Sunday, January 31, 2016

Acts of desperation in Jammeh - Kunda

Donated  standing room only school bus
Gambia's jet setting First Lady, Zeinab Yaya Jammeh, has suddenly found a new passion for philanthropy in the fields of health and education which has led her to the creation of not-for-profit organizations to address them.

There is nothing in her past that would suggest that her latest passion is genuine or permanent. Her interest has always been a Hollywood-type lifestyle characterized by frequent shopping trips to New York, Washington and Paris with little appetite for showing compassion for the less fortunate in her adopted home - The Gambia.

Since she married the Gambian dictator more than 15 years ago, the Moroccan-born First Lady has never attempted - or even pretend to - blend in with the locals or attempt to learn any of the local languages of the country that made her who she is today - a far cry from her humble beginnings in Rabat.

Circumstances have changed and so have the political fortunes of her husband which have taken a nosedive together with Gambia's economy. Her extravagant lifestyle has also suffered a set back impacted by donors holding on to development funds because of the appalling human rights record of her husband and the high level corruption that has slowly brought the economy to a standstill.

Lack of financial resources has made it difficult to divert development funds to sustain a lifestyle that has proven to be too expensive for a poor country like The Gambia.  Their $ 3.5 million mansion just outside Washington DC is rumored to be on the verge of being put up on the market.

Meanwhile, the new found passion of raising funds for cancer and to save Gambia's children has begun in earnest by aggressively employing misrepresentation of facts to attract donors.  For example,  the First Lady's Save the Children Foundation invited the CEO of an obscure organization based in Washington DC to help in the promotion of the First Lady's "good works" by appointing her as Gambia's Goodwill Ambassador.

In the testimonial issued in conjunction with her appointment boasts of the Gambia being country " where the school buses are clean and fully air-conditioned luxury buses, children looking well nourished and healthy,  the handicapped in wheel chairs, lights on, water running, clean public utilities, didn't see any one asking for bribes to do their jobs.  These are just a few.  The Gambia - Hope for Africa."

Of course, there are no luxury air-conditioned school buses in The Gambia.  In fact, there are no government-provided, regularly operated school bus service beyond the donated standing room only buses for Gambian children in the urban area, similar to the one depicted here.  Most Gambian children still walk for miles to and from school.

In trying to paint a false and more favorable picture, the First Lady and the staff of the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC succeeded in defeating the very purpose of their charm offensive, that is to raise funds, not to help Gambian children who need it the most but to help finance the expensive lifestyle of  Mr and Mrs. Yaya Jammeh.    

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why is Jammeh siding with Burundi's Nkurunziza

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the AU Summit 
Self preservation is the only reasonable explanation why Yaya Jammeh,, the Gambian dictator, is siding with President Nkurunziza and against the AU and the United Nations in sending peacekeeping troops to stem the escalation of violence in Burundi where over 400 people have already been killed, senselessly.

Yaya Jammeh spent an entire year cooped up in his State House den, with intermittent visits to his home village after an attempt was made by dissidents to unseat him a little over a year ago.

The constant threat posed by opponents to his brutal, corrupt and incompetent regime. both from dissidents living abroad and from his own divided army, has rendered his regime ineffectual.
Gambia's economy is on a steady decline for over a decade with no sign of improving in the short- to medium-term because of fiscal and monetary indiscipline that has become the hallmark of his 21-year dictatorial rule.

The Gambia's economic troubles have been exacerbated by sanctions imposed by the country's traditional donors, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank, both of whom have not provided the regime with any budget support in 2014.

The European Union's Development Fund has held in escrow approximately US$ 36 million in development aid because of Jammeh's deplorable human rights record.

The Gambia is not suffering from economic isolation but it has been isolated diplomatically, both internationally and regionally as well.  It's relations with Senegal is at its lowest ebb since independence from Britain in 1965.  It is because of his lack of access to development aid from Gambia's traditional partners and increasing isolation from his regional partners in ECOWAS, that forced the idiosyncratic dictator to mount a diplomatic charm offensive, a couple of years ago, towards the Gulf States.

Abruptly change the country's name without notice or public debate to the Islamic Republic of The Gambia is seen as part of the hope of attracting new friends in the Arab and Islamic world.

Jammeh would rather have Gambians talk about anything but internal problems resulting from misrule under Jammeh.  Playing mischievous role he's been known for did not come as a surprise to many Gambians.  But in the words of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "Leaders who stand by while civilians are slaughtered in their name must be held responsible," insisting that the Burundi crisis require the "serious and urgent commitment."

Hopefully, Africa - minus Yaya Jammeh and Nkurunziza - and the rest of the world will prevail over belligerent act of defiance to avert another genocide in a continent that is yearning for democracy, the rule of law, economic growth and development for its people.  Africans have become increasingly impatient with tin pot dictators and despot who will do anything to stay in power. Enough is enough.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay is still gravely ill as case is adjourned for the umpteenth time

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay
The case of the Gambian radio journalist and Managing Director of Teranga FM has been adjourned for the umpteenth time as the regime's mercenary Justice Simeon Abi applied their favorite form of judicial torture - delaying justice.

The same mercenary Judge adjourned the case thrice previously and denied the 25 year old radio journalist bail for a bailable offense.  In fact, in his last October ruling, he denied him bail on national security grounds.
Justice Simeon ABI
Teranga FM radio is the only radio that translates local news and current events in the local vernacular for the ordinary Gambian to know what their rotten government is up to.  That in itself does not endanger national security.

Justice Abi has adjourned the case again until February 2nd after he saw that the accused was in pain and had to be helped in climbing the stairs. The judge asked the accused why can't he walk straight, according to a witness in the courtroom.  He responded that he was ill.  At this juncture the court was adjourned.

Judge Abi had adjourned cases, including Alhagie Ceesay's case, based on laughable and flimsy reasons.  This judge has adjourned cases because he had to attend meetings and workshops rather than dispense justice in the most expeditious manner.

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay is gravely ill with an enlarged liver sustained while being tortured.  Judge Abi knows the health condition of the accused and yet he has refused to refer the matter to the medical authorities so that the journalist can receive urgent medical treatment.  Should anything go wrong with his health, Judge Abi will be culpable as well as the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  Judge Abi has questioned the accused about his health and was told by the accused that he was ill.

Slow walking cases has become the hallmark of the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh and his mercenary judges imported from Nigeria to do the dirty work of the most brutal, corrupt and incompetent dictatorship in Africa.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Jammeh is going to be issuing ID cards to Islamic militants" say authorities in Senegal

Senegalese police checkpoint at entrance of a luxury hotel
When the Gambian dictator Yaya Jammeh, abruptly and without warning changed the name of The Gambia to the Islamic, Republic of The Gambia last month, many, including us here at the Sidi Sanneh Blog, attributed it as part of his grander scheme of appeasing the Saudi's and Gulf State into offering development aid to his cash-strapped country   after similar assistance from the European Union was held in escrow because the country's appalling human rights record.

The change occured shortly before the Israeli Ambassador to Senegal who is concurrently accredited to The Gambia presented his letters of credence in Banjul as his country's new Ambassador who's stationed in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.

In a Times of Israel interview shortly thereafter Ambassador Hirschson openly questioned   the wisdom as well as the timing of the change in the name of the country by hinting that it could yet prove to be a slippery slope with unforeseen consequences.  He was quoted as saying that "you are not really a master of your future.  These things sometimes take a life of their own", referring to the insertion of "Islamic state" in the midst of the havoc by ISIS.

Gambia has suddenly become a country of interest in the fight against Islamic terror because of the country's lax national identification (ID) laws and multiple types of identification documents that are in use.  At the inception, there was the stenciled and laminated ID and voters cards which were later replaced by biometrics national ID cards with a microchip embedded containing vital personal data of the individual.  This program that met all international standards was discontinued because it was tamper-proof and thus cannot be altered or manipulated in any form. It proved too transparent for the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The Gambia decided that it will revert to the old stenciled/ laminated ID card that can easily be manipulated and altered in place of the national biometrics ID card program that had met all international standards, including the ECOWAS-sanctioned ID program that will foster and make possible freer movement of persons across borders.  This program came into effect January 1 2016.

In light of these developments, Senegal has decided to scrutinize all personal ID documents, especially of those issued by The Gambia.  According to a source in Dakar who is very close to the presidency, "Senegal thinks Jammeh is going to be issuing ID cards to Islamic militants, so they are now scrutinizing Gambian documents."  The same source proceeded to advise thus: "Readers should detest and avoid travelling with laminated documents."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Yaya Jammeh must tell Gambians the state of the groundnut sub-sector

It all started when Jammeh deliberately ordered that the producer price is not announced publicly - a deviation from past practice.

Last March, it was mooted that the Gambia Groundnut Corporation, (GGC) the agency that has monopoly over the sub-sector was going to be absorbed into a new entity to be called the National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation which was later changed by dropping the word "marketing" from the name.

As at now, no Bill has been brought to the floor of the National Assembly for its creation and approval into law creating the new entity.  It appears that this did not prevent the regime of Jammeh from allowing the NFSPC from operating illegally because its creation has not been approved by the National Assembly and assented to by Jammeh.

Local reports now have it that farmers, in apparent desperation for lack of marketing outlets and information regarding marketing arrangements for this years crop, have resorted to bartering their groundnuts for rice with middlemen.  Who these middlemen are is any body's guess.

And certainly bartering groundnuts for rice was not our idea of what Vision 2016 was about i.e. rice self-sufficiency by 2016.  We are less rice self-sufficient today than at the inception of this ill-fated, poorly-conceived and politically-driven Vision 2016 which should be scrapped as distraction.

Farmers are faced with the most difficult challenges they've ever faced in the 21-year history of this incompetence regime.  According to reports, cash from Banjul to replenish the few buying points or "seccos" - presumably operated by the new NFSPC whose legal status is unclear - is not forthcoming because the old GGC had been bankrupted for years and no viable alternative has been proposed. Farmers are having to travel long distances to buying points because there are fewer of them this year, all because of lack of financial resources. See here and here for options available to the regime.

We said last year that contracting $ 30 million from the Islamic Development Bank to inject into an already bankrupt GGC was adding to Gambia's debt burden woes. We hope Jammeh heeded our advise thus saving the Gambian taxpayer $ 30 million plus service charge.
   

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another slap in the face of the Christian community

Bishop James Yaw Odico.
Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, has delivered yet another slap in the face of the minority Christian community in the Gambia by delegating the Mayor of Banjul instead of his Vice President or, at least, a member of his Cabinet to represent the Government at the consecration of Bishop James Yaw Odico who is the second Gambian to hold such position.

The Mayor of Banjul who was elected to the job not as a member of the ruling party but as an Independent candidate and, therefore, does not even share the same political party with Jammeh.  The Mayor is not part of the hierarchy of the government establishment and neither does he occupy an official post within the government of Yaya Jammeh.

This blatant snub is coming at the heels of Jammeh's abrupt decision to proclaim The Gambia, the smallest country on the African continent an Islamic Republic, making it only the second such Republic in Africa after Mauritania.

By contrast, when the late Bishop Johnson was enthroned as Archbishop, Jammeh was gracious enough to have, at least, delegated his Vice President.  Opposition Leaders and the Imam Ratib of Banjul were also in attendance.

To have delegated the Mayor of Banjul as government's representative is not only a slap in the face of Anglicans but the Christian community at large.  As a leader in the Christian community put it to us "Benjamin Roberts could have represented the Government because he is a Christian."  Mr. Roberts, the only Christian in Jammeh's cabinet, is the current Minister of Tourism.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Editorial: Should eligible Gambians register to vote?

Sidi Sanneh 
The simple answer to the question is, of course, YES.  Every eligible Gambian must register to secure a voting card without which access to the voting booth will be denied.

From afar, it would appear preposterous to even entertain the question, especially when the country in question is The Gambia and the leader currently occupying State House is none other than the notoriously brutal, incompetent and corrupt dictator who prefers to be addressed as His Excellency Alhagie Doctor, Professor Yaya Abdul-Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh, Nasurudeen, Balilimansa.

Voter participation is something every free society should and does encourage.  In authoritarian regimes, it is discouraged unless it benefits those in power, and the Gambia is no different.  Every effort will be made by the dictatorship to discourage those voters who would potentially vote for the opposition parties.  It is therefore in the interest of the opposition parties to encourage increase participation of voters, new and first time voters, in the electoral process.

However, the message has been muddled up, inadvertently, I might add, by those opposed to the regime of Yaya Jammeh by citing the recently passed amendments to the country's electoral laws that clear favor the incumbent.  In addition to these odious laws, the D 100 replacement fee required of all previously registered voters who've lost or mutilated their original voter's card - a replacement fee that some see as some form of a poll tax and thus an infringement on the voting rights of citizens.

While sympathetic to this view, I think the refusal to cast one's ballot in the 2016 elections should be predicated on broader and more consequential issues as the recently passed laws egregiously titled "The Electoral Reform Act of 2015."  We still do not understand why the opposition never campaigned against the 50+1 rule that is almost a universally accepted norm and an easily understood concept.

In debating the issue of whether to register or not to register, we must keep two things separate (i)  the inherent right of every Gambian of voting age to have access to the voting booth which can only be obtained by registering to vote and (ii) the right of the individual to exercise OR not to exercise that right.  The two are not inextricably linked.  Therefore, they are mutually exclusive.

If we agree on these premises, then every Gambian regardless of party affiliation, should register and be issued a voter's card.  It is up to the individual voter to decide whether the prevailing conditions are sufficient to warrant his or her participation in the upcoming elections.

We've always said that it would be ill-advised for the opposition to proceed to elections in 2016 without a radical overhaul of the electoral laws.  We see, everyday, signs that the Jammeh regime is determined to win the 2016 vote even before a single vote is cast by manipulating the electoral roll and passing electoral laws that only add to an already rough and hostile terrain for opposition parties.

Nothing extraordinary has taken place to warrant reconsider of our position.  And we don't think those with similar views at home and abroad should either.  That said, we encourage every eligible Gambian to register and be issued with a voter's card so that in the event that the regime of Yaya Jammeh meets the demand of those who want to see a change in the current electoral laws.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Election Alert: What is the IEC hiding?


Some Members of the IEC
Chairman Mustapha Carayol of the Independent Electoral Commission has been forced to attend next Monday's meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee locally known by their acronyms PAC/PEC after failing to honor previous invitations.

Failure to attend PAC/PEC has added to speculations that the Chairman and his members of the discredited  Electoral Commission that they are following strict orders from State House.

"The Chairman is doing whatever possible not to face the Public Accounts...to present his institution's accounts and the Activity Report for 2014", according to a source.

Endless excuses have caused even the APRC Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta to lose patience with the illusive Chairman of the Commission who has been using the supplementary registration exercise as reason for postponing his meeting with PAC/PEC.

Chairman Carayol's letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly requesting an April meeting date with the Joint Committee has been refused by Members.  Instead, the IEC Chairman has been asked to come before PAC/PEC on Monday, and even after this our source said "he [Carayol] is saying his audited accounts are not ready."  In spite of any of the reports due from the IEC have reached the Joint Committee, members are still expecting the Chairman's showing up on Monday, according to our source.

This brazen display of incompetence and lack of trustworthiness is one more reason why the Chairman, who is occupying the seat illegally and  members of the IEC, some of whom lack integrity, should not be trusted to manage the upcoming elections in a fair and transparent way.

We are being reminded again as to why the opposition must not participate in the 2016 president and the 2017 National Assembly elections unless there is a total and absolute overhaul of the electoral laws under a new and reconstituted IEC.  The current set up has been corrupted beyond repair.

Is the Food Security Corporation operating illegally?

Groundnut processing at Denton Bridge
We have been able to confirm that Jammeh has proceeded to establish the National Food Security Corporation (NFSC) as part of his ill-fated Vision 2016 which sets a national goal of rice self-sufficiency by December 2016 - a deadline that has come and gone, leaving food-deficit Gambia more rice deficit today than when the V-2015 was inaugurated over two years ago.

The new deadline for the banning of rice importation has been moved to next September when there would have been sufficient increase in local rice production to make up for the 120,000 - 140,000-ton deficit (depending on which source you use). Assuming that the rice consumption pattern is the same as in 2013, The Gambia will still need to import $ 50 million worth of rice to make up for the deficit.

Initially, Jammeh envisaged the NFSC to take ownership of all "excess arable land" currently under traditional tenure system.  His former Secretary General and Minister of Presidential Affairs made the announcement at the start of the Dialogue with the People Tour in April 2014.

He justified establishing the Food Security Corporation because of the high failure rates of previous agriculture projects which he attributed to the "mercy syndrome" precipitated by external donors that resulted in persistent "hunger and poverty".  By the time Jammeh and his entourage reached the halfway point of his tour, the NFSC as a concept up to this point - because no known blueprint or appraisal report confirming the economic, financial/and business viability exist - the idea has morphed into, what appeared to be more of a confiscatory scheme.

In explaining the NFSC to Sapu and Boiram farmers, he said the new entity is anchored firmly on his Vision 2016, rice self-sufficiency program.  He went further to say the following: " If you are developing 1,000 hectares, the NFSC will take 500 hectares and the other 500 will be given to you."   You can find the verbatim reporting of the entire 2014 tour in the State House website here.  The NFSC was to have a Board composed of Cabinet Ministers, according to the then Secretary General.

In March of 2015, it was announced that the business activities of the new entity's will now be expanded to include processing and groundnut marketing thus subsuming the bankrupt Gambia Groundnut Corporation under the new name of The National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC)..

Our inquiries have confirmed that as at January 2016 an entity exists that goes by the name of National Food Security and Processing Corporation with Tony Carvalo, former Managing Director (MD) of GGC, now MD of the new outfit.  The word "marketing" has been dropped from the name, the meaning of which is still unclear because the regime is coy on divulging information as if to conceal some basic facts.

What is worrying and a concern to us is the fact that an Act establishing the new corporation has not been passed by the National Assembly and assented to by Jammeh for it to be a fully-fledged legal entity.  The implications of operating illegally, as NFSC appears to be, casts serious doubts on any and all business, especially foreign transactions it may enter into.  When Jammeh intends to instruct his Minister of Justice and/or the line ministry to prepare a Bill for introduction to the National Assembly floor is any one's guess.

We have in the past couple of years expressed our strong opposition to the creation of this monstrosity called National Food Security Corporation which led to appealing to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in the form of an open letter, highlighting the potential threats it poses to the traditional tenure system, and thus the social cohesion in rural Gambia.  We continue to oppose the establishment of the National Food Security Corporation.  

Why is Jammeh on a social engineering crusade

Jammeh with his ADC
When Jammeh's young and inexperienced Information Minister blurted out a widely known and publicly held view that Jammeh was on a "social re-engineering crusade" in a lame attempt at defending the dictators ill-fated and short-lived diktat that every woman in the civil service must wrap a head tie around her head to "cover her hair", he (the Minister) was only publicly joining the choir in singing a popular helm.

Jammeh seized power not because he wanted to simply to replace a government that he thought was "corrupt and lacked transparency, accountability and probity" but was one that promoted elitism by employing exclusionary policies designed to maintain the status quo at the expense of people like him and his ilk.

Like many military takeovers before his, Jammeh promised a new, more open and just order where the fortunes of the less privileged, exploited class who grew up in unfinished, fixture-less brick "mansions" (his mother lived in one) usually owned by civil servants and well to do businessmen and women, will be reversed.

But unlike many other coups, the neophytes who constituted the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) and led by Jammeh were unable to conceal their hatred, not only for the political class but for the members of the civil service class whom they hated even more.  So rounding them up in their offices and driven around town in open trucks just for the heck of it was a standard form of public humiliation.

The residents of Banjul, as a sign of approval, cheered and chased these trucks on their joy rides across town in glee and jubilation as Jammeh and his band of renegade soldiers dispensed their own version of commutative justice in reverse. They were delivering their promise to the people that those who were enjoying in the previous regime will suffer in the new order. That was the commencement of Jammeh's crusade to reverse the prevailing social order that he hated so much that led him to seizing power illegally.

Jammeh learned very early that his strong desire to mold The Gambia in his image cannot be achieved through democracy - a process that is slow and fraught with uncertainties.  A faster and unfettered route is through the accumulation of autocratic and dictatorial powers which he succeeded in accumulating with the help of the military and a rubber stamp National Assembly, in spite of the assurances he gave to Gambians at the time of the coup that he will not introduce military dictatorship.
                                                                    +++

This blog post is a first in a series of posts that will look at the various attempts at and components of Jammeh's social re-engineering crusade, and whether he was succeeded or not and the implications of moving forward in the reconstruction of our country once we rid the Gambia of the dictator.      

Monday, January 18, 2016

Partial anatomy of the rigged 2016 elections

Moroccan-born First Lady holding her Gambia bio metric voters card



When the regime of The Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh, embraced biometrics technology in 2009, neither he nor his Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, understood the technology the Touray brothers, Hassan and Abdou Draman were introducing in their country of birth. 

The brothers are Gambians who studied and worked in the United States, returning to their native country to invest their own funds in what became known as the GAMBIS (Biometrics) project which, with the expected cooperation of a willing partner, would have placed The Gambia in an enviable position by ushering in transparency in future elections.  

The financial sector and particularly the banking and insurance sub-sectors, would have benefited in more ways than one. The country would have been - although in a sense, it still is somewhat - the first country in the ECOWAS region to have embraced the new technology had the regime not broke the conditions of the contract with Pristine Consulting headed by Hassan Touray. 

Biometrics technology allows one to measure and analyze the physical attributes of a subject's facial and voice features.  It can also scan retinal features, all of which can be stored in the chip and once stored the data cannot be altered or manipulated in any form.  It is this high degree of transparency that biometrics technology provides that troubled a notoriously opaque regime.

The project introduced a centralized accounting platform making it possible for revenue data collected by the Gambia Revenue Agency to be easily accessible to authorized personnel.   It eliminated the need for government departments to collect cash for issuance and renewal of passports, driver’s licenses, national IDs or similar official documents.

The effect was instantaneous.  But so was the reaction of the Inspector General of Police Ensa Badjie who stormed the Pristine Consulting offices to register his displeasure at the new system because revenue is not being collected by his officers.  IGP Badjie may have been expressing the sentiments shared by many of his colleagues in the government.

After the IGP Ensa Badjie’s incident, it became increasingly evident that buyer’s remorse was beginning to set in, resulting in the regime framing charges against the company which resulted in counter suit that ended up with the government dropping the charges.  

The financial and legal implications of the regime’s decision to discontinue the biometrics project are grave in the midst of an economic crisis that is of the doing of Yaya Jammeh who continues to ignore advice of the IMF and other donors to be prudent in his spending. 

Legal liabilities resulting from the breach of contract which led to Pristine Consulting suing government may result in additional financial cost to the public treasury.  The regime’s reaction to the company’s legal action was to frame the Touray brothers.  Even though the false charges were eventually dropped with the promise to financially settle, the regime failed to fulfill in its promise.      

Abandoning the biometrics project that was being 100% pre-financed by private investors were to recover their investment costs over 5 years means additional financial burden of the public treasury resulting from litigation.  

It also means that the country is returning to the old system of laminated national ID and driver’s license that are susceptible to forgery and manipulation.  2016 is presidential election year which is an inopportune time to abandon a system which would have made voter registration more fraud-proof and thus a more transparent electoral process.     

It should be noted that while the Jammeh regime has abandoned the biometrics system, ECOWAS’s protocol requiring all of its 16 Members State to adopt the biometrics ID cards effective this month, January 2016.  The Gambia thus has the dubious honor of being the first to have adopted the system, the first to abandon it and will be the last to adopt it.  It is not surprising because this is a regime that is confused and lacks both direction and resolve. 

Revival of Jammeh's HIV/AIDS cure claim puts Gambian lives at risk unnecessarily

Health and Information Ministers among officials join celebrations
The Health, Information and Education Ministers, Omar Sey, Sheriff Bojang and Fatou Lamin Faye respectively were joined by other senior officials to help pay tribute to the Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh, for discovering the cure for HIV/AIDS nine years ago.

In his opening remarks, Jammeh encouraged Gambians to return to their roots by embracing traditional medicine, in addition to observing the nine anniversary of his remarkable discovery of the cure for HIV/AIDS.

The Health Minister, Omar Sey, in turn, outlined the remarkable discoveries that Yaya Jammeh has made in addition to his HIV/AIDS cure to include "other deadly diseases people believed were incurable" in the past without specifying the deadly diseases.  But the Gambian dictator's claims include cure for high blood pressure and diabetes.  The list may have grown since the last time we checked.

"Since the initiation of this landmark extraordinary treatment program [of HIV/AIDS], thousands of patients of all ages, nationalities, creed, race and people...have immensely benefited..." claimed Gambia's Health Minister.

The evidence to support Jammeh's claim that thousands have been cure is difficult to come by and officials have been elusive especially when questioned about the whereabouts of those patients who have been "cured".  They have never been able to produce them, many of whom have obviously died of the disease.  The sad part of this unfortunate craziness is their lives could have been saved because many of them were forced out of their regular retro-viral treatment and into Jammeh's treatment program.

Yaya Jammeh's medical quackery was partly responsible for UNAIDS's withdrawal from The Gambia. Now that the agency has returned, Jammeh and his team of equally irresponsible officials are back to ramp up the treatment program, once again, meaning that more Gambian lives than necessary will be poor at risk again by this mad man.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Radio journalist, Alhagie Ceesay, is gravely ill in Mile II prison, according to family source

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay

The Managing Director of Teranga Radio and journalist, Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay,who has been denied bail for a bailable offence, in spite of the fact that the charges against him are trumped-up, is still being held at the remand wing of the notorious Mile II prisons.

According to family sources, Mr. Ceesay is seriously ill with "enlarged liver and has difficulty eating."  He needs immediate medical attention. His ability to move appears to have been severely restricted also because, according to a family source, "he can sit for an hour without moving."

The radio journalist's Teranga Radio has also fallen on hard times, with mounting electricity bills and dwindling advertising revenue. According to the same family source, advertisers are distancing themselves from the station for fear of reprisals from a very vengeful regime that does not only deprive you of your freedom but tortures you in the process while attempting to render you destitute.

Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay is an innocent man and should, therefore, be set free to return to his family and loved ones.  This young man does not deserve to be treated in such an inhumane and illegal way. He's done nothing wrong.

FREE ALHAGIE ABDOULIE CEESAY

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gambia's Information Minister confirms Jammeh is on a social re-engineering crusade

Jammeh with Information Minister Sheriff  Bojang
We could not agree more with Jammeh's Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, that the Gambian dictator is engaged in " a social re-engineering crusade" against the Gambian people, as a matter of public policy.

Public admission from the regime that there has been an attempt by Jammeh to reconfigure, not only the political terrain but the social and cultural makeup of the Gambia to the desirable mold ans liking of Yaya Jammeh.

The admission was in response to Jammeh's executive order ordering all female civil servants to cover their hair with head tie.  While the Minister was genuinely defending his boss, his boss was backpedaling in the face of a blistering opposition and outcry from friends and foe alike.

We do agree with the Minister that Jammeh is engaged in social re-engineering as evidenced by his numerous policy initiatives and political moves. We have, for instance, expressed concern about the promotion of tribalism as a deliberate but covert, if not downright overt, public policy.

Jammeh has, on several occasions, stated publicly that no member of the Mandinka tribe will ever occupy the presidency again.[Jammeh deposed a Mandinka in his 1994 coup]  Shortly thereafter, he dispatched a former Secretary General. Minister of Presidential Affairs who was also doubling up as Secretary General of Jammeh's political party to denounce the majority tribe in the Gambia by spewing anti-Mandinka rhetoric.  Strangely enough, the former Minister belongs to the tribe that the dictator instructed him to disparage on government-controlled television.

Authoritarian regimes like Jammeh's tend to manipulate the population, using numerous techniques that render them totally dependent on government for survival.  He has used state media and public resources to ensure that every weekend or so, there is music jamborees, "cultural" festivals and sex and drug parties in his home village of Kanilai where the young are inducted into the cult-like, zombie atmosphere where your ability to think independently diminishes and acting on command takes root.

This weekend, a batch of army ("militia" is a more appropriate word) is being entertained by Jammeh in his home village of Kanilai.  These young men and women, the majority of whom are from Jammeh's own tribe, will be swearing their allegiance not to the state but to Jammeh.  He will then feed them, provide them with plenty of sex and drugs as a way of winning their loyalty.  No wonder most of them act more as thugs than soldiers out to defend the territorial integrity of The Gambia.  

Unemployment of young people is high, especially in the rural areas where as many as 11,300 young men have escaped the drudgery of rural life in 2014 alone for a second chance at life in Europe because the regime of Jammeh has failed them.  In fact, there are signs that the regime has a hand in the illegal movement of persons across international border - human trafficking -  as both a source of illicit money and a way of easing the social tension that youth unemployment tend to generate.  This could be seen as socially engineering the rural area where the majority Mandinka tribe live in order to reduce their numbers and lessen their potential political power.

Since it is all about number and statistics, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics has been politicized by the regime to ensure the numbers generated are consistent with the narrative that Jammeh wants the public to believe.  He appointed a Director General from his tribe while sidestepping more qualified and far more experienced candidates.  The fact that the final and official 2013 Census has been delayed for almost three years is a telltale sign that either the numbers do not add up - I have been assured that the numbers are okay which I accept - or the interpretation ( cum spin) put on the numbers may explain the delay.  This is the first time that the Final Census of Population has been delayed for this long.

As we have said on numerous occasions, Gambians will not allow Jammeh or anyone else with similar ideas to succeed in their sinister attempt to sow the seeds of discord.  We have been quite aware of Jammeh's social engineering crusade. But we can assure him that he will fail.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jammeh has relented under pressure by lifting foreign exchange restrictions

By regularly interfering in the foreign exchange market against the advise of the International Monetary Fund, Yaya Jammeh as abruptly reverse course.  

The reversal was announced over government-controlled national television with the Gambia dictator assuring the donors, indirectly, that "he is committed to the free market".  

Jammeh is assuring us now that he is committed to the free market system after causing havoc in the foreign exchange market that has resulted in the over-valuation of the dalasi by over 20%.  This is according to the International Monetary Fund.  

An overvalued dalasi means relatively cheaper imports and more expensive exports. We should expect this year's groundnut exports [even with an expected depreciation] to earn us less foreign exchange than if Jammeh had stayed away from what is, by law, the mandate of the Central Bank of the Gambia.  The fact that our foreign exchange reserves are less than two months worth of import cover may have added to the pressure Mr. Jammeh had been experiencing lately.  

Although the decision is coming when damage to the economy has already been done - a damage that could have been avoided to a large degree - it is, as the saying goes, better late than never.   But Jammeh must be warned that interference in the functions of the Central Bank cannot and will not be tolerated without severe penalties.  

Assuming that he stays off the economy, the floating exchange rate system that had served us well, up to this point, will be allowed to perform the function for which  it was designed if we are to avoid the market distortions that Jammeh had inflicted on the economy. 

Jammeh backtracks on the head tie dress code

Many Gambian female civil servants breathe a sigh of relief when Jammeh abruptly rescinded his
Mrs. Jammeh 
week-old executive order that directed the use of head ties to cover their heads.

The furious and swift reactions from Church leaders at home and dissident activists in America and Europe led to the change of heart.  
Gambia's First Lady, a Moroccan jet setter with insatiable taste for designer cloths is said to be an unexpected ally of opponents of the dress code that her husband wanted to impose on female civil servants.

Since head ties are not part of her fashion accessories, she therefore opposed the idea and evidently prevailed on her husband, according to a source who proceeded to add that "we will take it (referring to the decision to rescind) where the support is coming from, even from the devil."

The regime's spokesperson responding to the avalanche of international criticism of Jammeh's decision to drag the Gambia into the unknown made a curious admission that the new dress code had "more to do with [the dictator's] social re-engineering crusade than religion".  When you dabble in religion, you are toying with the social fabric of a community and society.  The two are inextricable linked.  So, please stay away.  

Social engineering experiments conducted by dictators have, throughout history, resulted in genocide that is inevitably traced to politicians who were dictators like Yaya Jammeh, blinded by their thirst for more political power.  The social engineering techniques they employ usually end up in the worst forms of human rights abuses, including genocide.  

The Jews, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats come to mind.  We urge Jammeh and his Communication Minister to stay clear of promoting a concept that has, throughout history, produced nothing but heinous crimes against humanity.

Leave well enough alone is our unsolicited advise to the Gambia dictator and his Communication Minister.  Gambians do not want to be re-engineered, certainly not from a clueless dictator like Yaya Jammeh.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Police storm Damfaye village, Karamba Touray's brother and School Chairman taken into custody

Principal of Damfaye Basic, Lamin Camara 
Two truckloads of police officers stormed the village of Damfaye in the CRR and took Karamba Touray’s brother and the Chairman of the school for questioning at Bansang Police Station in connection with the case before the court relating to materials donated by Mr. Touray and other Gambians living in the United States and others for a school project.
   
After they took the two, the police then proceeded to interrogate the village Alkalo, teachers and other villagers ostensibly to determine how the materials were distributed.   

They then went to the school and took pictures of the materials that were stored there like computers, furniture, books, construction materials, solar systems, generators etc. These items were all part of the container that Mr. Touray and others shipped to Banjul for a building they are helping the school with.  

Lamin Camara, who is currently on bail was present while the police went on a rampage as they try to intimidate the villagers into submission as a sinister attempt to frame Lamin Camara,  the Principal of Damfaye Basic School, who’s scheduled to be in the Bansang Magistrate Court tomorrow, Wednesday the 13th January.

As we promised our readers, we will continue to monitor the situation and to report as events unfold in this case that also involved Police Sergeant 844 Bayo who stopped Mr. Camara as a police check point and demanded a D 3,000 bribe.  


The economics of the Legal Practitioner's Bill 2015

Justice Minister Singhateh
We feel obliged to revisit issues surrounding the recently passed Legal Practitioner's Bill of 2015 so that Gambians can better understand its real intent and its impact on incoming and future graduating law students at the University of The Gambia.

In the absence of reliable data, especially as it relates to the number of graduates that are produced annually, we will not stray outside of the rudimentary principles of economics to help shed, not only on the economics of the Bill in questions but the politics of it that is primarily responsible for the plight of the current crop of the newly minted lawyers.

In stirring the Bill through the National Assembly, Mama Fatima Singhateh, the regime's Attorney General and Minister of Justice stated the reasons for the Bill was to "ensure a high standard of legal practice" but fail to state how which would have delved into the real intent.

The Bill requires a law student graduate to spend 5 years in pupilage (law training/attachment) with a law firm before he or she is a fully-fledged lawyer. After students petitioned National Assembly Members, the attachment period was reduced to 3 years. (In one radio program, I had mistakenly said the period was one year instead of three.)

The problem that this Bill intends to address is very real and illustrative of one of the reasons why the Jawara administration deliberately slow-walked the idea of establishing a university.  The strategy was allow the debate to proceed while the component parts of what is now the University of the Gambia were being build.

The strategy gave birth to The Gambia College (Brikama Campus), GTTI, MDI, Schools of Nursing and of Public Health, Rural Development Institute among others as fully functional learning/training centers, not only to provide better trained personnel for the civil and public services but also the private sector.  Entrepreneurial development to bolster the growth of the private sector was integrate part of project design.

The small size of the Gambian economy dictated caution in the training and management of the country's human resources.  Sir Dawda knew and appreciated the delicate balance that must be maintained the supply of and the demand for trained personnel for the economy as a whole i.e. both public sector and private sector employment.

Fast forward to the problem facing the Law Faculty.  The number of students being graduated at the Law (Faculty) School annually is clearly posing a great deal of problems for Yaya Jammeh who has exploited a perfectly rational university education policy by convincing many Gambians that Jawara was denying ordinary Gambians access to higher learning so that the elites can continue to run things. A false but potent argument.

The economy has been contracting for at least a decade due to Jammeh's bad policies - coupled with his persistent interference - which has adversely affected its job-creating capacity. The primary employer being government has been saturated with redundant civil servants.  The Attorney General Chambers in the Ministry of Justice which served as training ground for young lawyers since independence is no exception. It also has limited absorptive capacity.  The Judiciary faces a different set of problems which we have been addressing separately.

The private sector has been fairing worse with business failures at an all time high.  We can see the dilemma of the regime.  Jammeh has created  the environment that will make it nearly impossible to reverse course because of the open door policy of university admission with little or no regard for the consequences of uncontrolled supply of lawyers in a contracting economy.

The problem is supply driven because of Jammeh's success in politicizing education in general and university education in particular.  Now that the problem of mismatch of the supply of law graduates and the demand for their services in the public service, in particular, severely restricted, the regime solicited and found a willing partner in the Gambia Bar Association (GBA).

The GBA's support for and role in the passage of the Legal Practitioner's Bill is primarily driven by personal and industry interest.  Young lawyer being cut loose by the Law Faculty of the UTG to flood a market that is a nightmarish scenario that will further depress lawyer's fees.  At least, by keeping these new-minted lawyers in a law firm for three years and away from private law practice, the theory goes,  the regime and GBA will maintain some form of equilibrium.

The A(F)PRC has created this problem by politicizing education, from which they have greatly benefited.  It is true that education is a great equalizer but there is also something called controlled access at the university (small economies), graduate and post graduate/professional levels.

Because Jammeh and his minions have promised open and unfettered access university education at the expense of quality, he lacks the courage to restrict the supply by employing more stringent admission requirements.  Instead, he'd rather add three years of what amounts to babysitting time to law firms - an arrangement mutually beneficial to both government and the GBA but only in the short term.  The path chosen by Jammeh and Mama Singhateh may be easy but unsustainable one.  The fundamental laws of economics will force them or a subsequent government to revisit the same problem again.

NB:  These comments are generally applicable to the undergraduate program as UTG as well.  In fact, the consequences of a mismatch between supply and demand in an economy as small as ours are grave, if not graver because the number of students affected are greater.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Speak up or forever hold your peace, Father Edward Gomez has spoken


Father Edward Gomez spoke in Wollof, one of the local vernaculars, to warn against the proclamation by Yaya Jammeh, the Gambia dictator, that the country is now an Islamic State.

The proclamation came, in the words of the respected and highly influential news magazine, The Economist, came with no forewarning, and seemingly on a whim.  It is on the whim of an idiosyncratic and highly unstable man because he found it necessary to issue a clarification of the 'head tie' barely 24 hours after issuing his executive order.

Father Edward Gomez is warning Gambians of all faiths, especially the leaders of the Muslim as well as the Christian communities, not to entertain measures designed to divide a country that enjoyed peaceful co-existence between faiths.

The Catholic priest referenced a popular song of an equally popular local Mandinka Kora player "Kang Killing" (meaning one language/one people) and reminded Gambians that The Gambia is One Nation and we MUST not stand and watch while the country is being destroyed.

We, at sidisanneh.blogspot.com, are adding our voice to that of Father Edward Gomez, by opposing Yaya Jammeh ill-conceived and half-baked idea of declaring The Gambia an Islamic State - a concept that is unconstitutional and must, therefore, be opposed by every true Gambian.

We salute father Edward Gomez and urge individual members of the Supreme Islamic Council, Members of the Banjul Muslim Community, The Gambia Christian Council to step up to the plate and speak up or forever hold your peace.    

Gambia's foreign reserves are down to less than two months worth of imports

A source at the Central Bank of The Bank has informed us that there is "less than two months worth of import cover" as at January 2016.

The current foreign reserve situation is not likely to abate anytime soon given that the two premier foreign exchange earners of the economy - tourism and agriculture - are under performing.

In presenting his 2016 budget to the National Assembly, the Finance Minister said "...the economy has been hit by a external shocks, through the Ebola virus and delayed or insufficient rains putting additional pressure in the growth potential of the agriculture and tourism sectors."

An apparent delay in the start of this year's groundnut purchasing season will adversely affect an already precarious state of the regime's public finances.

Authorities are still tight lipped about the groundnut marketing arrangements for the season and also on whether the Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) has been subsumed, as declared government by the Jammeh regime back in March of last year, into the newly created National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC).

This unexplained behavior will result in a good part of this year's cash crop finding its way across the border - if it has not already happened - further aggravating an already dire financial straits the regime finds itself.  Tourist arrivals is not encouraging either.  No wonder, this year and in last, the Finance Minister is warning of another difficult year for Gambians.

With foreign reserves at an all-time low, coupled with a struggling tourism industry and a flagging agricultural sector, the future appears bleak.  The fact that development assistance is being withheld from a regime that continues to defy basic international norms of behavior, the challenges in 2016 will be greater.  The importation of basic food items like rice and cooking oil as well as other basic necessities of life, not to mention meeting the monthly salary bill, will prove to be a difficult task for the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sergeant 844 Bayo should be the one on trial for corruption and abuse of office, not Lamin Camara

Principal, Damfaye Basic School

Sgt. 844 Bayo and his hand-written note












The legal case of Lamin Camara, Principal of Damfaye Basic School has been adjourned and scheduled to resume on Wednesday, the 13th January at the Bansang Magistrate Court.

The school principal was initially charged with false publication and broadcasting, later amended to include a libel charge for "exposing a police officer on the internet." The "exposed" officer is the one shown here, named Sgt.844 Bayo of the Kaur police station who demanded a bribe of D 3,000 (approx. US$ 66 ) - equivalent to twice his monthly salary - from the school principal for escorting donated materials from Gambians resident in the United States for Damfaye School, their alma mater. The materials are gifts to the school and not the personal property of Mr. Camara.

Mr. Camara now stands charged with false publication and broadcasting for a story that appeared on the sidisanneh,blogspot.com which you can find here, and not at www.seedysanneh.com.  For the record, such site does not exist as at the date and time of publishing this blog post.

Yaya Jammeh and his security forces are notoriously corrupt, crafty and fond of fabrication of evidence and known for concocting charges against innocent Gambians.  Lamin Camara is one such victim who could not have published nor broadcast a blog post that was written and published by this blogger.

The libel charge is equally preposterous.  How can Mr. Lamin Camara libel Sgt. 844 Bayo when it was the author of the blog post in question who also reported on the unsavory character named Sergeant 844 Bayo who preys on drivers plying the Kaur road, and ordinary citizens who are always being forced to part with their money and valuable personal articles.  He is a predator who should be charged with corruption and abuse of office - the signature charge of Jammeh's regime.

We will continue to monitor the case.  Our next installment will look at the disgraceful performance of the first prosecution witness (PW1) who must have suffered from instant amnesia.

Here is a synopsis of the cross examination signaling what's in store in subsequent court proceedings:-

When Lamin Camara who was acting as his own legal counsel asked PW1 "how many days did I spend with you at Bansang police station? I can't recall. "When was I taken to Janjangburay remand and how? His response? "I can't respond even though I escorted you."  When was my case mentioned at Brikamaba Magistrate's Court?" He responded in his characteristic style "I am the one that escorted you to Brikamaba court but I can't recall."  Maybe at the 13th January proceedings the Magistrate should bring back this moron and ask him his name.  I bet you, he will not be able to recall his name.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Editor-in-Chief of Standard newspaper resigns, "pushed by professional disagreement."

Lamin Njie, former Editor-in-Chief of Standard
Lamin Njie, Editor-in-Chief of The Standard newspaper, handed in his resignation letter, yesterday, Wednesday, The Point newspaper reports.

The resignation is not only rare but highly unusual in that The Standard is said to be owned by Sheriff Bojang, a journalist himself who is currently serving as Minister of Information and official spokesperson of the dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh.

Resignations, in general, are rare, especially based on principle which is the reason cited by Mr. Njie,  He said in his letter of resignation that he was "pushed by professional disagreement."

"I felt the need to protect my reputation, editorial freedoms and independence", he said, and proceeded to list his accomplishments and what he termed as "landmark initiatives"during his brief (10 months) tenure as editor - a function he assumed at the time he succeeded Mr. Sheriff Bojang when he vacated the editorship for his current ministerial duties.

"I leave with a sense of pride and satisfaction that I have consistently upheld basic journalistic values."  He wished the paper well in parting company with.  Mr, Njie's resignation is consistent with universal journalistic values of avoiding the conflict of interest posed by the owner accepting a ministerial appointment that carries with it the responsibilities of  acting as the regime's spokesperson.  

In a dictatorship that has one of the most repressive press laws in the world, owning and operating a newspaper - even by remote control - and overseeing these repulsive laws indeed pose a moral and journalistic dilemma, a professional and moral conflict that no journalist with a moral conscience can sustain for long.  We salute Mr. Lamin Njie for the professional manner in which he handled both his functions as editor and the gracious manner he walked away from what clearly a moral dilemma for him.

Note:  We call attention to our readers that the online edition of The Standard has not been published for a month or so which may or may not any bearing on this story.  Visitors to the website are being advised that it is being upgraded.

The Gambia either has a Constitution or it doesn't

Dictator Yaya Jammeh of The Gambia
The lawlessness displayed in recent years by the regime of Yaya Jammeh has reached a crescendo with his proclamation that The Gambia is now an Islamic Republic, without national debate or notice of any kind.

The 1997 Constitution, tailor-made to the liking of the would-be dictator who worked behind the scenes to manipulate the final draft, states unambiguously that The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic.

The fact that this particular clause is an entrenched clause, meaning it cannot be changed without a national referendum, means little to a lawless man whose only interest is to stay in power for as long as his shenanigans are tolerated by a traumatized population.

Yaya Jammeh has amended  The Gambia's Constitution more times in 21 years than the United States managed to amend its own in its nearly 240-year history. Of course, he could not have accomplished such a feat without the collaborative effort of a rubber stamp parliament that approves law that gives Yaya Jammeh the power to dismiss them from the National Assemble to which they were duly elected by the people - their constituents - to represent their interests.

These illegalities were and, still are, encouraged by legal advisers, including more than a dozen or so Justice Ministers who have aided and abetted the dictator in the usurpation of the power initially vested in the people in a Constitution that was already flawed coming out of the government printing presses back in 1997.

Just like in Yaya Jammeh's security force - arrest and then investigate - his legislative agenda is similarly unconventional and highly self-serving, dictated by expediency than by protecting and promoting the general welfare of Gambians.  It is all about protecting and perpetuating the tyrannical rule of Yaya Jammeh.  Thus the Constitution is treated with contempt to embarrassing levels. Toilet paper, naturally, comes to mind.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Principal of Damfaye School is innocent

Lamin Camara - Head Master
It is absurd to accuse an innocent man whose only crime is to dedicate his entire professional life in the service of Gambian children as qualified teacher, who, according to sources, have chosen to stay in The Gambia to teach rather than migrate to Europe or the United States when he had the opportunity.

Our advise to the regime is:  Free an innocent man so that he can go back to his classroom and look after our kids and grand kids.

Lamin Camara, the principal of Damfaye was in Banjul to collect project material sent by well-meaning and caring Gambians living in the United States to complete a project at Damfaye School.

We do not know Lamin Camara and have never communicated with him.  Therefore, he could not have provided information at any time to the Sidi Sanneh Blog - sidisanneh.blogspot.com - or to anyone associated with the Blog.  The charges against Lamin Camara are trumped up which should be dropped.

We will refrain from going beyond the disclaimer and our original story that you can access here. What we can say at this point is this case exposes the level of corruption and how deep the scourge have become, permeating the entire police and security forces.

The system put in place by Yaya Jammeh - Sgt. Bayo is a former Green Boy - is corrupt to the core. Sergeant 844 Bayo who patrol the Kaur vicinity is known to be notoriously corrupt who demand bribes from drivers, passengers and poor farmers. We will have more to say about these criminals who pose as law enforcement officers.    FREE LAMIN CAMARA

Gambians bury their heads in the sand while Jammeh wreaks havoc on the country


"From the sublime to the ridiculous" was how a friend put it to me recently, talking about my country - The Gambia.

The remark was prompted by the recent decision by Gambian dictator to proclaim the country an Islamic Republic, contravening Gambian law.  The Yaya Jammeh- inspired 1997 Constitution is very clear as to the status of the Gambia as being a Sovereign, Secular Republic.

His proclamation came without national debate or warning and thus came as a surprise to many Gambia despite the idiosyncratic and erratic behavior of one of the remaining old-style African dictators in the Idi Amin Dada mold.  If Gambians were surprised at the declaration, the Christian community appeared to be in a state of shock.  It was reported that church attendance was higher than normal on the Sunday following the declaration, suggesting a disquiet (however suppressed) in a community that has lived harmoniously and side by side with the Muslim majority.

Jammeh's contempt of the Constitution that legitimized his military-turned-civilian rule is legendary. His declaration of the Gambia an Islamic Republic was immediately followed by a bizarrely crafted government circular - the first of the new year - informing civil servants "are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours effective December 31, 2015."  "Female staff are urged" the circular continues "to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair."

Personnel Management Office (PMO), the issuing agency, has been sidelined by the dictatorship in the human resource management of the civil service since Jammeh seized power in 1994.  All civil servants are hired and fired by the dictator.

The sublime, according to my friend, was when the country was considered one of the few multi-party democracies in Africa in the company of Mauritius and Botswana, swimming in a sea of single-party dictatorship.  Gambia took her rightful place in the community of nations under its first President in the 60s through the 90s when he was deposed by Yaya Jammeh in 1994. Gambia was the smallest country on the African continent but had one of the best managed free market economies. The country's human rights record earned it the headquarters of the African Union's (then OAU) African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Under Jammeh, The Gambia has descended into the ridiculous with bizarre pronouncements and threats to his enemies, real and perceived.  He sees nothing wrong with threatening to slit the throats of gays and lesbians and the claim to have discovered the cure for AIDS.  His medical quackery extended beyond AIDS to include the cure for diabetes, high blood pressure and numerous other diseases.

Jammeh unilaterally withdrew Gambia's 48-year membership of the Commonwealth without consultation, neither with Gambians nor with regional leaders.  His reason for leaving was that the Commonwealth was a colonial relic that belongs in the dustbin of history - a withdrawal that was preceded by his abrupt and unceremonious severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan that shocked diplomats in both Banjul and Taipei.  Jammeh's Ambassador in Taipei only learned about the diplomatic breakup when he was summoned to the Foreign Minister to be served notice to leave the country.

On the human rights front, Jammeh had murdered, extra-judicially executed, tortured, maimed, imprisoned and exiled journalists.  He'd gunned down 14 unarmed school children who were demonstrating against renegade security elements who had caused the death of a young student and had raped another student.  He had inflicted so much pain and suffering on Gambians, they have been traumatized into submission.

Gambia's economy, the crown jewel Jammeh inherited from Sir Dawda K. Jawara, has being degraded to a level that it now ranked 16th in the 16-Member ECOWAS from 3rd position behind Cote d'Ivoire and Cabo Verde when he seized power in 1994, transforming the country in the process from being the "supermarket of the sub-region" to its current economic basket case status. .        

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Jammeh's New Year message was deceitful, contemptuous and defiant

In his 2016 New Year message to Gambians, Jammeh boasted of reducing hunger and malnutrition by 7.7% in 23 years which works out to an average annual of 0.36 per cent.   The population of The Gambia almost doubled during the same period from slightly over 1.0 million to 1.9 million.  No wonder, the incidence of poverty continues to increase at an alarming rate.  69 per cent of Gambians, according to UNDP Human Development Index, are living below the poverty line, defined as anyone living on $ 1.25 or less.  The Gambia is still low income despite the promise by Jammeh to transform the country into a Middle Income Country (MIC) by 2020; it is still food-deficit country with a subsistence economy despite his repeated and unfulfilled promises since 1994 food (rice) self-sufficiency.   

Children in Central River and Upper River Divisions are suffering from kwashiorkor which is an extreme form of malnutrition that the regime of Jammeh has been concealing from the public for three consecutive years.  And according to Jammeh’s own Finance Minister, there is no respite in sight when he warned the National Assembly a couple of weeks ago that 2016 is going to be another difficult year, after two successive years of decline of agricultural production.

The nation’s farmers were expecting to be informed of the market arrangements for this year’s groundnut buying season and about the legal status of the Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC), a bankrupt Agency that ironically has monopoly over the sub-sector.  What is the legal status of the proposed National Food Security, Processing and Marketing Corporation (NFSPMC)? Has the GGC been subsumed by NFSPMC as mooted by the regime several months ago?  Gambian farmers feel abandoned by their government because it is January and still no official announcement has been made regarding the producer price for their produce.  These should be the priority areas of the regime.  Let us get our national priorities right.

Yaya Jammeh also tried - in the lamest of fashion - to explain to Gambians, and particularly to Gambian Christians, why he declared The Gambia an Islamic Republic, without national discourse or any form of warning of any kind.  His rationale for tampering with the secularity of the state is that Muslims constitute the majority which, in the eyes of a myopic and erratic leader, is sufficient – damn what anyone thinks.  If majority rule justifies preemption of minority rights, then Sir Dawda missed his chance of renaming the country The Islamo-Mandinka Republic of The Gambia.  

Jammeh also used the occasion to telegraph to the IMF, World Bank, AfDB and the rest of the development community that he intends to ignore IMF advise, by continuing to intervene in the foreign exchange market.  He evidently had convinced himself that his intervention will correct what he described as “certain distortions and market failures that resulted in the continuous dwindling of the value of the dalasi against foreign currencies.”   Yaya Jammeh did not stop at that.  He proceeded to suggest that what he’s doing is no different from what the U.S. Federal Reserve or the Bank of England would have done in managing a financial crisis – an absolute misrepresentation of the facts.  These Central Banks are independent of the executive branches of their respective governments as the CBG was empowered by law.  But since Jammeh is the law, I guess we are at the mercy of the dictator.

By his unilateral actions in the foreign exchange markets, Jammeh has set us back to pre-January 1986, i.e. before the dalasi was floated and an interbank market for foreign exchange created, allowing the dalasi to float freely – a system that served the Gambia and its economy well. Yaya Jammeh is determined to destroy that too, as he’s destroyed so many component parts of a financial infrastructure that was painstakingly put together by Gambians at tremendous cost. The retrenchment that took place during the Economic Recovery Program that resulted in many Gambians losing their jobs is a distance but painful reminder of the sacrifices that many made to reconfigure Gambia’s economy that was the envy of our regional partners.  Jammeh has squandered it all.
 
Realizing that his market interference is not supported, not only by the IMF and other donors but by a hamstrung and marginalized business community, he tried, in the same message, to say that his regime “subscribes to the principles and spirit of the free market system”, expecting Gambians will buy his bale of goods.  Happily and finally, Gambians know better and can now see through his every bumbling move.  Jammeh will destroy the economy for his own individual selfish business interest.  It is such a human catastrophe that a head of state legally permitted to engage in business,  consuming all his time at the expense of the economic and social welfare of not only the Nation but individual businesses that must compete with him in a rigged market.

As we usher in the New Year, all opponents of this incompetent regime must rededicate ourselves to the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in a country we love and hold dear.  We must, at the same time, recommit ourselves to the peaceful removal of the cancer, from Gambia's our body politic.       


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Senegalese President Macky Sall unilaterally reduces presidential term from 7 to 5 years

President Macky Sall of Senegal 
President Macky Sall of Senegal has announced the reduction of the presidential term from the current seven to five.

The unilateral decision will take effect immediately, preempting the need for a referendum as originally envisaged.

The decision also clears a huddle that parliamentarians were concerned about i.e the cost of conducting such an electoral exercise as well as ending what has been described as "confusion among politicians over the holding of the referendum".

The presidential decree means that the next presidential elections in Senegal will now take place in 2017 when Macky Sall will be seeking his second term,  Should he win, it will be his final term since he is term-limited,

The seven-year term has been constitutional limit since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.  President Wade promised to reduce it to five during his 2000 presidential campaign but failed to fulfill the promise to the electorate.  That promise is now being fulfilled.

The decision will certainly be welcomed across the continent in general and among President Macky Sall's colleagues in the ECOWAS region, all  but two of whom have agreed to presidential term limits in the 16-Member regional organization.

The United States and the European Union countries will also welcome the decision as a measure that can only strengthen Senegal's democracy which is already the pride of Africa.

Only The Gambia and Togo opposed the proposal - a proposal that enjoys ECOWAS-wide support, especially among ordinary citizens who are tired of dictatorships that have contributed in a significant measure to the general backwardness and lack of economic progress which usually accompanies the absence of democracy and the rule of law.

We hope colleagues of the Senegalese president in the region and across the continent will emulate him by committing themselves to term limits which are a sure and certain way of eliminating harsh and brutal dictatorship that countries, like The Gambia, under a 21-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh, are undergoing presently.