Saturday, January 31, 2015

Don't blame Bob

The appointment of President Robert Mugabe, affectionately referred to as "Bob" to some and mockingly to others, Chairman of the African Union was met by mixed reaction in Africa as well as outside the continent.

His elevation to the AU Chair lit up social media as well where his photo showing him dozing off was plastered everywhere as if the world needs reminding that Africa just appointed its oldest president at aged 90, going on 91 in few weeks time.

His age aside for now, Bob's politics has been the center of his controversial career dating to the Ian Smith's Rhodesia days when he moved across the border to Mozambique to wage a guerrilla war against the White minority regime.

Despite his disastrous land reform which became a bitter fight between Mugabe and the British government, he was and still is viewed by many in Africa as a anti-colonial hero.  He is still very popular in southern Africa. where he's serving as Chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

His Pan-African credentials are unparalleled even in his parts of Africa where liberation wars were the order of the day, and were memories of ranging from the ANC to FRELIMO are still fresh, providing Bob with the political support he lacks in other parts of Africa and the world which brings us to what I think has been a contributing factor to his appointment.

You will recall during the election process that finally led to the election of former South African Home Minister Dr.. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace Jean Ping who served previously as Gabon's Foreign Minister, concerns were raised by us about the wisdom of doing away with unwritten rule of avoiding to elect candidates from 'big countries' like South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria.  The same unwritten rule applies to the African Development Bank for reason that might have manifested itself in the appointment of Mugabe.

It is an open secret that South Africa is a close ally of Zimbabwe and President Zuma has an equally close personal relationship with Bob Mugabe.  Dr. Dlamini-Zuma may not have a direct hand in the appointment - I am giving her the benefit of the doubt - but it does get people thinking that Pretoria might have had a hand in getting the southern African countries lined up in support of President Mugabe that only a 'big country' can.

These big countries already enjoy a huge political and diplomatic advantage over small countries, an advantage they exert regularly to sway these continental and regional bodies.  To add to their huge advantage by electing them to head these organizations, especially the continental ones, spells trouble.  The acrimonious 2012 election that brought Dr. Dlamini-Zuma to Addis Ababa left deep divisions, especially within Francophone Africa, and many small states, that saw her victory as South Africa "bullying" its way to head the AU Commission.

The appointment of Mugabe, in our view, is going to further deepen the division that already exist within the AU Member States because not all African countries share the same reverence of "Bob" whom will not be welcomed in many Western capitals to raise much needed resources.  His politics aside, Mugabe's age should not have escaped the African Union.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Body of American veteran of Iraqi/Afghan war seized by Gambian dictator Yaya Jammeh

US Army Cptain Njaga Jagne
Lt. Colonel Lamin Sanneh
Momodou Njie, reportedly wounded


Since the 30th December attack at State House, the seat of government power, the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh is still refusing to hand over the body of US Army Captain Njaga Jagne, a veteran Iraqi and Afghanistan wars.

The body of Lt. Col Lamin S. Sanneh, a resident and member of the Maryland State Guard is also among the bodies of those lost their lives in the attack against the State House, the seat of power of the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

Another known person who took part in the December attack is one  Momodou Njie, a former presidential guard who is reported to have been wounded and in a Banjul hospital where conditions are deplorable.

Reports are that the conditions of the bodies are not under the optimal condition because of the poor and irregular supply of electricity.   The bodies have been held at the Banjul mortuary under heavy military guard since US Army Captain Njaga Jagne and Maryland National Guard Lt. Col. Lamin S. Sanneh   lost their lives fighting with government forces to remove a dictatorship that has brought nothing but hardship and economic backwardness to a once democratic and free-market nation in West Africa.

The regime’s insistence on holding the bodies of these American veterans hostage for an entire month is psychologically traumatizing as it is an illustration of the Gambian dictator’s macabre fascination with his victims tortured bodies.  Jammeh is known to order his torture squad to videotape their sessions for him to watch at his leisure time.  

This psychopathic display of disrespect of the dead is both inexcusable and unacceptable to Gambians as well as the American government.  Therefore, the administration should redouble its efforts by forcefully demand the release of the bodies returned to loved ones for proper burial.  The families of these gallant men should not be put through this trauma.  Their bodies must be released and those wounded repatriated to their respective countries of residence.

Because of lack of transparency of the regime, it is unclear as to the number and nationalities of all those killed and wounded.  What is known, outside of retired US Army Captain Njaga Jagne and Maryland National Guard Lt. Col. Lamin S. Sanneh, is that there is a third victim identified as Momodou Njie, and presently suspected to be under guard and perhaps being subjected to severe torture.  It’s being listed as a resident of Spain.


This appeal is not only directed at the United States government but also to all US veteran organizations but particularly to the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).  Do not leave your own behind, even it is not is a typical battlefield. But nonetheless a battlefield for them fighting an undemocratic, despotic and tyrannical regime that is against everything America stands for.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Former Gambia's CJ appointed Judge to the Appeal Court of Ghana

Justice Mabel Agyemang
Mahama, Justice Minister and Justices
Justice Mabel Agyemang who served as Gambia's first female Chief Justice until she was abruptly fired a few months into her tenure by an unsteady dictator who rules The Gambia with an iron fist was appointed a judge to Ghana's Court of Appeal by Ghana's president John Mahama.

Ironically, President Mahama paid a 3-hour visit to his "brother" and Gambia's dictator His Excellency Sheikh Alhaji Professor Dr. Yaya A.J.J.Jammeh following a December 30 attack by opponents of his regime who traveled a]from the U.S. and Europe to try and unseat his tyrannical regime.

The Ghanaian president's visit was in his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS to reassure the Gambian dictator the regional organization's position of opposing extra-constitutional means of ascending to power.

There is no indication as to whether during Mahama's closed door session with the idiosyncratic leader he brought up Justice Agyemang's bizarre departure from Banjul.  Whether the Ghanaian leader did or not, his appointment of Justice Agyemang to the Appeals Court of Ghana is a slap in the face of the dictator who accused the highly respected Judge of theft - an accusation Yaya Jammeh never substantiated during his television appearance at the height of the fiasco when he claimed the Justice was taking refuge in an undisclosed foreign embassy in Banjul.

 


Gay Gambian tortured, near death

Mr. Alieu Sarr, reportedly near death after torture
A Gambian youth (pictured here) named Alieu Sarr was among a group of young people rounded up last November accused of being gay by the security agents of the Gambian dictator.  Alieu Sarr is reported to be near death at Banjul's main referral hospital.

Yaya Jammeh's security elements have been patrolling the hotel and tourist resorts and arresting people who they identify as being gays and lesbians.

Among those arrested last November with Alieu Sarr were Morr Sowe and Kemo Sanyang.

According to reports, Alieu Sarr was severely torture for an extended period of time since his arrest.

As a result of the injuries sustained, he's was referred to the hospital's general ward before being transferred to a private ward, away from the preying eyes of patients and visitors.

Mr. Alieu Sarr was seen bleeding from the mouth, ears and nose that is consistent with someone suffering from internal bleeding.

Alieu Sarr's only crime is that the regime of Yaya Jammeh has determined that he's gay and thus must be exterminated in one method or another.

As we have indicated, the fate of Morr Sowe and Kemo Sanyang are unknown.  They may have already been killed by the vicious regime of Yaya Jammeh for all we know.  The world must act to stop the madness in The Gambia.

Blaming the victims again

A generating set that is currently dysfunctionaL
It is a perennial problem of a regime that never takes responsibility for anything - blame the victim, which Yaya Jammeh perfected to an art.

When the regime monopolizes groundnut buying and marketing without the necessary wherewithal to guarantee success, it blames the private buyers who are trying to introduce competition that benefits the farmer.  

When road accidents continue to mount, the regime looks for scapegoats in bad drivers instead of attributing them to bad designs and construction standards of roads that deteriorates sooner than they are built.   

In these past several weeks, there have been spats of house fires that can only be described as inferno which took the lives of four young children in one such sad incident.  These young children died, not because they were left unsupervised by their parents but because they were asleep when a candle was still burning in the dead of night.  Where else would you expect them or their parents to be at near midnight?  It was the candle that consumed the mattress that produced the deadly fumes that snuffed the lives of these children.

They were not the only victims of fires in the past several weeks.  There were no less than a dozen similar fires reported this month alone resulting in numerous deaths.  Most of these fires were caused by either candles or poor electrical connections.  Candles burn residential homes while bad connections burn down markets and commercial outlets. 
   
To discount human error, including the lack of parental supervision, would be foolish but absolving the Jammeh regime would be equally foolish and irresponsible, as well, for its failure to providing safe and reliable supply of electricity after 20 years. 

This is the same regime that upon receiving three generating sets - total capacity of 24 megawatts -  in 2006 with great fanfare, promised Gambians that their electricity problems were over.  The sets were paraded across the Greater Banjul area with the Gambian dictator leading the possession, and drummers in tow through the main thoroughfares.  The sets, two of whichare identified as the “Wartsila” and “Pielstick” sets, happened to have been oldones that were reconditioned to pass as new in the unsuspecting eye of ordinaryGambians.
 
Under Yaya Jammeh, the National Electricity Company (NAWEC) has become insolvent – an insolvency brought, in part, by a regime that sees these public enterprises as cash cows.   Under Jammeh, NAWEC has also become a drain to the national treasury.   No wonder, it will be the first public enterprise that will be restructured as part of the IMF’s Staff Monitored Program still under discussion between the Fund and the regime.

The inability of the regime to provide safe and regular supply of electricity despite being at the helm for 20 years, is the primary reason for the high and mounting deaths resulting from the use of candles and other means of providing light. 

It is a shame that the official mouthpiece of the Jammeh regime, the Daily Observer, is blaming everybody and everything but Yaya Jammeh for these deaths.  At least, he should share in the blame. 





Monday, January 26, 2015

GAMBIA : A Strategy of Effective Isolation

Sidi M. Sanneh

In July 1994 when the Gambian dictator seized power, the current Chair of ECOWAS, President  Mahama of Ghana had not even entered politics.   He was working, at the time, as a Research Officer at the Embassy of Japan in Accra.  It was not until 1996 when he entered politics as member of parliament, and has risen since to become Ghana’s president in July 2012.  He became Chairman of ECOWAS two years into his presidency.  

By contrast, Jammeh has been at the helm of Gambian affairs for 20 years and has yet to lead the regional body which speaks for itself.  Sir Dawda had chaired the regional body twice and chaired CILLS once during his 30-year stint as president of The Gambia

It takes extraordinary effort and a deft piece of fancy political footwork to prevent a Head of State from assuming the ECOWAS leadership role for 20 years  - a chairmanship that is supposed to be rotational, in an organization where seniority is sacrosanct.   Despite these odds, 15 of the 16 Member States have managed to keep Jammeh off the Chair – the latest maneuver was in Yamoussoukro, last year, when he was denied, once again, from claiming the chairmanship.

Even at the friendlier African Union, Jammeh’s hosting of the AU Summit in 2006 was almost scuttled by Presidents Obasanjo and Wade of Nigeria and Senegal respectively only to be saved by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who stopped the momentum building on rule changes for AU Summit which was sprung on the Summit by none other than the Summit Chair Obasanjo with Wade sponsoring the motion.  

The duo, representing a formidable opposition to any sub-Saharan president, wanted to change the rules governing hosting of future AU Summits starting with the Banjul Summit of ’06 which, if passed, would have doomed it or, at least, delayed it for several years down the line.

The political leadership in the West African region has not been very friendly towards the regime in Banjul because of the potential regional security uncertainty Yaya Jammeh poses.  He has the well-earned reputation as an unreliable partner with a fiery temper. 

Jammeh is also being prevented from chairing ECOWAS because it will mean Washington, Paris, London, Brussels and other Western capitals closing their doors to Jammeh which spells disaster for the regional body with adverse financial implications for the organization’s programs, including security-related and peace-keeping operations. 

ECOWAS refused to send election monitors to the 2011 elections because it felt that the playing field wasn’t level enough to allow them to be conducted freely and fairly.   Instead of holding on to the lifeline ECOWAS had thrown at them, the Gambian opposition elected to ignore it and chose instead to swim against the cold Atlantic currents.   The rest, as they say, is history - they were trounced at the polls like never before, further legitimizing the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The Gambian opposition parties on the ground may have been late in discerning the emerging and evolving perception of the regime in Banjul that has been increasingly less friendly but the Diaspora dissident groups were not oblivious of the shifting currents.   The advent of the online media only provided the necessary tools that facilitated the dissemination of information to educate the public, further isolating the regime from its former supporters thus swelling the ranks of the opposition both at home and abroad.  

The formation of the various civic groups and organizations did not occur in a vacuum.   They rose from the sweats of dedicated individuals who wrote position papers, draft constitutions, set up bank accounts, fundraised, organized meetings, demonstrations and conference calls.

The activism of DUGA, CORDEG, GGC, CCG, GDAG and numerous other groups has spurred the imagination and enthusiasm of many that led to the current level of awareness of the plight of Gambians in the homeland.  The 30 December events at the State House in Banjul made front page news across the globe, and with it Jammeh’s tyranny. 

The world’s biggest newspapers from the Washington Post, New York Time, Financial Times and television organizations like CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox have focused attention on the “African dictator who claims to have the cure for HIV/AIDS.”  Most importantly, small town newspapers and local television affiliates were not far behind in the coverage of not only the events of 30 December but the heinous acts of extra-judicial killings, torture, forced disappearances and mass arrests of innocent citizens.
 
Keen observers of the Gambian political scene who live outside of the Banjul bubble and thus are not blinded by the propaganda of the regime have noticed the shift in international awareness which is a necessary first step to ‘internationalize’ the plight of the Gambian people.   Let me quickly add that the word “internationalize’ is not synonymous with ‘outsourcing’ Gambia’s problems.
 
Moving forward, we must lead by taking full charge of the strategy of effectively isolating the regime in Banjul – a process that was started by an external organization called the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which underscores the value of collaborating with.  By denying Jammeh the Chairmanship for 20 years running, the regional body has denied the dictator a propaganda platform from which he can try to cement a degree of legitimacy and international respect.   Can you imagine Jammeh chairing ECOWAS not once but twice or thrice with all the frills and prestige that come with the position?

The LGBT community in the United States has lent its full weight and support to the efforts of Diaspora Gambians by demanding further punitive actions from the Obama administration following Jammeh’s crack-down of gays and lesbians in the Greater Banjul area.   Senior members of the Jammeh regime may soon find themselves subjected to travel bans and visa restrictions as a result of direct action of American citizens. 

These achievements, however modest in the eyes of some, did not come about by waving a strategy document (with action plan and budget) in the face of ordinary Gambians and non-Gambians alike.  It came out of sheer persistence and belief in the Mission to get rid of Jammeh, one way or the other; no reconciliation, no constructive engagement.   After all, a strategy is nothing more than “a pattern in a stream of decisions” and some of those decisions do not have to come from us but from the “competition” as in the case of a competing firm or in our case from Jammeh himself.  In fact, he has inadvertently helped us a great deal in the recent past as a result of some stupid decisions he took.  

Strategy can occur in two forms – unwritten and written, intended or  emerging  from a pattern of activities, as we’ve tried to catalogue above with everyone contributing - from Obasanjo to Wade to Thabi Mbeki and from ECOWAS to LGBT community in the United States, not to mention our own efforts, individually and collectively, then we need not be bugged down with fancy words and trying to reinvent the wheel.   The wind is at our back.  To paraphrase what a great American icon, musician and entrepreneur once said :  we cannot change the direction of the wind but we can always adjust our sails to reach our final destination.  We must never allow anyone to take the wind off our sails.



ECOWAS Chairman did not use "terror attack" during Banjul visit

President Mahama of Ghana at Harvard

President Mahama of Ghana, who is also the serving Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), paid a three-hour visit to Banjul over the weekend.

The purpose of the visit was, in the words of the ECOWAS Chairman was "find out what had happened and show solidarity with the Gambian people" following events of the 30th December.

At no time during his brief visit did the ECOWAS Chair use the words "terror attack" to characterized what had happened on that fateful December day.

He also made clear that he was in Banjul in his ECOWAS capacity and not Head of State of Ghana which he could have done but opted not to.  Read what you may from this.

Since the events of 30 December, Jammeh had tried to influence the international community's perception by referring to the State House firefight as a terror attack.  Fortunately, with the exception of a very few who lack the temerity to chart an independent course of action against a violent regime, many are calling it anything but a "terrorist attack."  

President Mahama made it clear to the journalists at his brief airport press conference that, in tune with African tradition when a neighbor is in trouble, he was in Banjul see that everything is okay with his brother and the Gambian people.

He emphasized also his show of solidarity with the Gambian people.  In doing so, he reiterated ECOWAS view that "a change of government must be through democratic means and as far as possible we should try and abide by that."

President Mahama had a close door session with the Gambian dictator and it is hoped that the real and difficult issues relating to the human right abuses including, but not limited to, widespread use of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial executions.  It is within Mahama's role as Chairman of ECOWAS to visit Banjul.

Let us continue to insist on getting ECOWAS, as well as other bodies, to raise their level of engagement with the dictatorship that will lead to its peaceful disengagement to make it possible to usher in a new and democratic government that respects and guarantee the rights of every Gambians.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

HRC Joins 13 Groups to Urge Obama Administration to Take Action Against Gambian Government

January 23rd 2015
Today HRC joined 13 other human rights groups in urging the Obama Administration to take additional action against Gambian leaders following the regime’s ongoing crackdown and persecution of LGBT citizens, and called on it to demand that the Gambian government provide more information about the health and safety of individuals who have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation.
"The United States cannot turn a blind eye to the the horrific human rights abuses being inflicted on Gambians by President Yahya Jammeh’s regime," said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.  "As we speak, the lives of LGBT Gambians who have been arrested and secretly detained are at risk, and there are no indications that Jammeh’s brutal crackdown on LGBT people and others is slowing down.  While removing The Gambia’s eligibility for the AGOA trade agreement was an important first step, we must increase the pressure on the Gambian government and send an even stronger message to the regime that the United States will hold them accountable for their actions."
In their letter to President Obama, the organizations state “It is not too late for the United States to send President Jammeh and his regime a clear and unequivocal message: human rights violations will not be tolerated, and the U.S. government will respond with actions, as well as with strong condemnation.”  The letter also calls on the U.S. government to ask The Gambia to account for those individuals it is holding, and to either charge or release them; to bar President Jammeh and his associates from entry to the U.S.; and to consider freezing his assets currently held in the U.S.
"It is significant that so many respected human rights organizations have come together on protecting the lives of LGBT Gambians and others being persecuted," said Cobb.
In November, HRC condemned the passage of draconian new anti-LGBT legislation that could lead to life in prison for LGBT people in The Gambia.  The law includes life sentences for those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” or are considered “repeat offenders,” among other charges. According to reports from Amnesty International and others, LGBT Gambians have been arrested and tortured since the signing of this law.
On December 17, HRC presented a petition with over 18,000 signatures to the White House, calling on the Obama Administration to take action against President Jammeh.  HRC’s call was accompanied by a video highlighting the abuses of President Jammeh and his anti-LGBT rhetoric.
In a December 23 statement, the White House announced that it has suspended The Gambia’s eligibility for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).  A White House spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News the connection between that suspension and the human rights situation in The Gambia. Nonetheless, President Jammeh continues to act with impunity, imprisoning an unknown  number of LGBT people without charge, while spreading fear throughout his country. He appears to be following up on his declaration last year that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five agriculture officers back in court

Fatajo, Adda Gaye and Dr. Oley Njie Mbye

Five officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. Ada Gaye, former permanent secretary,  Fafading Fatajo, project coordinator, Omar Jammeh, Financial Controller, Dr. Abdou Ceesay, Livestock Department Director and Foday Jadama, Deputy Director of Soil and Water Management Services were before Justice Simon A. Abi facing eight charges that include economic crime, neglect of duty and abuse of office.

The five were charged and brought before Banjul Magistrate Court in October 2014, accused of awarding a contract worth approximately $60,000 for the conduct of training programs which were never conducted and the funds never returned.  These officers were also accused of conspiring among themselves to recommend to the African Development Bank that Omar Jammeh who was Financial Controller to be Acting Project Manager thus contravening Government's Financial Instructions (FI).

The case was transferred from Banjul Magistrate to the High Court but not before they were granted bail. However, despite being on bailed, the five were quickly taken back into custody in clear violation of their human rights.  

The accused, we learned, were released two weeks ago by the regime in time from their first appearance before the High Court were their case did not make progress because the prosecution did not bother to file proper indictment.  The reason the Director of Public Prosecution gave was he was handed over the case file by the police just moments before his appearance in court.  He promised the court to file the indictment that very evening.

The case has been adjourned to February 11th 2015 for mention.  We will be watching.  As we have said previously, and as recently as yesterday, the regime's favorite weapon is the judiciary, using it to punish anyone it perceives as opposed to the dictatorship.

The five accused is the very core of the team, together with Sheikh Tejan Sosseh and other, responsible for implementing Vision 2016 - the dictator's dream of achieving rice self-sufficiency in 2016.  Because Jammeh will fail in achieving his dream, he is setting these public officials as scapegoats for the failure his agricultural policies.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gambian judiciary is weapon of mass incarceration

The Gambian dictator
Justice Minister Singhateh














In leading the swearing in ceremony of the Justice Minister and Attorney General for the second time in five months, the Gambian dictator lamented, hypocritically, the slow wheel of justice and why it is necessary to expedite the handling of cases in the courts.   To the casual observer, the comment is reasonable and appropriate.  To the keen follower of Gambian affairs, Jammeh's statement is self-serving and downright hypocritical.  He has perfected the use of the judiciary as a potent weapon against his opponents to deadly effectiveness.

Magistrates and judges are under the thumb of the Gambian dictator who controls the flow and processing of cases, be they criminal, political or civil in which the regime has a stake in or Jammeh has a personal business interest.   It is therefore hypocritical of him to lament at every swearing-in of the past decade of the slow pace of justice in The Gambia when he's in total charge of the judiciary and its processes.  Most, if not all magistrates and judges, are compromised in a dictatorship that has successfully transformed into a potent weapon of mass incarceration of those viewed as opposed to or refuse to cooperate with Yaya Jammeh.

The jails are filled with persons who have been there for 15 years or more without being charged. And those who've been charged are still in remand with no idea when they will be brought before a judge or magistrate.  Most are victims of torture and malnutrition and are left to languish under conditions so horrifying that the recent two-person United Nation's Rapporteur Mission to The Gambia were denied access to the security wing of the prison because of the regime's fear of the horrors the UN will see in those cells.

The Gambian courts ate littered with victims of the dictatorship, ranging from Imams who decided to observe the Muslim Eid prayers on a day different from the one declared by the Gambian dictator to half a dozen Gambian agriculturalists and project managers, one of whom has spent the last one year and a half trying to prove his innocence because he returned approximately $ 60,000 of unspent balance of grant money to the European Development Fund via the World Bank at the close of a project.  The regime considers this action as "economic crime."  Only in The Gambia.

It is a very common site to be freed and absolved of all charges only to be rearrested at the steps of the courts, and instead of going to your loved ones, you are returned to the notorious Mile II prisons to await fresh concocted charges. In other occasions, the vindicated culprit will enjoy freedom for days and weeks until the dictator notices you in traffic and ordered for your re-arrest.  As we speak Jammeh former Finance Minster, Ambassador and Head of the Civil Service is being held without charge when Jammeh reportedly spotted him in traffic and ordered his rearrest after being previously acquitted by a court of two charges.  The former Minister is being held without charge for 70 days and counting.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Meet Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Gambia's Majority Leader in the Gambia's National Assembly

Fabakary Tombong Jatta, a consummate political hack
Fabakary Tombong Jatta is not only a political hack, as he is being described by The Standard online newspaper, but he is also the chief hatchet man of the Gambian dictator.

A political hack is defined as politician who belongs in a small clique that controls a political party for private rather than a public ends.

Fabakary is there for his pockets and so is Yaya Jammeh and his minions who are propping up a deadly regime that continues to kill, torture, maim, exile, extra-judicially execute and enforcing forced disappearances of political opponents, real and perceived.

This man fits the political hack description ascribed to him by The Standard, however unintentional the use of the word "hack" on the part of the paper.

The National Assemblyman, who is also Majority Leader of the ruling A(F)PRC party was addressing a "solidarity rally', an event that has become mandatory for all districts across the country to organize. The rallies are state-sanctioned and attendance mandatory for party supporters as well as civil servant at tremendous cost to the public treasury because participants are bused to and from the venues.

The irresponsible regime of Yaya Jammeh continues to spend scarce resources on non-productive activities  despite last week's IMF Mission report that announced it's in negotiation with government for a Staff Monitored Program because of the imprudent fiscal and monetary policies of the dictatorship.

At the rally in Serrekunda, the Assemblyman called on diaspora Gambians to respect the voices of Gambians at home referencing the 30 December events at the State House that shook the dictatorship. He also wants Gambians abroad to know that "Gambians need Jammeh" and that Gambians are entitled to the same peace Gambian enjoyed by diaspora Gambian living in the West.

Fabakary is same man who shamelessly compared state-sponsored torture with his recent personal misfortune when he lost his home to fire.  He's aggrieved because the Opposition will sympathize with torture victims but not with him.  That's the caliber of a man named Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Assemblyman and Majority Leader of Yaya Jammeh's ruling party.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jammeh must step down, and now

This blog post was first published on 7th December 2013, demanding that Yaya Jammeh step down following his unilateral withdrawal of Gambia's membership to the Commonwealth and his severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, another unprovoked diplomatic action.  

The post outlines Gambia's predicament resulting from bad and callous governance style of a dictator that has only grown worse since. 

The diaspora opponents of the dictatorship must unite in saying no to "reconciliation", no to "constructive engagement" and no to "elections" in 2016 that will include Yaya Jammeh.  Yaya Jammeh must go, and he must go now.

*********************************************************

Yaya Jammeh's almost two decades of terror-filled rule has brought the Gambia's economy, together with the spirits of Gambians, to its knees.

It is evident from the past several months that the regime in Banjul has lost control of the state's machinery, further threatening the very well-being of ordinary Gambians.

Functions of the Central Bank have been unilaterally transferred to the Presidency causing severe disruptions to the markets, especially the foreign exchange markets, resulting in massive losses to private investors as well as government foreign exchange accounts.

Economic management has always been the biggest challenge of the Jammeh regime.  The key economic ministries have been manned by Jammeh's hand-picked men and women regardless of experience and/or qualifications.  Corruption is extremely high and it occurs in the highest of places.  Jammeh is known to act as the final arbiter in any major tendering of government contracts.  He is the single biggest businessman in The Gambia with interests in almost all sectors of the economy.

All assessments conducted by donors of the Gambian economy have been bleak, and prospects for a recovery considered dim because of the regime's apparent inability to exercise prudence in its monetary and fiscal policies, characterized by high level of domestic borrowing, crowding out the private sector causing high rates of interests. Businesses are fleeing the country as a result of the constant interference by a regime that insists on micromanaging all aspects of the economy.

The economy is not the only mismanaged aspect of Gambian life by a regime that is increasingly displaying level of incompetence never seen it is 19-year of governance.

Recent foreign affairs debacle started off with the Gambian protesters that confronted the Gambian dictator, his wife and their entourage when they were holed up in their hotel to almost their entire stay in New York to attend the 68th United Nations General Assembly.  Faced with intense protests from Gambian exiles and refugees who descended on him from eastern seaboard localities, something he's never experienced in his entire presidency, he became very upset for being humiliated.  He was forced to stay cooped up in his hotel while his African counterparts and colleagues moved in and out unfettered by their own nationals.  The entire three-day protests were captured on video and posted on YouTube which were instantaneously accessed by Gambians as event unfolded.  Social media brought the entire debacle in the homes of Gambians.

Arriving home, Jammeh withdrew Gambia's membership in the Commonwealth by attacking it as a neocolonialist organization.  The abrupt action obviously did not receive the blessing of neither the National Assembly or the citizenry via referendum.   In fact, a majority of Gambians opposed the move by Jammeh. Gambians did not recover from the shock of the Commonwealth withdrawal before the regime announced a few weeks later that it is severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan - a long time and reliable friend of Jammeh and his regime.

If Gambians were surprised by the move, Taipei was shocked by the move.  Neither Taipei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor its Embassy in Banjul had an inkling of what was in the pipeline.  However, in the ensuing days following the break-up, it became clear that Jammeh's frequent demands for money from the Taiwanese culminated in a cash and unreceipted in the sum of $ 10 million which was turned down may have pushed him over the edge.  It may have taken the Taiwanese 18 years to realize that Jammeh is an 'idiosyncratic character' ( their description of Jammeh ) who is not only unpredictable but ungrateful as well. The diplomatic break-up immediately blew a large hole in Gambia's budget in critical sectors of the economy i.e. education, health and agriculture.

The hope of immediately getting China to replace Taiwan quickly faded as Banjul realized, however belated the realization, that Beijing will not rush into establishing diplomatic relations because of the diplomatic 'detente' or 'diplomatic flexibility' it had established with Taipei.

Jammeh's international reputation has come under sharper focus, and has taken a big hit; thanks to the protests mounted by Gambians in the United States.  Protests mounted by Gambian dissidents in Europe against the Gambian dictator who is in Paris to attend the Peace and Security Summit of over 50 Heads of State and Government will certainly help reinforce the international image of Jammeh as the symbol of repression and indiscipline.

Jammeh's bodyguards being filmed beating up on protesters in front of Jammeh's hotel can only further reinforce an already bad image of this regime.  As the diplomatic isolation of the regime in deepens internationally, internal resistance is beginning to manifest itself in forms never expected only two months ago. The youth of Banjul went on a rampage a couple of days ago, smashing car windows and other property destruction.  Security personnel were also targets of youths in both Banjul and Brikama after football matches.

These are sign that the regime is on less secure position than ever before.  More worrying is there appear to be cracks within the security apparatus.  Allegiances are beginning to shift. Meanwhile, the protests will continue outside Gambia.  Internally, the youth will start agitating in ways never seen before too.

The regime has undoubtedly failed the Gambia people in most fronts, especially in the economic and diplomatic fronts leading to increased opposition to a regime that is using murder to get rid of its opposition. These murders are becoming extremely frequent.  This circle of violence will continue unless Gambians rise up and demand the resignation of Jammeh and his cabinet.  The international community must also step in to facilitate a smooth transfer of power to avoid a tribal bloodbath.    
       

The army feels betrayed and abandoned by Jammeh

Yaya Jammeh surrounded by disgruntled troops
In the wake of the 30 December events that led to the executions of members of external forces that allegedly attacked the State House in Banjul, Jammeh's own forces are divided and the strain is showing all around.

As suspicion spreads within the ranks, soldiers are on edge wondering when the next comrade in arms will be 'fingered' by a rival group within a divided military.  The security and intelligence personnel are equally on edge.

The absence of the Commander-In-Chief from the battlefield on the 30 December to the 2nd January didn't only go unnoticed but has confirmed the suspicion of some of Jammeh's cowardice and selfishness.

Yaya Jammeh was in hiding while he sent his entire family to Rabat out of harm's way, leaving the 'loyalists' to repel the attackers. The C-i-C watching (actually hiding) from a safe distance has added to the troops resentment of him. As a source close to the military said "Jammeh's only interest is to how long he can prolong his grip on power, but he knows this is the end of the road for him and his regime."

Jammeh's increasing reliance on mercenaries as part of his personal  security detail, driven by his lack of trust of the Gambian military and security structure, has further complicated a delicate security condition, further exposing the fault lines.  

However, in his futile attempt to fend off the threat to his regime, he decided to release gruesome (and posed) photos of his victims to serve as warning to the military and to instill further fear to an already traumatized civilian population. (We'll be saying more about the 'staged' photos in a separate blog post).  "It is rather late in the day for him (Jammeh) to use scare tactics because the military's patience has been stretched beyond its limits.  Even Jammeh knows his days are numbered", according to the same source.  




Saturday, January 17, 2015

A plea to Taiwan authorities on behalf of a Gambian named KAIRA DEMBO

薩內 甘比亞
On November 16th 2014, while on routine patrol of the streets of Taipei City, two police officers stopped a "male foreigner" riding what was described as a heavy-duty motorcycle.  When they asked him for his ID and he began to stutter and hesitated to respond to the officers' request.

According to police reports, the motorcycle-riding male foreigner finally produced a photocopy of his permanent resident certificate, health insurance card, a certificate of qualification on safety education of the construction industry were handed over to the officers for inspection.

When he handed them what was supposed to be his ID, the photo was saying something else.   It turned out that the bike rider stole the ID from a friend from Mali and that he is Gambian by the name of KAIRA DEMBO or most probably Dembo Kaira.  Either way, he was in Taiwan illegally for seven years.

After thorough investigation by the City of Taipei police, it turned out that Demba entered Taipei-Taoyuan International Airport from Thailand with a 14-day visitor visa in August 2007.  The police has transferred the case to the Datong District of Taipei for further investigation to see if Dembo had not been involved in any illegal activities during his illegal stay.

What the police have been able to establish thus far is that Dembo has been doing odd jobs from one construction site to another without a fix address which is the life of many African immigrants around the globe.  Dembo has worked in Taipei City, New Taipei City, Taoyuan and Taichung.

According to the Taipei police reports, Dembo overstayed because he said "he loved freedom, democracy and the progress of Taiwan and the friendly nature of the Taiwanese people" which did not come as a surprise from a Gambia.

Like hundreds of thousand young Gambian immigrants who have escaped a very brutal and corrupt regime in The Gambia, Dembo is yearning for a free, open and democratic society where he can be part of society, contribute to its development and his worth appreciated and his work rewarded fairly.  

He was getting all of that and more in Taiwan.  We hope he will continue to enjoy the best Taiwan and its people have on offer to immigrants like KAIRA DEMBO who are looking for nothing but to live in peace and dignity.

Barring any unfavorable outcome of the pending investigations, we hope the authorities will regularize his stay in Taiwan where he chose to make his home because of what Demba described as his love for freedom, democracy and the nature and progress of the Taiwanese people.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chief Justice MUST stay out of Gambian politics

Pakistani-born Chief Justice of Gambia - Ali Nawaz Chawhan
"The terror attack failed woefully because the Almighty Allah will never, never allow peaceful Gambia to be led by bandits", a letter writer wrote to the country's leader who'd like to be referred to by his full name and in the following order : His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh, Nasurudeen, Balilimansa.

His recently- acquired titles of Nasurudeen and Babilimansa were considerd "Haram" by none other that Dr. Zakir Naik of every-Muslim-should-be-terrorist fame and thus dropped to add to a previously dropped title of "Admiralty of the Nebraska Navy", a landlocked American State. What followed was a presidential circular announcing the changes and warning officials, especially national radio and television announcers that the sequencing was important.  Thus a misplaced word or title can cost an announcer or official a reprimand.  This is Jammeh's Gambia, and the letter writer was not a local party apparatchik but the Pakistani-born, former Judge at the Lahore High Court and International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), congratulating the Gambian dictator for repelling an armed attack on State House.

There is general concern about what appears to be the increasing desecularization of the State by Yaya Jammeh - building Mosques in government Ministries, including State House, and proselytizing his ideas about Islam before the Gambia Armed Forces 'solidarity rally' and other State functions - which should be an unsettling development among the Christian communities across a country that was known for its religious tolerance and the peaceful coexistence between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority.  The dismissal of one of the most radical and highly partisan Banjul Mullahs, Imam Fatty, from his post as Imam of the State House Mosque may have slowed, but not stopped, the Islamization train.

It was, therefore, disappointing to read the Chief Justice's letter whose appointment was greeted in the somber quarters of those who were hoping that he will inject sanity into the Gambia judiciary but starting to rebuild its tattered image by first reestablishing its independence from the Executive.  It is not a letter that reassures a people under siege and being suffocated by a dictatorship that has perfected the used the judiciary as a weapon of mass incarceration and abuse.  It seems every other Gambian in the Greater Urban Area is in court for one frivolous or trumped-up charge or another - from sedition, economic crime and/or negligence of duty to cattle wrestling.  If it happens to involve one of the president's many heard strewn across Gambia - bad luck.  It is very common for cases in the lower courts to drag on for three years or more and most of these involve senior civil servants, particularly those highly trained in the professions whom the dictatorship seem to have problems with.

Prior to Chief Justice Chowhan's arrival, the judiciary was a circus.  For instance, Acting Supreme Court Judge Nigerian-born Wowo was arrested and charged in January 2013 with providing false information to a public officer which carried a mandatory two-year prison sentence.  The charges were dropped for unexplained reason and he left The Gambia only to return in July of the same year to pick up his appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court only to he arrested and charged again, this time together with the Justice Minister for bribery among other charges.  Both are serving mandatory jail sentences.  Former Chief Justice Wowo's appeal was denied recently.  A highly respected Ghanaian-born Chief Justice, Mabel Agyemang, was appointed to replace Justice Wowo but she was quickly fired by an erratic and idiosyncratic Jammeh to be replaced by the current holder who is on the Bench for 9 months - record of sorts by Gambian judicial standards.

We implore the Chief Justice to stay away from local politics and try during his time in The Gambia to instill professionalism among the ranks and to keep the judiciary away from the madness of the Executive and Legislative branches of the regime.  The last thing Gambia needs is another political sycophant bent on serving the dictator instead of dispensing justice in the most equitable and expeditious manner.  We know he has the intellectual capacity and the legal mind to carry out your functions professionally and independently.  Whether he has the will and the judicial temperament is what remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Where's the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Add caption
The silence of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights is deafening. 

Perhaps it is time to move its headquarters from Banjul to Dakar.

Civilians still being arrested and held by the Jammeh regime

Fatou Sonko, 52, Mother of Dawda Bojang

Ensa Bojang, 61, Father of Dawda Bojang














We welcome news that some detainees have been released ahead of the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas according to Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa programs of Freedom House, an independent watchdog that supports democratic change and advocates for democracy and human rights.   Freedom House believe that these releases have more to do with the fact that the regime in Banjul has little, if any, probable cause for detaining them in the first place." 
We cannot agree more with Freedom House when Mr. Petrovic added that "[t]the release should not deter the UN from confronting the Jammeh regime about arbitrary arrests and repression. UN Special Representative Ibn Chambas should demand the Gambian government immediately stop its reign of terror on its citizens and conduct transparent investigations into the coup, in accordance with international human rights standards.”  
The United Nations and other human rights groups should call on the government of The Gambia to release the rest of the detainees unconditionally.  We have reports that the wife ( Neneh Jobe ) of Dawda Bojang and his childhood friend (Fafa Jallow) have been released but the regime is still holding both his parents (pictured above) and have been the subject of an earlier blog post which you can find here. 
Our sources are also telling us that arrests are still being carried out even as Muhamed Ibn Chambas is in the country representing the Secretary of the United Nations.   We are calling on the Jammeh regime again to release all those innocent Gambian civilians who are not involved in the events of 30 December at the State House.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

IMF to put Gambia on a short leash with Staff Monitored Program













Hot off the press is the IMF release on its recently concluded mission which is, as expected, not a a good report.  It shows that the Fund has finally come to terms with the regime's persistent lack of discipline in managing an economy that continues to be on the skid.  The full press release is here.

The Fund observed, and rightly so, that although The Gambia is Ebola-free, the outbreak has caused tourists to stay away with a projected decline by 60%, prudent management has been lacking for two years running, characterized by high government borrowing which pushes interest rates upward which increased interest payments considerably,

The Mission Leader then made the following remark :   “In light of substantially higher borrowing by the government and looming risks, it is imperative to reinforce corrective measures and to make bold choices about spending priorities."  One of the "bold choices" that the Fund is finally insisting that the Jammeh regime takes is to submit itself into a Staff Monitored Program (SMP).

Although it is described in Fund Manuals as a "voluntary program", SMP means, in short, that Gambia will be on a short leash if it is to get further Fund assistance.  Missions will be more frequent and each target missed has a penalty associated with it, including withholding of tranches   Liberia was on a SMP and so was Zimbabwe and Sudan.  Gambia has joined a group of countries that had the worst record on economic management at some point.

The regime has once again promised the Fund that it will limit net domestic borrowing to one percent of GDP this year which, the Fund noted, will require vigilance - a very rare commodity in this regime.  The economy is in the mess it's in for lack of vigilance and discipline.  It is a regime that likes to "celebrate" "commemorate" and throwing expensive parties on so frequent a basis in order to divert the attention of the citizenry from the harsh economic realities.

The Fund has informed us that discussions are underway with authorities about entering into a staff monitored program (SMP) "with a view to a future lending arrangement." The party may not be over but the punch bowl has just been pulled from the drunks.  We'll see who'll be the first to notice.

Reforms of public enterprises is also being demanded of the regime.  We all know how the Gambian Ports Authority (GPA), GAMTEL, Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and others have been mismanaged over the years leading to insolvency that is straining the budget.  NAWEC appears to be a prime target for restructuring but, according to the Fund,"similar efforts will be required for a number of other public enterprises that have recently experienced financial distress."

The Fund, in concluding, acknowledged the regime's "bold steps in its budget agreements, its reform agenda for public enterprises, and its rallying of the donor community." To turn interest rates around and reduce pressure on the Dalasi, the budget agreements and all other commitment the regime has made to the Fund will have to be be adhered to and efforts maintained.

It now all boils down to the Staff Monitored Program negotiations.  Will Jammeh buy into the final deal that will be struck because, essentially what it means is a significant reduction of his dictatorial powers he has over the entire Gambian economy.  Only time will tell.






An Open Letter to Mohamed Ibn Chambas

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


Dear Mr. Ibn Chambas,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wish you every success in your mission.

Sincerely yours

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

 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Some thoughts on the current online media fuss


This blog post was first published in 15th April 2004.  Originally, the post was entitled "The economics and politics of the online press" which I changed to its present title before publication with more on the economics and less on the politics.  We think it is appropriate at this point to re-issue it in light of the acrimonious atmosphere in the fight to end dictatorship in The Gambia.

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 The online Gambian media appear to run on two types of business models.  One, maybe two, appear to be operating a free market-based model or 'for profit' and the others operate 'not-for-profit' or 'nonprofit' models or what, in America, is referred to as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)

Whereas not-for-profit and nonprofit models are used interchangeably by ordinary folks like you and me, to the IRS the two models are not synonymous, and therefore are treated differently for tax purposes.  We will not deal with this aspect because it is very complicated even for the tax lawyer.  

What we should be concerning ourselves with, and the question we should be asking is whether "The Struggle" is better served by the "for profit" model or the "not-for-profit" model, given the fact that the former must generate revenue to meet payroll and remain viable, whereas the latter tries to break even or even run as a loss - a loss usually defrayed by voluntary contributions. "For profits" cater to everyone who can afford the goods or services produced, and "nonprofits" serve a limited number of groups targeted for free or subsidized rates.  Take your pick.

As long as online media have staff in their payroll on full time basis (or 'run as a business'), they must operate profitably, and to operate profitably, they must generate traffic and to generate traffic, they must attract listeners.  How do they generate traffic to attract listeners?  Different media have different ways of generating traffic.

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of the above models, and in America, everyone is free to pursue the "American Dream", and the market-based model is the quickest way of attaining the Dream. What I find objectionable, however, is to pretend to be operating a 501(c)(3) when in actual fact something totally different may be happening.  

All Gambian online media must level with their readers and listeners, of which I am one.  Let me repeat, all models are legitimate and everyone is free to price their advertisements, construct other forms of revenue streams, including appearance fees, with the proviso that everything must be above board.  "Lu nekka nyu tekko chi yon." roughly translated "Let it be transparent and legal".  After all, we demand that of the dictator in Banjul at every opportune moment.  Opponents of Yaya Jammeh, including my very self,  must demand the same or higher standards than those demanded of Yaya Jammeh.