Friday, February 27, 2015

Jammeh paid $500,000 compensation to 27 Ghanaian families

Ghana's Foreign Minister. H. Tetteh

The 44 Ghanaians killed by the Gambian security forces in July 2005 is still making news in Ghana, eleven years after one of the more heinous crimes committed by the tyrannical regime of Yaya Jammeh.

Following several years of denying that Ghanaians, who were mistaken for rebels coming to overthrow the Jammeh regime, had been apprehended and killed, a joint UN-ECOWAS team was formed to investigate the gruesome incident.

The fact that their findings exculpated the regime of Yaya Jammeh came as a big surprise. Equally surprising was that the report concluded that those murdered were victims of a scam by a captain Taylor and one Lamin Tunkara ( a Gambian accomplice) who were to transport the victims to Europe by sea.

While absolving Yaya Jammeh of blame for the murders, the reported indicated that rogue members of Jammeh's security forces took part in the crime which led both the Ghana government and relatives of those killed to demand compensation from Gambia. 

As normal practice, the Jammeh regime plaid its cards very close to its chest and, once it was decided that families will be compensated by the regime, Jammeh never revealed the amount of compensation nor who  will be compensated and by how much.  Gambians have been kept in the dark, and so it appears, Ghanaians have also been kept in the dark based on reports from coming from Ghana.

According to ghanaweb.com, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the Ghana Parliament is accusing government of spending monies meant for the families of the victims of the massacre of the 44 Ghanaians in The Gambia. 

In response to the parliamentary query, Ghana's Foreign Minister revealed that of the $500,000 compensation money paid by the regime of Yaya Jammeh, only Chc 250,000 or approx. $ 70,000 remains undisbursed which has been lodged in government accounts.  According to the Foreign Minister, only twenty seven families who could be identified from the investigation were compensated.  What of the remaining families, representing half of all those whose loved ones were murdered?  

Meanwhile, the Ghanaian opposition, families and the public at large continue to ask probing questions about what actually happened that fateful day around Brufut and Ghana Town in The Gambia where the bodies of the murdered victims' bodies were sprewn all over.  

Perhaps it will be through the transparent process made possible by Ghanaian democracy that more light will be shed on one of the most heinous crimes ever committed on Gambian soil.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Zineb Jammeh joins social media after snubbing Gambians for 15 years

The news that Zineb Suma Jammeh, wife of Gambia's dictator, has opened Facebook and Twitter accounts may have came as a surprise to many but not to those who have been keenly following Gambian politics.

When her husband seized power illegally in 1994 from a democratically elected government, he was barely 29 years old and a bachelor who, obviously never managed a household budget much less manage a country.

To help gain the acceptance of Gambians, Jammeh quickly became a Muslim (the Gambia is 90% Muslim) and married a Gambian whom he divorced because Jammeh did not like the idea of her mingling with Gambians.  His Gambian wife immediately became a security risk.

To address this problem, Jammeh married Zineb a Guinean-Moroccan in 1999. The marriage was officially consummated not in Banjul but in Rabat, Morocco, a move considered by many Gambians (not to speak of Gambian women) as contemptuous.  Jammeh wanted a partner that can perform all the functions of a First Lady without having to mingle with the locals.

The First Lady never mingled with Gambians.  She has consciously insulated herself from the problems of the country since 1999.  She has never been seen with Gambians anywhere when she travels abroad.  Traveling is an incessant habit of hers.  She hardly stays more than a week in The Gambia but will spend a couple of months at her Potomac, Maryland $3.5 million mansion.

The Washington Embassy staff are limited to Dulles Airport protocol duties.  Moroccans take charge from there onward until she's ready to travel back.  No Gambian Embassy staff has ever entered the Mansion to the best of our knowledge even though it was bought with our money.

Faced with a mounting international campaign, the regime decided to mount a public relations campaign by first floating a bogus reconciliation or amnesty program for Gambian dissidents abroad which has failed miserably because only two known Gambians took up the offer.

The Zineb Jammeh's social media push is an attempt to resuscitate a regime whose popularity has recently taken a nosedive following an intensive campaign in social media and through streets protests in Washington, Paris and New York.   This is a lady who has shown Gambians contempt by refusing to relate to and associate with anything Gambian and the problems they face daily.

Gambians are being tortured by her husband, bodies of Gambian-Americans and others have been in the Banjul mortuary for over two months.  Her husband has refused to release the bodies to their families for proper burial.  Parents and relatives, including a child of 14 years are currently being detained in undisclosed locations by her husband, and this lady has refused to lift a finger to plead for their release.

Zineb Jammeh despises Gambian culture by refusing to learn a local language or even to simply attempt at learning a local language.  So why would her opening Facebook and Twitter account be anything but a media campaign to stem a tide that threatens to consume a regime that has lost the confidence of Gambians, the international community including the development partners.

I personally have no interest in her social media activities.  Our focus has been and continues to be rid Gambia of her husband - Yaya Jamus Junkung Jammeh.  Yaya and Zineb are cancerous growth in our country that must be excised from the body politic of The Gambia.    

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We shall not relent

Sidi Sanneh 


The eve of August 23rd 2012 when Yaya Jammeh executed nine prisoners marked a significant milestone in the fight against tyranny in The Gambia, one of the the world's most repressive countries.   

The extra-judicial executions brought with it a wave of criticisms as well as the much needed international focus on the repressive nature of the Jammeh regime.  It also pushed many Gambians, previously reluctant to openly join the effort to oppose the corrupt, into the fight to free the country from the clutches of a single dictator.

The second milestone in our fight against the dictatorship occured on 30 December 2014 signalling a new and decisive phase in our efforts to remove a corrupt and repressive regime.  The external push on that day exposes the underbelly of a weak and dying regime.  It sent a shock wave within the security establishment which was designed to counter internal military countermeasures and not external events like the one witnessed last December.

The vulnerability of the regime now exposed beyond doubt is causing Jammeh sleepless nights. It has also caused Jammeh to rid himself of all military and intelligence advisers whose advise were not valued and thus ignored for a very long time.  As we have said elsewhere in social media,  Jammeh is isolated, alone and very afraid. 

Jammeh's military is divided into two factions which we will discuss in subsequent posts.  For now, what is important is that the division is real and permanent, thus the importance to continue the agitation, protests and advocacy in collaboration with our partners in the international community.  

We must, therefore, not relent.  We must continue to apply the pressure on a regime that has lost its way and on the verge of disintegration from within.  The economy is also on our side.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Historical revisionism: Jammeh-style

Yankuba Colley, Mayor of KMC
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” 
― George Orwell
_______________________________

Historical revisionism is the act of deliberate distortion of historical fact and evidence for political, social and cultural purposes.

The old Soviet Union and present day North Korea, an ally of The Gambia, may have perfected the art but the Gambian dictator is attempting at refining it in the most brazen and blatantly inept way that characterizes the dictatorship.

To understand the reason for Jammeh's revisionist activism, you must understand his personality and his Casamance background..  Jammeh has a personality problem eminating from a troubled past that weighs heavily on him - an issue confirmed by his military trainers and colleagues in the military police.

He feels rejected by Gambians because of his origins and his tribal affiliation.  He also has a deep-rooted feeling that because of his humble beginnings and an unaccomplished career both as a student and a military police, as some might put it, Gambians have little respect for him despite being the political leader of the country.  These feelings appear to be deep-rooted based on past public utterances and insinuations.

Admittedly, Jammeh has every right to feel the way he does about Gambians because it is through vote rigging that he managed to ensure his re-election on three separate occasions.  Without stuffing the ballot, Jammeh knows he cannot win a free, fair and transparent election despite his 20 year record in office and his claim that he's brought "infrastructural development" to the country.  For that, he holds Gambians in contempt because of "their ungratefulness" as he once described residents of Banjul when they decided to elect a native Banjulian Mayor of the capital city.

The 50th Anniversary of Gambia's independence provided the occasion for the dictatorship to rewrite Gambia's history. But something happened last 30th December that cemented Jammeh's conviction that Gambians will do anything and everything to dislodge him from a position he's convinced himself to have earned meritoriously.  Because the State House attack primarily was organized from abroad, and the fact that it nearly succeeded causing many deaths on both sides, his vulnerability has made him more paranoid and highly dangerous.  Jammeh is looking for revenge.  As a source in Banjul told me recently, 'this is war'.

The war Jammeh is waging is two-pronged.  He is maiming, jailing, torturing and exiling as many of his real and imagined enemies as his notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) can "process", to borrow a term used by a former NIA agent which suggests an assembly line approach to human brutality.  

On the other flank, Jammeh is engaged in revising Gambian history by embellishing the history of a country he admits he lacks the knowledge of its rich history.  He blames the school curricula for not teaching Gambian history.  He has a point there.  But for someone who has been president for 20 years, Jammeh should have exerted individual effort to read the history of The Gambia he heads - typical Jammeh, he'll blame everyone but himself.

British colonial history has not been spared in Jammeh's revisionism, all 400 years of it leaving only one high school, which perhaps is the reason for Gambia's economic backwardness.  It is also the failure of democracy - a British import - that brought nothing but misery, mayhem and disorder to The Gambian people resulting in further underdevelopment.

The renaming of the Sayerr Jobe Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the biggest urban area in The Gambia, to Yankuba Colley Highway is part of the assault on Gambia's history.  Sayerr Jobe, the founder of Serre Kunda village in the early part of the last century, is a highly revered historical figure in Gambian history.  To exchange his name for the Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, a primary school drop-out who was dismissed from the police force and ended up as watchman at a local bus depot, is a slap in the face of not only the Jobe family of Serre Kunda but to Gambians at large.

It is feared that other major thoroughfares and other landmarks currently baring the names of historical figures are targeted for renaming.  Like Yankuba Colley whose only qualification for being so honored is he's Mayor of KMC with a highly deplorable record, others who will be honored later will not be any more deserving than the primary school drop-out and former watchman.

The revisionism exercise continues under the direction of a deeply distraught and confused leader who admitted to a startling audience that it was only recently that he discovered who Edward Francis Small was - a Gambian trade unionist and politician who many consider to be the Father of Gambia's Independence Movement.
  


 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Gambian dictator threatens to "wipe out" his opponents living abroad.

Yaya Jammeh , Babillimansa
What an unusual way for a leader to commemorate the 50th Independence Anniversary of a country that has come under increasing international scrutiny.

The country is The Gambia and the leader is the idiosyncratic and neurologically imbalanced dictator whose repressive and sinister regime's human right's record earned his country the dubious honor of being referred to as the North Korea of Africa.

The occasion attracted some opponents of the regime who were attracted to an offer of reconciliation with a dictator whose erratic behavior is legendary.  The reconciliation process seemed to have been hatched from the Gambian Embassy in Washington will ill-defined intent that also lacked official endorsement from the dictatorship.

Two Gambians were sufficiently convinced of the need to seek 'pardon' from the Gambian dictator but only one - a refugee from the regime and former army commander - took up the offer of a plane ticket to attend the commemoration of the country's 50th Indepenedence Anniversary.  While there, the guest of the dictator was treated to a humiliating take-down by being accused of being a world-class liar because an earlier book he wrote while in exile which the dictator claimed were full of lies.

The second Gambian, an exilee living in New York did not attend the ceremony but that did not spare him public mention by the Gambian dictator because his opponent insulted his mother while protesting the dictator's presence in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

The recent attack on State House - the seat of power - that resulted in several deaths, coupled with an increasingly successful public protests against the Gambian dictator in New York, Paris and Washington have obviously rattled Jammeh and his regime to the point of increasing belligerence and threats of violence and death through poisoning his political opponents.  While we do not have evidence of the regime's use of poison to deal with its opponents, the accusations have become increasingly frequent, especially in the Senegalese press.

The so-called amnesty or reconciliation that is on offer has been anything but clear and concise for lack of a written or clearly defined terms and conditions.  It was only during the dictator's television interview on government-controlled television that he said "they are free to come back to this country...and those who have not personalized everything I am not going to let them come back.  If they do, I will send them to jail."

Jammeh's rambling interview also revealed that he is prepared to "wipe out" (meaning kill) anyone he considers to be in the country for the purpose of destabilizing a country already on the verge of further instability even without the aid of another incursion similar to the one conducted last December.  

During the interview, he also made an implied threat by suggesting that if his opponents think they are safe living abroad, they better think again.  He then followed it with the question : "How many are gone, anyway" which many in the diaspora take as reference to the numerous Gambians who have died recently, mostly in Dakar,  Senegal, suddenly and, some would say, under mysterious circumstances.

Again, the use of poison by the regime to silence his critics has been cited as the new weapon of choice for opponents living abroad - a section of the Gambian community that has provided the most effective opposition to a regime who is under increasing pressure from abroad and from within the armed forces, especially after the 30th December events that has exposed the underbelly of the regime.  

The You Tube video where these threats are made by the Gambian dictator will be distributed to the appropriate United States authorities for the records in the case of any eventualities.  We encourage those in Europe and Africa, particularly Senegal, to do likewise.

The regime has provided us with sufficient warnings that these are desperate times because of the external pressures currently being applied.  With its back against the wall, the regime poses a clear and present danger not only to Gambians within, but by the regime's own admission, to those of us living abroad.

#JammehMustGo

Yaya Jammeh, Nasurudeen Babilimansa


Gambians are tired of Yaya Jammeh and his regime. They are looking for a new direction and new leadership completely devoid of anything Jammeh. 

They are looking for it in the Opposition in The Gambia and in the Diaspora. It is, therefore, unconscionable to attempt to sell their liberty and freedom at the alter of personal/political convenience and selfishness by prolonging Jammeh's stay even by a day.

Needless to say, all those willing and ready to 'reconcile' and 'engage him constructively' are free to do so as it is their right to associate and express their views. 

It is also the right of all those who are opposed to this evil and corrupt regime to stand up against anyone trying to use a flimsily concocted 'reconciliation' nonsense to advance their individual and private interests. They can negotiate their own individual terms, cut their own individual deals, as some have already done, and leave the rest of us in peace.

It is my considered view that Jammeh will do every Gambian a favor if he resigns today and negotiates his fate with Gambians. Anything short of Jammeh stepping down or be forcibly removed is unacceptable to a majority of Gambians. The next elections should not feature Jammeh as a candidate, period.

Gambians have suffered enough, thus anyone, be they politician or otherwise - in the Gambia or abroad - attempting to engage in shenanigans designed to prolong Jammeh's treacherous regime will be ferociously opposed at every turn. We hope the political parties on the ground are taking heed.


Strategic Plan (2015 -2019) of the Independent Electoral Commission : What's in it?


The Chairman of the IEC recently presented to the Joint Committee of the National Assembly its Strategic Plan 2015 - 2019 during which he assured the Joint Committee Members that the "IEC will evolve into an efficient and effective institution that is adequately staffed and resourced." 

The Chairman also said in connection with the preparation of the Strategic Plan, the touted its "comprehensiveness to enable it address its current challenges." Appropriate mechanisms and structures, the Joint Committee was told, have been incorporated in the Plan but would require resources (both local and foreign) to successful implementation.

But even before we talk about implementing a Strategic Plan by an institution supposedly established to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections, we must ask ourselves who was involved in developing the Strategic Plan in the first instance.  Were opposition parties involved in its preparation?  What of civic society groups?  What of ordinary citizens?  What about the international organizations?  I recall the Chairman telling the Joint Committee that external resources would be needed to conduct future elections.

A Strategic Plan MUST demand the active participation of ALL stakeholders in its preparation.  Otherwise it should be considered null and void.  It is knots and bolts issues like this that political parties should concern themselves and not attempts at trying to appease a dying regime.  

It is, therefore, incumbent on all political parties and members of civic/civil societies and, indeed ordinary Gambians to demand a seat at the table to design the Plan together.  Experience have shown that the IEC cannot and should not be left to its own devices.
  

Friday, February 20, 2015

The € 6 million ferry rehabilitation scandal is worse than you think


We reported on our blog post of 26th August 2013, exactly a year and a half ago, deploring the state of Gambia's ferries which was triggered by the gearbox problem that the "Kanilai" developed while at seas which caused it to drift rudderless to 12 hours with hapless passengers on board.  At the time, we said the blame should not be confined to the incompetent GPA administration that it should be squarely laid at the doorsteps of Yaya Jammeh.

Few months later, precisely in October of 2013, the Government of Yaya Jammeh suddenly announced that The Republic of Taiwan (RoC) has agreed to step in to help address the problem of the ferries.  A month later, the then Taiwan Ambassador to The Gambia, H.E. Samuel Chen handed over 4 (four) MAN engines as well as propulsion and steering systems from Schottel, the German manufacturer of marine propulsion systems.

During the presentation ceremony, the Taiwanese Ambassador said that the total cost of these parts were $1,625,384.80.  Ambassador Chen, however, made a startling revelation that half of the amount had already been advanced to the regime back in December of 2012.  The balance of the funds in the amount of $728,153.92 was handed over by the Ambassador with the 10% of the remaining cost to be paid upon delivery of the engines. These parts were meant for the two Banjul-Barra ferries "Johe" and "Kanilai", the very same ferries we are now being told will cost Gambian taxpayers € 6 million.

What happened to all of the Taiwanese money is unclear because the procurement procedure employed was equally unclear.  Was the regime directly responsible for procuring the engines and the propulsion and steering systems or was Taiwan.  It would appear from the reporting of The Daily Observer, the official mouthpiece of regime, that the Jammeh regime was in control of the procurement process and not Taiwan whose role appeared to have been limited to disbursement of funds.

The story becomes murkier because the diplomatic breakup between Banjul and Taipei occured soon after the check presentation and before the delivery of the engines.  Since 10% retention of the over $1.5 million of the total cost was to have been paid upon final delivery, it is unclear whether Taiwan or Gambia ended up paying.

Of course, the rehabilitation of the current ferries became the second best option of a regime notorious for is corruption and ineptitude after another "ferry deal" went horribly wrong.  The two ferries The "Aljamdu" and the "Kansala" were currently moored at the Banjul port because they are of inappropriate and poor design but not after a big inauguration with Jammeh (Morr Ndaggeh) leading the "celebrations".

It turns out the two mothballed vessels were 27 years old, refurbished with accidents during their seaworthy days, causing structural damages that may still pose serious safety problems.  Not only that, there may be other legal encumbrances, including possible insurances fraud, engulfing those two vessels which may have costed the Gambian taxpayer another € 6,345,000.

These scandals involving the ferry services have the potential of putting the Gambian taxpayers on the hook for over € 12 million, leaving the ferry services dangerous and unsafe at any speed.  The Greek company named Gallia Holdings, a partner in the joint venture company is threatening legal proceedings against the regime of Yaya Jammeh, further complicating an already messy situation. What a shame.

Meanwhile, we have reached out to Schottel of Germany and to our sources around the world for answers.  We will never rest until we get to the bottom of this.  The Taiwanese authorities are also being encouraged to shed light of their role in a dysfunctional ferry services that millions of dollars were spent by Taiwan with little to show for it in terms of improvements to the services.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Banjul Stock Exchange? First things first


Abdoulie "Bax" Touray , the CEO of Sahel Invest has revealed in a Standard newspaper interview that The Gambia will soon establish a Stock Exchange which is fine and dandy provided that there are sufficient multi-national firms already doing business in The Gambia and who have limited access in the international equity market to continue growing their business.

Mr. Touray cites two obvious candidates that fit the above description i.e. Standard Chartered and Trust Bank, the first an expatriate Bank and the second which became a local Bank after the initial Ghanaian majority shareholders were forced by the regime to divest.  Now Social Security is the single biggest shareholder.

He further suggests that these two business entities cannot raise funds locally for lack of an equity market that would have otherwise provided the necessary funds for business expansion.  Instead, they raise funds through the Ghana and London Stock Exchanges in the case of Trust and Standard respectively.

While agreeing with my friend and former colleague that the availability of an equity market will challenge the country's economy to growth and development, the absence of regional-class (not to mention world-class) firms in The Gambia to make it work should be, in our view, the first preoccupation of the regime.  In order to attract more businesses, a conducive environment must be created by government that will attract business.

The problem facing the private sector is essentially two-fold (i) fleeing businesses to Senegal and neighboring countries and (ii) limited access to credit for those that cannot escape the excruciating tax burden and extortionist tendencies displayed by the security forces against businesses. 

To entice the brave ones who stayed to hang on a while longer, and those that fled to return, the regime must demonstrate to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the donor community in general that henceforth it will be a responsible and prudent manager of public resources, something this regime has been unable to do for the last decade. 

It is only through these steps that the private sector will start showing live and growth to attract regional, world-class companies that can make a Stock Market a viable option. Anything short of the above will not attract sufficient and viable firms to make it work. 

The record of some African Stock Exchanges, especially in Rwanda, Swaziland and Mozambique where the general lack of transparent enforcement of property rights which is linked to the judiciary.  We all know the state of the Gambian judiciary which is not only inefficient but lacks the corporate dispute resolution capacity, an essential component of a successful Stock Exchange.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The improbable nation at 50 : Tale of two Gambias

D.K.Jawara, Rev. Fye, S.Sisay and GarbaJahumpa

Gambian school children i n 1965



It was Mr. Ian MacLeod, the Conservative Leader of the House of Commons who, in his opening remarks at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference in 1961, referenced the Gambia as "the accident of history..., too small and too ill-endowed with natural resources to develop economically in isolation."  The American journalist, Berkeley Rice, described this sliver of a land in the belly of Senegal, even at Independence, as "an improbable nation" whose survival as a nation was questioned even after lively debate within the confines of the United Nations, London and some Western capitals about its economic viability.  In short, in the eyes of many Gambia made sense as a colony but an absolute nonsense as an independent nation because of its size, geographic location and, of course, its scarce resource endowment.

David Kwesi Jawara, who later became became Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who led his government's delegation to the Lancaster House Talks, though insisted on and determined to see Gambia's independence, was realistic enough to recognize the limitations of the new nation.  Following the coup d'etat of 1994 that ushered in a group of ill-prepared soldiers for modern leadership that led to the weakening of institutions that were still in the process of being built and strengthened concurrently, the issue of economic ability is once again being mooted in some diplomatic circles because the comparative advantage accrued to a small but relatively efficiently-managed economy has been lost to Senegal.

Sir Dawda Jawara seemed to have always been conscious of the limited capacity of the country's economy which, in my view, greatly influenced his style of leadership in the economic management sphere, and understandably so.  The Gambian economy at Independence, like many colonial economies, can best be described as commercial enclaves of the metropolitan capitals of Western Europe.  These economies were run by the colonial mercantile class to feed the factories of Western Europe.  Apart from its geographical size and lack of natural resources, The Gambia was no different in terms of its role of feeding the factories of Europe with raw material.   Groundnut was, of course, Gambia's mail export, and thus the agrarian nature of its economy.  The heavy reliance on one crop as the only source of foreign exchange meant an economy that was at the mercy of externalities that, by definition, the government has no control over.

Ten years into independence, the monocultural economy was evidently unable to generate sufficient foreign exchange to spur economic development.  Thus in 1975, over 80% of the country's foreign reserves were in the form of grant-in-aid from Britain.  It took the government of the day a decade to realize the need to diversify the economy which led Sir Dawda to admit that "[Unless] we looked beyond grant-in-aid our political independence would be meaningless and we would still continue as a semi-autonomous colony."  Both the economy and the source of development finance were ready for diversification.  Bilateral assistance started coming from Germany and other Western European countries,an the United States.

At the multilateral level, The Gambia looked to the World Bank, the African Development Bank. The Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development was created in 1974 to led the economic planning effort and to coordinate the sectoral development activities.  This period also saw the rationalization of several public sector activities into public enterprise or semi-autonomous parastatal bodies such as GAMTEL, Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, GPA to name a few. With the Economic Recovery Program (ERP), The Gambia was able to diagnose the problem facing the economy, prescribe painful remedies and was determined to see them through, leading to economic prosperity.  The once weak local currency, the Dalasi, dalasi recovered its lost value and began to appreciate steadily until 1994.

The economic gains under Sir Dawda, however modest, were made possible by the peace and stability of a style of governance that guaranteed the rights and freedoms of ordinary Gambians who were free to pursue their dreams as far as it was feasible given individual circumstances.  The economy was open with little or no interference from the Executive, couple with a vibrant democratic environment and rule of law.  Certainly, President Jawara was neither an abuser of human rights of Gambians nor was he an active participant in the market as a businessman like Yaya Jammeh.

The peace and stability that the Jawara regime provided was briefly threatened in 1981 which was quickly restored by Senegal only for a group of ill-prepared low-ranking members of the security forces seized power unconstitutionally.  The putschists, led by Yaya Jammeh in July 1994, brought with them a culture of violence never experienced before as a means of retaining power. They also brought with them a level of corruption never seen in the previous 30 years under Sir Dawda.

The liberal and reasonably well-managed economy the soldiers inherited came under immediate threat because their low level of education and lack of relevant experience in governance.  Unlike the Founding Father of The Gambia, non of these soldiers who formed the Military Council that ran the affairs of state, at the time of seizing power, were not married and thus never managed a household budget.  The oldest of the group was 29 years old which qualified him to be the leader.  Suddenly, they found themselves managing an entire national economy.

The civil service that took a painstaking 30 years to build to the level to be regarded as one of the best and most efficient in Africa was one of the first victims of the institutions because of the rules and procedures that inhibits the actions of a hungry group of soldiers who came to loot the public treasury.  The Tender Board was dissolved and government procurement centralized at State House. Experienced civil servants were accused of corruption, detained illegally and eventually dismissed from the service.  They were replaced eventually by semi-literal personnel with no idea of how a government operates.  The most profitable and highly efficient public enterprises fell into the hands of supporters and relatives of the new rulers of the junta.

Economic mismanagement is the standard norm under the Jammeh regime because qualification and experience matters very little.  What qualifies one is your relationship with Yaya Jammeh and your allegiance to his ruling party.  Nothing else matters to a ruler who demands absolute submission to his dictatorial desires.  The cumulative effect of twenty years of economic mismanagement characterized by deceptive reporting of economic data and the concealment of financial data, resulted in an IMF Staff Monitoring Program that is currently being negotiated before a quick disbursing bail-out loan is approved.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh did not only bring the Gambian economy to its knees, it brought Gambians to their knees by being routinely tortured, murdered, maimed, extra-judicially executed and exiled.  Jammeh and his minions have overseen the transformation of a once democratic and well-managed economy under Sir Dawda Jawara to the present pariah status Gambia has become within the Community of Nations.  The improbable nation became a possible nation under Jawara to the doubtful category under the current dictatorship.  Where The Gambia goes from her is anyone's guess.  Thanks to a man named Yaya Jamus Junkung Jammeh.        









Monday, February 16, 2015

Businesses are being taxed to death

The World Bank Group flagship publication 'Doing Business' is out and The Gambia is again ranked at the lowest end of the table, at Number 138 out of 186 countries.

Corporate taxes, like domestic/personal income tax, are going through the roof.  The World Bank Report ranked The Gambian 180 out of 186 in corporate taxes which can only drive business out and into the hands of its neighbors in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

Getting credit in the Gambia for business expansion has become near impossibility because The Government is competing with the private sector for the dwindling pool of financial resources in the banks.

The regime continue to pile on domestic debt as it successfully crowds out the private sector, confirmed by the "Doing Business" Report.  The Gambia is tanked 160 out of 186 countries in getting credit for business expansion continues, an improvement from last when it was ranked 180, but still unacceptably high for businesses to access credit.

To start a business in The Gambia is getting more and more difficult, according to the Doing Business Report, 159 out of 186.  Staying in business is as difficult as starting one because if you are denied access to credit because the government is competing with the private sector for bank resources, electricity supply is intermittent as it is expensive.  Gambia is ranked 138 for getting electricity out of 186 countries.

The private sector as the engine of growth has become an empty claim by a regime that is increasingly becoming isolated from reality and losing its way concurrently.  Gambia needs new leadership and new direction. - The New Gambia.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cherno Njie granted bail

Cherno Njie
Mr. Cherno Njie, the Gambian-American Texas businessman accused of being the financier and mastermind of the 30th December 2014 events that was designed to remove the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh has been granted bail by a Minneapolis court judge.

The bail conditions granted to Mr. Njie are similar to those accorded to earlier defendants in the same case.  The difference in his case is, unlike Papa Faal and Alhagie Barrow, he will be able to run his business using his cell phone, the same facility denied to the others.

Regarding the use of the internet too, the court has decided that while Mr. Njie cannot use the internet directly, he can use a third party.  He can, therefore, hire someone who can use the internet as directed by Mr. Njie.

These concessions i.e use of his personal cell phone and third-party use of the internet are necessary because of the businessman Mr. Njie is who is running a multi-million dollar business in the State o Texas.

Since he has pleaded not guilty, it is up to the prosecution to prove Mr. Njie's guilt, and as far as both the judge and the defense attorney representing Mr. Njie are concerned, the government has yet to provide evidence.  All they have are unproven allegations.

It is our understanding that Mr. Njie, his wife and the rest of his family will return to their home State of Texas tomorrow where he will reside in a halfway house for an unspecified period of time prior to his proper home with his family and friends.

The latest news is the prosecution plans to appeal the decision and they have until noon tomorrow to do so but all indications are that the appeal request will be denied.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tortured Gambian accused of being gay appears to need urgent medical attention

Alieu Sarr, a tortured victim
Morr Sowe
One of the three young Gambians arrested last year and accused of being gay were brought before High Court judge Abi in the Gambian capital.

The three are Alieu Sarr, Momar Sowe and Momodou Lamin Bittaye, each facing charges of "engaging in homosexual acts in the country and diverse places."

Alieu Sarr who was reported to have been tortured and then removed from the torture chamber and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Banjul with wounds consistent with someone who's been suffering from internal bleeding, is among the three brought before a judge,

A source who saw Alieu Sarr being taken court said that he "looked weak and appeared to be walking with great difficulty."The source further opined that he thinks "Alieu needs urgent medical attention or else risks dying like many torture victims before him."  Yhe same source was unable to say anything definitive about the state of the others except to say they were "not looking good."

Meanwhile, the three face charges on alleged "unnatural acts" acts committed as far back as 2002 well before the "aggravated homosexuality law became law in the Gambia in October 2014 which led Jeffery Smith of the Washington-based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to pose the question of which law will the three accused be charged.

Speaking on FatuRadio which is an online radio station run by Fatou Camara, an Atlanta-based activist,  Mr. Smith suggested that the charges appeared to have been made up and promised that the Center will continue to monitor developments.in The Gambia.

While these three were being brought before a a judge, the question still remains about the whereabouts of the numerous other Gambian youth who were arrested in a massive round up last year.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jammeh is the single biggest drain on the budget

Gambian dictator
The APRC Majority Leader in the National Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, was out again defending his boss for his incessant and insatiable taste for drinking from the public trough at the expense of Gambian taxpayers.

Last year, six weeks before the end of the financial year, Jammeh's Finance Minister submitted a Supplementary Appropriations Bill asking for additional D 1.12 billion. The huge sum was to be financed locally because donors have stopped budget support programs after their failure to convince the regime to act prudently in their spending.

Almost 50% of the amount went to the Office of The President, a non-executing agency while Education received nothing and Agriculture received pittance - two key and important ministries that is touted by Jammeh as his highest priorities.

With external donor support quickly drying up, the Gambian taxpayer has become Jammeh's primary source of financing arms for his personal security and also to satisfy the urges of his shopaholic wife's trips to Washington, Rabat and Paris.  The budget has become the new instrument through which bogus claims are funneled in the form of supplementary appropriations.

In 2013, the Supplementary Appropriations Bill was to the tune of D 300 million all funded locally. It was the fourth such appropriations in four years that the National Assembly approved with most of it going to the Office of The President.

In the same year, the Jammeh regime returned to the National Assembly with the claim that the Finance Ministry under-budgeted in Fiscal 2012 and proceeded to ask for the approval of another Supplementary Appropriations of close to D 500,000,000 because of what the then Finance Minister called "urgent spending pressures."

In the Finance Ministry parlance it means Yaya Jammeh pressing us for money to finance his personal projects and his own use.   Since he could not say that, the Minister urged his colleagues to "stop unnecessary spending." In 2011, the National Assembly approved Supplementary Appropriations Bill amounting to D 219,800,000 which represented twice the amount approved in 2010.

Fabakary Tombong Jatta was a member of the National Assembly throughout the period that we are citing here and he led the fight to approve every request that came from the Office of The President via the Finance Ministry.  Fabakary has been a key player in the destruction of the Gambian economy by piloting these irresponsible and highly dubious bills through the National Assembly and for understandable reason.

The ultimate power rest with Yaya Jammeh because all he has to do is expel any Assembly Member from the ruling party he controls and he or she ceases  to become a Member of Parliament.  Jammeh has the power to throw out any Member of the National Assembly.  Constituents once they elect their representatives, they do not have the corresponding power to retain them in the Assembly.  That power rests with the Gambian dictator.  That is why Famabary Tombong is not ashamed to say publicly that "This president is the most important person in this country.  Every butut spent by the president's office is justifiable."

     

We apologize to our readers

Sidi M. Sanneh 
Last week, a brief interruption occured in our set-up here at sidisanneh.blogspot.com which led to de-linking the blog from our Facebook page which, in turn, denied many of our readers in Africa access to the blog who can only access it through Facebook.  We obviously did not think the decision through as we should have.  Our apologies.

Of course, when the decision was being taken, we had no clue that we were denying huge numbers of our esteemed and discerning readers - the Gambian youths - access to what has become the flagship of our operations.  We also heard from our lecturers, students and field officers in far-flung areas of the world.  To all we say "we hear you"

It was not until our announcement was posted and immediate reaction started pouring did we realize our error resulting from not only from our ignorance of the technology but also our failure to realize that internet access in other parts of the world is not anywhere near what is the norm in these parts. For that, we apologize to our readers.  We will continue to link the blog to our Facebook page.  My comments on the page will be limited to the mundane.  

We are glad that the interruption was short-lived the moment we realize our mistake.  Thanks to the swift reaction and feed-back we received from you.  Without dwelling too much on the reasons, we'd like to say that linking the blog to our Facebook page has its advantages but it also has its drawbacks.  But it our view that the benefits outweighs the costs and thus we intend to maintain the link but with minor modifications and some calibrations, including ridding our Facebook "Friends" list of some pseudonyms and fake names which will be an ongoing process.  Not all those who use pseudonyms are ill-intentioned or have ulterior motives but they have a built-in advantage of concealing their real identity which makes them less inhibited to lash out with reckless abandon - to borrow a favorite American sports parlance.

In as much as we'd like to have everyone as "friends" and to "like" our page, we'd also like to maintain a degree of civility and decorum that will provide the necessary environment to discuss matters of great concern to ordinary Gambians like whether the regime in Banjul has the money to buy the groundnut crop from desperately poor farmers.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to someone who goes by a pseudonym or fake identity is probably up to no good and likely to cause mischief.  We cannot eliminate the problem but we can, and will, try to minimize it by taking such characters off our list of "Friends".

Again, our primary aim and objective is to educate the Gambian population and he rest of the world about the current state of affairs in our country - The Gambia.  We will also fight misogynist tendencies creeping into the discuss.  Women have an equal or a higher role to play, even in our tradition societies at home than they are being accorded, despite the condescending statements thrown in after being called names.  Everything else is secondary for us here at sidisanneh.blogspot.com.

Thank you, and keep reading with our apologies, once more.  A household item here:  We will be observing our 2,000,000th views on Google+ in a few days, and it is all because of you - our esteemed and discerning readers. So, please celebrate with us.     

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bakary Papa Gassama: Calm and competence in a sea of confusion and ineptitude

Bakary Papa Gassama
The selection of the Gambian referee, Bakary Papa Gassama, to officiate the finals between Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire of the Africa Cup of Nations is a matter of national pride for the smallest country on the African continent.

For The Gambia that has never competed at this level, to have one of its own taking charge of a match of such importance and consequence can only be seen as an individual achievement of monumental proportion.

Refereeing in general, but especially in Africa, requires more than skill and stamina.  It requires discipline and personal integrity that this young 36-year old Gambian seem to have in abundance.  For those who follow African football, it is not uncommon to see bribery accusations leveled against referees, justly and unjustly;  not in matches officiated by Papa Gassama.

Frequent and highly questionable calls usually signals a midnight visitation to the referee's hotel-room, prior to the big game, from officials of the home team with a stuffed envelop.  Not a single match that Papa has officiated at this level, on any other level that we are aware of,  has been either poorly officiated or accusation of bribery leveled.

The Gambia should, therefore, be extremely proud that Papa, as he's affectionately called, has never been accused of any of these unsavory character traits that has plagued The Game at the continental level.

With all the nonsense going on in The Gambia, Papa Gassama, represents calm, competence and integrity in a sea of confusion, ineptitude and laziness.  He is indeed the World Cup, world-class GIFA-certified referee he is, achieved through individual hard work, discipline and high degree of integrity.

Gambia needs more Papa Gassamas. The victory belongs to you and to no Gambian politician. Thank you for making us proud and keeping Gambia in the headlines for all the right reasons.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

The University of The Gambia in a mess

The University of The Gambia is in a mess, according to our sources in Banjul.  Professor Muhammadou O. Kah, Vice Chancellor of the University has not been seen since 30th December 2014.

Apart from the apparent leadership vacuum created by Professor Kah's unexplained absence, the School of Journalism has not been operational because of lack of lecturers which is not surprising, given the nature of regime of Yaya Jammeh that provides little or no room for academic freedom.  Lecturers are not allowed, and neither are students encouraged, to think freely.

We will continue to inquire about the whereabouts of Professor M.O.Kah.  We hope he's safe.

Supreme Islamic Council a threat to national cohesion

Yankuba Colley
SIC S-G Touray with piles of money





The deliberate injection of religion into the body politic of what is a secular Gambia has reared its ugly head, once more, prompting reaction from Mr. Ousainou Darboe, leader of the opposition party, the United Democratic Party, UDP.

The Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) issued a statement accusing the Ahmadiyya Muslin Jama'at  of non-Muslim - an accusation flatly denied and labelled as "false and unfounded" filled with historical misrepresentations.

What prompted the SIC to go on the attack again against a community that has been an integral part of the Gambian community, and has lived and peacefully coexisted with other faiths for decades, is unclear.  What is clear, however, is that the SIC is a branch of the Jammeh regime, even if it is not officially proclaimed.

But the SIC receives government subvention, including salaries for the Secretary General and staff. What other prove is needed when the head of SIC is appointed by Yaya Jammeh, A radio station dedicated specifically for SIC propaganda has been built as government expense, located on MDI Road next to the Ministry of Information a complex fast becoming known as "religion alley with a couple of strict fundamentalist madrassas" according our a source in Banjul.

Government also provides them with offices, official vehicles and fuel.  It, therefore, begs the question for any politician to seek clarification as to whether the SIC's statement was officially sanctioned.  The SIC does not issue a statement that is broadcast in GRTS and published in the Daily Observer without the blessing of Yaya Jammeh.

Therefore, Yankuba Colley's attempt at distinguishing the government from the SIC is to conceal the fact that the SIC is the vehicle through which the regime channels its religious propaganda using intimidation tactics.   For Mr. Colley to say that SIC "is a religious body and theirs (meaning the APRC) is a political party" is unconvincing.

Revealing, however, in his defense of the SIC is that its declaration was not an "executive order", confirming the broad extent of Jammeh's absolute power over Gambians - that Gambia is governed by executive order.

Every statement emanating from the SIC is regime-sanctioned which, by definition, is the view of the Gambian dictator.  Gambians, including the Opposition, must be steadfast in guarding against attempts by the Jammeh at de-secularizing the State.

U.N. Under Secretary-General Feltman's mission to Banjul postponed

UN Under-Secretary-General Feltman
According to The Point newspaper, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs's mission to The Gambia has been postponed.  The report is based on a news release from the UNDP office at Cape Point.  The Mission was to have taken place from 4th - 5th February.

On the eve of his planned visit to Banjul, we wrote an open letter urging the U.N. official to bring certain issues of concern to ordinary Gambian citizens who have become voiceless under the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The reason for the postponement was not addressed in the UNDP press release, according to The Point.  The UNDP Banjul office website did not post its own press release announcing the postponement.

The United Nations Political Affairs Department's website, while also silent on the postponement did report that "at the request of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Under-Secretary-General Mr. Jeffery Feltman visited Burkina Faso with Special Representative of the SG, Mohamed Ibn Chambas where they met with the transitional authorities and representatives of political parties.

Meanwhile, we will continue to try to reach the offices of Mr. Feltman to get information on the reasons for the postponement and how soon this important mission will be rescheduled.  You will recall that the U.N Rapporteur Mission that was to have taken place in was abruptly postponed until it was scheduled at a later date but not before great pressure was applied before Jammeh relented.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

$ 30 million on GGC is a waste of public funds

This blog post was first published published on April 13th 2014 under the title "Offer GGC for D1" i.e the Gambia Groundnut Corporation.

The reasons we advanced for liquidating GGC are as valid today as they were a year ago, and more urgent because the regime's plan to contract s $ 30 million Islamic Development Bank loan.

The loan, according to the Director of GAMWORKS, designated as the Implementing Agency, made some alarming and disturbing revelations to the Joint National Assembly Committee.

He told the parliamentarians that the project has already been delayed by one year due to the inability of the regime to fulfill the loan conditions and also "problematic procurement modes" thus putting additional problems to an already complex project.  These are red flags that should have been enough signal for any responsible government to stop and review the entire project to determine whether it is prudent to proceed.

It appears that this project will fail in achieving its main objective because of the rapidly changing economic fortunes since the loan was approved by the IDB Board in July of 2012. It took the regime a whole year, to April 2013 before the loan was signed.  The project is into its 3rd year with nothing to show, in terms of project implementation while economic and public finance conditions are rapidly deteriorating, necessitating a bail out from the International Monetary Fund.

We hope this project will be an item that will feature in the negotiations with the IMF, especially when GAMWORKS has attributed some of the delay in project implementation to the inability of the regime to provide the counterpart funds in a timely fashion, as required under the loan agreement, because of the precarious financial position of the regime.

The $30 million loan is coming at a time when groundnut production is at its lowest levels, and GGC's purchases slowly diminishing correspondingly.  GGC should be liquidated (taken it off the government books) and handed over to a private concern to manage which would be at great savings to the public treasury.

                                                                    ***********

Offer GGC to ALIMENTA for D1

The seizure of the ALIMENTA-owned and operated Denton Bridge and Kaur milling facilities, together with their other assets in 1999 by Yaya Jammeh was the start of the rapid decline of the groundnut sub-sector; a decline that continues to date.

To reverse the trend, the regime must, first and foremost, admit that the current marketing arrangements have failed under the apex organization, Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC).  It has become painfully obvious that the synergy between production, extension, research and marketing was neither appreciated nor understood by the "soldiers with a difference" even though they all claimed to be of rural backgrounds.  Ironically, their first major act in this sector, after seizing power, was to dissolve the farmer-own Cooperative Movement, followed by the seizure of the privately-owned ALIMENTA properties.

Over time, public investment in agricultural extension and research slowed under their watch, leaving the National Agricultural Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture strapped for basic financial resources to carry out their basic mandates to the farming community; to provide support and extension services.  Production subsequently declined because of poor input distribution system and support.  Seed quality also deteriorated correspondingly.  Th marketing of the premier foreign exchange earner remained a major stumbling block even in bumper harvest years.  GGC is, and has been a bankrupt business enterprise since it was formed.  It was rescued from itself on two occasions from total liquidation, thanks to Gambian taxpayer's bail-out.  It lacked resources, both financial and managerial know-how, to survive as a viable business.

The genesis of the GGC will help explain why the GGC must be liquidated. The defunct Gambia Divestiture Agency failed primarily as a result of the regime's refusal to allow it the operational independence necessary to successfully divest the ALIMENTA facilities and similar government assets.  Many saw the failure of the GDA as a self-induced outcome. The regime simply did not want a transparent method of disposal of government assets which led it to constantly interfere in and reverse the decisions of the GDA.   It was this strong desire to maintain control and influence over the groundnut sub-sector for the economy that led, eventually, to the creation of Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC).  The interests of farmers played little part in its creation, in direct contrast to the colonial-era Gambia Oilseeds Marketing Board (GOMB) or its successor the Gambia Produce Marketing Board (GOMB).

The failure of this year's groundnut production and marketing is directly attributable to Jammeh's interference in the market, just as we saw last June when the regime interfered with the foreign exchange market that we have yet to recover from.  One the even of the start of the groundnut buying season, Yaya Jammeh fired the Agribusiness Services and Producers Association (ASPA) and walked away from the terms of the MOU between government and ASPA, effectively banning private buyers from participating in the buying of groundnuts.

He also gave monopoly power to GGC, a bankrupt entity.  The result of which we are beginning to see emerge from the rubble of the 2013/14 trade season.  When I ask a North Bank resident this morning about this year's trade season, he responded thus "Uncle, there is no trade season.  This is a failure."  When I responded my suggesting that perhaps if private buyers were allowed, as they were in the second half of  the 2012/13 season, things would have been better.  His response was "that's the issue" which led me to my Facebook commentary and this blog.  Late year GGC bought 30,000 tons.  This year, they will be lucky to match the figure, leaving the farmers poorer than they found them last years.

The recovery of the agriculture sector will not take place until (i) government interference in sub-sector stops (ii) GGC is liquidated in one form or another and (iii) agricultural research becomes a priority again (iv) a robust extension service is reintroduced (v) top-down  re-organization of the technical departments under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture and Allied Ministries.

Government interference in the sector will remain as long as Jammeh remains on power.  So it is an issue we will grapple with for sometime to come.  But the issue of what to do with GGC should be in the uttermost minds of any successor government.  It is not premature to start thinking about what to do with it and how to effect a transition that will cause minimal disruption to the ground-nut sub-sector.  Returning the GGC in private hands is a necessary prerequisite to a return to normalcy in the sub-sector.

Of course, there are various forms of privatization but given the history of the evolutionary transformation that led to the GGC, it would be worthwhile to consider offering ALIMENTA its former assets for the price of D1 (one dalasi) with the rest of the terms to be negotiated on a long-term basis.  The Gambia needs the guaranteed markets that an association with a world class company like ALIMENTA can bring to the table. It was a grave mistake committed by a bunch of power-hungry and corrupt individuals that has costed the Gambia US$11 million in compensation to the company, and it has limited our access to a market that we once had access to through ALIMENTA.  The company will not entertain any proposals from the Jammeh regime for obvious reasons, but a successor government may stand a better chance to, at least, being listened to.

Offering GGC for one dalasi is, at least, one option among many, that deserves serious consideration.   The present arrangement under Jammeh is untenable and must be changed to respond adequately to the needs of the farming communities across rural Gambia.  



  

Robert F. Kennedy Center calls for the investigation of Jammeh's $3.5 million Potomac Mansion among other stringent measures

RFKCenter's Jeffery Smith
Yaya Jammeh's $3.5 million mansion










In its first major human rights report on The Gambia, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights released a well-documented and comprehensive account of the human rights condition in the Gambia, covering Yaya Jammeh's 20-year tyrannical rule.

In cataloging the major human rights abuses dating back to July 22nd 1994 when Jammeh seized power unconstitutionally from a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the RFKCenter Report put emphasis on the most recent developments, January - February 2015 -  that covers the events of the 30 December 2014 that culminated in the State House attack distinguishing itself from major international human rights groups who have yet to report on the events.

The report highlights the predicament faced by ordinary Gambian citizens, especially relatives of those accused of the State House attacks "being detained without charge and have been held incommunicado, some of them nearly for a month."  The Report also stated that "an estimated 16 suspected 'homosexuals' arrested, including a 16-year old boy who was later released..." Many are still being held incommunicado since last October.

Roads blocks have mushroomed in the Greater Banjul area since the attacks on the State House with motorists and public transport passengers being forced to surrender their cell phones and personal belongings to authorities.

The case of Mr. Alieu Sarr, the suspected gay who was tortured and dumped at a Banjul hospital, has been cited by the Report, a subject we covered last week.

The RFKCenter Report further distinguishes itself from many reports of its kind by the recommendations it is making to the United States Government as well as to the international community that includes an immediate investigation into President Jammeh, his immediate family members and senior officials in his government for misuse of public funds.

Among the available options, according to the Report "the U.S. government should use the Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Initiative to combat foreign official corruption and to recover public funds for their intended and proper use."  In this regard, the Report suggests that the U.S. government should investigate the $3.5 million mansion owned by Jammeh in Potomac, Maryland.

The RFKCenter for Justice and Human Rights Report also recommends restrict travel and ban individuals from obtaining visas to travel to the United States who are known to be engaged in corrupt practices and human right abuses.

The U.S. government is also being urged to restrict "any and all programs that solely benefit the Government of The Gambia, particularly military assistance.  See the complete list of affected military programs in the attached press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights here.

The RFKCenter is also making some specific recommendations to the African Union, specifically to the African Commission of Human and People's Rights (ACHPR), should request a site visit to The Gambia and access to Mile II prisons' security wing and to present its findings to the African Union.

The ACHPR should immediately and publicly denounce the current wave of human rights abuses taking place in the Gambia, including the incommunicado detention and torture of LGBT people, family members of those critical of the government, and human rights defenders.

The Robert F. Kennedey Center for Justice and Human Rights is finally urging the United Nations, especially the U.N. Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon to step up to the plate and issue a public statement denouncing the deplorable, and increasingly deteriorating condition of the human rights situation in Yaya Jammeh's Gambia.  The Secretary-General should demand that human rights violations immediately cease, the Report recommends.

As stated earlier, this being the first full Report of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights on the situation in The Gambia, it is detailed in both the abuses committed by the Jammeh regime as it is precise and comprehensive in its recommendations to the United States Government, the African Union and the United Nations that leaves little to the imagination.

We hope all parties will take heed and start addressing the grave problems brought about by the regime in Banjul that is corrupt, inept and violent.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Alhagie Barrow and Papa Fall granted bail, "Jammeh worse than Idi Amin" says the defense lawyer

Alhagie Barrow and Papa Faal, two of the three Gambian-Americans who were among those accused of being part of the team who attacked State House in Banjul have been granted bail in a Minnesota courthouse.

The duo will remain in detention until a half-way house is ready for them before they are transferred there.

While on bail, the two will not have access to cell phone and computers because, according to the magistrate all of their planning and execution of their attack on State House have been conducted using these devises.

Alhagie Barrow and Papa Faal will remain in their respective half-way houses for an unspecified time before the court will determine if they can return to their homes which will be based on good behavior.  They have been granted visitation rights while in half-way house.

Many Gambians have been in attendance in the court when the defense lawyer of Alhagie Barrow described Yaya Jammeh as the "worse than Idi Amin" who said that the Gambian dictator has not exploited the oil he claimed to have been discovered in The Gambia.

For the prosecution lawyer, he was explicit to say he was in court to represent the United States Government and not any foreign country.  It is believed that the prosecution was obliged to reiterate the point to counter the impression given to Gambians by the regime of Yaya Jammeh that he was the one who asked the America government to arrest and prosecute the trio.  The fate of the third accused, Cherno Njie, who is accused of financing the entire operation is yet to be determined.

In the bail hearing of Papa Faal, the judge raised concern about the whereabouts of his Gambian passport out of concern for his safety rather than anything else.  The judge is concern that the deplorable human rights abuses going on in the Gambia that drove these Gambian-Americans that still persist may tempt them to try to return to Gambia to finish the job.

Both the judge and the defense lawyer do not lose sight of the fact that Alhagie Barrow's parents have been arrested by the regime of Yaya Jammeh and their safety is paramount in their minds. Americans, including the judge and lawyers, cannot understand why parents, friends and other relatives are being arrested simply because they are related to the accused.

Alhagie Barrow and Papa Faal were in court today but so was Yaya Jammeh and his regime, and as the judicial process unfolds, so will be the evils of the regime will be exposed.

The State-controlled radio and television station, GRTS, that announced the arrest and initial denial of the bail, it has ignored reporting on today's development of the granting of bail to the two Gambian-American which is consistent with the standard operating procedure of the regime : manipulation of the news to suit its agenda.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

GAMBIA: An Open Letter to UN Under-Secretary-General Feltman

UN Under-Secretary-General Feltman
Mr. Jeffrey Feltman
U.N. Under-Secretary-General
Department of Political Affairs
New York, New York


Dear Mr. Feltman,

As you prepare to visit The Gambia, following the January 14th 2015 mission of Mohamed Ibn Chambas, to meet with the Gambian president, it is important to outline the concerns of ordinary Gambians who have been locked out of the political process by the dictatorship.  Not even the opposition parties have a hand or say in making it possible for their views to be heard.  The Mohamed Ibn Chambas's mission failed to provide the platform for the Opposition.  We hope yours will.

As a private citizen and an advocate for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in my dear country, I hope you will find it appropriate, and within your Term of Reference, to address, during your meeting with President Jammeh, the following areas :

1.  The need for the Gambia Government to cooperate with foreign institutions so that the events of 30th December can be thoroughly and independently investigated

2.  The bodies of the slain suspects are handed over to their families after an Inquest has been conducted

3. The Government publish on Gazette the names of those who are currently detained and their detention should be thoroughly reviewed.

4.  Suspects of the Coup plot should be arraigned before the Court of Law as soon as possible - within the next 7 days

5.  Government should provide a comprehensive list of all those who have been detained without being brought before a Court of Law

6.  The Government should conduct a credible investigation into the death of Deyda Hydara and other cases leading to the loss of lives

7.  The Government should start facilitating talks with the Opposition in the hope of introducing a platform for a Free and Fair elections in 2016, barring which the Opposition will not participate.

On behalf of the citizens of The Gambia who have suffered enough in the hands of a dictatorship that continues to suffer from human right abuses and mismanagement of a once thriving economy, I wish you a successful Mission.

Sincerely yours


Sidi Sanneh
Former Senior Civil Servant
Former Foerign Minister and Ambassador to Senegal
Former Executive Director, AfDB


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gambia's current debt crisis is self-inflicted

Will the conservative Economist magazine's piece entitled "Not contagious" about Gambia's mismanaged economy be the final act that will bring the cabinet ministers, civil servants and the favored businessmen to the realization that they are as much part of the problem as Yaya Jammeh?

How much longer and how much damage will be allowed to be inflicted on the economy by a highly corrupt system, led by Jammeh and a handful of unsavory businessmen in name only.

In this week's Economist, the current Gambian debt crisis was in the spotlight as being the result of mismanagement of public resources - an argument we've been making, three years running.

It is true that the Ebola epidemic that ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014 did not reach Gambian shores but it has impacted its tourism in a devastating manner, causing a 60% fall in a sector that contributes 30% to GDP.   It is equally true that Jammeh has been financing white elephants, driven more by impressing the voters than helping build a viable economy, by borrowing heavily and expensively.

The debts are not only rising exponentially, "they are of unusually short maturity" according to The Economist, and thus they become expensive to service.  In 2013, 22% of revenue collected by the regime went into service the debts.  In 2014, the figure jumped to 33%.  20% is considered the threshold of unsustainability.  Why it took the IMF over three years of irresponsible spending before deciding to finally put The Gambia on a short leash. with a Staff Monitored Program which, we are told, is still being negotiated.

The Ex-Im Bank of India has extended five Lines of Credit since 2004 totaling about $ 80 million at rates higher with shorter credit and moratorium period than the concessionary terms typically extended to highly indebted (HIPIC) countries like The Gambia from the World Bank and regional development banks.  Faced with stricter requirements like feasibility studies and other pre-investment requirements of Gambia's traditional partners, the regime find attractive non-traditional sources.

For example, the National Assembly Building, built on marshy ground without proper and adequate site survey and related technical studies, is estimated to have cost Gambian taxpayers $ 27 million. For a non-revenue generating project, the burden on the public treasury is going to add to Gambia's already heavy debt burden.  It appears the chickens have finally come home to roost.