Thursday, March 31, 2016

Senegal's position on border closure remains unchanged; it will remain firmly shut

Sidi Sanneh 
Reports that a Gambian delegation led by the Foreign Minister Neneh Macdoull-Gaye is in Dakar as guess of the Senegalese government to discuss the border closure has proven to be false.

The story appears to have been planted by Jammeh operatives to gauge the reaction of the Senegalese - whether they are in the mood to negotiate.

The response was swift and emphatic.  Senegal's position on the border closure has not changed and, by all indication, will not change anytime soon.

There is a Gambian delegation at the King Fahd but members are are there on a different mission, according to our sources.
Members of this particular delegation may have floated the idea of wanting to meet with the Senegalese authorities to discuss the problem of the border closure which has caused havoc on the Gambian economy and to the general population.

Yaya Jammeh's decision to unilaterally increase the Trans-Gambia highway tariff by 1,000% a little over five weeks ago, without the courtesy of notifying Senegal, has been the cause of the retaliatory measure.

Senegalese frustrations have been building over time, as tariff increases without notice became more frequent - a muscle-flexing tactic that the Senegalese would like to see stopped because of the disruption to commerce it causes, and the inconvenience to the travelling public it poses.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jammeh's cash "donations" are obscene gestures.

Christians receiving D 2.3 million from VP, Njie-Saidy
Why would the Christian community accept such vulgarity in the midst of Gambia's worst economic crisis?

The D 2.3 million cash "donation by Jammeh as Easter gift" (equivalent to $ 46,000 that puts "smiles on the faces of the Christian community" as described by the regime's official mouthpiece, The Daily Observer.  It may have put a smile in some faces but, to many, the physical exhibit of raw cash during the presentation ceremony is an egregious display of bad taste.

The Gambia has fallen on hard times as a result of Jammeh's bad economic policies and a high level of corruption never experienced in over half a century of post-Independence history of the country.

Under Jammeh, the level of poverty has increased with rural poverty reaching inhumane levels.  As we speak, there are certain portions of the country, particularly the CRR, where Gambian children are dying of hunger despite the regime's claim that food security is a priority.  Its agriculture policies have failed disastrously in spite of claims of success in the regime's countless Visions.

Projects and government programs are starved of financial resources because of misappropriations and downright theft by a kleptocratic regime that the public treasury is indistinguishable from Jammeh's pocket.  It follows that all the physical cash on display in from of cameras and plastered across the official news outlets are resources belonging to the Gambian people.

It is, therefore, an obscene gesture to be seen making public display of stash of cash, using members of the Christian community as backdrop, for political propaganda purposes.  It is also uncivilized and uncouth.

It is ironic that Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy and Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye who offered their full-throated support of Jammeh's unilateral decision to change the status of The Gambia from a secular to an Islamic State, are the very same persons now saying that Jammeh's declaration is meaningless, implying that it should be ignored.

And they used the occasion to make the announcement which suggests appeasement of a community that has been threatened by the idea of an Islamic State after living for years peacefully and side-by-side with the Muslim community.  The Christian community, like the rest of ordinary Gambians, deserve better treatment from a regime that continues to treat its citizens with contempt.

The respect the Christian community has earned over the years by resisting the temptation of being used as pawns in our fight against an unjust, incompetent and corrupt regime is on the verge of dissipating because of the community's flirtation with the dictatorship.  Gambians are suffering at the hands of Jammeh and his henchmen who conduct torture sessions regularly against a defenseless civilian population.  We expect the Church to be on the side of the oppressed and not the oppressor.

Finally, if the tainted money cannot be returned to the Gambian treasury, ALL of it should be used to help alleviate the suffering of the poor and destitute (including other victims of the regime) as proposed by a member of the Christian community.


Ansumana Jammeh attempting to bribe Senegalese border officials

Ansumana Jammeh 
The two-month old border closure has, undoubtedly, dealt a serious blow to the Gambian economy.  Faced with an uncompromising Senegalese Transport Union, the regime of Yaya Jammeh is using every trick in the book to circumvent what amounts to a blockage.

The border closure has resulted in shortages of agricultural produce, ushering in higher prices and economic hardship that is only compounded by electricity blackouts as a result of dwindling fuel stocks.  Prices of cement and onions have shot up 300% since the border closure leading Senegalese union leaders to warn of worse things to come.

The noose is tightening at all border posts with buses and trucks disallowed to enter or leave Senegal, causing consternation within the Jammeh circle.  Mr. Ndir of the Senegalese Transport Union is quoted as saying "Guissa gul dara" meaning he's seen nothing yet, referring to the Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh.   The union leader partially blames their own President Sall for being "very tolerant and peaceful" which encourages Jammeh to be more cavalier in his behavior towards his neighbor by unilateral tariff increases without prior consultations with Senegal.

After all attempts have failed, Jammeh decided to try bribery by dispatching his brother to the Senegalese border posts with briefcase stuffed with cash to entice Senegalese border officials into opening the border for truckloads of critical supplies of essential goods to pass through, according to Mr. Ndir.  All offers have been turned down and Ansumana Jammeh was threatened with arrest should he attempt to bribe Senegalese officials again.    

Is Jammeh bribing National Assembly Members to avoid being impeached?

Gambian dictator Jammeh 

Jammeh's unexplained absence from the State Opening of Parliament ceremonies last week, leaving many attendees perplexed and in limbo for hours, left many members of the National Assembly from both sides of the isle frustrated and embarrassed.  His absence was described by a Member of Parliament as "embarrassing and a disgrace."

The fact that it was the first time such an auspicious event, the biggest and most important in the State calendar - after 18th February, Gambia's National Day - was not lost sight of.

And in the midst of the ensuing commotion, speculations abound as to the reason or reasons for Jammeh's absence that ranged from acute diarrhea attack, to a spate with First Lady to Jammeh being disappointed at the low turn-out at the event which has always been used as a propaganda political point-scoring event.

Whatever the real reason, the bad publicity in the midst of an election year and when everything that can go wrong for the regime is going south - ranging from shortages of food and electricity, border closures, high-priced basic food items, high unemployment and a contracting economy.

Gambian's have finally grown tired of a vile, corrupt, incompetent and brutal dictatorship that has lasted for 22 years, and has shown little in the form of economic progress for its 2 million inhabitants, except unfulfilled promises, including but not limited to transforming The Gambia into the Dubai of Africa and to make the country rice self-sufficient by 2016.  All of these promises were, of course, pipe dreams concocted for the consumption of the gullible, the sycophant and the illiterate.

Gambians have finally come to the realization that the regime of Yaya Jammeh, led by a group of illiterates and incompetent sycophants, has always relied on and deception to hold on to power.  The increased awareness of the general public has resulted in the corresponding reduction in what is known known as 'the fear factor'.  People are less afraid to speak their minds on online radios, on street corners and marketplaces.  The police state itself is in the process of disintegrating.

Enters the National Assembly that was once considered, and to some extent, it, still, is a rubber stamp institution but there are indications that members are increasingly disgruntled and unhappy about the manner in which the country is being governed.  Some Members of the ruling party are speaking private against the dictator - about how he's become engrossed in his own personal interest and welfare at the expense of the National Interest.

Sensing the shift in the mood of the National Assembly and following his "no-show" at the State Opening of Parliament, we called for Jammeh's impeachment as provided for in Section 66 of the Constitution for reason of infirmity of the mind.  Jammeh has been physically ill for sometime now and his mental health has suffered in the recent past.  

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Jammeh has decided to "give" D 700,000 (equivalent to roughly $ 14,000) to the APRC Members of Parliament towards the cost of the preparation of the rescheduled State Opening which will now take place this Thursday.  The award ceremony was conducted by the Vice President - the 'bag lady' for Jammeh - and the cash received by Speaker Bojang and Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta which they will share among themselves.  Jammeh is hoping that the bribe money will calm the nerves of an increasingly disgruntled members of parliament of Jammeh's own party.  


Sunday, March 27, 2016

OJ blames Jammeh's belligerent foreign policy for the border closure

Banjul-Barra ferry terminal
Speaking at a political rally in Sukuta on Saturday, the Interim Leader of the PPP and former Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in the government of Sir Dawda Jawara, Omar Jallow (OJ) puts the blame for the border closure squarely at the doorsteps of the Gambian despot, Yaya Jammeh.

According to OJ, the unilateral decision by the Gambian dictator to increase the tariff for Senegalese commercial vehicles without consulting with neighboring Senegal, as stipulated in previous bi-lateral Agreements, is the cause for the retaliatory action of the Senegalese Transport Union.  The Jammeh regime is finding it extremely difficult to justify a 1,000% in the tariff, without consultation and with only a few hours of notification period before the new tariff went into effect.

The effects of the border closure are being felt beyond the petty traders who manage stalls, fruits stands and shops in both sides of the border and into the Gambian state treasury which is registering lower than usual revenue collection.  The state electricity company, NAWEC, is faced with a dwindling stock of heavy fuel for its generators resulting in heavy load shedding across the country.

The PPP politician contrasted Jawara's friendly foreign policy generally and towards Western Europe and America in particular to Jammeh's belligerent behavior towards Senegal and the West which has resulted in the isolation of the country.  He attributes Jammeh's bellicosity to his lack of respect for others and his limited knowledge of the history of The Gambia.

The current border crisis could have been avoided, according to OJ, if Jammeh had followed protocol by simple consultations with Senegal prior to notification of the new tariff proposal going into effect.  The PPP Interim Leader faulted Jammeh for ignoring the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat whose good offices he could have used to consult with his next door neighbor.   Good neighborliness is not a strong attribute of the regime of Yaya Jammeh which has resulted in the current predicament of a regime that has acquired a pariah status.    


OJ takes the fight to Jammeh, implores the opposition to rally behind a single leader

Omar Jallow (OJ) at last year's political rally
Hon. Omar Jallow, commonly referred to by his initials OJ, former Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in the former PPP government and current Interim Leader of the PPP, decided, at his party political rally in Sukuta to take the fight to Yaya Jammeh.

In rallying the troops, he reminded his audience, 90% of whom were made up of young people, according to his assessment of the crowd, the role Kombo constituencies played, including the Kombo North town of Sukuta, in the formation of the PPP.

By invoking the names of Famara Wassa Touray, Sanjally Bojang among other prominent founders of the PPP and citing sons and daughters of Kombo who were PPP ministers and parliamentarians the Serrekunda politician was sending a subtle reminder to the old guard to return to the PPP fold.

A stinging barrage of verbal assault was unleashed on the Gambian dictator by OJ who characterized Jammeh as the "most prolific thief in the entire African continent."  Jammeh's corruption was highlighted by comparing his numerous assets he's accumulated in his 22 years of dictatorship to Jawara four compounds, all of which were purchased with the aid of bank loans.

Jammeh's exploitative behavior towards the poverty-ridden rural  population who are forced to "volunteer" to work on Jammeh's fields instead tending their own farms during the farming season came under attack from the fiery Serrekunda politician.

Jammeh's hypocrisy was not spared either by OJ who reminded his audience that all of Jammeh's children were born in the United States while touting his regime's success in improving Gambia's healthcare services.  By contrast, all of the former Gambian president's children and those of his ministers, including OJ's own were born and high school educated in The Gambia, using the health and school facilities built for all Gambians.  In the eyes of OJ, Jammeh is not only a prolific thief but a hypocrite and a consummate lair as well.

Gambian youths fleeing the economic hardships through the Mediterranean route resulting from ineffective and inappropriate policies with catastrophic results. Gambian youths have drown in the treacherous journey in disproportionate numbers.  An opposition-led successor government will revitalize the economy, create jobs for the youth to stem the tide of the out-migration of our youth who are currently unemployed and under-employed due to the failed policies of the Jammeh regime.

Yaya Jammeh also came under attack for his ill-conceived idea of creating an Islamic Republic in a country that has been a secular state and home to Muslims, Christians and animists alike who have lived harmoniously.  Injecting religion in an otherwise secular state is inviting discord seen in Sudan and Central African Republic.

Appealing to the opposition parties, OJ implored the UDP, NRP, PDOIS, GMC, GPDP and all others to join forces and present a single leader under a single banner to contest the presidential elections in 2016 because a single opposition party cannot unseat the dictator.

Former APRC parliamentarian and current Independent Member of the National Assembly for Kombo Central, Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh of Brikama attended the meeting and so did representative of the late Sheriff Dibba's National Convention Party.

OJ used the occasion to remind the partisan crowd that the NCP was a breakaway faction of the PPP whose late leader served as Vice President, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Local Government and Lands in a PPP-led government which is seen as another subtle reminder of the need for all parties to close ranks and fight the scourge that is Yaya Jamus Junkung Jammeh.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

IEC Chairman and Members terms of office extended indefinitely in new amendment to the constitution

Alh. Mustapha Carayol 
In preparation for what he is hoping to be a smooth re-election to his fifth 5-year term as president, Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian brutal and prolific dictator is on the verge of regularizing the illegal occupation of the Chairmanship of the so-called Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) by introducing a Bill to amend the Constitution for the umpteenth time in two decades.

According to Hon. Samba Jallow of the opposition National Reconciliation Party who was speaking to an online dissident radio station based in the United States, the purpose of the move is to scuttle the loud and embarrassing criticism of the regime for brazenly contravening the constitutional provisions governing the terms of office of members of the IEC.

Section 42 of the Constitution is being amended in sub-section (4) by substituting the phrase “one further term” for the words “further terms of office” making it possible for the current Chairman Mustapha Carayol who had already served more than one further term to continue serving indefinitely. In short, by virtue of the proposed amendment, the IEC Chairman Carayol would have secured a lifetime appointment.

The proposed amendment is not limited to the chairman but it is applicable to all members of the Commission to be able to serve more.   According to the regime, the reason for the amendment is to allow members to serve indefinitely and to ensure that experienced members of the Commission are maintained to lend their expertise to the operations of the Commission as long as they are able to do so. 

Of course we know the reasons advanced are baseless.  The real reason for allowing all members to serve indefinitely is to ensure that members found to be dancing to the tune of the dictator to steal the elections for Jammeh can be sure of guaranteed lifetime tenure as member of the IEC.    

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Transport Union Leader, Sheriff Diba, died in police custody after being tortured

Murdered Union Leader, Sheriff Diba 
Contrary to official version of events, the Union Leader, Sheriff Dibba, collapsed and died while in police custody at the Banjul Police Station and not at the hospital.

The Fatou Network website has confirmed that Diba did not die in the hospital, as claimed by Jammeh's Information Minister, but of "uncomplicated malaria".

According to Minister Bojang, Mr. Diba's illness "took a turn for the worse" and died the next day.  A post-mortem carried out on February 23 found Diba had heart disease, diabetes, lung and liver problems, he added.

The Minister's story has been ruled by many as mere fabrication, including the London-based International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) that described Bojang's denial as engaging in "sophistry" instead of seriously engaging Gambians and the international community as regards the murder of Sheriff Diba.

Information Minister Bojang 
The ITF continues to maintain that Mr. Diba had been tortured while in custody and is demanding that a commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the circumstances leading up to the death of the union leader.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also joined the ITF and other international organizations in demanding an independent investigations of the death of Sheriff Diba.

In view of the new revelations, Diba was tortured and died while still in the custody of the police at the Banjul Police HQ, contrary to earlier reports, including this blog, that Diba death occured at Mile II prisons before the body was transferred to the hospital.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jammeh continues to be contemptuous of Gambians

Sidi Sanneh 
After skipping the ceremonial opening of the new legislative session of Parliament, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has still not offered an official explanation of his "no show", an historic first, or offer an apology to the numerous foreign diplomats and local dignitaries.  Instead, he appeared to have rode back to his home village of Kanilai at nightfall without explanation.

Jammeh's lack of respect for Gambians is on regular display.  His disgraceful absence, without explanation or apology, from the State Opening of Parliament which ended up being "postponed" is one more example of his contempt for Gambians as well as for his foreign guests.

The only announcement to the guests came in the form of a verbal announcement from the Speaker of the National Assembly that the ceremonies were being postponed until further notice before asking the dignitaries to disperse.

Parliamentarians of both sides of the isle were visibly embarrassed and as one of them put it "it was the most embarrassing event I have ever expressed as a National Assembly Member."  Another described the experience as "disgraceful." Some attendees were visibly shocked.

Neither Speaker Bojang nor the Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta issued a statement explaining why Yaya Jammeh was unable to attend the ceremony after spending millions of dalasis. More puzzling was why was his Vice President not asked to deputize for him.

Instead, Gambians and the diplomatic community will most probably be treated to yet another hyperbolic presentation by the regime's spin doctor cum Information Minister who is fast becoming Gambia's version of Baghdad Bob for his entertainingly bombastic lexicon who routinely explains away Jammeh's increasingly bizarre behavior.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Impeach Jammeh

Yaya Jammeh looking ill 
Jammeh has done it again. This time, he skipped the ceremony that signals the start of a new National Assembly session, leaving his distinguished guests comprising of Ambassadors from America, Britain, Nigeria, European Union, cabinet ministers, Supreme Court Justices and numerous local dignitaries scratching their heads in wonderment, and for good reason.

The ceremony also referred to as the State Opening of Parliament is a post- Independent legacy borrowed from Britain that has been observed continuously since 1965, except in 1994-95 when Jammeh headed the military junta that seized power illegally from the constitutionally elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.

The State Opening of Parliament is a constitutional requirement.

The second interruption of the tradition occured yesterday when the guests, who were already seated, were asked to disperse.  The Speaker of the National Assembly informed a very surprised group of dignitaries that he's received word from the Office of the President announcing that the "State Opening of Parliament has been postponed until further notice."
Invited guests leaving the Assembly Building

No reason was advanced by authorities for the abrupt change, inviting speculative chatter across social media, including the suggestion that Jammeh is gravely ill. Jammeh's mental and physical health manifested by irrational and bizarre behavior have been the subject of discussion and a source of concern for Gambians.

After the postponement was announced, the presidential motorcade was seen speeding towards Jammeh's home village of Kanilai with a figure in white robe in the cover of darkness, waving at onlookers along the road.

Jammeh has effectively abandoned his duties as Head of State by sending an inordinate time in Kanilai instead of State House at the detriment of the security of the state and the welfare of Gambians.  Postponing the ceremony will cost the public treasury millions of dalasis that a struggling economic can least afford - an act that exceeds the threshold  "economic crime."

Section 66 of the Constitution provides for the removal of a president for infirmity of the mind.  Both of Jammeh's physical and mental health has deteriorated over time, the consequent of which is the negligence of national duty that threatens the security of the state.  National Assembly Members - especially the 45 National Assembly Members of the ruling party -  must, therefore, assume their collective constitutional responsibilities of putting up the motion to impeach Jammeh for not being of sound mind and body.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Is the resumption of diplomatic ties with China another election year ploy?

According to Reuters news agency The Gambia has resumed diplomatic relations with China after the Gambian dictator abruptly and unceremoniously broke off relations with Taiwan in November 2013.

True to form, Jammeh has done so without notice or national debate, even though many Gambians would support the move.  Gambians had opposed Jammeh's Taiwan move in 1997 and in favor of the Chinese who have been actively involved in the agriculture sector - particularly rice cultivation under the deposed government of Sir Dawda Jawara

When Yaya Jammeh seized power in July 1994, he an faced international backlash that saw development assistance withheld and the British issuing travel adviser to British tourists.

The economic sanctions were partly responsible for Jammeh's decision to look for a diplomatic suitor outside Gambia's traditional development partners which he quickly found in Taiwan - a country that the international community (with the exception of few countries) recognizes as being a province of mainland China.

Yaya Jammeh was also attracted to Taiwan because of the island's unorthodox - some would say lax - system of management and disbursement of development funds.  The checkbook diplomacy that Taiwan practises is a main attraction of some of the world's most corrupt leaders so as to fill their pockets at the expense of the citizenry.  

In fact, the decision by Jammeh to sever ties with Taiwan was over his incessant demand for money which finally proved intolerable to the Taiwanese who, in the end, described his as "the idiosyncratic leader." For example, Jammeh demanded $ 10 million ( others in Taipei have suggested a higher figure) from Taiwan and insisted that the sum neither be recorded nor receipted in any form.  When his demand was refused, he broke off a diplomatic relations that has been mutually beneficial to Taiwan and to Jammeh, personally.

Although the presence of the Chinese in The Gambia has been reported since last year, little by way of public pronouncement was issued by a regime that is notorious for its lack of both transparency and accountability.  Gambians are probably hearing the news for the first time of the resumption of diplomatic relations.

Are the Chinese going to continue pursuing the checkbook diplomacy that Jammeh has grown use to relish? If they do, the support of the Gambians for the move will be short lived.  meanwhile, this is further signal to the opposition that Jammeh will use his new-found friendship with China to further his electoral ambition of a landslide victory at the polls next December.

Gambia's First Lady is at the disputed territory of Western Sahara to solicite funds for her Foundation

Mrs. Zainab Jammeh 

Gambia's First Lady, Zainab Suma Jammeh is at the Crans Montana Forum in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, purportedly to solicit funds for a recently-form Cancer Foundation and her other Foundations.

The Forum is being held at the city of Dahkla in the disputed territory of Western Sahara which has been dubbed at Africa's last colony.

Both Morocco and Mauritania claim ownership of the territory that has been since extended membership by the African Union and numerous African and Asian countries.

Crans Montana is a Swiss International Organization, according to its Linked In page, that took its
name from the town it was formed in the mid-80s.  Form its promotional brochures, the  organization is "committed to a more humane world through international cooperation and contributes to global growth while ensuring a high level of stability, equity and security."

First Lady Suma Jammeh flew in from Dubai yesterday to canvass the well-healed patrons of the event that includes King Mohammed VI of Morocco which he officiated today.  It is unclear if Mrs. Jammeh will stay for the entire 6-day affair.

Our sources tell us she is accompanied by Lali Diab, and probably Mrs. Fatou Mass Jobe, the Executive Secretary of the Foundation and Tarik Musa, a former business associate who had fallen out with the unstable of Gambian dictator.  The Forum's theme this year is Africa and South-South Cooperation.

If the purpose of the trip which is financed by Gambian taxpayers is to solicit funds for her Foundation, she is expected to account for every dollar donated in the name of the Gambian people.

This trip, like most of her foreign trips, is kept under wraps because of the controversial nature of the history of Western Sahara which is a disputed territory and for this reason it is a no-go area for many political and cultural figures.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jammeh options narrow as border problem deepens

The Sene-Gambian border closure is on its third week with little sign that it will open soon.  

Unscientific but credible on-the-spot observations and interviews of ordinary citizens on the Senegalese side of the border seem to suggest the end of the crisis is not in sight.   

Ordinary Senegalese interviewed expressed their frustrations at the frequent traffic increases by Jammeh which usually result in the temporary closure of the borders. 

Travelers complains include arbitrary rules imposed at the Gambian side of the border by authorities that limits accessibility by imposing a 7:00PM daily closing of ferry services, forcing them to spend the night around mosquito-infested areas in the open air.   This inconvenience and uncertainty of travel , not knowing when to arrive in the capital city of Dakar has forced many interviewed to embrace the longer route at greater expense but with a greater degree of certainty of arriving at your final destination. 

There is also an element of nationalism displayed by some borne as a result of the constant threat of closure by the Gambian dictator which he uses as a cudgel against his neighbors.   Freeing themselves from the hassle has become, it seems, not only the official position of the Senegalese government but also of the general traveling public.   

The Executive Secretary of the Senegalese Transport Union is echoing similar sentiments but much more forcefully with a degree of belligerence never seen before thus signaling an end of an era when Jammeh sees the Trans-Gambia highway not as an integral part of a regional integration strategy of ECOWAS but as a national strategic military-cum-security asset that is used increasingly as leverage against a bigger neighbor. 

The endless postponements and/or interference in implementing the bridge project across the River Gambia in spite of its multinational character - with Senegal putting up two-thirds of the cost, and rightfully so -  is seen as a manifestations of Jammeh’s intent to continue using it as leverage to gain concessions from Senegal, be it political, diplomatic or economic. 

It appears that Senegal has finally grown tired of being blackmailed by Jammeh and it intends on putting an end to it with the enthusiastic approval of both the transport union and the Senegalese traveling public.   

Senegal has rebuffed several attempts at negotiations.  The latest victim of Senegalese resolve to maintaining the current status quo was the proposed mission comprising the Director of Gambia Revenue Authority and the Managing Director of the Ports Authority to negotiate terms to resolve the stalemate which was emphatically rejected by Senegal.  Jammeh’s next move is anybody’s guess as his options narrow.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Jammeh must release the Bamfor Commission Report

During the recent retreat of Jammeh’s cabinet at his home village of Kanilai, he justified the decision of the Military Council he chaired upon seizing power on humanitarian grounds and the protection of the reputation and presumably good character of the Jawara ministers whom he accused of corruption that justified the 1994 coup.

The incongruence of Jammeh’s logic is again on full display.  After railing about the corrupt nature of the Jawara regime, including Jawara, whose members and inner circle were consumed and blinded by a “flamboyant lifestyle” resulting in the impoverishment of the many by the few.  

To remind Gambians of the military regime’s disdain for these members of the privileged class and the military junta’s commitment to redressing an unacceptable and exploitative condition brought about by a corrupt regime, Jammeh loaded some of these cabinet ministers and senior civil servants in open trucks around the city of Banjul in broad daylight.  

Where is the empathy that was obviously absent in 1994? Jammeh’s regime can boast of inflicting more physical and psychological harm to Gambians than the combined toll of the Jawara and colonial administrations.   Gambians have suffered more murders, assassinations, tortures, forced disappearances and exiles than the British ever could inflict on the Gambian population even if they tried. 

It is therefore incomprehensible, illogical and an outright lie to claim that the conclusions and recommendations of the Bamfor Commission have been withheld to protect Sir Dawda Jawara’s reputation and integrity and those of his former ministers and their families by saving them from further embarrassment should the findings of the Commission be published.   This is a warped logic and therefore makes no sense.  

The justification for the coup, according to Jammeh and his colleagues, was “rampant corruption” and the “flamboyant lifestyle” led by Jawara and his ministers.  What sense does it make to suppress publication of a Commission’s Report that was created by law with the proviso that its findings must be made public.  The mere act of not going public is contravention of the law, not that it matters to a dictator to contravene the law.    

Based on reports, the Bamfor Commission found that corruption was not endemic as claimed by Jammeh and his group of power hungry putschists to warrant removing a legitimately elected government.   To accuse the ousted government of corruption would guarantee quicker acceptance of the junta by populace than to complain about maltreatment of Gambian soldiers at the hands of the Nigerian army commanders who were running the Gambian army under a bilateral technical cooperation arrangement basis.  

Why were they - Jammeh and his cohorts - advised to lie about the true reason for the coup by “dishonest Gambians” – to borrow Ebrima Chongan’s description, one of the few Gambian military officers who resisted the coup – some of whom are still active in one way or the other in the affairs of the Jammeh regime.  Without their role as advisers to the young, inexperienced and ill-educated soldiers on how to cling on to power for longer than required, Jammeh and his fellow putschists would not have entrenched themselves in power for twenty two years and counting. 

The Bamfor Commission’s Report’s conclusions and recommendations were suppressed and never made public to this day, despite many demands from Omar Jallow (OJ) a former minister in the Jawara government.  The refusal to comply is because it’s conclusions did not support the reasons advanced by Jammeh justifying the coup.  He lied then.  He’s lying now.  His condition is pathological.   

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Banjul Mullahs suddenly see the need for Sene-Gambian relations

Senegambian border closure has suddenly attracted the attention of the Banjul Mullahs, this time, led by Imam Ratib of Banjul, for the need to strengthen the ties between the two countries.

At funerals, the Mullahs are increasingly preaching about the virtues of good neighborliness and the need to further cement the historic ties between Senegal and The Gambia - a commendable effort, albeit a hypocritical one at that.

The hypocrisy displayed by these so-called religious leaders is brazenly distasteful because staying silent and aloof when the Gambian dictator was unilaterally slapping a 1,000% tariff increase on Senegalese trucks using the TransGambia highway only to plead for mercy after the fact is disingenuous.

For Gambians in general and Senegalese in particular to take the Mullahs seriously, they must start speaking truth to power.  These religious leaders have become political at the expense of their individual and collective religiosity.

These Mullahs, like many other Gambian "leaders", have been compromised and co-opted by the dictatorship to advance the interest of Jammeh who uses the carrot and the stick to bring them in line.  They are, therefore, extremely cautious in their dealing s with Jammeh and are thus likely to look the other way when ever Jammeh misbehave.  No one dares advise him that the tariff increase was a bad idea.

The Senegalese religious and political classes are aware of the fact that the Banjul Muslim Elders have been compromised, and as long as Jammeh continues to hold sway over them, any pleading eminating from them will fall on deaf Senegalese ears.

A source described a scene at a recent funeral service in Banjul which aptly sums up the mood in Banjul among the Mullahs when he observed that "at the FIRDAW, the Imam had nothing to talk about except the closeness of the two countries.  Likewise, at the home after the funeral, all the talk was about the two countries.  Panic is setting in", he concludes.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Yaya Jammeh : Tax Evader-In-Chief

Yaya Jammeh 
Gambia's Finance Minister was out on Saturday distributing tax compliance certificates in recognition of Gambian businessmen and women who pay their taxes regularly and on time as expected to every honest and good Gambian.

Speaking at the Taxpayers Award and Recognition Night, the Minister implored Gambians to pay their taxes and "recognized the need to celebrate the complaint taxpayer."

However, he went further by emphasizing the determination of the regime "to take a firm stance on the non-payment of taxes", a statement that would not have been ironical had it not been that the single biggest businessman in the country hardly pays any tax whatsoever.

That businessman is Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator.

Public records show he owns the biggest businesses in the country, ranging from importation, distribution and retail of petroleum products to mining, farming and real estate, to name only a few, cost the public treasury hundreds of millions of dalasi annually.

As Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council prior to exchanging his military fatigues for the grand boubou as 'civilian' leader, Jammeh ensured that the 1997 Constitution permits the new president to engage in "farming", a provision that was subsequently expanded to exclude nothing.

Jammeh pays little or no taxes and for this reason, and the fact that he is president, it made it hard for the competition to stay in business.  Jammeh pays zero custom duty and excise, zero sales and value added taxes and thus can and does undercut the competition all the time.  The only tax he may be paying is taxes on his annual income, but even this has to be verified.

Gambians are among the most taxed humans on earth and as long as the economy is tax-based there is little chance in the horizon for any relief coming their way. Meanwhile, the single biggest businessman in the country and the most powerful is getting away with murder, both literally and figuratively.      

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Alhagie Ceesay in courtroom with lawyer

Alhagie Ceesay who was tortured by NIA here with lawyer

The Working Group of the United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commissioner determination that Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the 25-year old radio journalist, is being "arbitrarily detained" by the dictatorship in The Gambia is based on the fact that he's being denied his inherent right to freedom of expression and association.  He has been in detention for 8 months without bail for an offence that is bailable.

In addition to being considered to be an arbitrary detainee, the United Nations agency is also requesting the regime of Yaya Jammeh to "accord him an enforceable right to compensation."

The allegation that Alhagie Ceesay was tortured by the notorious NIA has been referred to the Special Rapporteur on Torture for further investigations and appropriate measures.


Jammeh envoys fail to secure Macky Sall's cooperation; borders remain closed

Gambia - Senegal border closure 

The Gambian dictator fielded two successive missions to Senegal in the past week and a half.  The first was led by Pap Demba Jobe, the Special Representative of the Mourid sect in The Gambia and the other by Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy. Both missions failed.  It appears that Senegal is in no mood to receive Jammeh's envoys much less negotiate with Jammeh.  

According to our sources, the Pap Demba Jobe’s mission visited Touba, Tivavon and Kaolack to solicit the support of the religious leaders of the Mourids, Tedianis and Niassen sects to plead with the Senegalese president Macky Sall on behalf of Jammeh.  

Reports have it that the mission failed to achieve its primary object of getting the religious leaders to intervene in the current stalemate that has led to the borders between the two countries being closed.

The failure of Pap Demba Jobe’s mission led Jammeh to dispatch his Vice President, Isatou Njie-Saidy last Wednesday and returned yesterday (Friday) without seeing any senior official of Macky Sall’s government.

Two successive failed missions underscore the nature of the latest border stand-off, triggered by the unilateral decision of the Gambian dictator’s that saw a 1,000% tariff increase on Senegalese  trucks using the TransGambia highway that traverses Gambia into the southern part of Senegal. 

The frequent use of unilateral tariff increases by Jammeh without prior consultation or notification of his neighbors is finally being seen by the authorities in Dakar as a cudgel that is used at will that threatens the economic security of Senegal.

In this regard, Senegal has now decided to remove all taxes on gas oil to help reduce the cost for Senegalese trucks having to bypass Gambian territory by transporting goods around it via Tambacounda. This facility will be available for the next two years should the borders be closed for that long.  This decision suggests that Senegal is getting ready to hunker down for the long-haul. 

“These borders” according to a senior government official, “will remain shut for a very long time. He (Jammeh) has tested our patience for a very long time.”  

Meanwhile, Gambia’s National Electricity Company, NAWEC, has informed Jammeh that it will soon run out of fuel which normally comes from or via Senegal.  If the borders aren’t open for any extended period of time, Gambia will be plunged into darkness unless enough foreign exchange – already in short supply – is scrapped to order an emergency consignment in the open market.  Either way, Jammeh has managed to place himself and his country between a rock and a hard place.

We will continue to monitor developments. 

Alhagie Ceesay is "arbitrarily detained"says UN Agency, demands immediate release and compensation

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay
There has been an important development in the Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay's case, the radio journalist and Managing Director of Teranga Radio FM.

The United Nations Working Group of The Office of the High Commissioner has reached the following opinion regarding the case of Alhagie Ceesay: that his "deprivation of liberty  is arbitrary" and as such the Government of The Gambia is being requested "to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr. Ceesay."
Justice Simeon Abi

The Working Group considers the "immediate release" of Mr. Ceesay as "adequate remedy" and "to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and to ensure that freedom of opinion and expression is better protected."

On the allegation of torture at the hands of the notorious NIA, the Working Group 'referred the matter to the Special Rapporteur on Torture for further investigations and appropriate measures."
S.K.Barkum, Public Prosecutor

These developments in the case of Alhagie Ceesay should serve as adequate notice to Gambia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mama Fatima Singhateh, Director of Public Prosecution, S.K.Barkum and Banjul High Court Judge Simeon Abi that this case, together with your professional conduct, is being monitored by us as well as the international community.

We demand that Alhagie Ceesay be set free and compensated in accordance with the conclusion of the Working Group of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Border closure: Gambia’s sovereignty is not the issue, Jammeh is the issue.

Sidi Sanneh 

Yaya Jammeh poses a greater threat to Gambia’s sovereignty than Senegal ever could.  The Gambia has coexisted with its neighbor since Independence, and at no time during the 50-odd years of coexistence was its sovereignty threatened, including the 1981 Kukoi Samba Sanyang’s coup that saw Senegalese troops marched into the country under legal cover of a common defense pack to restore Sir Dawda Jawara to the presidency.

Senegal’s 1981 intervention, grounded in international law and backed by a bilateral Agreement, resulted in a short-lived Senegambia Confederation from which Senegal withdrew from voluntarily, peacefully and without fanfare.  If the handling of the dissolution of the Confederation is not enough evidence that Senegal is not a threat to Gambia’s sovereignty, we do not know what is.

We must appreciate a truism is Senegambian relations that the two countries are captives of their own geography and history – two factors that are inextricably linked to and also greatly influence the respective foreign and economic policies of The Gambia and Senegal.  These two countries are unique in that sense compared to a few countries in the world.

Fortunately, Sir Dawda Jawara and successive Senegalese presidents from Senghore to Sall understood the need to maintain the delicate relationship through regular diplomatic consultations, a diplomatic necessity that has been absent to a large degree during Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorship.  This, in our view, is the cause of the deterioration in relations – both diplomatic and economic – between Gambia and Senegal.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Border closure compounds Gunjur's plight

Dried-up garden well
Last August, the British Ambassador to The Gambia organized a town hall meeting in Gunjur to discuss, among other things, the development issues and challenges facing the town and its surroundings.  He informed the gathering that The Gambia stands to lose out on a substantial amount of development aid from the European Union because of its poor human rights record. Development assistance in the region of € 150 million is being held in escrow to be unblocked only after the regime of Yaya Jammeh addresses the human rights outlined in the EU's 17-point demands.  Gunjur and surrounding towns are being adversely affected by the government's

recalcitrant behavior towards the EU and other development partners, You can read the blog post here.

The town of Gunjur, as well as the rest of the Gambia, is being adversely affected in an equally challenging way by Jammeh's unilateral decision to increase the tariff on trucks using the SeneGambia highway.  The decision  contravenes all trade protocols he's signed with it's regional partner ECOWAS and bilaterally with Senegal resulting in the two-week old border closure.

In Gunjur, as in many towns and villages in the Kombos, horticulture, fruit tree orchards and cassava have, to a large degree, replaced groundnut cultivation with the vegetable produce sold to area hotels and oranges and other fruits sold to Senegalese middlemen who transport it back to Senegal.  This year, the cassava crop has been blighted by mosaic virus depriving Gunjur farmers with much needed income which will push many further below the poverty line.  
Blighted cassava plants

The border closures have left the orange fruits rotting because the Senegalese trucks used in hauling them are stuck at the borders. The horticultural activities of the town have also fallen victim, not to the border closure but to sand mining (which you can read here) that has grown uncontrollably and in the process devastating the environment as well as the livelihood of the townspeople, especially women who normally are engaged in gardening.
Orange orchard  

Since Kartong youth demonstrated against the environmental devastation caused by sand mining, Yaya Jammeh has decided to move to Gunjur to add to the plight of the people of Gunjur.  We have learned that Sheriff Arjay Jammeh, the village chief, bought a truck and has joined Jammeh's crew in sand mining that can only bring further hardship to an already distressed community, both environmentally and from an economic development standpoint.  Chief Sheriff Arjay Janneh should know better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chaos at the border: Photo editorial

The indiscriminate and unilateral use of tariff hike with such frequency by Yaya Jammeh, the idiosyncratic Gambian dictator has obviously irked the Senegalese authorities who have signaled their disgust at the 1,000% increase in the tariff for trucks using the SeneGambia highway that traverses The Gambia.

If statements by Alasane Ndoye, former Secretary General of the powerful Senegalese Transport Union and other officials are anything to go by, Yaya Jammeh must brace himself for a very long and extended period when the borders will remain closed.  The Gambian economy is beginning to show signs of  distress with a precipitous drop in revenue collection.

Shops, stalls, fruit farmers and vendors on the Gambian side of the border have closed or lack customers since the closure.  Jammeh must explain to them the reason for the closure and what his regime is doing to address a situation that he created.

Blame Jammeh for the border closures

 For two weeks running, a local newspaper affiliated with one of the opposition parties in the Gambia called FOROYAA has been reporting on the border closing between Senegal and The Gambia and how it is adversely affecting not only the economies of the two countries but also their trade and diplomatic relations.

The editorial stance of the paper from the unset of the border closures has been the use of, what we consider to be, false equivalencies by blaming both Senegal and The Gambia for the crisis to appear fair and balanced.

The paper didn’t stop its search for another boogieman which it found in the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat.  The paper questioned the Secretariat’s utility or raison d’etre for not playing an active role in resolving the crisis.  The question is three decades late when the organization was active and relevant because President Senghore (and Diouf, to some extent) and Sir Dawda Jawara wanted the Secretariat to play a meaningful role by according it a high diplomatic profile which it lacks today.   In fact, many citizens of the two countries are unaware of its existence.  

The first step in an conflict resolution is to identify by defining the problem.  In this case, it was triggered by a unilateral decision by the Gambian dictator to increase by 1,000% the tariff paid by trucks using the TransGambia highway to cross into and from the southern Senegal region of Casamance.

The unilateral decision contravenes every protocol that the two countries have signed – be it bilateral, regional and international.  Although ECOWAS protocol calls for the free movement of goods and people, bilateral agreement between the two countries further calls for “prior consultations with and notification of” the other party before any tariff increase.   Approval of the other party is not required but consultation and notification are.   Jammeh did neither.  And this is what FOROYAA fail to mention in its reporting.

Jammeh caused the problem and it is Jammeh, in this instance, who must take full responsibility  for the mess and not Senegal or the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat that exists only in name with little power to intervene.   To absolve him (or even the appearance of absolving him) of blame by acting as if the problem emanated from or was caused by both countries is only going to prolong and add to the suffering of ordinary Gambians and Senegalese alike resulting from restricting commerce.


Postscript :  As we go to press, we've learned through reliable sources that the Gambian dictator has dispatched a delegation headed by the Imam Ratib of Banjul, Alh. Cherno Kah, to Touba, Senegal, to seek the intervention of the spiritual leader of the Mourid sect in the crisis by appealing to the Senegalese authorities to open the borders.   We will be following developments.