Monday, May 30, 2016

What is behind Darboe's bail appeal adjournment

Ousainou Darboe 
It has not been a good year for Yaya Jammeh so far.  The borders between The Gambia and Senegal have been closed from mid-February to last week, bringing to a close what ended up being a three-month stand-off.

To add to Jammeh's woes, the month-long protest demonstrations by the opposition United Democratic Party of Ousainou Darboe that threatened Jammeh's faltering regime.

The death in custody of Solo Sandeng which the regime denied but later admitted by Jammeh in a Jeune Afrique interview, led Ousinadou Darboe to lead his own protest against the deaths, tortures and the arrests of dozens of members f the opposition and its supporters.  The recently passed electoral laws designed to render many political parties ineffective to compete agisnt the ruling APRC have been the main reason for the demonstrations which were quelled by excessive use of force which led to a world-wide condemnation from the United States, the United Nations and European Union.

The violence against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators led the European Parliament to pass a strong resolution not only condemning the regime of Yaya Jammeh for excessive use of force but also proposed to its members state to consider targeted sanctions against key personnel of Jammeh's administration.  Other non-humanitarian sanctions were also recommended.

Jammeh also suffered defeat at the hands of ECOWAS when it decided to throw out Jammeh's complaint against Senegal over the birder closure when it was cited for non-observance of the regional body's protocol.  Jammeh failed to complete the process that would have rendered effective the transit protocol between Senegal and The Gambia.

The Jammeh regime has come under tremendous pressure and had opened itself to further international ridicule and outright scorn as a result of the unforced errors his incompetent regime has committed in the first half of the year.  Therefore, Jammeh needs some positive news to counter-balance all the negative and humiliating publicity that threatens his grip on power.  Enters the Ousianou Darbor case.

Jammeh has been heavily criticized, albeit privately, from his own judiciary that the case involving Ousianou Darboe and co is a one of heavy-handedness.   His Solicitor General advised that the state doesn't have a case against them, he ended up being fired.  The Chief Justice expressed similar sentiments, he was also fired only for his Attorney General and Minister of Justice to convince his to rescind the letter of dismissal - at least temporarily.   The last we heard, the Chief Justice has gone to his native Nigeria leaving the entire judiciary is more disarray.

Jammeh news some good news and he finds it in Ousainou Darboe case whose bail appeal was adjourned until 26th June to buy the dictator time.  What he plans on doing is to drag it up until the end of the Month of Ramadan when he will convene a big meeting of the Banjul Mullahs and the Supreme Islamic Council hypocrites when he will announce the "pardoning" of Ousainou and his supporters as a gesture of reconciliation.

This grandiose plan will sit well with his supporters but not with Ousainou or his supporters because the bigger problem - electoral reform - would not have been addressed by "pardoning" someone who should not have been arrested in the first place.  

Senegal and ECOWAS must act to prevent bloodbath in The Gambia

Sall and Jammeh















It is becoming increasingly evident that human rights abuses in the smallest country on the African continent are increasing in frequency and brutality with more ordinary Gambians being tortured to death and raped because they oppose the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The recent protest demonstrations against the draconian electoral laws passed last year that ensues the continued dominance of the Jammeh-led ruling APRC party that has been in power since 1994 led to the arrest and subsequent death in custody of Mr. Solo Sandeng, an opposition youth leader.  Others who were arrested with Mr. Sandeng were reportedly raped while others have still not been accounted for.

When the United Nations and Amnesty International calls for a full and independent investigations by the Jammeh regime, the request was met with belligerent and defiant reaction from the Gambian dictator by asking Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty to "go to hell."  After all, there was only one death and therefore doesn't warrant an investigation, according to Jammeh.

As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jammeh is expected to adhere to and respect international laws and norms, and that includes ECOWAS protocols.  Instead he flouts them with impunity.  In the wake of the recent and rare protest demonstrations against the Jammeh regime, the human rights abuses have increased both in severity and scope.  Dozens of protesters have been arrested, several killed and raped while others gone unaccounted for.

Amnesty International (AI) has been sounding the alarm against the brutal regime of Yaya Jammeh that the Head of Amnesty, Salil Shetty, now characterizes the regime as a "murderous" one by blasting neighboring states of ECOWAS for staying mute and not coming out to condemn the atrocities being meted out to defenseless Gambians.

Salil Shetty is quoted as saying the "things are going from bad to worse" and that "journalists and civil society are under attack."  The electoral system, including the recently passed Electoral Reform Act of 2015, is rigged in favor of Jammeh. leading Mr. Shetty to conclude that the results of the upcoming presidential polls were "known in advance," an observation which should serve as notice to those opposition leaders on the ground insisting on going to the polls come hell or high water.

Unless there is drastic overhaul of the electoral laws and the dissolving of the corrupt and partisan Independent Electoral Commission, the exercise will be a futile one with Jammeh returning to power, more embolden and more brutal.

In meeting with the Senegalese president recently, Shetty urged him and his ECOWAS counterparts to speak out and "take their responsibilities."  Not to do so would be "shameful."  We join Salil Shetty and Amnesty International in demanding a more aggressive approach to dealing with what has now amounted to a scourge or a cancer that is threatening the peace and stability of the region.   It is the responsibility of President Macky Sall and ECOWAS to act against the tyrannical regime in The Gambia.

Jammeh admits Solo Sandeng died in his custody and said let Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International "go to hell."

Jammeh during the 2011 presidential elections day 
Yaya Jammeh has admitted in a Jeune Afrique magazine interview that Solo Sandeng, the opposition United Democratic Party's youth leader, died while in the custody of his notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

After weeks of denials from his ministers and supporters, both at home and abroad, while accusing his opponents of falsely reporting Mr. Sandeng's death to tarnish the image of his regime.

Reacting to both the United Nations Office of Human Rights and Amnesty International's call for an impartial and thorough investigation of the death in custody of all those thought to have been tortured to death while in the custody of the NIA, Jammeh was quoted as saying " I don;t see the point", referring to the calls for independent investigations.  He continued "people die in custody or during interrogations, its really common."

The callousness of one of Africa's most brutal tyrant was in full display when he wonder why all the fuss from the international community, particularly from the United Nation's and Amnesty International, when, in Jammeh's deranged mind " [T]his time, there is only one dead and they want an investigation?  I will not," declared Jammeh.   In fact, according to Jeune Afrique, Jammeh was quoted as saying "both Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International can go to hell."

Amnesty International is expected t release its report on the human rights condition in the Gambia on the eve of the Summit of the ECOWAS Heads of State scheduled to take place in Dakar this weekend. Human rights activists are also converging in Dakar for an International Civil Society Forum on The Gambia to create a common framework and to project a common position in promoting human rights and the rule of law in The Gambia.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Senegal's decision to re-open its borders allows Jammeh to resume illegal timber exports

Gambian trucks of smuggled timber seized in Senegal in 2015
Senegal's remaining forest cover can be found in the Casamance region, an area estimated to be 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) that, according to the former Senegalese Environment, Haida El Ali, may be depleted in two years, because of the illegal logging and the smuggling of the products across the border into The Gambia.

The redwood is smuggled from Casamance to Gambia via Yaya Jammeh's home village of Kanilai which is then exported through the port of Banjul to China where the demand is extremely high.

"This unacceptable trafficking is devastating for our forests and it has to stop," the former Environment Minister who served in the early part of Macky Sall's government.

According to Haida, traffickers have copped down 1 million trees or 10,000 hectares since 2010.  At this rate, Casamance will lose all of its forest cover by 2018.  Northern Senegal has lost all of its forest cover as the Sahara Desert advances southward.

By contrast, Gambia has earned $ 238.5 million from the illegal export of redwood to China, the second highest in West Africa after Nigeria.  Gambia has only 4,000 hectares of forests according to Mr. Haida.

According to report, Senegal's Environment Minister has not offered its comments to Mr. Haida's claims which should be a cause for concern, especially when Senegal's decided a few days ago to re-open its border on short notice after closing it for over three months, causing significant disruption in the illegal timber trade.

The cashew trade was equally affected during the closure most of which is exported to India, resulting in both China and India applying pressure on the government of Macky Sall to reopen the border allowing the illegal loggers and smugglers to resume their illegal activities at the expense of the environment and the Senegalese economy.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Border closure : Any lessons learned?

Gambia - Senegal border
It was Kofi Annan who, in admitting that national interest still often trumps the boarder interest, said what governments and people don't realize is that sometimes the collective interest - international interest - is also the national interest.  He was reflecting on his 50-year U.N. career which culminated in the Iraq War when he famously declared publicly that the war was illegal and the barrage of criticism that ensued from the United States and Bush's allies.

Of course, we are in no way equating the 3-month border standoff between The Gambia and Senegal with the Iraq war.  But all the elements sited by Mr. Annan, particularly the competing interests, (national and international) are at play here with the regional and international interests trumping the narrower national interest of Senegal.

We have come to learn that the effects of the 3-month border closure was being felt well beyond the borders of the two countries further confirming the importance of the bridge project in promoting regional trade and development.  Nigeria, Ghana and India - let me add China to the list -  were being affected by the closure and thus brought pressure to bear on Senegal.

It is public knowledge that there is lucrative but illicit trade in cashew and timber between Yaya Jammeh-controlled companies and India and China.  With the borders closed, shipments were halted threatening the trade. One of the explicit goals of the Senegalese Transport Union's boycott of the TransGambia route was to put the squeeze on Jammeh's finances for as long as possible.  An unintended consequence of such a union strategy was Jammeh's trading partners applied pressure on the government of Senegal to open the borders.

ECOWAS members states also got into the act and, by all indications, prevailed eventually upon the President Macky Sall of Senegal who is also the current Chairman of the regional body and who is about to host its Summit of Heads of State on June 4th.  It would be odd for the host to shut his borders to one of his guest - however petulant a character Jammeh happens to be.  Ultimately, Senegal succeeded in dictating the narrative, the pace and, in the process, reminded Jammeh who is in charge which is a triumph in Senegalese diplomacy, for now, at least.

Because Jammeh was desperate to have the borders reopened, he instructed the Gambian delegation to readily conceded to all of the 11-point Senegalese demands at great risk to the future relations with Senegal.  The Gambia River, the greatest natural endowment of the country that gives its name to the country, may also be at risk if the bridge design limits its natural capacity as a great transportation system.  The question remains as to whether the idiosyncratic and mercurial dictator will honor his word.  He has failed to honor bilateral agreements and ECOWAS protocols before. There is no reason to believe he will start honoring them now. Only time will tell.

Trans-Gambia Bridge Project design is a legitimate concern of Gambians

Example of a cantilever bridge 
The Gambia River, one of the most navigable and important rivers on the African continent, is the single most important natural resource of one of the world's poorest countries - The Gambia.

The Gambia exists because of the river that it took its name from.  The River Gambia is The Gambia and The Gambia is River Gambia.  It is, therefore, a natural resource that must be protected at all cost and to be preserved for generations yet unborn.  To protect and reserve it is to protect and preserve Gambia's national identity.
Source of the River Gambia
The bridge over River Gambia has always been central to Senegal's, as well as the regional's, interest that will connect northern and southern Senegal, as well as to connect a critical link of the ECOWAS highway system linking Abuja to capitals along the west African corridor.

The original project, under the purview of the OMVG was first mooted in the late 1970s.  The project included a barrage component (Bridge - Barrage Project) to provide irrigation water for rice production, a component that was proven to be environmentally unsustainable, according to a USAID-funded University of Michigan study.  Gambia's interest which centered on the barrage for irrigation fell when it proved an unsustainable proposition.

Senegal managed to keep the bridge project alive for over three decades until fairly recently when the project was reconstituted as a Bridge Project.  It is important, at this stage of the negotiations, for Gambians to familiarize themselves with the history of the project to appreciate the geopolitical importance as well as the implications of the outcome of the negotiations that is taking place in Dakar.

During negotiations, the Gambian Foreign Minister, Mrs. Neneh MacDouall-Gaye, raised the design issue of the bridge which, according to her, obstructs or impedes the navigability of River Gambia. The fact that Gambia is raising fundamental design objections, albeit late in the project cycle, is extremely important an issue that MUST be satisfactorily addressed by both parties and the donor community, including the AfDB.

The late objection should not be an excuse to proceed without satisfactorily addressing the issue because, if indeed the design obstructs navigation of one of Africa's most navigable rivers, it will be a national tragedy of monumental proportion that will be revisited by an successor government to Yaya Jammeh.
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Monday, May 23, 2016

BREAKING : Senegal - Gambia borders to open tomorrow (Tuesday) morning

We have been reliably informed that the 3-month long border stand-off between The Gambia and Senegal will end tomorrow morning.

According to a source close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, the Senegal Transport Union acting on orders of the Senegalese government of Macky Sall decided to lift their boycott of the TransGambia route.  The union has been the main stumbling block after union leaders, especially Mr. Gora Houma, president of the Union had said on numerous occasions that the borders will remain closed unless the Gambian dictator is firmly committed to re-starting the construction of he bridge over the Gambia River.

During the negotiations between the two countries, Senegal brought to the table 11 points ranging from the bridge to legal and judicial protocols including the unconditional release of "Boy Djine", a common criminal who escaped from a Senegalese jail and was being harbored by Yaya Jammeh.  It was being reported yesterday that the fugitive has been asked to report to the police station.  It is unclear if he is currently under police custody or had been handed over to the Senegalese authorities.

Opponents of Yaya Jammeh will be very disappointed at the news because they were hoping that the borders will remain closed, at least, until after the month of Ramadan which, observers have warned, would be a difficult fete because of the pressure that would come to bare on the Senegalese authorities as the Holy Month approaches.

Commodities and other essential food items have started to be in short supply, including petroleum products resulting in intermittent electricity supply in the urban areas.

We were among those hoping that the longer the borders remained closed, the better the chances of the Senegalese extracting concessions from Jammeh that would favor the opposition, including forcing him to step down at the end of his term.  Let us hasten to add, Jammeh stepping down will continue to be our mantra here at sidisanneh.blogspot.com in addition to a total overhaul of the draconian electoral reforms in memory of Solo Sandeng who has given his life for it.

The inability of the political opponents of Yaya Jammeh to capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves i.e. the death of Solo Sandeng that subsequently led to the arrest of the United Democratic Party's leader and the border closure must be seen as a lost opportunity that may not present themselves, if ever again.

The low turn-out at today's court appearance of Ousinaou Darboe, while it may not have any bearing on the decision to open the border, it certainly did not serve as a confidence-building measure for supporters of the opposition, at home and abroad.  A likely political fallout within the opposition political parties is likely to occur as a result of the failure to mount a credible and sustained challenge to Jammeh's dictatorial rule - a problem they will have to grapple with for the foreseeable future.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

$ 900,000,000 from Gambian-registered companies stashed in Panama, Gambians demand explanation

Add caption
According to the Panama Papers, a number of companies registered in the Gambia have stashed almost $ 1 billion in offshore accounts.

We are studying the details in consultation with tax accountants, financial and legal experts with a view to gaining insight into this massive transfer of financial resources from one of the world's poorest countries.

We wish to draw the attention of our esteemed readers that operating offshore accounts in and of themselves may not necessarily be illegal unless it can be established that the origin or origins of these funds are as a result of illegal activities, such as drug or human trafficking or other forms of international criminal activities.

The Gambia is, of course, not the only country that is shown to have its citizens operating offshore accounts in tax heavens.  Prominent Senegalese businessmen are among those listed as operating accounts offshore.  The difference between them and the Gambian businessmen listed in their forthrightness.

The Senegalese businessmen listed in the Panama Papers were quick to respond to the revelation by explaining the rationale for these accounts which, according to one, was to legally reduce or eliminate further exposure to higher tax liabilities.  To some, this is unethical or unpatriotic.  To others it is a smart business move.  In short, one man's tax dodger is another man's astute businessman.

Amadou Samba, a Gambian businessman, a business partner and a close associate of the Gambian dictator is listed as operating one or several offshore accounts.  The amounts in one or several of these accounts are unknown.  However, the global figure for the country is listed as $ 900,000,000 a figure close to Gambia's estimated GDP of $ 1 billion.

Gambians deserve a response from both Amadou Samba and Yaya Jammeh as initial step in a process that will take the expertise of world class legal, financial and tax professionals to ascertain the facts on behalf of the Gambian People.

When Jammeh seized power, "rampant corruption" was the reason he advanced to justify the illegal coup.  A team of investigators were dispatched to comb the offshore centers in search of funds they believed were derived from the Nigeria Crude allocated to the then government as balance of payment support by the Nigerian government.  Today, the shoe is on the other foot.

Gambians must hear from Amadou Samba and Yaya Jammeh.
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Amendment:  The initial blog post figure read $ 900,000 instead of $ 900,000,000

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jammeh to cut short provincial tour on advise of Syrian doctors, returns to Kanilai on Monday

Jammeh on tour 
The political campaign tour that is not according to Yaya Jammeh is being cut short by Jammeh on advise of his Syrian doctors for medical reasons.

The tour, twice postponed in the midst of the border closure negotiations which failed to reach a conclusive end, is proving to be what we thought it was from the start: an attempt by Jammeh to divert public attention away from his political troubles.

He has succeeded somewhat by issuing threats against the opposition throughout the tour.

" Let me warn you, those evil vermin called opposition.  If you want to destabilize this country, I will bury you nine feet deep and no westerner can say anything," he said

The dictator claims that press description of the ongoing political protests as "massive" was  exaggeration.  The West, according to Jammeh, is fanning the flames by instigating and supporting the Gambian opposition in its effort to destabilize his government.

The political protests are a major problem of Jammeh but so is the border closure between Gambia and Senegal which appears to stay shut throughout the month of Ramadan, putting further pressure on an economy that has been sputtering for more than two years.

Jammeh and his entourage, dubbed "rent-a-crowd" because most of the crowd is accompanying him from Banjul are in Basse tonight and will be traveling to Mansa Konko where he will have a night stop before proceeding to his home village of Kanilai on Monday.

Sources close to the tour consider the trip to be a pure waste of scare resources because farmers and the people in the provinces were never given the opportunity to present their grievances to the dictator.  "It was a monologue instead of a dialogue with the people," said another member of Jammeh's entourage, referring to the official title of the tour that is "Dialogue with the people's tour.".
 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Educate our daughters, do not exploit them, sexually

Fatou Lamin Faye, Basic Education Minister
We are obliged to re-publish a blog post we ran last October that attempted to address a serious concern of Gambian parents - the deterioration of the quality of education - and the increasing use of the primary school system as a 'farm system' (to use a baseball analogy) to feed the sexual appetite of a sexual pervert named Yaya Jammeh.

The Minister of Basic Education - Fatou Lamin Faye - has successfully integrated Jammeh's annual Beauty Pageant into the Basic School curriculum.  Her emphasis is on entertainment and commitment to the happiness of Jammeh at the expense of the education of our kids and grand kids. The sooner we get rid of these creeps, the better for a better Gambia.

Jammeh's open indictment of Gambia's education system is an admission of his regime's failure to improve the educational system which has been allowed to deteriorate to scandalous levels.  The educational system Jammeh inherited in 1994 has been totally destroyed. What a shame.   For those who might have missed the piece, here it is.
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The July 22nd Beauty Pageant has been sold to an unsuspecting audience as a scholarship financing scheme, sponsored by the Jammeh regime and organized by the Basic Education Ministry under the personal supervision of  the Basic Education Minister, Fatou Lamin Faye.  The claim is factually untrue from what we now know about the beauty pageant.  

The Basic Education Minister personally scouts the length, breadth and every nook and cranny of the country, in search of the most beautiful - not the smartest - of our children to parade in the catwalk in Kanilai in the presence of Babilimansa, Nasurudeen Jammeh who ultimately decides the winner and the runners-up.

After selecting the winners, they are not offered scholarship immediately (most are never awarded scholarships) but are instead promised jobs as "protocol officers" in the Office of the President" were they are expected to perform anything and everything but protocol duties.  They are there to do "whatever the president desires."  The revulsion in narrating this beauty pageantry makes it impossible to repeat what we have already addressed in previous blogs,the latest being as recently as early in the week which you can access here.

Gambians know better.  The July 22nd Beauty Pageant is not about a scholarship program for our daughters.  In fact, most of the winners end up being thrown out of State House after being sexually abused.  This must stop.

We are, therefore, demanding that Yaya Jammeh, Fatou Lamin Faye, he Basic Education Minister, Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President get out of the beauty pageant business.  The government has more pressing and urgent matters to address at a time when the economy is in serious decline and unemployment, especially among the youth of the country, it as it highest levels since Jammeh seized power illegally in 1994. 

It is not only the economy that is under performing. The performance of the Ministry of Basic Education is equally dismal, mirrored by the consistently and persistently poor results of our students in regional exams. 

The pageantry has become a sandal that the regime of Yaya Jammeh cannot afford to ignore. Cultivating promiscuity by exploiting the vulnerability of our daughters and granddaughters for the sexual gratification of Jammeh and his band of sexual predators is both illegal and immoral.  Integrating this scheme into the annual school calendar threatens the integrity of Gambia's educational system by further weakening the curriculum that should emphasis academic excellence and not the physical endowment of our children. 

The reestablishment of the Scholarship Advisory Committee in the Ministry of Education through which students can apply for scholarships based on their exam results would be the simplest and most efficient (cost wise) to addressing a scholarship award scheme.  The July 22nd Beauty Pageant has no place in our educational system, given what we now know about the scheme.  We hope the powers that be will see it as the decent and moral thing to do.

This sexually exploitative scheme will continue at the detriment of our young if parents continue to support the 22nd July Beauty Pageant.  They must, therefore, stop encouraging their young daughters from participating if they are to protect them from the dangers that they are likely to expose themselves to at the hands of those the Pageant was designed to benefit.  The primary duty of any parent is to protect his or her child against danger.  The 22nd July Beauty Pageantry is one such danger that your daughters must be protected against.  Prevent them from participating in any future pageantry organized by Yaya Jammeh or his agents.

Educate them. Do not exploit them, sexually.  

Who is speaking the truth? Jammeh or Sanyang

When you have a clueless leader who put equally clueless people in positions of responsibility, you should expect the chaos and retrogression.  My computer science lecturer – yes, we had (main frame) computers then – who was fond of saying if you feed the computer junk, expect junk as output.  In short, all you get at the end of the day is GIGO meaning garbage in, garbage out.

That is what has happened to our Statistics Department now called Gambia Bureau of Statistics.  It's not the name but ultimately what a government and the country need is a reliable set of data that will help public officials and private sector operators plan and implement public- and private-sector policies better.  

The economy runs on good, reliable data.  In fact, the country runs on good reliable data.  And when all we get is Jammeh saying that there are 700,000 Senegalese in the country in one breathe and claiming that the figure is 950,000 in the other, our country is in a fix.  The former Senegalese Ambassador to The Gambia disputed Jammeh's figures outright as something he pulled out of a rabbit's hat.  There are less than 15,000 Senegalese with consular card, meaning they are registered with the Senegal Embassy. 

In comes the Statistician General - Director of Statistics -  Mr. Nyakassi Sanyang who declared that the official population figure is 1.9 million of which 100,000 are non-Gambians residing in the country.  If Yaya Jammeh is to be believed, then Mr. Sanyang has a huge task of having to locate the missing 850,000 Senegalese and also must explain where have all the Nigerians and Bissau Guinean gone; not to mention other non-Gambian residents.  

Mr. Sanyang's other headache is to convince the Bakau parliamentarian who claims that there are more than 100,000 foreigners resident in the Gambia.  He directed the head honcho of statistic to check with the Immigration "for the factual figure" according to the Daily Observer. We will let you know who comes out on top on this one. 

It turned out that another set of legislators are using a population figure of their own.  For them to stop clinging to the 1.7 million figure as the total population, they'd have to be convinced by the expert statisticians.  What Mr. Sanyang is certain of is that the 1.7 million figure did not from his department.  "I don't know where it came from" , he retorted.  But he agrees with the parliamentarian who claims that the 100,000 non-Gambian resident figure is suspect even though his department collected and published the figure.

One can continue making fun at these serious issues if the viability of The Gambia was not at stake. As intimated previously, without reliable data the country cannot and should not be expected to function as a normal country.  We are seeing that now.  Nothing works in The Gambia, practically nothing.

All of the figures that we have been referencing above are still "provisional", three years after the 2013 Population Census.  The inability of the department to present final figures is unprecedented in the 53-year history of the Population Census.  This is the first time that the flagship publication of the Statistics Department has failed to publish the final figures.  The reason is two-fold : politics and personnel.  

The Statistician General has alluded to the second but stayed mute on the first, of which he is a product of.   As part of what Information Minister Sheriff Bojang famously referred to as Yaya Jammeh's re-engineering crusade, a tribal classification and reassignment exercise of sorts have been going on for a very long time to give Jammeh the permanent electoral advantage he needs.  The reclassification exercise has been going without the knowledge of the public.  

The Kombo North Constituency is particularly affected with consequential effect to the electoral map.   As a result of this exercise, the figures are not adding up which makes data analysis an impossible task.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jammeh threatens opposition with death but conveniently ignores Senegal

Jammeh walking out of a polling station in 2011 
Yaya Jammeh's current tour of the provinces is characterized by hauling insults at the opposition by referring to them as vermin and threatening to killing opposition members and burying them 9 feet deep.

His venom was not reserved only for the political class but for anyone who dares challenge his authority, be they protesters demanding electoral reform or ordinary Gambians of different political hue from the dictator's.

Jammeh dislikes anyone with a different political viewpoint or challenges his infallibility as the absolute rule of Africa's tiniest country in continental Africa.

Drawing from his a la cart menu of recriminations, he selected one of his favorite boogieman - Britain - who has built no primary secondary schools in a country they colonized for over 400 years, according to the Gambian dictator.

Jammeh blames Britain for conniving with the United States to try bring down his regime by pushing the LGBT agenda in his newly-created Islamic Republic by presidential fiat even though the Gambian Constitution clearly states in the preamble that The Gambia is a Secular Sovereign Republic.

His threats to the opposition and to opposition supporters whom he  threatens to make them "disappear without trace for 7 million years" have been widely reported on.  Indeed, his reference to making people disappear forever is thought in some quarters as confirming that Solo Sandeng, the opposition party youth leader, has died from his torture wounds he sustained at the hands of Jammeh's torture team.

Conspicuously absent from the dictator's routine and stump speeches is the topic of the border closure which threatens his regime by promising to further deepen the economic crisis with crippling effect. The border closure  has dominated the news for three months but you will not be able to tell by listening to Jammeh on the tour.

On a similar trip last year, Jammeh used to occasion to berate Senegal's former presidents, from Leopold Senghore to Macky Sall whom he referred to as a lackey of president Francois Hollande of France and how Senegal is still an outpost of France despite claiming to be an independent state.    

The reaction of ordinary Senegalese, and especially the Senegalese media was highly critical of the Gambian dictator's remarks who, until then, enjoyed relative harmonious relations with the media and enjoyed a relative high degree of public approval despite his dictatorial rule and human rights abuses. Since his Farrafenni speech last year, the Senegalese media have unleashed an unrelenting onslaught on Jammeh.

Hardly a day goes by without Senegalese comedians spoofing Jammeh who is usually portrayed as a comic character.  Hard news coverage by Senegalese radio and online websites have increased exponentially.  The border closure in its third month has also been covered expensively with Jammeh blamed for the closure by increasing the TransGambia tariff by 10,000% unilaterally and without prior notification of Senegal.

The outcome of negotiations conducted early in the week was inconclusive.  The next round is scheduled to resume at end July which means that the b order is likely to stay close until then. Meanwhile, in the Gambia, government revenues are down and so is development assistance, adding further pressure on Jammeh.

Instead of leveling with the people by discussing the pressing issues facing his regime, he elects to threaten the opposition instead.  It is easier for Jammeh to avoid dealing with hard choices of governing which is to be expected being the ill-prepared and incompetent person he is.            

Madam Attorney General, please resign

Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice 
The political turmoil that besets the country could have been averted if there were principled and courageous leadership within the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Unfortunately, the legal office of the regime lacks both leadership and direction. Instead, the Attorney General elects to have her office run from Kanilai village and not from Marina Parade in Banjul.

When Ousianou Darboe was arrested and thrown behind the police van, together with dozens of his party executives and supporters for simply exercising their inherent right under law, and subsequently charged with inciting violence, rioting and other trumped-up charges, the Attorney General could not follow the law because she allowed herself to be dictated to by Yaya Jammeh.

Together with her Director of Public Prosecution, S. H. Barkum - who should also resign and return to Nigeria - they concocted frivolous charges they hung around the necks of innocent persons at the instructions of Yaya Jammeh who has effectively used the judiciary as a potent weapon against his real and perceived political enemies and the competition in the private sector.

At a recently held meeting at the Justice Ministry in which both the Chief Justice and the Solicitor General (who also ended up being fired), the Attorney General was advised to drop all charges against ALL protester demonstrators, including, of course Ousainou Darboe.  She wasn't having none of it because she doesn't have the courage to face Jammeh with the right advise that the charges were frivolous and Ousainou and co should be freed.

The same sentiments - that these men and women are innocent - were expressed by Justice Ottaba who was assigned the case in an online radio interview. In fact, he editorialized that to treat Ousainou in the manner that Gambians witnessed, and a senior member of the Bar, at that, was "embarrassing"and he suggested a political solution to what he saw, and correctly so, as a purely political matter.

Justice Ottaba did the right thing by recusing himself from the case and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice did the wrong thing again.  Missing yet another opportunity of redeeming herself, she continues to press on with a case that any lawyer worth his or her salt knows these are trumped-up charges to please Yaya Jammeh.

Most of those arrested have suffered not only injustices in the form of false charges, most have suffered physical violence at the hands of the security personnel.  Solo Sandeng has lost his life which the regime is denying even though neither the Attorney General and Minister of Justice nor the Interior Ministry can produce evidence to the contrary.  This regime continues to lie and the Attorney General continue to help in the concealment of the truth.

Fatomatta Jawara, Nogoi Njie and Fatou Camara were all tortured.  Some, if not all, were allegedly raped.  When they appeared in court for the first time a couple of weeks ago, all three showed visible signs of torture.  As we speak a husband and wife and their 4-week old baby are all in remand and have been denied bail.  Despite all this, Mama Fatima Singhateh, whom we presume is also a mother, is still blind to the fact that Gambians are being abused, their human rights trampled upon, beaten, sexually assaulted by Yankuba Badjie's torturers, killed and maimed.

What will it take, Mama?  What will it take?  I think we have reached a point where the honorable thing for you to do is to resign.  I am sorry to be saying this because I know you are better than that but, from my vantage point, you are an utter disgrace to Gambians at home and abroad.

Yaya Jammeh is not worth it.  R-E-S-I-G-N

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Gambian Bar and Bench are also on trial


It is rather unfortunate that it had to take the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, the torture and alleged rape of Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara for the international community to finally put everyone on notice i.e. Jammeh, the Bar and Bench .

The dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh, including senior security personnel and torturers at the NIA, the bar and the bench have all been serve notice, directly or indirectly by the international furor generated by the recent political events that resulted in the European Parliament's resolution that lists among other sanctions that Member States may apply against the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  Targeted sanctions, including travel ban on senior officials of the regime, including torturers are in the cards.

Deep concerns have been expressed about the rapidly-worsening security and human rights situation. The European Parliament resolution deplored the attacks of the 14th and 16th April 2016 against peaceful demonstrators and called for the immediate release of all protesters arrested during the demonstrations for electoral reforms.

International outrage did not stop at the European Parliament. Gambia's own Attorney General and Minister of Justice came under fire, early in the month, at the Pan-African Parliament an African Union's own organ headquartered in Midrand, South Africa.  The appropriateness of her presence at the Pan-African Parliament to make a presentation on the subject of human and women's right was questioned by the Ghanaian member Muntaka Muhamed Mubarak by quoting from a United Nations report which found that torture was a "consistent practice by the authorities"in The Gambia.

Justice Ottaba's recent online radio interview when he discussed particulars of the Ousianou Darboe's case that was before his court and the subsequent fallout that led him to recuse himself from the case and other further repercussions that are expected from the aftermath have drawn more international attention to both the Gambian Bench and Bar.  The Gambia Bar Association's cozy relations with the dictatorship that has subjected Gambians to the worst kind of human rights abuses that include. but not limited to forced disappearances, assassinations and attempted assassinations, torture, exile and extra-judicial executions.

In many countries, it is the Bar Association that is usually the first line of defense against human rights abuses by regimes like the one we have in The Gambia - a regime whose arsenal is full of dark and sinister methods of eliminating its enemies - real and perceived - that it has earned the well-deserved title of the North Korea of Africa.  We are not using a broad brush to castigate the Bar Association. We know there are a few of you who have been defending victims of the regime on pro bono basis.  A more pro-active role in the area of human rights advocacy is needed.

The entire world is now watching Gambia.  It is up to the Bar Association to step up to the plate and stand with the people and not with a vile, corrupt and incompetent regime.

As far as the Bench is concerned, we have written a great deal and have expressed our concerns - and disgust, at times - at the mercenary judges that the Director of Public Prosecution has assembled from his recruitment drives in Nigeria and Cameroon.  The alumni from this group of judges is the 'who is who' of the most corrupt and incompetent judges one can find who did the bidding for Yaya Jammeh for most of his 22-years of dictatorship.

The Nigerian authorities and professional bodies are aware of their activities in the Gambian judiciary through our blog and other social media outlets.  We will continue to file reports with the appropriate authorities and to redouble our advocacy efforts against injustice and in support and promotion of democracy and the rule of law.

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Dismissed Chief Justice Fagbenle to Justice Minister Singhateh : "KEEP YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER"

Chief Justice FAGBENLE
Justice Minister SInghateh












The Nigeria-born Chief Justice of the Gambia has become the fourth to be fired by the Gambian dictator in four years by the Gambian dictator. Chief Justice Fagbenle was reportedly fired because he felt the regime has no legal grounds to hold in custody Ousainou Darboe and dozens of members of his United Democratic Party (UDP),  According to the dismissed Chief Justice, since they broken no laws, they should be free men and women.

The Cameroon-born Justice Ottaba who was initially assigned the case but had to recuse himself last when discussed the particulars of the case before his court, was also of the same view that the case had no legal merit.  In fact, he went on to say that Ousainou Darboe's case lacked merit and was an "embarrassment" to see a senior member of the bar being treated in the manner that he was being treated, and he expressed the hope that the Inter-Party Committee established to resolve disputes and diffuse political tension of the nature that the Gambia is going through now could step in rather than his court.

Chief Justice Fagbenle had told the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in a heated meeting recently when he noticed that at least three women, namely Fatou Camara, Fatoumata Jawara and Nogoi Njie displayed signed of torture and he had registered his displeasure.  In fact, he also made sure he let Mama Fatima Singhateh know that it was alleged that the women may have been raped by the National Intelligence Agency torture team of Yankuba Badgie - a subject that we have reported extensively on.

It was during this meeting that the dismissed Chief Justice counseled the Justice Minister to "keep her house in order" suggesting that the Justice Ministry is in complete disarray, just as the regime of Yaya Jammeh is.  The Justice Minister also came under fire at the Pan-African Parliament from a Ghanaian  parliamentarian who questioned whether she was the right person to present to the body on human and women's rights when quoting from a United Nations report which found that torture was "a consistent practice by the authorities" in The Gambia.

Chief Justice Fagbenle was first appointed briefly as Acting CJ in February 2014 when the Pakistani Chief Justice Ali Nawaz Chawhan was dismissed and expelled from the country in May 2015. Justice Fagbenle was substantively appointed to the post last June.  Ghanaian Chief Justice, Mabel Agyemang, was appointed in March 2014 and  dismissed two months later in the most bizarre of fashions and had to be smuggled out of the country for fear for either being jailed or killed by a mentally unstable dictator.  Six months later in January, 2015, and safely at home, Ghanaian President Mahama appointed her Appeals Court Judge.

With the exception of Justice Wowo, all of the other CJs have been professional and highly principled who met similar fates because they refuse to compromise the independence of the judiciary and their own independence by not succumbing to presidential pressures and ministerial directives on who should go to prison and for how long.

Although Chief Justice Agyemang's tenure was short, in fact the shortest of all of the four of Gambia's Chief Justices in four years, her appointment was also historic in that she was the first female Chief Justice in post-Independence Gambia. She replaced the Nigeria-born Chief Justice Emmanuel Wowo who was serving a two year prison term - another historic first by a serving CJ - for giving false information to a public officer.  He was recently pardoned by the idiosyncratic dictator.

POST SCRIPT  -  Few moments before publication word reached us that Yaya Jammeh who is presently in Janjangburay, 300 Km from Banjul on a political tour, accompanied by his favorite Nigerian comedians and some Ethiopian comfort girls, had a change of heart and wanted his Minister of Justice to hold off on the dismissal letter until he returns to Banjul.

He fears the dismissal has the potential of breeding confusion within a judiciary that is already in chaos, anyway.  The problem that the Minister faces is that the letter has already been delivered to former Chief Justice Fagbenle, and withdrawing it is near impossible because he has been around and has seen how other Chief Justices careers have been ended by Yaya Jammeh.   If he's sensible, he'll take the first flight out of Banjul International Airport or report to the Nigerian Embassy

To Gambian students : Don't listen to the buffoon

Gambian dictator, Yaya Jammeh, who is on a tour of the rural areas of The Gambia, ostensibly to
have a dialogue with the farmers, has instead decided instead to dispense advise to Gambian students not to visit, what Jammeh deemed to be, "negative sites"on the internet.  Instead he recommended that students visit "positive sites" and avoid satanic ones.

Jammeh, like dictators of his ilk, has tried successfully for a number of years to shield the Gambian population, and students in particular, from the so-called 'satanic' sites in the internet because those sites expose his excesses.

It is only recently that Gambians have come to learn about Jammeh's womanizing which now include importing plane-load of Ethiopian prostitutes organized by his Ambassador to Ethiopia, effectively turning our Ambassadors into pimps.

His sexual exploits unfortunately extends beyond prostitutes to Gambian school children who are selected through the annual beauty contests organized by Jammeh's own Minister of Basic Education. Winners are pulled out of school and offered jobs at State House as "protocol officers" who are Gambia's version of Japanese "comfort women".

For 20 years, Jammeh has isolated ordinary Gambians from the outside world by denying them access to real and unfiltered news.  There are few news outlets, all of which are free of news considered unfavorable to a regime that has come to be known as the North Korea of Africa because of the dark, mysterious and sinister environment Jammeh has succeeded in creating.  It must be part of what is now referred to by his Information Minister as Yaya Jammeh's social re-engineering crusade.

As part of the effort to keep Gambians in the dark, Jammeh has tried, unsuccessfully, to block the use of popular apps like Viber and Whats App to prevent Gambians from accessing unfiltered information around the world that Jammeh considers to be satanic sites.  Now, students and ordinary Gambians have succeeded, through persistence, to access the internet for unadulterated and information free of Jammeh's propaganda.  Because of this, his exclusive claim to power through misinformation is being challenged by the political opposition and gradually by students who have started to question Jammeh's competence as a leader.

The growth in readership of this and similar blogs and websites that provide alternative viewpoints and critical political analyses is testimony to the new wave of political awareness of students and public officials alike.  It is for this reason that Jammeh is worried stiff by suggesting to students that we are satanic and should be avoided.   Jammeh is the Satan who must be rejected by students and farmers alike.  Jammeh is        

 

SeneGambia Federation : Has Jammeh made the case

Almost two years ago, in July 2014, we wrote this piece we are pleased to reprint because of the Bloomberg piece about Senegal venturing into the bond market to raise $ 1 billion to invest in its infrastructure to boost economic growth. Senegal presently has the third fastest growing economy behind Cote d'Ivoire and Tanzania.

Agriculture is behind this growth with record harvests in groundnuts and rice.  Groundnut production exceeds 1 million tons - a record - and President Sall is projecting that Senegal will be self-sufficient in rice by 2017.

While Senegal's Sall is busy working hard to achieve his economic and political goals, Gambia's Jammeh continues to blow hot air while building castle in the air.  Consequently his incompetence and cluelessness have transformed a once efficient and well-managed economy into an African basket case.  Gambia has lost all of its comparative advantages it once enjoyed over its neighbor in sectors such as maritime transport and telecommunications.

When we wrote this piece almost two years, we knew it was bad but never imagined it would be this bad thus strengthening our case.  We haven't had the open debate we called for then, we hope we will have that debate soon because Gambia is at a cross road when the hard choices - economic and political - would have to be made.

Read on for those who have never done so previously.

Sidi Sanneh

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Could it be that Yaya Jammeh is succeeding where the United Nations had failed in the early 1960's,
and Kukoi Samba Sagnia's failed 1981 coup d'etat making it possible (if not inevitable), the political union between The Gambia and Senegal.

The Gambia's viability as a sovereign state has always been suspect  because of its small size and poor resource endowment.  As a result, the United Nations, prompted by the United Kingdom, studied and eventually concluded that The Gambia's economic and security viability at Independence can only be assured by federating with Senegal.

The political leadership of the People's Progressive Party rejected the idea and so did many Gambian politicians.  There were a few exception, including I.M Garba-Jahumpa who entertained the idea of some form of a political association between the two states, a position influenced by and consistent with his Nkrumaist/Panafrican greed.

At Independence in 1965 to 1970 when The Gambia graduated from its grant-in-aid state status from Britain,  the political leadership's main preoccupation had been to prove to the rest of the world that the smallest independent country in Africa could be, and is viable as a state when the national budget was being financed by internally-generated resources from taxes and excise.  Loans and grants from the World Bank and similar financial institutions became the primary sources of loans on concessionary terms that kept those who still questioned the country's viability at bay, at least until Kukoi struck in the 1981 coup which saw the destruction of both lives and economic infrastructure.  Business confidence was shattered.

Many of us have argued that The Gambia never fully recovered from the 81 coup d'etat, even though significant gains were made from the period of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) period in 1985/86 to the period commonly referred to as the program for Sustained Development (PSD) period in 1992 until the Jammeh-led coup d'etat in 1994.  It must be noted that former was a World Bank/IMF-lead effort and the latter was a home-grown effort led by Gambians.

The Confederation between Senegal and The Gambia came about as a result of the 1981 coup d'etat, therefore borne out of security necessity and not economic, political, social and cultural necessities.  It is interesting that in spite of the damage done by the 1981 coup, the ERP was able to restore the economy to a level strong enough to compete toe-to-toe with our bigger neighbor.  In fact, the Gambian economy was better managed and far more efficient that Senegal's.  We became the "supermarket of the sub-region" because of better set of policies brought about by the liberalization of the economy.  The Banjul port became more efficient than the bigger Port Autonome de Dakar.

All of the comparative advantages built were lost during the 20 year dictatorship under Jammeh.  The institutions that were built and straightened under the Jawara regime have either been destroyed completely or sufficiently weakened to render The Gambia a sitting duck, unable to fend off any predatory or external threat, on the security side.  The security threat by rogue elements is a real threat now (as opposed to the Jawara era) because of the belligerent and high-risk foreign policy of a regime that toys with Hezbollah and other terror groups in the sub-region.  It warrants the concern of Gambian politicians.

On the economic front, Gambia's viability is threatened by its inability to compete with Senegal because of an economy that continues to be mismanaged by a group of incompetent supporters of the dictatorship.  The country has been emptied of its youthful population who have decided to vote with their feet to Europe in search of fortune and freedom, two commodities that are lacking in Jammeh's Gambia where the economy is contracting, thus cannot provide the much needed jobs for a growing and youthful population, and the State is becoming increasingly militarized.

Even tourists are fleeing the country because of the heavy presence of the military is tourist resorts and access to public beaches has been restricted to exclude ordinary Gambians, especially the young.  Not to be outdone, highly trained young Gambians have abandoned Gambia for their new homes in London, Paris, Geneva, New York and across the globe.  They will never come back to work for pittance in a highly insecure and hostile environment.  They may come to visit grandma and grandpa and few relatives still in the Gambia.  This is the reality and we can thank Yaya Jammeh.

The next government to succeed Jammeh will inherit an extremely weak, and essentially dysfunctional and bankrupt State.  Regardless of the type of a succession hand Gambians will be dealt, the policy toolbox must include the option of a more formal and comprehensive association with Senegal which must be put before the people in the form of a referendum.  Whether Gambians realize it or not, Jammeh is making a strong case for this scenario to be a very viable option.  We know the issue is a very emotional one, and thus prone to irrational thinking but Gambians must consider an association with Senegal as part of the debate.

A frank and open debate of the issue is necessary.  But to do so successfully, he must check our parochialism (some would say patriotism) at the door and look at the raw and hard facts.  Will the association be beneficial (economic, political, social, cultural) to Senegal, and thus entertained, and even encouraged?  It can no longer be business as usual.

                        --------------------------------++++++-------------------------

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Yaya Jammeh has lost his grip on power


Yaya Jammeh is seen here yesterday in a stretched Hummer convertible filled with soldier in full battle gear on his way to touring the provinces.  What he's going to tell the farmers whose groundnut crops were let rotting in the fields for lack of government finances to purchase them from farmers whose only income is derived from their annual groundnut production.  Jammeh has bankrupted the Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) which, according to government proposal, is to be subsumed into another agency whose formation is yet to receive parliamentary approval.

Jammeh is facing the political fight of his life.  The opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has been demonstrating against his corrupt regime for a month running.  To suppress the protest demonstrations, his undisciplined and ruthless military has been using excessive force which has led to several deaths and has produced numerous arrest and victims of rape by members of a torture team run by Yankuba Badjie, Director General of the infamous National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The excessive use of force by Jammeh's military has brought swift international condemnation, culminating in a European Parliamentary Resolution that calls for member states to consider applying targeted sanctions against senior members of his regime.  The EU resolution has furthered the diplomatic and economic isolation of a country that is among the poorest in the world.

Over the weekend, the Guinean president, Alpha Conde, visited Jammeh with a message from his counterparts in the ECOWAS asking him to consider stepping down after the end of his current term which ends in December.  He was also urged to release  Ousainou Darboe, the opposition party leader, and all political prisoners. The EU resolution also calls for an independent and thorough investigation of the death of Solo Sandeng the UDP youth leader who died under custody following his arrest after leading a demonstration last month for electoral reform.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh is bankrupt and public institutions on the verge of absolute collapse because corruption is rife.  Most of the senior officials manning the institutions are unqualified because tribal affiliation and blind loyalty - not to the state but to Jammeh - is more important to the dictator than competence or other qualities and qualification.

With all these pressures facing him, Jammeh would rather divert the nation's attention away from his woes compounded by the recent breakdown of border closure negotiations in Dakar guaranteeing that the closure will continue beyond the month of Ramadan.  Food and fuel shortages will be consequence of a prolonged impasse of the border crisis further exerting pressure on a dictator whose support among Gambians have plummeted in the past year or two.  

To give the impression that he is still in charge, he drives around in stretched Hummer convertible, as seen here, filled with soldiers in full battle dress designed to intimidate a population that has grown tired of him and his regime.  Gambians want him to step down and so are many of his counterparts in ECOWAS.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Time for this man to level with the Gambian people


Gambia and Senegal fail to reach agreement on border closure; next round of negotiations in July, meanwhile borders remain closed

Foreign Ministers McDoull-Gaye of Gambia  SenegalGaye and Ndiaye 
The 14-hour talks between Gambia and Senegal on the 13-week old border closure lasted until the wee hours of Monday morning without reaching an agreement.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for July which means the borders between the two countries will remain closed until then, assuming that the two countries would reach an agreement then.

The Gambian delegation led by Foreign Minister, Neneh McDoull-Gaye, comprised of the Finance and Interior Ministers were limited in their ability to freely negotiate because of the restrictions in areas that Jammeh would not wish to negotiate.  A member of the Gambian delegation was reportedly heard muttering the words "no room to negotiate."

In fact, initially, Mrs. McDoull-Gaye was seen coming out of the closed-door meeting to place calls, undoubtedly, to the Gambian dictator for instructions on matters that should have been within the purview of the Gambian delegation to make deals with their Senegalese counterparts.

Senegal came armed with 11- points that they wanted to discuss and agree on with The Gambia.  As we have been reporting for a great while now, what started as the 10,000% increase in the tariff structure by Jammeh without proper notification has morphed into what is the main demand of the Senegal Transport Union i.e.  kick-starting of the TransGambia bridge building project.  Jammeh had already rolled back the ridiculously high tariff rate which was not only ill-advised but created a problem that has turned into a nightmare for his beleaguered regime, both on the economic and diplomatic fronts.

It is being reported that both sides have found "common ground" on several key issues.  It is unclear, as at the time of posting this blog, what those common grounds are from Senegal's 11 points that ranged from the bridge to judicial cooperation that includes the release of a Senegalese criminal named "Boy Djine"who escaped from prison and reported taking refuge in The Gambia under the protection of Yaya Jammeh.

By emphasizing the"inclusive"nature of the talks, Senegal has succeeded in taking on-board the main demand of the Senegalese Transport Union, that is the resumption of works on the bridge, and has exploited the rapidly evolving and shifting political landscape in Banjul to present an expansive menu to its advantage.

Finally, Jammeh wish to have the border open before the fast approaching Holy Month of Ramadan appears to remain unfulfilled which can only add to his political woes.  He is facing the real threat of targeted sanctions including possible travel ban on key official of Jammeh's regime in addition to the protest demonstrations organized and led by the opposition United Democratic Party to demand the release of its leader and other party members among numerous other demands.  It is going to be rough times ahead for the Gambia dictator as his political and diplomatic isolation deepens in the weeks and months ahead. .    

Sunday, May 15, 2016

TransGambia Bridge Project : Now you tell us

Neneh McDoull-Gaye, Gambia's Foreign Minister

An Appraisal Report of the TransGambia Bridge Project has been in existence at the African Development Bank for nearly two decades, sponsored by Senegal and The Gambia.  This means that the Jammeh regime has been aware and has been a party to its preparation and has signed off on the project's economic, financial and technical feasibility from the start.

After several years of abandonment, it was decided to update the appraisal report.  The process requires that all aspects of the project - economic, financial including costings and technical undergo a thorough review.  That goes for the (technical) design as well.

The reappraisal was done in 2010, Board approval in 2011 and project start-up in 2012 with the full knowledge and active participation of the Jammeh regime and Senegal because it is classified as a regional or multi-national project even though the bridge will be entirely within Gambian territory. The Jammeh regime was involved in all phases of project preparation including loan approval and effective processes.

The extraterritorial character of the project is central to Jammeh's reluctance to sign off on the deal. We have touched on this issue elsewhere which we will revisit at another occasion.  For now, we will stick with other aspects of the projects.

It is only today that Gambia's Foreign Minister is objecting to the design of the bridge which, according to her, obstructs or impedes the navigability of River Gambia, one of Africa's most navigable rivers.  This is, of course, a legitimate concern so fundamental to the entire project that it raises some serious questions. Where were these people 20 years ago or 10 years ago or even 4 years ago to have raised this apparent design flaw and demand design changes to address the clients concerns.

Why is it still hard for some to see why we continue to call for the voluntary resignation of Yaya Jammeh?   The incompetence level of this regime continues to rise at exponential levels with time, an inverse relationship that continues to test the tolerance levels of our politicians at home and the supporters of political change at abroad.  #JammehMustGo


Senegal should call Jammeh's bluff

Sidi Sanneh 
The border closure negotiations have barely opened in Dakar this morning before the Gambian dictator uttered provocative comments designed for his local audience in The Gambia, even though it has the potential of negatively impacting the negotiations.

Jammeh was quoted by AFP to have said prior to the opening of the negotiations :"I have no intention of going to settle the issue of the border because our border is opened"  

Jammeh continued his tirade but apportioning blame of the border closure to Senegal by claiming that "they (Senegal) closed the border and I will not negotiate with someone who closed the border."

The question then becomes what are Jammeh's ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Interior doing in Dakar if not to negotiate.  It is open secret that Jammeh is racing against the clock because if the borders remain closed beyond June 6 - 7 when Ramadan commences, he will be in grave trouble politically.  

Shortages of food stuff, especially sugar and other basic commodities, could give rise to people, especially women, taking to the streets to join opposition party members and their supporters who have been demonstrating since last month against Jammeh tyrannical rule.  Blackouts due to fuel shortage is already a permanent fixture in the daily lives of Gambians in the urban areas.

Jammeh's rule is already on the brink of collapse.  Food shortages during the month of Ramadan will add fuel to a fire that is already raging for weeks with dozens of opposition politicians in jail for peacefully demonstrating against Jammeh's dictatorship, among other issues relating to the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, a youth leader and executive member of the largest opposition party whose leader is also in jail.

Gambia's Foreign Minister has been instructed before leaving Banjul that she should do everything possible to secure an agreement that will lead to the re-opening of the border before the commencement of Ramadan.

Jammeh's public utterances on state-controlled media are meant for local consumption by continuing to give the impression to Gambians that he is no push-over.  Privately, he knows he is negotiating from a position of weakness but would like to project strength to his Gambian audience. If I were Senegal's Foreign Minister, I'd call Jammeh's bluff - which can take many forms.

                                                                       ##########

Border closure negotiations will be long and tedious


Negotiations on the 12-week border closure between the two countries opened today in the Senegalese capital city of Dakar, after wranglings about the venue was settled following Gambia's insistence that they should take place in Banjul.

The opening statement by the Senegalese Foreign Minister, Mankeur Ndiaye appears to have set the stage for what promises to be a long drawn-out affair lasting weeks which will be against the wishes of the Gambian dictator who is now under a variety of pressures ranging from economic, resulting from the border closure restricting commerce that, in turn, has significantly reduced government revenue, to diplomatic and political because of the increasing diplomatic isolation of Jammeh as a result of his regime's recent use of excessive force to crackdown on a month-long of protests against his regime. and diplomatic pressure

According to Radio France International (RFI), the resumption of the bridge project over River Gambia, abruptly stopped by Jammeh without explanation, is front and center of Senegal's demands. The 10,000% hike in the road transport tariff that led to the boycott of the TransGambia route by the Senegal Transport Union was also done unilaterally and without notification to the other party - Senegal - before it became effective, contrary to existing agreements between the two countries.

For this reason that in calling for solutions, the Senegalese Foreign Minister was quoted as urging both parties to "respect the agreements signed in the past", in direct reference to recent infractions - the bridge and the tariff hike - both decisions initiated in Banjul and approved by Jammeh, in direct contravention of, not only bilateral agreements but also loan agreements with the African Development Bank and other co-financing agencies.

In addition to the bridge, Senegal seems to be signalling that the agenda will be expanded to include "road transit, bilateral trade relations, judicial cooperation and mutual legal assistance, on maritime and inland fishing and migration.

While the Senegalese may succeed in getting the Gambian delegation comprising of the Finance and Interior Ministers who are led by Neneh McDoudol-Gaye, Gambia's Foreign Minister, to negotiate on all the points raised by the Senegalese side, it will remain to be seen what can get done on the first round.

These Ministers are there in name only.  They have no power to agree on the minutest of points without a nod from Jammeh in Banjul.  And given the numerous and complex issues that the Senegalese Foreign Minister would like to negotiate and reach agreement on, the process is going to be exceeding long.

One key problem Senegal will face is how to get Jammeh to honor any agreement that may emerge for someone who has not respected past agreements, just as he has no respect for Gambian laws.  As an absolute dictator, he does what he wants when he wants it, regardless of law or agreement.
                                     
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Saturday, May 14, 2016

WARNING to Ousman Sonko, Biran Mbye, Yankuba Badjie, Yankuba Sonko and others

Ousman  SONKO, Interior Minister ( Nasirudeen's  Baye Faal)
Today your boss, Yaya Jammeh, was asked by some members of the international community to :

1. Step down as president
2. Not to be a candidate in December and to postpone the December elections to a later date that will be determined by a new political dispensation 
3. To release Ousainou Darboe and co and all political prisoners.

You, as enforcers of Jammeh's illegal orders that include assassinations, murders, tortures, rapes and other forms of human rights abuses must stop forthwith.  All such acts, as you very well know, constitute violation of the inherent rights of Gambians to peacefully assemble and air their grievances against a repressive, corrupt and incompetent regime.

It is only fair to inform you that we are compiling a dossier that will include the names of all those individual security personnel accused of engaging in torture and/or other forms of human rights abuse.   We intend to use the list to prepare charges against all accused to be brought before a court of law.

On Monday, Gambians will be out to exercise their democratic right by demonstrating against the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh - a system that you help maintain and perpetuate.  

The paramilitary forces led by Biran Mbye are being warned to refrain from impeding the movement of the crowd that will be peaceful.       

Conde to Jammeh : Consider stepping down and release Darboe and others immediately

Alpha Conde of Guinea 
Yaya Jammeh 
The Guinean president didn't mince his words when he met with his Gambian counterpart at the Coco Ocean Hotel in Bijilo this morning as reported in our recent blog post.

Although the border closure featured, as expected, President Alpha Conde appeared to have come with a message from the international community and perhaps President Macky Sall of Senegal whom he met and/or spoke to in the last week.  Conde may have also been expressing sentiments held by Jammeh's other  ECOWAS colleagues

President Conde was reportedly blunt and his set of advises pointed. He reportedly told Jammeh that his relations with the international community has been confrontational and unnecessarily so.  Jammeh was thus advised by his Guinean counterpart and friend to tone it down because, if not, sanctions will be applied by members of the European Union that will not only affect The Gambia but will negatively impact the ECOWAS region.

The frank talk between two friends didn't stop at that.

Conde's assessment of the political upheaval that started to unfold with Solo Sandeng-led protest demonstrations on the 14th April is that things will only get worse and not get better.  In this regard, and to help avert bloodshed, Jammeh was advised to consider stepping down after his current term. He is advised not to be a candidate in the upcoming December presidential elections.  We can venture to say this is message that was coming not from Alpha Conde but from the international community, including some members of the ECOWAS Community.  

To allow for adequate time to properly prepare for them, Jammeh was advised to consider postponing the December elections.  We do not have any information on the new proposed time frame, if any was indeed suggested.

At the end of the meeting, Jammeh was encouraged by Conde to attend the upcoming ECOWAS Summit that will be hosted by the current Chairman and President of Senegal, Macky Sall, on the 4th of June in Dakar with no indication from Jammeh whether he will attend.

At the end of the meeting, Jammeh elected to return to State House instead of having drinks or lunch with his guest before he sees Conde off in the next hour or two.  Our sources were unanimous in their observation that Jammeh looked dejected and visibly upset on his way to State House.  
                                       
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