Monday, November 30, 2015

Kartong youths reportedly released; it remains addressing their concerns

The People of Kartong

It is being reported from reliable sources that the Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh, has taken the unilateral decision of ordering the release of all the Kartong youth arrested and sent to the notorious Mile II prisons.

"The release of the illegally detained Kartong youth is a welcome development but hardly satisfactory," says Coach Pa Samba Jow of the Washington-based DUGA.

"It is not within the president's powers to file a nolle prosequi.  The responsibility lies entirely with the Attorney General," says an experienced lawyer and keen observer of developments in the Gambia who also said that Jammeh could not claim to have pardoned them when they have not been found guilty of any wrong doing.

Parading these innocent youths before television cameras to beg for mercy - a cheap propaganda ploy employed by Jammeh will not the regime well in the event that that is what is being contemplated.

The youth were protesting against mining activities in Kartong that threaten their livelihood with equally damaging effects on the immediate communities.  These issues relate to the mining of sand and other heavy minerals in Kartong that is destroying the environment, dotting the landscape with open pits and heavy metal residue that pollute the streams and the soil, making life considerably more difficult for the population.

The mining is being done by KGI, a company owned by the very same dictator who has decided to release the Kartong youth.  The official action must go beyond simply releasing the youth.  The concerns of Kartong residence must be addressed to the satisfaction of the village residence.

Similar issues of concern exist in other parts of the Kombos and across the country where agricultural land belonging to the communities have been forfeited to the Gambian dictator, threatening the traditional tenure system.  These lands must be returned to its rightful owners : the respective rural communities across the country.


Kartong people standing up for their rights

Amnesty International has joined a host of others in calling for the release of all of the peaceful protesters who have been jailed because they were exercising their rights to petition their government for what they see as a policy detrimental to their livelihood and harmful to the environment as a result of inappropriate land use policies and mining practices.

"A blanket crackdown on protesters is not acceptable.  The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must not be unduly curtailed because of the suspected unlawful behavior of some individuals," said Sabrina Mahtani Amnesty International's West Africa researcher.

We are reminding supporters of the 33 Kartong youth, including a 70 year old man who is in poor health, to show support and attend  the court proceedings at the Brikama Magistrate Court, tomorrow, Tuesday, December 1st.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The devastating effects of sand and heavy metal mining on the welfare of local communities

The environment is inextricably linked to the economy, and thus the welfare of rural populations everywhere - and The Gambia is no exception.  In fact, in a least developed economy such as ours, the consequences can be devastating and, in many cases, irreversible.  Recent protests in the village of Kartong against the environmental degradation caused by indiscriminate mining practices, threatening to  render Kartong and satellite villages inhabitable have attracted attention to a problem that has been over a decade in the making.

Traditional land use has been radically altered, limiting and, in many cases, denying access to villagers to agricultural land as a result of mining activities.  The women of Kartong are particularly hard hit because they have lost land that once was used for vegetable gardening - a primary source of income for the women of the communities in the Kombos.  Vegetables produced in these gardens were sold to tourist hotels and in open air markets in the area.   A reduced level of income earned from gardening will inevitably contribute to an increase in the incidence of rural poverty.

The destruction is not limited to the economic livelihood of area residents.  The physical impact of the inappropriate land use policies of the regime of Yaya Jammeh is beginning to affect the contour of the land around the village and thus disturbing the natural habitat of wildlife.  There are reports of crocodiles being displaced from their natural habitat and, at least a child falling into an open mining pit leading to his death.

As a result of recently held protest matches by village residents, thirty-three youths from the area have been arrested and subsequently denied bail.  Reports suggest that they are being held in the maximum security wing of the notorious Mile II prisons, together with convicted murderers, rapists and hardened criminals.

Mining is being done exclusively by the Gambian dictator with little or no financial returns to the community.  Instead, he has engaged the services of an Area Councillor in the name of  Lamin Jamba Jammeh as part of his management team of his company (KGI) who is also representing Kartong in the Area Council.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

KARTONG : A sign of things to come

The young people of Kartong are protesting not against the regime. Instead, they are protesting against government's inappropriate environmental policy that is threatening their immediate surroundings, including traditional public sites that villagers no longer have access due to annexation.

Central to Kartong's problems, as in most of the Kombo, is inappropriate land use adopted by the regime, exacerbated by greed and deliberate exploitative policies that benefit individuals at the expense of communities, the owners and settlers of the land.

Yaya Jammeh, his business associates and cronies are the immediate beneficiaries of inappropriate land use policies by using the right of eminent domain in the most insidious way to expropriate public and communal land for private use.  Profits generated as a result, unfortunately, go directly into private pockets with zero returns to the village communities that are left to fend for themselves in an environment that has been degraded and rendered unproductive as a result of mining activities.

The economic costs to these communities are huge.  Expropriated land that once served as farmland and vegetable gardens for the women folk of the villages no longer belong to the communities, thus leaving them with no alternative source of earning a livelihood.

The mining activities in Kartong and surrounding villages, mainly owned and operated by Yaya Jammeh and his cronies, have devastated the environment and disrupted village life, leaving villagers with no recourse.  They are not even allowed to protests against environmental degradation without being arrested, tortured and jailed.

The regime must engage the communities in the Kombos with the view to finding an equitable solution to problems brought about by inappropriate environmental policies driven by the personal greed of a handful of people.  The state, like the village residents, is also being equally deprived of revenue as a result of the current practice of expropriating land for private use with little or no benefit accruing to the public treasury.

The current practices are unsustainable, environmentally as well as socially and politically, and thus must be addressed urgently,  The village communities must take control of their communal land. Kartong residents are demanding the restoration of such rights, and neighboring communities will soon follow

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Morocco denies Jammeh entry for medical treatment, while Saudi Arabia approves

The Gambian dictator 
The Gambian dictator's health has become a major source of concern for both his Syrian and Moroccan doctors who have been frantically working around the clock to keep their patient comfortable.

It is also being reported that the Moroccan doctors have taken full charge of Jammeh's care with the Syrians taking a supporting role.  Reasons for the change is still unclear but the possibility exists that Zeinab Jammeh may have a hand in the change. Jammeh's tour of the provinces was interrupted for several days in Basse as a result of a series of medical conditions that will require him to travel abroad for further treatment.

Official arrangements for Jammeh to seek medical treatment abroad suffered a set-back when his first choice of Morocco was unsuccessful.  However, Saudi Arabia stepped in to grant him a visa for medical treatment but cannot depart until he sort out the vexing problem of who will be in charge while he is away.

According to our sources, Jammeh was denied an entry visa to Morocco in spite of his status and the fact that he's married to a Moroccan.  When the question was posed to a former Gambian diplomat as to the possible reason or reasons for the humiliating treatment of the Gambian dictator, she responded by suggesting that Jammeh has become more of a liability because of his "international pariah status" and "his recent spat with Senegal, one of Morocco's closest ally - a very special relationship between the two countries - will not help Jammeh."

Jammeh has limited options available to him because he has decided that going to the West for medical treatment would be risky because of his unpopularity in Europe and the United States.  He has told associates that he doesn't trust the West with his health, despite the fact that he was in France for medical treatment in January of 2014.

Saudi's decision to grant Jammeh visa for medical treatment did not come as a surprise.  Many African leaders have sought not only medical treatment in Saudi Arabia ( Umaru Yar'Adua and Meles Zenawi) but also political asylum such as Adi Amin Dada.

Power struggle underway in The Gambia

Murmurings of Yaya Jammeh's deteriorating health condition that started with his January 2014 Paris trip, have grown louder recently with more credible eyewitness accounts of blackouts, vomiting and other discomforts that the dictator has been experiencing during his current tour of the provinces.

Some of these reports have been supported by photos of a face that is dotted with facial lesions and swellings accompanied by profuse sweating.
Because of the personal and confidential nature of health issues - even when it involves the health of the Gambian dictator - we will refrain from elaborating further, except to say that his purported poor health has spawned public interest, especially in the online media community, rattled the trust and confidence of members of Jammeh's inner circle and raised the troubling question of succession, even if it is for someone to hold the fort temporarily.  And never mind that there is a Vice President who, constitutionally, should be the successor ad interim.
Ansumana Jammeh 

The inner circle of the Jammeh cartel comprising of the Gambian businessman Amadou Samba,  the Lebanese businessman Mohamed Bazzi and Jammeh's own brother Ansumana Jammeh have started to position their respective candidates to necessarily and substantively succeed Jammeh as president but to oversee the regime while Jammeh go on medical treatment.

For example, Ansumana Jammeh who is Managing Director of KGI ( a Jammeh-owned company ) and operator or of the Kartong sand mining site was seen traveling to Kartong the day after the mass arrest of the youth protesters in a 20-vehicle convoy of security personnel, including soldiers from Kanilai.  The show of force achieved two objectives (i) to intimidate the villagers and (ii) to display contempt for the soldiers stationed at the Kartong barracks by bypassing them and coming to the village with the Kanilai contingent instead.

Ansumana Jammeh's recent moves is seen as testing the waters.  He is increasingly seeing himself as successor to the throne but so are others, including but not limited to Edward Singhateh and Lamin Kabba Bajo. All of these have sponsors within the dictator's inner circles.  It is evident that the power struggle has started before Jammeh goes on medical treatment abroad.

33 youthful environmentalists sent to Mile II Prisons after bail denial by Magistrate Hilary Abeke

Magistrate Hilary Utebe Abeke
Following our blog post of Nov. 23 on the arrests of dozens of protesting youths from the village of Kartong and the partial list of those arrested after a compound to compound search by the security agents of the dictatorship, several more arrests village folks were made.  The exact amount is unknown as police continue their dragnet.

According to reports, however, approximately thirty three young protesters have been arraigned before Senior Magistrate Hilary Utebe Abeke who quickly denied them bail and subsequently remanded in jail at the notorious Mile II prisons.

According to eye witnesses who were among the three hundred villagers and supporters of the protesters who attended the court proceedings, some of the protesters displayed visible marks to their bodies suggesting that they have been tortured.

We intend to continue to report on this developing story......

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sabi-Velingara border closure puts economic squeeze on Basse

The Gambia/ Senegal border at Sabi-Velingara post has been closed to commercial traffic for several days now, according to sources in Basse.

The stranded trucks originated from Guinea-Conakry are transporting goods, including fruits, cola-nuts and seasonal fruits destined for Basse.  It appears these trucks left Guinea and crossed the Guinea-Senegal border before the decision came from Dakar to close the borders.

Several trucks laden with goods destined for Basse have been at the border posts for several days now with no idea of when the border will reopen.   The goods are destined for Basse as the central distribution point for the Upper River area. According to a source, "these trucks bring food supply into Basse and failure to come in can cause serious shortage of food supply."

The brief border posts closure at Amdalaye and Karang  last week was seen by many as Senegal's reaction to the vitriolic statements made by the Gambian dictator against Senegalese president Macky Sall.  However, the  broader border closures which involved the Malian and Guinean borders may be related more by the recent terror activities in the Malian capital of Bamako and the sub-region.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Partial list of 46 Kartong youth in police custody

Protesting Kartong youths 
Listed below are those arrested and known to be in the custody of the police at the Burusubi Station. We learned that an additional 20 have been arrested which brings the total to 46.  We will bring you their names as and when we have then. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the situation by keeping track of all the young men and woman under custody for protesting against the destruction of their environment.
1. Buba Bojang
2. Omar Manneh
3. Lamin Jatta 
4. Famara Jatta
5. Ousman Jabang
6. Buba Manneh
7. Yama Jarju
8. Jerreh Manneh
9. Baba Ceesay
10. Abdoulaie Touray
11. James Gibba
12. Malang Jaiteh
13. Lamin Jaiteh
14. Muhammed Jabang
15. Bakary Jammeh
16. Abdou Jallow
17. Tuti Jaiteh (only female)
18. Habib Touray
19. Pa Jarju
20. Ousman Jatta
21. Solo Manneh
22. Amadou Jarju
23. Modou Kuto Manneh
24. Jerreh Touray
25. Buba Jabang
26. Omar Jabang

GAMBIA: Kartong youth arrested for protesting against environmental degradation

Heavy metal mining at Kartong, The Gambia
The environmental impact resulting from both heavy metal and sand mining activities in the village of Kartong located several miles from The Gambian capital of Banjul has caused the village dwellers to protest against the mining operators.

The mining activities have obviously taken its toll on the environment and on the daily livelihoods of the villagers.

The authorities have been rounding up the protesting youth since yesterday morning, now estimated to be numbering twenty.

According to an unidentified officer interviewed on FatuRadio, several youths who have been arrested are in custody at the Burusubi Police Station.  The officer was unable to confirm the number under arrest or say why the youths are under arrest.

As we write this blog, 46 young men, including a young woman named Yaya Jarju, are currently in police custody.

According to the youth who was providing information to us, "Councillor Lamin Jamba Jammeh is the cause of all the problems we are encountering in Kartong."  Admitting that sand mining exposes the entire village to environmental, Councillor Jammeh conceded that he's helpless to effect change in the law.

During the interview with FatuRadio, it was revealed that Mr. Jammeh is not only the Councillor, he is also appointed manager of the sand mining site by KGI, the operator of the site. When Mr. Jammeh was asked whether holding these two positions did not represent a conflict of interest, he immediately hung up the telephone.  KGI is owned by the Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh.  It is suspected that the entire operation is privately owned and operated by Yaya Jammeh and thus all proceeds go to his private bank account.  

Jammeh's lies have become intolerable

Jammeh going to or from the polls
When Jammeh seized power in 1994, he vowed never to introduce military dictatorship. When he was called a dictator, initially he objected but later admitted to being one but not of the traditional kind.  He prefers to be referred to as "dictator of development", whatever that means.

However, prior to making the no-dictatorship promise, he had promised Gambians that no president will ever govern more than ten years. It was the thirty-year stint of Sir Dawda K. Jawara as president that provided the justification for the 1994 coup d'etat.

However, after the constitutional consultation exercise was complete, it was evident that Gambians overwhelmingly endorsed the idea of term limit - in this case a president cannot serve more than two 5-year terms which was part of the Consultative Committee's recommendation to the junta - a clause that mysteriously disappeared from the final version that was put before the Gambian people.

Then came Vision 2020 which promised to transform The Gambia into a Middle Income Country (MIC) from its Least Developed (LDC) status. Some of the sub-components of Vision 2020, such as electrification of the entire rural communities, transforming The Gambia into a City-State (a la Singapore) were among other numerous lofty goals that proved outlandishly unattainable.

Since then, variations to Vision 2020 have been cooked up  and served to an unsuspecting citizenry who have been bamboozled by a shameless dictator - all for his political gain.  The latest variation of Vision 2020 is Vision 2016, inaugurated in June of 2013.  It promised Gambians of rice self-sufficiency by 31st December 2015 or a little over a month from now when total ban on rice importation was to have taken place.

Faced with a fast approaching D-Day, Jammeh's Trade Minister took what amounts to a preemptive measure by letting a local newspaper report know that the "deadline has been postponed" (to use the Minster's language) to September 2016.  What the Minister fail to tell the reporter is the country's food deficit problems have been mounting since 2011, which includes a corresponding increase in the rice importation bill.  Gambian's are less food secure today than they were in 1994.

Meanwhile, Jammeh was busy conducting a provincial tour and at no time was Vision 2016 a topic of conversation as in the recent past or the reason for its "postponement".  Instead, Jammeh was busy engaging farmers on such development-oriented and challenging topics as voodoo, witchcraft and tribalism with a dash of the variation of Vision 2020 -  transforming Gambia into a City-State by 2025.  And as one prominent opponent of the Jammeh regime puts it on his Facebook page "Dictator and Liar-in-Chief Yahya Jammeh is shamelessly shifting the goalpost again."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jammeh's anti Franco-Senegalese rhetoric is no coincidence

The disgraced former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, who was paraded before national television to disparage the Mandinka tribe is back in the saddle again as Managing Director of the Daily Observer, the official mouthpiece of the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh.

Momodou Sabally, who was recently "pardoned" in the middle of his trial on charges ranging from economic crime, abuse of office and giving false information to a public servant by the Gambian dictator, has been reinstated by Jammeh with a specific intent of exploiting the blind ambition of the young and relatively inexperienced former civil servant.

Therefore, it is not a coincidence that an anti-French piece generally regarded to contain glaringly and largely discredited historical account of the CFA-zone - monetary union of the former French colonies in West African - designed to malign Senegal and France by an increasingly hostile regime of Yaya Jammeh towards both Senegal and France.  The fact that the article appeared on Sabally's first day on the job as the Managing Director of the paper is a signal that he's ready to do the bidding for an increasingly bellicose regime that's on its final legs.

The pardoning of the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs came on the day judgement was to be handed down when the court clerk announced "there will be no we have received a letter from State House that the accused was pardoned by the President."  Under the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh, it is perfectly normal to pardon someone before guilt or innocence is established by a court of law.

Bringing Momodou Sabally into the fold on the eve of the 2016 presidential elections and in the midst of a presidential campaign tour of the provinces is seen as a signal of the start of tribal politics which is his specialty based on his record.  The opposition, on the other hand, has come under fire once again with the leadership being accused of parochialism in spite of the fact that the regime is responsible for fanning the tribalism flame and spreading its anti-Senegalese sentiments during his current campaign tour.

The regime's decision to recycle the former Minister for Presidential Affairs into the campaign structure is consistent with Jammeh's agenda of attempting to deflect his political problems brought about by his failed economic policies away from an increasingly dejected citizenry.  The Gambian economy is in its worst shape ever with mounting external and domestic debt, high unemployment in general and youth employment in particular and high cost of basic food.  The regime has just announced the postponement of the banning of rice importation from December this year to September 2016 - a proposition that is more of a pipe dream (some would say a cruel hoax) than a reality.

If Jammeh's intent is to use Momodou Sabally to stir the pot of tribalism and ratchet up the anti-Senegalese, anti-French and anti-Western hatred in the run up to the presidential elections - assuming Jammeh will take part - both are in for a rude surprise.  Remember, it was Momodou Sabally who lambasted the Americans for being "lifted from superpower status by the blood sweat and tears of millions of African slaves."  Sabally accused them of masterminding the campaign against the Jammeh regime which, perhaps explains why the British colonial legacy is filled with excessive brutality and the degrading treatment of the African.  It is the same vitriol that is expected to be spewed by the new Managing Director of the Daily Observer.

Meanwhile both the political and economic landscapes have changed significantly and have tilted in favor of the opponents of the dictatorship and against the regime  responsible for the current economic mess of which Momodou Sabally has contributed in no small measure.  He was faulted for advising Jammeh to usurp the power of the Central Bank by using Executive Order to set foreign exchange rates - a practice still in place against the advise of the International Monetary Fund. The regime of Yaya Jammeh is one that is very unpopular both at home and abroad.  The current security issues facing Mali, Senegal and the entire West Africa region only adds to the highly volatile and combustible environment Sabally and Jammeh must tread.        

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Yaya Jammeh threats to opposition leaders consistent with radical teachings of Dr. Baba Ceesay

Dr. Baba Ceesay 
Dr. Baba Ceesay, a Saudi-trained Wahhabi cleric who has been preaching the most extreme from of Islam for a couple of years in The Gambia, appears to be gaining influence within the regime of Yahya Jammeh.  

Dr. Ceesay is one of many Wahhabi scholars who have caved out a comfortable niche within the Jammeh dictatorship from where they serve a consistent dose of extreme form of Islamic teachings that the violent dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh find appealing.

The Saudi-trained cleric has preached in the past that Sharia law justifies the killing of opponents of a ruler.  This type of hateful rhetoric appears to be encouraged by a regime that thrives on political violence to further tighten its grip on power - a rhetoric consistent with the regime's violent agenda.

It is no coincidence that the Gambian dictator has started threatening the opposition leaders with death and disappearances in a run up to the 2016 presidential elections.  Jammeh was recorded few days ago threatening the opposition and warning them of more hard times ahead.

Also consistent with Dr. Baba Ceesay radical teachings of what he claims to be Islamic, that elections are the invention of the infidels, Jammeh has said that the vote is meaningless because elections will not remove him from the presidency.  The trivialization of elections in general and the Gambian electoral process in particular is a permanent feature in Jammeh's campaign itinerary.

These radical cleric's presence in The Gambia and the influential role they seem to be caving for themselves deserves the attention of all freedom-loving Gambians who believe in and contribute to the idea of the secularity of the state.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Is Jammeh going to call early elections?

Gambia's Opposition Leaders
Reports are circulating within the circles of the Gambian dictator to suggest that he is considering calling early elections in 2016 to catch the opposition flatfooted.

Yaya Jammeh is increasingly feeling that his claim to power is being challenged by a more determined opposition, coupled with an increasingly vocal opposition supporters who have been showing up in droves at opposition rallies.

The United Democratic Party's rallies of recent past have not only been well attended but they have been organized without the routine police permits that have been a requirement in the past.

It could be recalled that there was a 3-day stand-off at Fass Njagga Choi when the UDP was denied a permit to conduct a nationwide tour which eventually ended with the police issuing the permit that allowed the tour to proceed.  Since then, it appears that the UDP has been organizing well-attended rallies without police permits or at least without the usual tussle.

The Gambian dictator's recent moves and public statements suggest a worried politician who has observed, what appears, to be a rejuvenated and determined UDP, coupled with a discernible decline in public support for the ruling APRC party.  Jammeh's political rallies have not been well attended in the last year indicating that his supporters are unhappy with a string of unfulfilled promises - ranging from the promise to make Gambia self-sufficient in rice with his numerous Visions to his promises of providing electricity to numerous localities - resulting in numerous disgruntled APRC supporters.

The decline in Jammeh's popularity has not gone unnoticed even among his ardent supporters who are getting increasingly worried.  In what is seen as a desperate move, Jammeh had gone to the extent of inviting the Singhateh brothers ( Edward and Peter ) and former members of the original team that seized power in 1994 to rejuvenate the ruling APRC party - a move prompted by the precipitous drop in his popularity.  The plan leaked and Jammeh blamed the leak on Edward Singhateh. Consequently, the plan to co-opt the brothers back into the fold has been shelved for now at least, according to a source.

The opposition is now faced with the dual challenge of forming a unified front and the possibility of an early election in April or May with the announcement coming around February of 2016.  Time is obviously running out on the opposition.

Senegal reopens borders with Gambia

The Senegalese border which was closed yesterday throughout the day has been reopened, according to a source in Dakar.

According to our source in Dakar,"the border was reopened  last night around 8: 00 PM". Several Gambian passengers and their Gambian registered vehicles  where stranded at Karang all day, yesterday.

The border was finally reopened to vehicles last in the evening but not before sending a clear signal to Yaya Jammeh.

The closure was a surprise because Senegal has always said they will not resort to economic sanctions against its recalcitrant neighbor.  Given that Jammeh has already damaged his country's economy, Senegal would not want to be blamed for an economy that is already on a free fall.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Senegal has closed its borders with The Gambia

Farafenni ferry crossing 

Senegal has closed its borders to vehicular traffic effective immediately.  This action, unexpected in many quarters, is coming at the heels of recent vitriolic statements by the Gambian dictator directed at Senegal's two former presidents and the current sitting president.

According to our source, "the Senegalese are not allowing Gambian vehicles into Senegal."  When I asked the source whether all the border posts are affected, he responded in the affirmative and said that Gambian registered vehicles are not being allowed to cross at the Karang border post.

The personal attacks directed at the sitting president, Macky Sall, by Yaya Jammeh was met by ferocious response from the Office of the Senegalese President and from various social commentator and opinion leaders in Senegal, including President Sall's political party.

Speaking on FatuRadio earlier in the day, we opined that Senegal will be more inclined to take drastic political and diplomatic measures against a neighbor they now consider to be more than just a nuisance.  The first and immediate casualty of the border closure is the traveling public who will be greatly inconvenienced.

Senegal's swift and stern reaction to Jammeh's tirade suggest that the government's patience has finally run out marking the end of a policy of benign neglect and containment of what they regard, up to this point, as a nuisance.  And as long as Senegal's national security was not threatened, the policy would have stayed in place.  It now appears that the relations between the two countries have entered a new phase.

Developing story .....

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Yaya Jammeh is "a crazy criminal, a killer and a thief who must be stopped", says Macky Sall's Special Adviser

Macky Sall and Yaya Jammeh 
In an apparent official response to Yaya Jammeh's recent criticism of the president of Senegal, referring him recently as a hypocrite, a rat and a puppet of France, Matar Diop, Special Adviser to Macky Sall, has responded by referring to Jammeh as a criminal and a fool. is quoting Mr. Diop who is Special Adviser in the Office of the Senegalese Presidency as saying that "Macky Sall has no lessen to learn from this criminal named Yaya Jammeh."

The website suggested that the virulent attack of the Senegalese president by the Gambian dictator was not to the liking of Jammeh's supporters and members of his political party.

Mr. Matar Diop further quoted as saying both the Senegalese public and all observers of "this crazy Yaya Jammeh" who were keenly following Jammeh's recent equally stupid and inappropriate declarations must have been taken by surprise. concluded by quoting Mr. Diop that it is his opinion that " Macky Sall has an obligation to stop the Gambian president." and that "Yaya Jammeh has not only offended Macky Sall but the entire Senegalese people."  "And fortunately", the statement continues, "Macky Sall has no lesson to learn from a criminal like Yaya Jammeh who kills and steals when he feels like it in his country."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Not in our name

Sidi Sanneh 
Recent unfriendly statements directed at President Macky Sall and his immediate predecessor by Yaya Jammeh is unfortunate and do not represent the views and sentiments of the citizens of The Gambia. 

Gambia's problems are of the making of Yaya Jammeh over his twenty-one years of dictatorship, depriving citizens of their basic rights and liberties that were taken for granted under the leadership of Sir Dawda Jawara.  

Jammeh inherited a vibrant and one of the best managed economies in the region, if not in Africa. Unfortunately, he was unable to maintain the tradition of prudent economic management of the economy he inherited in 1994 when Gambia's GDP per capita was the third highest in the 16-Member ECOWAS behind Cote d'Ivoire and Cabo Verde to the lowest in 2014. 

Therefore to blame Senegal for Gambia's current economic and political woes is not only unjust but a diversionary tactic employed to absolve the government of Yaya Jammeh of incompetence and lack of foresight resulting in the current political and diplomatic isolation of The Gambia. 

Senegal, and specifically president Macky Sall, is coming under attack from Yaya Jammeh for several reasons but primarily because of his increasing diplomatic isolation which he believes is the handy work of the Senegalese president.  

With his regional influence waning, especially in Casamance and Guinea-Bissau, coupled with the fact that he has been denied the ECOWAS chairmanship since he seized power in 1994, Jammeh is convinced that Macky Sall is the reason for his reduced influence in the Casamance and Guinea Bissau as well as the driving force behind his current regional problems and diplomatic isolation. 

The hostility towards president Sall and the scapegoating of his government is expected to increase as the 2016 presidential elections draw near.  Yaya Jammeh must find a convenient scapegoat for his failed economic policies and diplomatic isolation to present to a disgruntled electorate. And that scapegoat is President  Macky Sall.      

We are with the people of Paris

          We are with the people of Paris and against terrorism of any kind, anywhere.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gambia's groundnut sub-sector in rapid decline

Groundnut farmer in The Gambia
Groundnut production in The Gambia took a nosedive during the 2013/14 season, from a projected tonnage of 40,000 to a little over 30,000 tons, which resulted in the Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) coming under heavy criticism for its overall marketing strategy.

With the increased scrutiny of the GGC and its financial viability put into question - it's considered a financially bankrupt entity by many -  the 2014/15 groundnut tonnage purchased by the agency has not been made public despite many requests.

The guesstimate is that less than 20,000 tons was purchased due to lack of adequate financial resources of the GGC.

Indications from farmers are that this year's harvest will be poor due to equally poor rainfall patter, and if the prediction holds, it is going to add to the financial woes of the Jammeh regime.

If the bad harvest prediction holds, it will be coming at the heels of another bad season projected for the tourism sector which is the second foreign exchange earner, after agriculture.  Tourism is beginning to recover after the EBOLA scare that devastated the sector resulting in 60% reduction in tourists visitors.  This is further bad news for a regime that is already on the ropes for its poor human rights record, persistent mismanagement of the economy and a high level corruption.

As the principal groundnut marketing agency, the GGC's absence from the 3-day stakeholders' workshop held in Jenoi in preparation for the buying season expected to start in the next few weeks.

The absence of the GGC, now subsumed, according to official announcement, into a new agency called the National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Agency is instructive of the lack of direction and the general state of flux of the Jammeh regime that is drowning in corruption and incompetence.  

How Jammeh continues to benefit politically and financially from the human migration

African migrates being rescued in the Mediterranean 
"May your souls rest in peace in the Mediterranean Sea, in advance" was the cryptic response offered by Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, to a group of young Gambians who raised their hands indicating their desire to take "The Back Way" -  meaning the Mediterranean route to Europe - when asked how many of them wanted to leave Gambia.

The macabre wish, in the form of a prayer "in advance" to these young Gambians in the village of Sukuta, illustrates how Jammeh uses the "Back Way"syndrome to serve both his political ends as well as his financial needs, even as the world, especially Europe, is trying to cope with a massive wave of humanity crossing the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas into Europe.

Yaya Jammeh was addressing a political rally in Sukuta when he asked the youth who were present who, among them, wanted to venture into the journey.  Raising their hands in unison was an exquisite way of repudiating the regime's economic policies and then human rights environment of the making of the Jammeh regime.  The incident occured in June, a month after 5,000 lives perished in the previous twelve months in the Mediterranean, 1,500 of whom were reported to be from The Gambia - a country inhabited by less than 2 million.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh has a long history of human trafficking, extensively documented in the United States State Department's Human Rights Report on The Gambia. It did not come as a surprise for Jammeh to transition or embrace the Back Way by engaging in the lucrative business of transporting young Gambians, the majority of whom are from the rural areas, all of whom are untrained and unemployed, and primarily from the rural areas.  The problem prompted us to post a blog entitled "Is Jammeh behind the human trafficking that feeds the Back Way syndrome"?

In addition to personally benefiting from the human trafficking operations, Jammeh, like the rest of his African counterparts are benefiting, if not personally, indirectly by the remittance flows these migrants provide monthly to their respective countries.  In 2014, $ 436 billion were remitted to developing countries, a figure that represents half of all net foreign direct investment and well over three times as much in official development assistance.

The huge remittances from migrants is primary reason why African countries are opposed to the repatriation of African migrants to their home countries.  It is also the reason why the proposed $ 2 billion "Trust Fund" considered meager by many African leaders who assembled in Malta this week. For example, foreign remittances to Gambia increased in 2014 by 40% during the previous year from $ 64.90 million to $ 90.30 million.

Politically, Jammeh is benefiting from the Back Way syndrome because the large numbers of youth seeking greener pastures and those voting with their feet because of the deplorable human rights environment - potential source of political opposition and social unrest - fueled by high youth unemployment.  The regime actively encourages out-migration for the reasons cited above but it also serves as a pressure valve.  The less disenchanted unemployed youth there are, the less the changes of unrest eminating from this population group.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

EU drops mass deportation idea for African migrants

EU - African Heads of State Summit in Malta  

On the final day of the two-day summit of heads of state and governments of the European Union and Africa, the idea of an EU-issued travel document to African migrants to facilitate their deportation back to their countries of origin have been rejected.

The Africans strongly objected to "laissez passer" idea which would have been an EU-issued travel document.  According to the African Union Ambassador to the European Union the idea was unheard-of in international law.

Realizing that the idea would have meant that the EU would have had the power to determine one's nationality on behalf of the migrants country of origin, the idea was quickly dropped, preventing EU mass deporting African migrants.  The focus then was rightly directed at how to absorb the migrants by focusing on the long-term solutions of addressing the problem comprehensively.

The seed money for the proposed  $2-billion "Trust Fund" as additional aid package for participating African countries was approved by the EU, provided from the Commission's central budget with matching funds expected from individual EU Members States.

The  fact that the issue of readmission is central to the refugee crisis, it should not be exclusive domain of Europeans alone.  This issue was driven home more emphatically by the Senegalese president Macky Sall who was highly critical of the European and Western multinationals business operations in Africa.

The Senegalese president was clearly referencing the little-known and less publicized  UN's High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows led by Thabo Mbeki that estimated as much as $ 50 billion annually was being siphoned out of Africa by multinational companies - an amount that represents approximately twice the size of official development assistance.

It would appear from the European Union has abandoned is ill-advised approach of separate and unequal treatment of the Syrian and African migrants.  In addition to the "Trust Fund", Britain plans to increase its aid package in the next four years on education and job creation schemes.  Britain is also pushing EU countries into accepting failed asylum seekers.

The tone certainly changed on the second and final day of the Summit.  It is hoped that, in moving forward, the migration crisis will be viewed and treated as a global issue, requiring global solutions that must take into account the root causes - both man-made and natural - moving forward.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Senior magistrate Jaiteh charged with abuse of office

Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh, charged
Following his release last Tuesday from police custody, senior magistrate, Ebrima Jaiteh has been brought before Magistrate Hillary Abeke at the Brikama Magistrate Court where the embattled magistrate was with abuse of office and negligence of duty.

Senior magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh's judicial independence is both a challenge and a source of frustration to a highly repressive regime.  As we have reported recently, magistrate Jaiteh ruled in favor of several accused persons that were before his court who the regime wanted jailed.

Two specific cases cited were those involving two members of the senior management of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) and the other involving Imam Moheideen Hydara.  In both instances, the accused were acquitted and discharged by magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh at the displeasure of a regime.

It is a regime that has used the judiciary as a weapon of repression, using mercenary judges, primarily from Nigeria, to the bidding for the dictatorship.  Opponents of the regime have been framed and brought before the courts with the specific instructions from either the Minister of Justice or the Director of Public Prosecutor and, on occasions, directly from the dictator to the magistrate or the judge.  Judicial interference is the norm in The Gambian judiciary.

In the Gambia, magistrates and judges receive instructions from the Gambian dictator through the Justice Ministry or directly to those presiding over cases.  Thus, when senior magistrate Jaiteh problems was certain to occur because he was independent and wanted t dispense justice without fear or favor.  In dictatorships, independent-minded judges and magistrates are likely to run into the problems that the senior magistrate find himself in.  His only crime is being of independent mind.

FREE Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh NOW  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Separate and unequal treatment of African and Syrian migrants by the European Union

African migrants' epic trek across the Balkans into Europe
The 28-Member European Union will be getting ready for a Summit in Malta tomorrow to discuss Europe's migrant problem.  To be more precise, the EU will be zeroing in on its African migrant problem.

There was growing concern among migrants and aid agencies that the European Union is committing grave error by segregating the African from the Syrian migrants into  two distinct classes of refugees.

By differentiating the two groups, the EU might be unwittingly finding a different and distinct set of solutions for the two groups of migrants when the underlying cause of their migration is essentially similar.  Both groups are fleeing civil wars, and corrupt and repressive regimes.

It appears that the fears of those aid agencies are being confirmed because the Europeans are now moving the direction of granting asylum to the Syrians and sending the poorer and less educated Africans packing back to Africa, even if it means sending the latter to their certain death or imprisonment.  Granted, there are a number of economic migrants among the lot, but many among them are voting with their feet because of civil strife and highly repressive regimes.

Others, mainly Gambians, are fleeing the economic miseries their corrupt leader, Yaya Jammeh, have subjected a population of two million.  In a country where the national treasury and the pockets of the dictator are indistinguishable, entering into a bilateral agreements (between Italy, Spain and Gambia) to stem the human tide have failed and nothing has changed to turn failure into success should similar arrangements be entered into again.

The European Union's proposal to establish a $ 2 billion "trust fund"in the form of aid in exchange for taking back those classified as economic migrants is a case in point of replicating, in a grander state,  the bilateral agreements that Italy, Spain and Malta have signed for a number of years with The Gambia, all of which have failed.

What led to the bilateral agreements between Italy, Malta and the government of the Gambia and the details remain unknown.  In fact, according to a source familiar with the Italian agreement said as far as he his aware,"even the Italian parliament seems to be unaware of this agreement that was signed by the Italian Foreign Minister and the head of the Gambian police."

Of the 1,500 who drowned in two boat incidents last year attempting to cross the Mediterranean, 15% were Gambians and between January and June this year, 10,500 Gambians sought asylum in Europe despite a long history of bilateral agreement between individual EU members and The Gambia.

The separate and unequal treatment of the two sets of migrants will result in uneven success in addressing the problem.  A more equitable and even-handed approach by the European Union is more likely to succeed than what is being proposed currently.

The Senegalese Minister of African Integration spoke for many African countries when he said "we cannot tolerate double standards"when Europe admits people from the Middle East and central Asia as refugees while turning away Africans as economic migrants."

According to an Italian source, "a campaign to change the distorted idea of 'economic migrant' is much needed in the EU."  The same source continued "human rights abuses and economic problems are two faces of the same coin."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

FREE Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh, NOW

Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh
Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh who is University of The Gambia-trained was picked up by plain clothes officers last Friday at around 10.00 PM, according to family sources.  He was then taken to the Serious Crime Unit at Police Headquarters in Banjul.

As it the norm, neither the notorious National Intelligence Agency nor the police is able to say why Magistrate Jaiteh is being held or why he's being held in custody well beyond the 72 hours prescribed by law.

Although the magistrate has been on the bench for a relatively short period of time, he has handled very high profile and politically sensitive cases in which the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh had interest in, and the outcome of which the regime may have tried to influence.

Fortunately for the rule of law, the regime has been unsuccessful in its effort because Magistrate Jaiteh had ruled in favor of the accused and against the dictatorship.

 One such case involved Imam Moheideen Hydara, the Khalif General of Sanajor who was arrested and charged with going against the declaration of the Gambian dictator to conduct Eid prayers only one a specific date.  The case was eventually thrown out of court at the chagrin of the regime.

Two other controversial and highly politically-charged cases were also handled by the young lawyer whose display of independence and incorruptibility was beginning to be a source of great displeasure to a regime that has perfected the use of the judiciary as an instrument of repression by sending enemies - both real and perceived - to prison on trumped-up charges.

One case involved two senior Gambia Ports Authority managers charged with economic crime and negligence of duty and the other involved a University lecturer and consultant engaged in research who was employing survey material the regime deemed subversive.

However, in both instances, all of the accused were acquitted and discharged by Magistrate Jaiteh. We believe it the cumulative effect of all of these decisions that went against the desired outcome and interest of the regime, culminating in the magistrate's arrest.  He has now been held without charge for more than the 72 hours contrary to what's prescribed by law.

Therefore, we say: FREE Magistrate Ebrma Jaiteh NOW

United Democratic Party Tanji rally in pictures

The United Democratic Party rally in Tanji this weekend is not only well attended by the Party Leader's address to his party militants was more pointed and defiant than any of his recent speeches, perhaps suggesting that Ousainou Darboe now prepared to take the fight to the Gambian dictator.

The UDP leader accused Jammeh of land grabbing in the Kombos, the Central River Region and around the country.  Under his leadership, the opposition leader suggested that appropriate land use policy will be the order of the day.  The Gambian dictator was also accused of concealing his wealth using corporate entities as cover to highlight Jammeh's corruption schemes.

Addressing the youth, Darboe assured them of under a UDP government, education will not only be a priority but the quality will be improved that will assure them employment either in the public or private sector.

Jammeh came under more criticism in his abuse of public resources in political campaigns.  As example, Mr. Ousainou Darboe cited the fact that over 200 government vehicles will be accompanying Jammeh in his political tour of the country which starts this week the entire cost of which will be borne by the Gambian taxpayers.

The UDP leader made a special plea on behalf of the numerous Imams who have been arrested recently at the instruction of the Gambian dictator to have them released.

Several youth who were former supporters of the ruling APRC were introduced as new members of the UDP.  They have decided to join the opposition because of the failed policies and promises of Yaya Jammeh.