Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joint UN-AU-ECOWAS Declaration is political, does not have any legal status, says a senior UN official

Mai Ahmad Fatty, Interior Minister 
Following our most recent blog post entitled "Is Jammeh's exit Agreement legally binding?" in which we asked whether the document, featured in the ECOWAS, United .Nations. and African Union websites has any legal status and encouraged by the intense interest generated by the post, based on the size of visits to out blog site, we decided to further extend our inquiries.

Using a back channel, we reached out to a senior U.N. official at the New York headquarters whose response is replicated below and it reads thus:

"The Joint U.N-A.U-ECOWAS declaration is political in nature and does not have any legal status."

The UN's interpretation appears consistent with Gambia's current Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, who went by the title of Special Assistant to president-Elect Adama Barrow back in January before he was inaugurated President and before Mr. Fatty was appointed Interior Minister and whose position was corroborated by Senegal's Foreign Minister on Senegalese state television.

From the above, it appears that the legal questions have been put to rest - at least from the standpoint of the United Nations, leaving the politics of Jammeh's assets squarely in the hands of the politicians to grapple with.

Unless we've missed it, no official declarative statement was made after Adama Barrow was officially installed as President and the appointment of a cabinet.  We'd still suggest that this be done to put the legal component of the joint declaration to rest which is no guarantee that the politics of Jammeh's assets will go away anytime soon.    

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Is Jammeh's exit Agreement legally binding?

Sidi Sanneh 
Hon. Halifa Sallah, leader of the PDOIS political party, has brought back to life the question of the status of Jammeh’s exit Agreement by pointedly challenging the Barrow administration with the warning that government will be going against its own word if it doesn’t honor a purported deal whose status remains a mystery.

The ambiguity of the status on an Agreement that will be at the center of discussion moving forward in the Barrow administration’s attempt at ultimately expropriating Jammeh’s wealth and holdings.  This part Agreement is so central to the work of both the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary looming in the horizon that it is extremely important that the administration respond urgently to the need to put the matter to rest and expeditiously.

We all agree on one thing: that a document does exist purporting to be a binding agreement between the Barrow administration and the former dictator laying out the conditions under which Jammeh will exit the scene of the State House for Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.  In spite of the fact that the document is still posted on the websites of the African Union and United Nations giving the document some official recognition – perhaps for its historic significance rather than its legal relevance and legitimacy - President-elect Barrow’s Special Adviser – Mai Ahmad Fatty – (now Interior Minister) did characterized it as a “hoax” in a Facebook entry last January and reconfirmed to me in my 5 AM phone call while both of us where in Dakar.  An undefinitive search of the ECOWAS website did not show a display of the document

Mr. Fatty further referred me to Senegal’s Foreign Minister’s press briefing of the same day reaffirming the same i.e. that the document in question has no legal teeth and therefore unenforceable.  He did not stop at that.  Still in his capacity as Special Adviser to the president-elect, he issued another Facebook statement all but declare the Agreement null and void.  “There was NO DEAL signed” (his emphasis) he declared.

The draft was prepared by Mauritania and Guinea-Conakry, according to Mr.  Fatty’s statement which was immediately rejected by the president-elect.  We also learned from the statement that ECOWAS’s Marcel Desuza and a Qatari envoy who consulted Barrow in Dakar on the matter were unsuccessful in changing Barrow’s mind.

We advised Mai Fatty, while in Dakar, back in January to definitively put to rest the issue by assuring Gambians and the international community that the status of the document has no standing.   

Was the position of the president-elect’s position on the status of the document communicated to members of the National Assembly?  The question of informing his cabinet is a moot point since he had not taken the oath of office at the time and was still holed up in Dakar because Jammeh was refusing to depart without tying few loose ends, including, perhaps a free pass in the form of the agreement that is now in contention. Why is there such a disconnect between Adama Barrow and Halifa Sallah on such an important and crucial matter of international law.

Our humble advice to the Barrow administration is to brief his entire cabinet with the help of a Cabinet Paper that provides background and context that led to the draft Agreement and allow cabinet to take a formal position on the document; then allow the National Assembly to give its blessing to the non-binding character of a document that is still being featured in official websites of the United Nations and African Union.

By allowing the document to continue to be prominently displayed in official websites of international organizations and development partners, it feeds into the narrative that the document is legitimate and legally binding, a claim that Mr. Fatty has so strenuously tried to dispel since last January.  Leaving these claims unanswered will hinder future attempts by the Barrow administration to start navigating through the legal entanglements left behind by Yaya Jammeh.    

         

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Do not demolish beach bars, admonish owners and regularize their status

Two years ago today, we published this blog post pleading with the bulldozer crew of Yaya Jammeh not to destroy the lives of small business owners by demolishing their beach bars.   Unfortunately, our pleads fell on deaf ears.  We have always stood by the little guy.

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Critics of Yaya Jammeh have long maintained that he is out to punish Gambians and not to seek redress to what he and his fellow putchists, who seized power in 1994, saw as injustice during the Jawara administration.  After 21 years, the regime cannot shed the well-earned reputation of being vengeful of a class of people who would rather go about their daily chores without the additional burden of being identified with any political party.

Most of the beach bar operators whose establishments are about to be demolished fit this description. Some of them lived and worked in Europe and the little savings they had were brought home and invested in these beach bars.  Now, they stand to lose their life savings because they did not apply to, nor were they given approval by, the Tourism Board.  This is the Ministry of Tourism's version of events. We have not heard from the owners of these establishments.  As far as the regime is concerned and, since these small investors are operating illegally, their investments must be bulldozed.  We wrote a piece in March 2014 criticizing the regime for using the bulldozer, otherwise a symbol of progress, as a weapon to punish Gambians and foreign investors.

Bulldozing beach bars (and homes) is not the ideal solution to the problem.  Rather, it makes more sense to work with owners to help them regularize the location of their establishments and satisfying the building code and other requirements.  Considering the amount of the size of the investment which, in many instances, represents the entire net worth of these small Gambian businessmen and women, individually, helping them save it is certainly better than destroying them which is an insidious way of punishing Gambian and non-Gambian investors alike.

What is perplexing is the tone-deafness of a regime that claims to be the champion of the youth and women, and that incessantly assures citizens that these are not "witching hunting" exercises, yet government and security agencies are constantly harassing young men and women on the highways and denying them access to the very same beaches where these establishments are located.  No wonder tourists are fleeing the country for other destinations because of the ever present military personnel who have turned the tourism area into an armed camp.

By bulldozing these beach bars, the regime is once more shooting itself in the foot.  It is sending the wrong message to Gambians abroad wishing to invest in the country; the message being your investments are not safe in The Gambia.  To those beach bars owners whose properties are about to be bulldozed, the regime's message to them is, return to Europe via the "Back Way", the treacherously dangerous route Yaya Jammeh claims to discourage to the point of asking the ICC to investigate Italy and the European Union.   Conflicting messages of these sorts are further signs of a regime out of its depth and drowning in its own sea of incompetence and vindictiveness.
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UP-DATE :  Unfortunately, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has carried out its threat and has destroyed several beach bars in the tourism area or the TDA.  Investors, both foreign and domestic, have lost their life savings in trying to make a decent living while creating employment for Gambians.  After these images, who in his or her right mind would want to invest in the Gambia while Jammeh remains in power.  (Photo : Courtesy of FatuRadio Facebook page)


Journalist faces conspiracy to commit felony and unlawful use of banners, among other charges

Police Officer King Colley 
Baboucar Sey, the sports journalist who was lured into Serekunda police station last Friday by the notoriously corrupt police officer "King Colley"  is facing four charges after he refused to exchange his opposition to the Bakoteh-Kololi land deal for his freedom when he refused to admit to any wrong doing.

Baboucar Sey spent his second night at Kanifing police station and he's expected to be returned to the Serrekunda police station today.  He is expected to make his court appearance on Monday, according to our source.

According to a source close to the land dispute, a senior member of the Barrow administration called the Serrekunda police station and instructed King Colley to remove himself from the case.   King Colley has been the conduit between Global Properties, KMC, Swami India International and the community youth and when everything else fails, his enforcer instincts kick in with threats of unlawful detention as we have seen in the case of Baboucar Sey.

When the journalist arrived at the police station, he found Saul Frazier, CEO of Global Properties and the owner-Manger of Swami India International who is the sub-leasee of the track of land that has now come under national and international scrutiny.  They wanted the journalist to agree to convince the community to back down from their demands and when he refused, he was threaten to be charged.

Baboucar Sey faces four charges of (i) conspiracy to commit felony (ii) assembly without permit (iii) destruction of property and (iv) unlawful use of banners.  It should be noted that the destruction of property charge is laughable because the journalist was away in Dakar at the West Africa Democracy Radio and thus could not have been associated with any alleged destruction of property.

The fact that the protest (assembly without permit) without permit took place precisely three weeks ago, only to be charged today suggests that the charge is an afterthought and equally laughable.  Isn't the same relic of a colonial law that is now being contested by UDP's leader Ousainou Darboe in the Supreme Court?  How are these made-up charges any different from what Gambians faced during 22 years of dictatorship under Jammeh?

The Barrow administration get rid of all these rotten apples.  They must be excised from the civil service if Gambia is seen as being serious in ushering in a new democratic environment.

These Gestapo tactics are the same used by the same officers of the Police and the NIA under Jammeh.  They must not be tolerated under the Barrow administration.  In fact a source said that these charges are not only frivolous but they serve as a ploy to get the young people to back away from their opposition which. according to the same source, is an unlikely scenario because the services of a lawyer is already being contemplated to contest the ownership of the land in court as well as the legality and terms and conditions of the 99-year sub-lease to Swami Indian International by the Kanifing Municipal Council under Mayor Yankuba Colley.

Members of the communities of Bakoteh, Kololi and satellite towns resistance from land grabbers started in 2002, culminating in threats of arrests of young people who are protecting what they believe to rightfully belong to their communities that have been denied of any open space due to mindless urban encroachment, driven more by greed than rational urban development policy.

Land speculators have attempted to bribe the youth and community leaders of the area without success. The communities want the space to erect a market, a football field and other community facilities. They have made it known that they intend to fight the matter to the end, according to leaders of the protest, and no amount of bribe offers will change their collective minds.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Foni is NOT enemy territory

Sentry guard post at entrance of  garrison town of  Kanilai 
Recent protests demonstrations by residents in and around the garrison town of Kanilai, home of the former Gambian dictator, have resulted in, at least, one death and several wounded, reportedly as a result of gunfire by ECOWAS troops (referred to as ECOMIG) deployed in The Gambia to secure the country and the coalition government of President Adama Barrow.

Protest leaders say they are opposed to the presence of these troops, particularly the Senegalese contingent.  They want them redeployed elsewhere outside Foni.  They accused the troops of harassing the local population and randomly killing their animals. They, therefore, have come to view ECOMIG as an occupying force which, interestingly, is not the same view they held when Jammeh created the garrison-like environment from Kanfenda to Kanilai, suggesting a reverence to the dictator who had replaced Kukoi Samba Sanyang as a favorite son of Foni the moment Jammeh succeeded in deposing a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.  Yaya Jammeh pulled off a coup where Kukoi failed, even when his coup attempt rendered The Gambia a country without a government for a few days.  

A region that has produced two rebel leaders requires careful analysis and sober reflection that will hopefully provide answers and peaceful solution and not bellicosity and aggressive language directed to the people of Foni or any other region for that matter.  Jammeh spent his 22 years in office reinforcing his dictatorial regime as well as sow the seeds of discord and flash-points across the country in the event that he's toppled.  The Kanilai complex is one such result of his handy work but the entire Foni is not.  Jammeh did not enjoy 100% support in his native Kanilai much less the region of Foni.  Therefore, Foni is not a homogeneous region in spite of its Jola majority.

Contiguous Foni stretches well into southern Senegal, with deep ties to our side of the Fonis further complicating a national problem that can quickly take on an international character in a flash.  This reality should serve as a reminder to every politician of the need (i) to appreciate the implication(s) of a mishap in handling any incident like the protests we saw in Kanilai and (ii) to be measured in their public statements.  I think we've all now agreed that what took place in Kanilai was not a riot but a protest which the government has determined to be illegal and have thus arrested and charged 14 persons accordingly.

Government response to the Kanilai protests has been a mixed bag of calls for unity and blusterous rage.  The Interior Minister's statement calmly and rightly called on Gambians to march in unison but quickly went into overdrive in a blusterous rage directed at lawbreakers with threats of being "consumed by the law."  Conflicting reports were being officially disseminated before all the facts were known, causing consternation in certain quarters.
Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty 

The Alkalo of Kanilai, Alh. Ebou Jammeh, through a close family spokesperson denied the claim that he went into hiding.  He said even if he wanted to flee, his medical condition wouldn't permit him.  Sources close to the Alkalo, challenge Minister Fatty's claim protesters were armed with "local weapons"and no video evidence exists in the public domain to day to support the Mai Fatty version of events.  The type of bullet used by the troops that killed one person is also being contested with one version claiming that it was a rubber bullet and another version said it was a regular bullet.  

Coordination among ministers, especially between Interior and Information, in this case, is absolutely imperative to avoid conflicting information being provided to the public at a time when even ECOWAS recognizes "the fragile situation" that exists in the country which led to extending the ECOMIG mission for 12 months.  In taking note of the fragile nature of the peace, ECOWAS took the wise move of broadening the mandate of the troop to include support for training armed forces and urged member states to contribute additional troops.  

The crucial role played by the mission in keeping The Gambia secure is indisputable.  The decision of whether the troops stay or leave is the exclusive responsible of the Barrow government and not a protester or anyone else for that matter.  The limits of the demonstrators power to influence public policy is not boundless but their right to peaceful dissent is limitless under law.  For starters, there must be an open and frank dialogue between government and the people of Foni where all issues of concern of both sides are aired.  In short, the residents of Foni must be engaged constructively with the ultimate goal of some form of a pacification program for the area as a possible solution to the area's concerns, which may necessarily include a status change for the garrison town of Kanilai.              

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Barrow administration must intervene in the Bakoteh - Kololi land grab

The youth of Kololi, Bakoteh, Manjaikunda, Sanchaba and satellite towns are battling Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC), Global Properties and Swami India International Ltd. for a parcel of land that initially belonged to the State by an Act of Parliament.

In 1991, the Land Act was passed transferring the land to the State.  It is unclear when it was transferred to the Kanifing Municipal Council. Equally unclear was whether the transfer was done according to law and if so when did the transfer took place and what were the terms and conditions of the transfer.

The second question is under what authority was the Kanifing Municipal Council acting when it sub-leased the entire track of land, measuring 58,743 sq m and a distance of 992 meters to Swami India International Ltd. on the 15th August 2015 and a total measly sum of D 5,646 (five thousand, six hundred and forty six dalasi) paid on 13th October of the same year as cost of the title deed ("fencing fee"), good for 99 years.  We are in possession of a copy of the sub-lease signed by the CEO of KMC.

What is the relationship between Swami India and Global Properties and how did these two entities come to own this huge track of land and what were the details of the deal. Did KMC or the Mayor, Yankuba Colley or any members of the KMC benefit financially?  How were these financial proceeds treated?

What is/was Yaya Jammeh's role in all of the shenanigans going on not only in Kololi but also in Gunjur and Kartong?  It doesn't look like much has changed since Jammeh left town in January.    

These questions are important and require answers because the lives of tens of thousand, in not hundreds of thousands of lives are impacted by this huge land transaction that will not nothing but to sow the seeds of instability in a country that is trying to find its feet after 22 years of pillage by Jammeh and his cronies.

Last week Monday, the youth of the area, their parents, elders came out to peacefully display their grievances against the CEO of Global Properties, Saul Frazier and Swami India International Ltd. The issue is more than losing a football field, when every inch of open space is consumed by a handful of greedy land speculators and their contractor friends.

We decided to go to press earlier than planned because we learned the police intend to storm and occupy the area, after bribery attempts and other enticements by the land grabbers have failed.  According to our sources, the police they have been going around family compounds urging the youth not to participate in demonstrating against the police; at whose direction one might ask.

It is their right to peacefully demonstrate if they so chose. Where were these land grabbers when some of the colleagues of these same young people were being killed, maimed, tortured, exiled and sent to Mile II prisons by these very same policemen were doing the bidding for Yaya Jammeh?  They are the very same elements the authorities want to unleash on these young men and women who are fighting what they believe to be an injustice.

We are respectfully requesting that the Barrow government intervene in this and similar cases in Farato, Gunjur and Kartong to avert what can only be characterize as a potentially explosive environment.  Gambians will not expel a dictator of 22 years only to permit the same conditions that prevailed in the Jammeh era to continue under the Barrow government.  Things cannot stay the same. They will have to change for the better.
Sources on the ground disclosed that legal recourse is being contemplated and maybe an imminent outcome of what is considered to be a blatant misuse of political and financial power against the residents of Kololi, Bakoteh and the other affected satellite towns.  It is an option that promises to enjoy a wide public support.  
  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

President Barrow receives PSC Chairman G.O.Bright

President Adama Barrow 
It may have come at the tail end of the euphoria and countless photo ops but President Barrow has finally met the Chairman and members of the Public Service Commission which, in our view, is one of the most important events of his 4-month old government.

President Barrow promised Gambians that his government will provide us with a road map representing his short- to medium- term plan of his transition government for economic, political and social renewal.  He made the announcement curiously on a foreign news outlet which was later carried on local radio that the blueprint will be issued this month.

Any blueprint that will eventually emerge from the internal consultations currently underway, in the form of a road map, provides Gambians with a Barrow's road map to the end of his transition government, it will not be realized without being translated into actuality.  That task rests with the civil/public servants who are, in turn, managed by the Public Service Commission.  To finally have met with the Chairman and Members of the Public Service Commission, however symbolic, holds promise that the restructuring of the civil service will now be brought front and center as part of the transition process.

During the courtesy call, according to the press release, President Barrow lamented the low salaries of civil servants in relations to their private sector counterparts which can only be interpreted as an encouraging sign that their welfare is paramount in the president's mind.

In the same release, Barrow cited a litany of problems including the high domestic debt, which the previous regime borrowed from domestic commercial banks and a "lot of the money went into private pockets and not government." Although these undesirable outcomes are caused by both politicians and civil servants alike, it takes the dedicated civil servant operating within an independent civil service, to clean up the mess that, unfortunately, will negatively impact powerless Gambian that the government has sworn to protect from physical harm to rising cost of basic foodstuff.  

The President finally emphasized the need for an independent civil service and the press release ended his portion of the courtesy call in which he was directly quoted as saying "without the technocrats, the politicians will not succeed."  We expect President Barrow to match his words with action. Time is running out as signaled by the dwindling domestic enthusiasm and a rapid dissipation of the international goodwill that was discernibly on display only in January.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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

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We published this blog post, May 23rd, 2016, exactly a year ago. Attorney General and Minister of Justice press conference yesterday is a reminder that in order to turn a new leaf, we must, as Gambians, garner enough courage and conviction to confront our past.  We cannot pretend that everything is fine.

Regarding the $ 900,000,000, we have come to learn from investigators that the amount might represent total proceeds that went through theses accounts in Panama over time and may not necessarily represent the actual amount in the accounts.  In short, these amounts might not all be there as we speak.  

Gambians demand to know the TRUTH. Without the TRUTH, there will be no justice and without justice there will be no peace.  Thanks,  Sidi Sanneh
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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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Monday, May 22, 2017

Photo editorial: Kololi land protest/demonstration

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Jammeh's assets frozen by court order says Mr. Ba Tambadou, Justice Minister

Mr. Ba Tambadou - Gambia's Justice Minister
Gambia's Justice Minister announces at a press conference that the former Gambian dictator's assets have been frozen by court order.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said during the press conference in Banjul that his office obtained a court order today freezing or placing a temporary hold on the known assets of former President Jammeh who is currently living in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

The court order, according to the Minister, affects 131 landed properties in the personal name of the former dictator or companies directly associated with him.

In addition to the 131 known landed properties thus identified, there are also 88 different bank accounts, 14 companies and number of livestock purportedly belong to the disgraced dictator.

Preliminary finds also shows Jammeh milking the Social Security and Housing Corporation (SSHFC) amounting to D 189 million and the withdrawal of US$ 50 million from the special deposit account that holds proceeds of the foreign assistance programs meant for the country.

The Minister solicited the corporation of the general public for information relating to assets held in the personal name of Jammeh or directly associated with him.  Anyone withholding information in this regard, the Minister emphasized, will be committing an offence.  

Developing story ...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Demonstrations tomorrow (Monday) by youths in Kololi area communities against Global Properties






















The youths of Kololi, Manjai Kunda, Bakoteh, Sanchaba and Kololi are planning a protest march cum demonstration as they face an eminent threat of losing not only their only football/practice field they have left in the area but the small land area left from the original track of land that measured 58,743 sq m and a distance of 992 meters.  The communities planned to use the remaining area to build a market for the men and women of the communities and an open space for the communities that have been overwhelmed by the land grab that has been going on for nearly two decades..

The protest march is scheduled to start tomorrow (Monday) from the football field at 3:00 PM -7:00 PM.  The area MP Hon. Madi Ceesay is said to be following developments in the constituency he represents in the National Assembly and may join the youth in the demonstration.  Also other community leaders expected to attend include Saibo Drammeh and his mother-in-law who is also a UDP Yayi Compin.
The original track of land in question can be found here.  We have been informed that most of the huge track has been sold reportedly by the Mayor of KMC.  The remaining land is said to have been sold to Mr. Saul Frazier by the same said Mayor of KMC which is now being contested by the youth of the area.  No proof of ownership has been provided neither by Mr. Frazer nor by the Chinese contractor.

The land grab threat highlighted in our Facebook page is reportedly coming from the Chinese company and Saul Frazier who is CEO of Global Properties, a real estate firm.  The huge parcel of land provided in the link above has been the property of the Gambia Government and a target of developers since 1997.  How this ended up in the hands of private developers and KMC is still being investigated, including how the proceeds were utilized and by whom.

The organizers have stressed in their communique to us that the demonstration will " a peaceful and a lawful one."  The organizers have invited members of the surrounding communities of Manjai Kunda, Bakoteh, Sanchaba and Kololi.

All area football clubs, team supporters and officials, academies, community leaders and Yayi Compins have been invited and are expected to take part in the protest to draw public attention to their grievances.  The youth of the communities mentioned herein are cordially urging all to take part in the protests as a civic duty.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SEMLEX is the wrong company for the New Gambia

SEMLEX’s 5-year contract with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to print biometric passports calls for a 65% – 35% revenue sharing ratio with 65% going to the company and 35% to the government of the DRC.  This deal is part of a larger investigations currently being conducted by the Belgian law enforcement authorities about the company’s business practises in other African countries where passport prices have skyrocketed as a result of unfavorable deals that put money in the pockets of corrupt government officials and middlemen operating in the Gulf.  For a full story of the DRC scheme by Reuters, click here. 

To appreciate the proportionality of the cases in point, in the DRC, the cost of a passport is $ 185 or D 9,250.  DRC’s population is 82 million which is 41 times the size of Gambia’s population of roughly 2 million.

In the case of The Gambia, we can confirm that the contract SEMLEX intends to sign with the Barrow administration calls for a 70% - 30% revenue sharing ratio with the company taking home 70% of all revenue generated through passport sales  to Gambia government’s 30% share, as opposed to the 65% - 35% revenue sharing ration in the DRC scheme as stated earlier..

In a country of barely 2 million people, mostly poor and living subsistence lives, for SEMLEX to make a profit from the scheme, the conservative estimate of a price of a Gambian passport will be double or triple the $ 185 that DRC citizens currently pay.  It is impossible for the company to match the $ 185 that Congolese pay for a passport while maintaining a comparable quality standard.  Even with a lesser quality, matching the DRC price will not be possible.

In either case, therefore, Gambians must be ready to pay between D 10,000 and D 15,000 for a copy of a biometric passport that will pass the international standard test for it to be a worthwhile business proposal for SEMLEX. The small population of the country will tempt both the government and SEMLEX to scout for non-citizens as "clients" to make the business proposal viable.     

Although the contract does not specifically mention “passports”, official documents is defined to mean ALL official documents such as national ID cards, cards for foreign residence, and may include other documents as specified in any contract between the parties.

The Government of Mr. Adama Barrow is also required to provide the land and buildings required to implement the project at government expense.   In addition, government will provide qualified staff and pay for their salaries.

After 22 years of kleptocratic rule and the mismanagement of the country’s meager resources, the Barrow administration owe it to the Gambian people to protect them from unscrupulous businessmen and corrupt government officials by avoiding dubious business proposals and projects designed to put money in the wrong pockets at the expense of the rest of society who will end up paying these inefficiencies in the form of higher prices. 

If, despite public expression of dismay of some prominent members of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce, President Adama Barrow and his Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty still decide to proceed with the award of this and similar contracts to SEMLEX, then it is likely that there will be both legal and civic action against the government.  

The previous government had already signed a contract with The Touray Brothers to produce bio-metric national ID card and passport.  The contract was moving smoothly until Jammeh and his business partner Muhammed Bazzi, among others, interrupted the operation that eventually exiled them.  Before engaging any other company, the administration of Adama Barrow and Mai Fatty must settle with the current contract holders before committing government with a foreign firm, especially one that is already being investigated by the Belgian authorities.

Gambian businessmen and businesswomen with good business reputation must be given priority and preferential treatment over foreigners, especially those with proven track record, good business record, have demonstrated capacity to provide goods and services efficiently at competitive prices and/or rates.  The New Gambia must not emulate the Jammeh way of doing business or managing the affairs of State.  It's a new day and thus should be a new and better way.
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Monday, May 8, 2017

Muddling through

Here's a 3-year old nugget which we could have easily retitled "An anatomy of 'The Struggle.'"  We've indeed come a long way considering the odds.  Enjoy!!
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This week has been a bad week for "The Struggle."  Factional cracks are apparent everywhere after accusations of embezzlement and other unsubstantiated malfeasance that have yet to be proven.  But the damage has already been inflicted, with or without proof, and which may or may not have been the accusers' intent.  Things cannot stay the same.  They will have to change.

 "The Struggle" which is the name given to a loosely-assembled groups of Gambian dissidents in the United States, Europe and West Africa has faced challenges in the past, which they've succeeded in overcoming, not necessarily because they've been adequately addressed but because they were not as visible and accountable now as they were then.

Thanks to the online media which, in itself, is proving to be a blessing as a curse by publicizing the activities of "The Struggle" as well as blowing it apart through irresponsible reporting and outright partisanship and personal agendas.  There also exist a clear and discernible partisan divide within the media which is normal and expected.  We wish they'd stop pretending that they are non-partisan and - to borrow Fox News' faux mantra - 'fair and balanced'.  The online media has contributed immensely to the muddles messages filtering through the various organizations that constitute a significant chunk of "The Struggle."

We believe that the muddled messages of the 'civil organizations' in the dissident communities are a direct results of conflicting and competing political philosophies and leanings of the major players in the Struggle which further aggravates an already desperate condition.  A return to their respective political parties will reduce the current confusion and allow the non-party affiliates to mount a credible international advocacy against Yaya Jammeh.

Within what we now take to constitute "The Struggle" goes beyond CORDEC, CCG, GGC and NRNG to include individuals who are not affiliated with any of the above groups.  It just so happens that the most influential of the lot are the non-affiliated individuals who happens to be the proprietors of the online radios and newspapers.

And if this category of membership of the Struggle insists, as they always do, that they are impartial in their reporting, as their profession dictates, yet they take on overtly partisan stance against other members of "The Struggle" because he happens to be a Ousainou Darboe, Omar Jallow, B.B.Dabo or Mai Fatty, it inevitably poses a problem.  It exposes leaders of political parties who decided to, in good faith and in the common interest, join a broader coalition to fight the enemy that is Yaya Jammeh.

We have seen Ousainou Darboe, Omar Jallow, B.B. Dabo and Mai Fatty attacked personally and the records deliberately distorted because they decided, wrongly, to place themselves and their respective political parties in the line of fire while Halifa Sallah stays out of harm's way - a sensible political move even though we opposed the reasons PDOIS advanced for staying out of Raleigh.  Political parties, in our view, should remain political while the other organizations do what they do best - advocacy.

Which brings us to the latest entry into "The Struggle", the National Resistance Movement of The Gambia (NRMG) into the scene with a full-blown press conference to introduce its leaders.  They describe NRMG and themselves as a political organization and politicians respectively with military backgrounds that will not hesitate to use military means as last resort to remove Jammeh from power.  They are not interested, according to its spokesperson, in political power but yet they claim to be a political grouping and not a military one.  They are retired military officers but they do not consider themselves soldiers.

To be fair to the NRMG, they have tried, through their spokesperson and through a couple of press releases and radio interviews but regrettably it left people like us in more confused state than before their arrival.  The muddling through continues with an additional layer added to the Struggle that, in our view, further complicates an already difficult situation.

We continue to suggest that the political parties ring-fence themselves from all the structures of the Struggle as GMC has done.  And those who belong to and active in party politics should rejoin their respective political parties and help party leaders build, revitalize and rehabilitate them.  Those interested in a political career but do not subscribe to the philosophy of existing party should take steps to form their own and join the political fray.  A realignment along political allegiances and leanings is inevitable, and the time is now.  It will reduce the muddling through that we are witnessing currently.

Friday, May 5, 2017

GAMBIA: Foreign exchange controls are the wrong way to go

Exactly two years ago, we warned Jammeh about his interference in the foreign exchange market which caused serious distortions that ultimately affected the value of the dalasi.  Gambians are living the consequences of those irresponsible actions of the former regime.  If the new administration continues to aggravate the factors that led to the declining economy, the economy will continue on its declining path while countries like Senegal, Ghana and Mali  continue to adopt appropriate policies while curbing corruption.  Gambia must stay away from fly-by-night invetsors and hustlers if we are to make headway as a country.

Sidi Sanneh  
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 First published May 5th 2015

Faced with a persistent loss of value of the local currency, the Dalasi, against all major world currencies, especially the US Dollar, Pound Sterling and the Euro, the Gambia government, in an obvious panic mode, decided to add fuel to a raging fire by introducing foreign exchange controls.

In an official release from the Office of the President, and not the Central Bank of the Gambia (CBG) that is legally responsible for monetary policy, the government appears to be blaming hoarders of foreign exchange and not on imprudent monetary as well as fiscal policies, for the current problems facing an economy that has been struggling since 2011.  The language of the release is convoluting and imprecise thus proving difficult to gauge its impact.

State House's injecting itself in what is purely the responsibility of the Monetary Authorities brings back to the fore, a dispute between the International Monetary Fund and the regime of Yaya Jammeh about the exclusive role of the CBG in monetary affairs.

In June of 2013, the IMF warned the regime (specifically, the Office of the President) not to interfere in the forex market after meddling in it by setting rates that caused panic and uncertainty in the markets by politicizing the process.  We expect the IMF to weigh in again, hopefully, this time, with severe sanctions against a recalcitrant regime that flouts international rules with impunity.

The external factors adversely affecting the value of the dalasi include but not limited to the increasing strength of the U.S. dollar.  The Gambian dalasi is not the only currency experiencing the pressure that the dollar is exerting.  Other currencies are experiencing similar pressures but that did not result in panic-driven reaction, and as extreme as literally taking matters into the hands of politicians; in this case the Gambian dictator and away from the Central Bank authorities.

The free market-based inter-bank mechanism which has been in existence essentially since 1986 and overseen by the CBG has been undermined by Jammeh, thus threatening the purpose for which is was establish to conduct a fair and open auction of foreign exchange by the Central Bank.  Exchange controls have not worked in the past.  There is no reason to believe that they will work now.

Therefore, the regime will do itself a favor by adopting prudent fiscal and monetary measures that they have agreed to with the IMF, and not by interfering with the market mechanisms that have served the economy very well when they are left alone.  Jammeh is evidently unable to keep his hands off the market, partly because he is the single largest individual businessman in the country; so he has a vested personal interest in the market.

It is too early to gauge the full impact of the measures taken by the Gambian leader.  What is certain is that less foreigner exchange will enter the market in the short run because those holding US dollars or Euros will continue to hold on to them to see how these new measures will hold public and IMF scrutiny.   The CBG will be less active because it has little or no foreign exchange to speak of, resulting from the poor performance of two of the economy's biggest foreign exchange earners - Agriculture and tourism - in the previous two years.

In future blogs, we will be looking at these and other issues in detail.  What we have here is an outline of the debate that we expect will follow.

Meet Sulayman Gassama, State House videographer

Sulayman Gassama, of Pirang 
Exactly a year ago today, we published this blog post about a man who has a catalog of horrifying videos of horrendous rape and torture sessions that he had recorded over a period of several years for the enjoyment of Yaya Jammeh, one of the world's worst dictators.

Where is Sulayman Gassama today.  This man must be arrested and interrogated for the crimes he has witnessed and recorded on tape.  He must either be a a witness and help the authorities in their investigations or he will charged.

The same applies to the GRTS cameramen who recorded victims of torture - Amadou Sanneh, Finance Minister comes to mind - should all be arrested and appropriately charged.

Sidi Sanneh

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Sulayman Gassama is Yaya Jammeh's videographer and photographer.  His specialty is to record torture and rape sessions conducted by Jammeh's torturers and rogue elements within his murderous regime.

This man has video taped and documented numerous rape sessions for Yaya Jammeh which he enjoys watching, especially victims he considers his arch enemies.

Wives of Jammeh's opponents - real and perceived - are have been taken to the NIA torture chambers to be raped and filmed for the listening and watching pleasure of Yaya Jammeh.

Jammeh is reported to enjoy watching fellow Gambians being tortured and raped by men drunk on alcohol and drugs financed by Gambian taxpayers money.  He usually laughs at the sight of the trauma these unfortunate victims are subjected to.

We will be featuring these creatures with their photos in subsequent special editions for the world to see and get to know them for the monsters they are.  This man's father was a revered Muslim scholar - so they say.  Look at him.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A perpetual state of political dissent is not an option

Sidi Sanneh 
Last December, an obscure 51-year old real estate agent and a political newcomer named, Adama Barrow, stunned the world by defeating an entrenched dictator who’d ruled the Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years.  Equally stunning was the manner he achieved the feat - through the ballot box as opposed to the conventional route via military intervention.

While the defeat of Jammeh stunned Gambians, it left the online media flatfooted, just as it had of the opposition parties who selected Adama Barrow as their presidential candidate, setting off a wild scramble, both in The Gambia and among the online radios and social media communities in the diaspora, that had served, up to election day, as the front line in the fight against a brutal dictatorship.

In this regard, we advocated for the reorientation of online radio programming that will focus more on issues that will solidify the democratic gains realized as a result of getting rid of Jammeh democratically and without bloodshed, as opposed to getting stuck in either continuing the demonization of Jammeh or succumbing to the temptation of replacing the ousted dictator with President Barrow as a means of holding on a captured audience.   This was seen in some quarters as an attempt to silence the press by bringing them in line with, and in support of the new government which was never our intention.  The blog in question entitled "[T]he online press must also transition" can be found here.

Covering the Jammeh regime was a nightmarish experience full of carnage and brutality that can only be equated with the worst of the worst of dictatorships.  The raw brutality meted out to fellow Gambians by the Jammeh and regularly reported on by the online media, tended to have numbed the sensibilities of a portion, (hopefully, a small portion for the good of the country) that have come to normalize the gory stories that were streaming out of the NIA dungeons (Bamba Dinka).

The temptation to continue to wet the appetite of the online audience is great; driven in part by the desire to retain a captured audience, even if it means jazzing-up and/or ginning up stories at the expense of national reconciliation.  Some unsavory and unhinged characters have been taking to the airwaves, inciting people to start a new 'Struggle' against a government that is barely 100 days old, accusing the Barrow administration of promoting tribalism - a red herring -  as well as favoring certain caliber of investors.

There is no significant difference between these accusations that pit one tribe against another and Yaya Jammeh's infamous incendiary denunciation of the Mandinka ethnic group that drew an incitement to violence charge from none other than the United Nation's Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary General on Genocide, who reminded the former dictator of how incitement to violence led to mass killings along identity lines in Rwanda and other countries around the world.  Jammeh was reprimanded as a result which should serve as a reminder that incitement to violence is a serious bridge of international law.    

The truthfulness of the accusations leveled against Barrow and his government agencies are not what are at issue here.  What is at issue is the appropriateness of taking to the airways and making unsubstantiated accusations and literally making up stuff about simple facts that can easily be verified by a click of the mouse to access official websites.

On our part, we will continue to engage the Barrow government constructively, while holding it responsible for any policy decision, particularly on issues pertaining to the public policy processes, and to provide solutions and policy options.   We do not have neither the desire nor the intention of being part of the perpetual state of political dissent because it is neither rational nor realistic.

What we will be focusing on is to be part of a process that will contribute to the building of a viable and last democratic society, using the democratic gains of last December 2nd and the international goodwill currently on offer as foundations for a better future for all Gambians.         

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

GPTC: The sad story of an iconic bus company - Part I

Part I of the GPTC story was first published April 17th 2014.  It is being republished, together with Part II , to provide the compete picture of an otherwise sad story, courtesy of the Jammeh era of maladministration.

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Republished  April 25, 2017


The mere mention of the now defunct Gambia Public Transport Corporation, popularly referred by its acronym GPTC, generates nostalgic references to an iconic symbol of the First Republic.

The initial name was The Gambia - Libya Jamahiriya Public Transport Corporation.  When diplomatic relations between the countries soared over what Sir Dawda Jawara saw as Gaddafi's attempts to subvert Gambia's sovereignty by training Gambian dissidents, the partnership was dissolved and the Gambia took sole ownership and renamed it Gambia Public Transport Corporation.

GPTC in spite of managerial deficiencies of its own, symbolized a relatively efficient management, as African public transport companies go.  It hauled in decent profits year in year out since its inception in 1975, up until July 22nd 1994.

The company's first Managing Director brought to the job the managerial and technical prerequisites expected of managers of public corporations which helped put the new corporation on a trajectory that his successors built on to make it a success story. Gambians were able to travel to Basse and back the same day if they so chose.  The services covered both the North and South Banks of the River Gambia, express and local services.  Banjul-Dakar and Dakar-Banjul daily services were also available.  All of these services started to deteriorate and finally came to a grinding halt with the advent of the A(F)PRC regimes where competence was less important than your tribal or party affiliation - never mind that you may be a certified illiterate.

Fast forward to November 20, 2012, at the direction of Yaya Jammeh, the Speaker of the National Assembly called an emergency session to table a Bill to repeal the GPTC Act of 1976 that will dissolve the GPTC as a corporate entity.  The convening of the session came as a surprise to many parliamentarians, and the Bill before them politically sensitive enough to warrant the Speaker to start off the 'debate' with the following opening statement: "I do hope members of both sides of the House will understand the reason for the short notice given, especially since it is also within Standing Order 26(q).  I hope that the Bill, not being controversial, will be dealt with as soon as possible, but of course, without compromising, in any way, the public interest this Bill deserves."  It is obvious from the Speaker's words that the National Assembly is being blind-sided by Jammeh for springing a surprise that appears to betray the public trust.

In laying the Bill, the then Minister of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, Francis Liti Mboge, recounted the story of how, "in the 1990s, the GPTC slid into serious financial and operational difficulties when management was faced with aging fleet, declining revenues and investments aggravated the situation."  The exasperated sounding Minister continued : "A business entity must either maximize revenue or cut costs to remain solvent, with GPTC, neither option was possible.  The decision was therefore made to disband the Corporation."  Conveniently ignored by the Minister was the fact that in November 2003, Yaya Jammeh admitted rescinding GPTC's management decisions to cut cost by retrenching excess staff with the excuse that "why should the staff suffer", because they were mostly relatives or supporters of his ruling APRC.

So when Jammeh acquired 31 buses six months after he had asked his rubber stamp parliament to repeal the law that gave birth to GPTC, revenue enhancement was furthest from his mind.  He was paving the way for his own bus company using the remaining assets of a publicly-owned company, to supplement the resources of yet another public company in Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC). During the official inauguration of the buses, Gambians were told that Jammeh acquired the buses through a "joint Gambia government and Transport Metropolitan de Barcelona" with the fingerprints of one Kassim Njie Dampha who was described at the same ceremony by Jammeh as "Gambia's Liaison Officer in Barcelona." Whether he is still acting in that capacity on behalf of the regime is unclear.  What is clear, however, is the fact that Jammeh had used public investments and Social Security funds to form the Gambia Transport Service Company (GTSC).

It is  important to note that during the June 8th 2013 re-launch with the unveiling of 50 Ashok-Leyland buses from India, Isatou-Njie Saidy, standing in for Yaya Jammeh, read a statement prepared for him which she said because "the government is ever committed to the welfare and well being of Gambians requested the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation to work with my office (meaning the office of Yaya Jammeh) to establish a public transport company that is efficient, reliable and offers affordable services." This is further confirmation that the Office of the President under Yaya Jammeh has become an omnipresent, one-stop-shop office for private-public partnership where the private is Yaya Jammeh and the public is government and parastatal agencies.  Where the public treasury ends and where Jammeh's pockets begins is a tough call.  To destroy a public corporation only to set up another one in its place with Jammeh holding equity is mind-bending.

The GTSC has failed in its mission, as stated by Jammeh, of providing "efficient, reliable and affordable series."  The services provided by the GTSC are poor compared to the services that were provided by the now defunct GPTC that was killed by Jammeh and his rubber stamp National Assembly to make way for his private bus company using public funds.  School children are major casualties of this new transport company which does not provide services for school children in contrast to GPTC that received subvention from government to run an efficient school bus service.

End of Part I

Part II will look at the human cost of repealing the GPTC Act establishing the transport corporation causing sufferings of former staff of GPTC, most of whom were left stranded without compensation, pensions and even outstanding wages and social security contributions, in spite of government promises that former GPTC employees will be paid their outstanding dues.

GPTC: The sad story of an iconic bus company - PART II

GPTC buses
Three years ago today, we published this peace about the iconic GPTC bus company, another victim of the Jammeh regime.

This particular blog post narrated a story about how ex-staff member of the company were stiffed by the administration as part of the systematic approach Jammeh and his political partners adopted in dismembering the GPTC.

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First published April 25, 2014


In tabling the Act of Parliament in November 2012 that repealed the GPTC out of existence by, the then Minister of Works, Construction and Infrastructure promised Gambians that all salaries and benefits owed to GPTC staff affected by the dissolution will be paid in full.

As a former staff member reminded us all recently, "it will be one year next month since the Minister of Works announced before the National Assembly that the former staff of the GPTC will be paid all their benefits but which has not yet materialized."

The quote was made in October of last year.  One year six months have now gone without the regime of Jammeh fulfilling its promise.  At the time, the Permanent Secretary at the Works Ministry, Abdoulie Camara, claimed that all the "paper work" has been completed and forwarded to "the appropriate authorities" meaning the Attorney General's Office.  A local newspaper reporter, interested in the plight of the former staff members, visited the Ministry of Justice and demanded answers from the then Solicitor General, Pa Harry Jammeh, who informed the reporter that the file was indeed "on his desk and that action with be taken shortly."

Pa Harry Jammeh was soon therefore accused and charged of unrelated crimes. He was succeeded by Basiru Mahoney who claimed immediately claimed ignorance by claiming that he knew nothing about the issue and that there was no file pertaining to outstanding salaries and benefits to former staff of the GPTC.  This is in spite of the claim by the Permanent Secretary  of the Works Ministry that the file has been forwarded to the Justice Ministry and confirmed by the former Solicitor General.

Meanwhile, ex-staff have been undergoing agonizing periods with their families in an urban setting without employment and without benefits due them.  One ex-staffer explained how he had to send his wife and kids up-country to relatives to save his family that he can no longer maintain in Greater Banjul.  Some marriages have ended in divorce and children have been withdrawn from school because of a regime that was interested in dissolving a public corporation that provided a vital and reliable service to the public.

During the extra-ordinary session of the National Assembly that was convened in a haste at the direction of Jammeh, from the Speaker, through NAM members like Netty Baldeh of Tumana, Alhaji Sillah of Banjul North and Fabakary Tombong Jatta of Serrekunda East among others kept reassuring their colleagues that they found nothing controversial about the Repeal Bill, as if they were trying to convince themselves that they were doing was in the interest of the people who sent them to Parliament to protect their interest.

Prior to becoming parliamentarians, all of these characters were users of GPTC.  They were, therefore, aware of the vital role it played in transporting Gambians around the country, and thus the reluctance on their part to proceed with the Bill but could not bring themselves to challenge the absolute power of the dictator.

In the words of the UDP Minority Leader, Mr. Momodou L.K.Sanneh of Kiang West, " the collapse of GPTC is man-made because before 1994, the institution was in good shape."  The former opposition lawmaker also blamed staff and management of the corporation for what he described as "supporting the culture of silence" for failing to raise the alarm when "they saw the institution going towards the wrong direction."

All the assurances given to Gambians by the Jammeh regime have not been fulfilled.  In the words of the then Works Minister, having closed an old chapter, it is only prudent that we must "look to the not too distant future for realizing our our dreams with regard to public transport."  The said Minister continued to reassure members of the National Assembly that "government is ever conscious of its commitment to provided public transport for the socio-economic development pf this country."

They knew the sensitive nature of public transport (including the school bus service which was also a victim of the dissolution of GPTC) and the potential disruption it could cause if the vow they are creating is not filled immediately, which led the Minister to continue assuring the general public, through the National Assembly, that "plans are afoot for the revival of this mode of transport in line with the objectives of the Program for Accelerated Growth and Development."

The vacuum created by the "disbanding of the corporation" to use the word of the regime has not been filled. The public's transportation needs have not been met.  The school bus service is nonexistent, and the ex-staff of GPTC have not been paid their dues.  The regime and members of the National Assembly have, once again, failed in protecting the interest of Gambians in pursuit of the selfish interest of a few.  Gambians deserve better.
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CORRECTION:  It has been brought to our attention that Pa Harry Jammeh never jumped bail.  The correction have been made with our apologies to Pa Harry and to all those affected.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Justice for the victims before national reconciliation

Gambia's AG and Justice Minister,  Baa Tambadou 
We refrained from injecting ourselves in the criminal investigations and prosecutions of Jammeh's victims and, the process that will lead up to the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, because we wanted to give the government time and space that they obviously need.

Both commodities are quickly running out and thus the need to throw in our two cents now rather than later.

We, therefore, welcome the announcement and appreciate the fact that plans are afoot to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the end of the current calendar year.  We also acknowledge the release of all political prisoners and government's actions taken thus far to account for the numerous Gambians who have gone missing under Yaya Jammeh.  We also acknowledge the ongoing investigations and eventual prosecutions of those implicated in the death in NIA custody of Solo Sandeng.  We hope government will step up its efforts in these and other cases as well.

"Accountability for the gravest crimes is crucial to building respect for the rule of law and contributing to the deterrence of future abuses," to lift a quote from Human Rights Watch's (HRW) letter to the Hon. Minister of Justice.  

That said, we'd like to join HRW in encouraging government to commit more resources and devote more time and energy in delivering justice to the hundreds, if not thousands, of victims and their families across the country.   Investigating and prosecuting the numerous cases involving Gambian victims of the dictatorial regime of Jammeh should not be relegated to the back burner for truth and reconciliation efforts.

As we have advocated in the past, criminal investigations and prosecutions and truth-telling and reconciliation are not mutually exclusive processes.  Therefore, they can run concurrently, provided criminal investigations and prosecutions of those accused of criminal offenses takes precedence over the setting up the TRC because as HRW noted "truth telling and reconciliation measures are not a substitute for criminal judicial proceedings."

As regards the eventual prosecution of Yaya Jammeh, some prefer the ICC while others, including us, prefer that he be prosecuted locally by a hybrid court, similar to the courts that were established to prosecute those accused of criminal offenses following the 1981 coup d'etat led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang.  Witness protection, a legitimate concern, given Jammeh's extensive network of violent supporters, is a key preoccupation of proponents of the ICC route.  We believe, however, the local security apparatus is sufficiently provide protection for victims and their families.    

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

IMF admits massive embezzlement of funds under Jammeh: Did the Fund fail The Gambia?

IMF HQ in Washington DC 

Did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fail The Gambia in not reporting forcefully and directly against Jammeh's grotesque level of economic mismanagement and the rampant corruption, surpassing anything ever seen in Gambia's 52-year post-independence history?

As preparations are underway for the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings this weekend when the Gambian delegation expected to attend and that will include the Governor of the Central Bank, a holdover from the Jammeh era, as many of the members of the economic management team are, the question is appropriate and was prompted by the preliminary findings and conclusions/observations of the recently concluded IMF mission to The Gambia.

The IMF mission led by Ulrich Jacoby from March 30 - April 12, 2017 to assess the impact of the external shocks on the economy and to kick-start discussions for possible IMF financial support through a Rapid Credit Facility (RCF).  We learned for the mission preliminary observations that economic growth has slowed from 4.4% in 2015 to 2,2% in 2016.

The reasons attributed to the lower rate, according to the Fund are limited availability of foreign exchange, weak agricultural output and the impact last year's political impasse had on tourism during peak season, all of these requiring policy efforts as well as external financial support from the donor community.

An end-of-mission statement by Mr. Jacoby referred to the "historical turning point" that the country is in following the democratically-elected government of President Adama Barrow and the economic challenges facing policy makers.

After pointing out to some important data points referenced above, the mission leader made the following that the"situation is compounded by economic mismanagement and massive embezzlement of funds during the former regime."

We have combed through Fund mission reports and cannot pull out a statement of admission as frank and direct as Mr. Jacoby's.  Referring to Jammeh's kleptocracy as "economic mismanagement and massive embezzlement of funds..." by the Funds mission head, however belated, is a significant departure from the standard cookie cutter language couched in 'Fundese' not to offend African dictators like Jammeh who ran the country for 22 years with an iron fist.

Jammeh brazenly and with regularity rubbed the public treasury with the aid of senior officials of The Gambia's Central Bank.  He manipulated by directly interfering in the foreign exchange market, consciously and deliberately distorting the market to favor his own forex bureaus or those of his business partners.

Admittedly, Jammeh interference in the foreign exchange market has been a central point of contention and a source of conflict between him and the Fund over several years and missions, resulting in numerous admonishments and warnings from the Fund without the desired effect.

The inability of the Fund to rein in Jammeh whose monetary (as well as the fiscal) indiscipline reached legendary heights with time, as the main driver of the domestic debt.  The Gambian Constitution allowed him to engage in business which was the reason for his insatiable appetite for borrowing at local banks, depriving legitimate businesses of access to financial capital.

Fiscal and monetary indiscipline of the former regime has been a recurrent problem.  The persistence of these problems also suggests that Fund's toolbox may be missing a tool or two, specifically designed to handle kleptocratic leaders like Jammeh, in addition to sanctions.      

The reluctance on the part of the Fund not to offend these kleptocrats, whether or not it is dictated by policy, is part of the problem African economies are experiencing.   By avoiding a sterner language like the ones employed in this case by Mr. Jacoby, the Fund is contributing, in a significant measure, to Africa's economic problems in general and to Gambia's in particular.  It is time for the International Monetary Fund and development finance institutions start calling a spade a spade.