a prison warder at the prisons reception.

When his case was called, Chief Justice Brobbey asked him when he filed his appeal. In his reply, the appellant said he filed his appeal in 1993. At this point, Chief Justice Brobbey told him that the information on his appeal have it that he filed his appeal in 2005. But Mr. Fatty was quick to explain the circumstances surrounding his appeal.

In his explanation, Mr. Fatty said he was convicted and sentenced to a period of three years on 17th February 1992. He said he filed an appeal at the court of appeal and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He said he did file an appeal at the Privy Council because the Supreme Court was not constituted at the time. In his narration, Mr. Fatty said his Lawyer at the time Edu Gomez came to the prisons and told him that from here to London was expensive and his Family could not afford it. According to him, he had left everything in the hands of God and hoped a moment would come when he could pursue his case in court.

Going further, Mr. Fatty said the authorities at the prisons did inform him in the year 2004 that a Supreme Court now exists in the Gambia. He said he filed an appeal at the Supreme Court last year. He pointed out that the said appeal was torn by a prison warden who told him that the document was old and dirty and that the appeal should be on new piece of paper. He said the appeal dated 2005 was the one prepared by the prison authorities after the other one was destroyed.

The chief Justice at this juncture told the appellant that the his appeal is out of time, because the information before the court have it that  the appeal was filed in 2005.The court concluded the matter by striking out the case .However ,the appellant was advised by the court to file a notice and seek for an extension. The court also advised the appellant to state in his appeal why he has not been able to make his appeal on time.

When he entered the dock, Sulayman Sarr told the court that he was sentenced in the year 1997.At this stage the Chief Justice told the appellant that the information on his appeal have it that he filed his appeal in 2005.However this was contested by Sulayman Sarr. In his argument, Sarr told the court that he filed his appeal shortly after he was convicted in 1997.Going further, Sarr said he and his colleagues were freed by the court of Appeal, but the state rearrested them and filed an appeal at the Privy Council. Continuing his explanation, Sarr said they were waiting for the outcome of the case at the Privy Council all these years. He pointed out that they were not wearing convict uniforms all these years, noting it was march last year that they were informed by the Director General of Prisons that they should wear convict uniforms. At this stage, the Chief Justice asked Sulayman Sarr to tell the court who convicted him. In his reply, Sarr told the court that he was convicted by DPP Agim, the crowded court room burst into laughter when Sarr made this accusation.

DPP Agim stood and threw light on the issue. According to him, Sarr and his colleagues were sentenced to death in the year 1997. He said the death sentence passed by the High Court was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Court of Appeal.  He said the state later filed an appeal at the Privy Council and challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal. He pointed out that the state later abandoned the appeal it filed at the Privy Council. DPP indicated that the Director General of Prisons approached him sometime march last year and asked him about the fate of  Sarr and his Co/convicts..

The DPP said he read the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal and later informed the Prison boss that Sarr, Ballo Kanteh and Omar Dampha are convicted by the Court. The Court asked the DPP whether the Appellants were informed that the state had abandoned the appeal it filed at the Privy Council.  In his reply, the DPP pointed out that he came to the Gambia three years after the appellants
were convicted. According to DPP Agim, the appellants did misconstrue the State\s application at the Privy Council to mean that they have been acquitted by Court of Appeal.

‘You can apply for an extension of time. The records have shown that you appealed in 2005 you have some points in your favour. You can go back and put your house in order’. The Court told the appellant.

The case was later struck out by the court. Ballo Kanteh and Omar Dampha also held the view that they were freed by the court but they were later rearrested by the state. The DPP later told the court that the explanation he gave regarding Sulayman Sarr applies to the case of Ballo Kanteh and Omar Dampha. The court later decided to strike out the appeals by both Kanteh and Dampha, The court held the view that the appeals filed by the appellants are out of time.