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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

President Barrow's "friendly visit" to Congo Brazzaville was ill-advised

President Adama Barrow 
The press release from the Office of The President to local news outlets and the online press operated by diaspora Gambians informed the general public that President Barrow "will travel to Congo Brazzaville on a two day friendly visit."

Neither the purpose of the trip nor the composition of the delegation accompanying the newly-minted Gambian leader was stated in the release.

All we know of and about the presidential visit came from pro-government local media and state-controlled television.

According to these sources, President Barrow held a tete-a-tete with the Congolese dictator, Denis Sassou Nguesso, last night upon arrival from Banjul.

The visit, according to local reports, took place within the context of strengthening relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.  "The climax of the visit" according to local reporting, "was the tete-a-tete between the two Heads of State at the Presidency during which they discussed bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest."

Congolese state television also reported that the two leaders also reaffirm their commitment to the African Union's Agenda 2063, regional integration and the fight against terrorism.  President Barrow reportedly used the meeting to "commend President Sassou for his mediation role in various African crises and also in his role in fostering national reconciliation."

The presidential delegation left the Radisson Blu Hotel at noon local time for the airport, presumably headed for Banjul.  Unless he has another destination on his travel itinerary, he should arrive in Banjul today, Saturday instead of Sunday as originally planned.  plans to stop somewhere else

Our sources in Banjul are telling us that President Barrow was not accompanied by his Foreign Minister - Ousainou Darboe - who is home engaged in the observance of the one year anniversary of the death of Solo Sandeng and activities related to it.

Congolese have suffered at the hands of Denis Sassou Nguesso - a dictator and a rogue who has been in office since 1979 for all but five years by manipulating his constitution a couple of years ago to make it possible for him to run for a third consecutive term of office.  His politics is dirty and his human rights record, appalling.  Who advised President Barrow to do this?    

President Barrow's delegation, according to sources, comprised of an adviser to President Barrow, the Chief of Protocol and another protocol officer, permanent secretary in the Office of the President and the Director of Press and Public Relations.  Sources also reported that President Barrow was not accompanied by any Minister or senior official of note - another unusual development.

As we noted in our Facebook page, this trip has left many citizens and friends of the Gambia puzzled, bewildered and completely at a loss for many reasons, the least of which is President Barrow's preferred choice of country to visit with no strong geopolitical ties worth ditching Presidents Buhari, Johnson-Sirleaf, Akufo-Addo, Ouatarra, Koroma to name a few in favor of Denis Sassou Nguesso, of all people.  The message of the trip can be summed up as follows : President Barrow is ready to ditch Gambia's traditional friends, including those who came to the country's aid in its hour of need, for perhaps an agenda of his own.

The fact that the Minister responsible for Gambia's foreign relations appears not to have been involved in neither the planning nor the execution of the trip only adds to its bizarre nature which is equally troubling and a dangerous precedence, given the nature of the government currently in place.

Gambia fought a very brutal dictatorship for 22 years tp victory.  Many Gambians lost their lives as well as their livelihood in the process.  Others have been extra-judicially executed, raped, tortured and journalists assassinated and made to disappear without trace to this day.  The luckiest of the lot were forced to flee their homeland in their ten of thousands, many still living refugee lives in Senegal, Europe, United States and around the globe.  We will not sit idly by while we watch our country hijacked for the second by unsavory characters and fly-by-night operators.  We will not let it happen this time around.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Judge Simeon Abi threatens journalists in his courtroom

As the Gambia Bar Association file court action against the Judicial Service Commission and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice seeking a reversal of the appointments of some Nigerian magistrates, one of which is Simeon Abi who has been featured in this particular blog post.   His behavior in his own court has been both unprofessional, rude and a total lack of respect for Gambian journalists.

Magistrate Abi and his countrymen who have helped weaponize the Gambian judicial system against Gambians during the dictatorship of Jammeh have no place in our judicial system. They should all be sent packing.
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Nigerian Judge Simeon Abi 
The Nigerian mercenary Judge Simeon Abi, recruited by the Nigerian Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Hadi Saleh Barkum, not to dispense justice but to imprison the Gambian dictator's real and perceived opponents, threatened Gambian journalists covering the case of radio journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay.

According to local reports, the judge accused journalists assigned to cover this highly political case of misquoting him and proceeded to threaten them with jail term.

Judge Simeon Abi was quoted as saying that a certain media house attributed his absence at the last schedule sitting of the court as a personal choice of opting to stay home.

In fact, we reported last week that he declared himself ill, a claim we determined to be false.  The judge was feigning illness as a favorite tactic of his to delay cases against political detainees whim Yaya Jammeh considers to be challenging his dictatorial rule.

The judges direct threats were followed with stern warning to journalists that he does not want to entangle with them in future.  It is not, according to the judge, the journalists who should determine when to come to work and when tp stay home.

Well, we have news for this arrogant and good-for-nothing judge that his salary and those of the Deputy Director of Prosecution and Yaya Jammeh are paid by the taxes of those very journalists he's threatening with jail time.  He owes them an apology and to cease using threats against journalists who are in his court to report to their respective readerships at home and abroad.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Gambia's petroleum sector is opaque for a reason

The announcement by ERIN Energy (formerly CAMAC) that it has reached an agreement with FAR Ltd. to farm-out Blocks 2 and 5 kick starts a petroleum exploration concession awarded to the Texas-based, Nigerian controlled company by Yaya Jammeh in May of 2012.

FAR is an Australian oil exploration company that is currently operating in Senegal.  In fact the two Blocks (2 and 5) are next to FAR's 2014 SNE-1 oil field one discovery considered the largest offshore oil discovery of the industry that year.

The Agreement between Erin and FAR, FAR will pay a purchase price of $ 5.18 and take over $ 8 million of the company's shares in exploration costs of a well that is expected go be drilled in 2018, according to industry sources.  By contrast, $ 400 million was paid in the case of the adjacent blocks in Senegal, making these figures appear minuscule, even when the size of the blocks in the adjacent areas in Senegal cover larger areas.

According to FAR's own estimates, Blocks 2 and 5 have the potential of producing in excess of one billion barrels of oil.  Block 2 as indicated earlier, is adjacent to Senegal offshore block in which FAR already has an interest as junior partner of the Scottish Cairn Energy that operates the SNE world class oil and gas field,  

Since the Erin-FAR deal is subject to government approval, the Barrow government must revisit this particular contract Agreement i.e. between Erin (formally CAMAC) and Yaya Jammeh.  Pertinent issues must be raised with Erin ( for Blocks 2 and 5) and African Petroleum Corporation (for Blocks 1 and 4) including the amount paid for the two licenses and to whom the monies were paid.

The circumstances that led African Petroleum Corporation's (APC) withdrawal of its arbitration request with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes after its license for Blocks 1 and 4 were terminated by Jammeh only to be reinstated without explanation must also be explained. Were the terms and conditions maintained as previously or were they varied? Obviously, more questions must be raised by the Barrow administration about all of these contracts and satisfactory answers provided by both APC and Erin.    

Gambia's energy/petroleum sector is opaque for a reason.  It allowed Jammeh to negotiate these deals personally with a select number of civil servants being privy to the details of the Agreement when these concessions should have been publicly tendered for transparency.

We need not remind readers that the Jammeh style of governance is unsustainable because it is inefficient and corrupt, depriving the public treasury much needed financial resources at the expense of Gambians who, on average, are living in abject poverty. The new government must reverse the trend by adopting best public procurement practices in the petroleum, energy and other public sectors.
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CORRECTION :  The $ 400 M referenced in this blog was paid by Kosmos to Petrotim for the Deep Sea - St. Louis Block and not the adjacent blocks as initially reported.          

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Commentary on some aspects of PDOIS Agenda 2016

A week ago, we posted on our Facebook page a short note entitled "Advantage, Halifa" in which we highlighted the strengths of Halifa Sallah, the politician, essentially arguing that his oratorical skills as well as his hard work, among other enviable attributes, make him a formidable political foe.

We also said, in the same piece, and we quote " [H]e uses...key local languages to propagates his ideas, some of which I find unpalatable and run contrary to my liberal democratic and free but regulated market ideas and values..." which drew a particular comment from a reader who demanded to know why some of Halifa's views are unpalatable. to which we promised to share a blog post published in May 2014 showing some areas of divergence.

This post on some aspects of PDOIS's Agenda 2016 is to fulfill that promise.  Happy reading.

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The People's Democratic Organization for Democracy and Socialism better known by its acronym PDOIS is first off the starting blocks with what it labels "Agenda 2016: a provisional Manifesto of PDOIS" which was unveiled in Wuli Barrow Kunda in the Upper River.

Since it is labelled "provisional", the manifesto is expected to be put through a process of validation by the PDOIS membership.  How long the comment period will be is unclear.

What strikes us immediately is the scope of the Manifesto, as we have noted on our Facebook page where we suggest that PDOIS is trying hard (maybe too hard) to cover most, if not all, of the bases.  The Manifesto covers everything from the electoral process and reform to the discussion of tactics to be employed to achieving some of the party's goals. 

Agenda 2016 has two stated goals namely to put a definitive end to (i) voter apathy and (ii) sectarian politics. Both goals are laudable in and of themselves but whether the strategy adopted will achieve these goals given that PDOIS has been conducting civic education since it became a registered political party in 1986, especially as it relates to voter apathy.

Civic education addresses one aspect of why voters don't go to the polls, the other aspect of voter apathy in developing countries like the Gambia has to do with how the governed see the governors.  A regime that intimidates by creating a siege environment around voting stations and around town will help drive voter participation rates down, especially in opposition stronghold.

Regarding sectarian politics, the Gambia was, and we hope, still is a model of peaceful coexistence between various ( to borrow PDOIS's own classification) "faiths, casts and ethno-linguistic" groupings.  A quick glance at the state of affairs of sectarian politics in the sub-region will convince any reasonable person, with equally reasonable knowledge of Gambian politics, that Gambian politics is not based on the groupings listed in the Manifesto.

As we are used to saying in these pages, Gambia has numerous other problems but sectarianism isn't one of them, and, thus, to make it a central theme of a political document like Agenda 2016 is only advancing the cause of those who attribute their personal failings on tribe, region, religion or cast.  Every society has its fair share of knucklehead politicians who see utility in exploiting these groupings for their own political ends.

We will not dwell further on this issue except to flag the danger posed by twenty years of ethic politics that Jammeh has insistently played which may cause a destabilizing effect down the road between his minority Jola tribe and the rest.   The fact that all of the key and strategic posts in government are held by members of his tribe has raised eyebrows, even among his own political party, but nothing beyond that.  The worry is what happens post-Jammeh.

Electoral reform, in our view, should have been the centerpiece of the Manifesto and the driving force behind the 2016 Agenda of all political parties. the driving force.  To relegate it to the second-tier of the document conveys the message that voter apathy and sectarian politics are the predominant factors facing the opposition in 2016.

And to suggest that opposition participation in the 2016 presidential elections should still take place even if Jammeh refuses to restore second round voting deals a devastating blow to many in the opposition who support electoral boycott if their basic electoral demands are not met.

It is our view that a strategic error of monumental proportion has been committed by signalling to Jammeh and his APRC that PDOIS is ready to throw in the towel even before the weigh-in.

We have decided limit our comments on the politics of the Manifesto and to leave the economic and other issues out of the discussion, unless the readership would like us to comment more than what we are prepared to say in the following sentences :

We do not support nor do we encourage the promotion of an expansive role of government in the management of  The Gambia's economy. Public enterprises like Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) and similar enterprises are often referred to as "the productive sector" and increasingly seen by PDOIS and confirmed in the Manifesto as the engine of growth of the economy.

Whereas, they may provide much needed revenue when they operate profitably, these enterprises are almost all bankrupt and a drag on the economy.  Government must divest more of its holdings in these public enterprise to private investors.  A comprehensive diagnostic studies of all these institution must be conducted prior to any divestiture program is put in place.

Finally, it is not government's business to operate mineral mines and oil rigs, even if it wanted to because the financial outlay and expertise necessary are prohibitively high. These sectors are the business of private mining and petroleum companies.  Of course, GASPROM and similar State petroleum and natural gas companies are the exception rather than the rule.

       

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kassim Tajideen indicted in the US as financier of terrorism; lessons for the Barrow administration

Kassim Tajideen at his office in Beirut
Federal authorities have, today, filed a criminal case in a Washington DC court accusing Kassim Tajideen of being a financier of terrorism.  Kassim heads a family business that spans across the Middle East and Africa.

Kassim's brother, Hussein Tajideen, who was a close business partner of Jammeh for a number of years, managed several businesses in the Gambia during the Jammeh era until they finally fell apart last year.  It was a relationship that saw anything but stable with frequent disagreements between the two that led to Mr. Tajideen being expelled from the Gambia on, at least twice.

The criminal indictment charged that Kassim Tajideen helped fund Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group.  The US is also investigating Mr. Tajideen's relationship with Kansas-based food producer Seaboard Corporation.

According to a November article in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ),  Kissim Tajideen was found that companies tied to his family business did millions of dollars in business with Seaboard Corporation after the US Treasury added him to the US terror blacklist in 2009.  Seaboard Corporation is an American company famous for producing the Butterball turkey that partnered with Muhamed Bazzi and Fadi Maziggi in the establishment of the Gambia Milling Corporation.

Tajideen cornered the chicken market in the Gambia probably importing them from Kansas.  It must be noted that the United Stated is not expected  to file any charges against Seaboard at this time and no suggestion that the food producer did anything wrong.

Mr. Kassim Tajideen, head of the Tajideen family business, face multiple felony counts, including evading terrorism sanctions and conspiring to launder money. According to Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Agent in Charge, "Kassim Tajideen posed a direct threat to safety and stability around the world" who "acted as a key source of funds for their global terror network."

According to the WSJ, the two brothers were added to the government's terrorist blacklist in 2010 for allegedly funneling millions of dollars to Hezbollah and running "cover companies" for the group in Africa.

It is against this hostile background that the Barrow administration is trying to install a government that will not only embrace the democratic culture that the dictatorship overthrew in July 1994 but to create a free market atmosphere that will encourage legitimate foreign businesses and investors to do business in The Gambia.   However, to realize this laudable goal, proper screening of investors and the monitoring of their business practices must be instituted.

We are, of course, not suggesting that all foreign investors currently in the country are either on or are likely to be on the US Treasury list. We are, however, urging the administration to do is to put up safeguards against what we consider to be a real threat to the credibility of a very young and inexperienced government that has yet to benefit from the international goodwill accruing to it after replacing the dictator.  Do not think for a minute that the world is not watching.

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This blog is based, in large part, to a Wall Street Journal piece published today and written by Rob Barry and Christopher S. Stewart  with whom we have cooperated with, previously.

Monday, March 20, 2017

AMRC has outlived its purpose, it's a corruption den, and should be closed

In November 2013, we published a blog post in which we proposed the closing of the Assets Management and Recovery Corporation (AMRC) that was purposely established in 1992 to manage the assets and liabilities of the defunct Gambia Commercial and Development Bank.  The AMRC mandate was later extended to include assets and liabilities of the Agricultural Development Bank which also went under a few years later.

The reasons we advanced, for its closure, are relevant today then as they were then.   It is a corruption den utilized by Jammeh to further enhance his ability to conceal his dubious assets transactions at the expense of private citizens engaged in legitimate business activities that resulted in the illegitimate forfeiture of their properties illegitimately employing the power of the state.

The AMRC issue was raised by Abdoukarim Sanneh and thus the decision to republish this blog that we first published on the 11th November 2013.

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The Assets Management and Recovery Corporation (AMRC) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1992 with a clear and simple mandate, to manage the assets and liabilities of the defunct Gambia Commercial and Development Bank (GCDB).

Two years into its existence, the 1994 coup took place and the mandate of the AMRC was extended to include newly confiscated properties of members of the Jawara regime.  But not all fell under the purview of the corporation.  In fact, many of these properties fell into the hands of members of the junta and their families, friends and supporters.  The rest, mostly less attractive, were handed over to AMRC to be managed.  many quickly fell into disrepair and dilapidation. Assets quickly turned into liabilities because the corporation was not designed to be a long-term proposition but a short-term fix to address the assets and liabilities of the GCDB.

We are being told that 72% of the entire GCDB portfolio valued at D 240 million ( about $ 8 million) has been recovered with an outstanding balance of D 94 million (about $3 million).  There has been zero collection for years, and the corporation, according to its own reporting, has ceased to collect "as large parts of these debts are unsecured and/or lack documentation since the debtors are either non-traceable or no longer in position to pay..."  Most, if not all of the collection activities of the corporation has been on commercial loans.  There has been little recovery of development loans, mainly agricultural machinery, because they were all unsecured.  The other category of GCDB liabilities were under managed fund category which were government guaranteed loans to Area Councils.  Most of these loan remain outstanding because most of these Area Councils are bankrupt, and have been so for a very long time.  They rely on government subvention to provide the minimum of services despite the local rates and levies collected from residents.

Instead of winding down the operations of AMRC, the regime decided instead to expand its mandate indefinitely "to venture into sectors such as agriculture, property rental and sales of forfeited property as competitive prices" as if they have learned nothing from the GCDB experience were almost all of the loans extended for development purposes ( agriculture ) turned out to be unrecoverable.  Adding sales of forfeited properties to the corporation's mandate only fuel the property confiscation binge the regime is on.  The continued existence of the AMRC perpetuates a cycle of corruption in the properties market, distorting it in the process.

The corporation has been operating deficits, at least since 2011 and the decline persists.  For instance, the turnover of the corporation in 2011 was D 19.4 million, down to D 9.7 million in 2012 - a year described by management as turbulent times but yet promised as they did the previous years, that the "corporation will grow from year to year." The corporation rental income has suffered a precipitous decline over the years because most of its rental properties, according to their own reports, "are vacant due to bad state of repairs" and all efforts are being made to repair them so that they can be put back in the market.  The idea of AMRC had never been to play the role of a landlord.  It was to manage the liabilities and assets of the defunct GCDB and close shop after the main objectives have been achieved.    

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Have we no moral conscience or sense of decency?

Sidi Sanneh 
The republication of this blog post was inspired by Pa Modou Jobe's re-posting of it and the comments that followed on his Facebook page.

The blog was penned on 9th March, 2015 at the height of Jammeh's rampaging hit squad unleashed on a defenseless and much traumatized population with scores of forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture which were taken in the jaw in stony silence by civic, political and religious leaders with some allowing themselves to be infected with the Stockholm Syndrome, the virus externally induced by the tormentor-in chief with cash and worldly goods.

Fatu Camara also re-posted the story of Ya Binta Jarju who was targeted and her brains blown out by the Bulldozer group and then proceeded to threaten her boyfriend who was riding in the same taxi that fateful night if he should ever speak about the incident - the link to the story can be found here.

The country will never start on the road to reconciliation and normalization without addressing the horrors of the previous regime.  The nation will never heal if the painful process of confronting the past does not take place and the longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will be to attain the cleansing of the National Soul which is, as we've said previously, a prerequisite to reconciliation. Those responsible for these heinous acts are still roaming our streets and, more repulsively, occupying the highest and most coveted positions in the Barrow government.  These people must be weeded out of the system, charged and brought before a court of law.  Those found guilty punished and those found innocent be let free.

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Sidi Sanneh 
To sit, watch and actively participate in the destruction of the Gambia through our active or passive support of Yaya Jammeh who came out of the blue to torment, torture, maim, rape, extra-judicially execute, exile, imprison and humiliate our sons, daughters, wives, husbands, uncles, aunts, grand-children while we stay mute, and pretend nothing ever happened.

There was an instance when the life of a father was attempted, and if not for the timely intervention of medical treatment in Senegal, another precious life of a Gambian would have been wasted by Yaya Jammeh's criminal gang.  What did Yaya Jammeh do?  He appointed the victim's daughter to the bench while the father was still in exile in America.

Eventually, the victim returned to Gambia to those who attempted to assassinate him.  These are personal tragedies with national proportions and, thus, must be discussed within that context, and also within the context of trying to understand Jammeh's tactics that he's used to stay in power. The world must know what Gambians are going through under the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  We cannot accomplish this goal if all of us stay mute.

It is only in The Gambia where a husband is killed by the notorious security henchmen of the regime only to find the wife hitching a ride the next day to Kanilai to engage in 'celebrations' and fraternizing with the very soldiers who killed her husband.  Gambia's social fabric is being destroyed by a regime that careless while we watch from the sidelines or help in the destruction.

Stories like these are horrid and numerous.  As a Gambian, I am embarrassed by them.  How did we get to be where we find ourselves?  How did we degenerate to this inhumane and unprincipled state of mind that a wife will report a husband to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in the name of a brutal dictator? These and many questions will engage psychologists, psychiatrists, behavioral scientists and other social scientists for generations to come.  What a degenerate life we have resigned ourselves to as a Nation?  Where is the moral decency in us?

Ebrima Barry, a schoolboy was forced into a sinister exercise that required him to load and off-load a truck-load of cement by a group of Fire Service personnel.  Young Ebrima collapsed and died of stress because his small skeletal frame could not bare the brunt of the abuse while we stayed silent.

Within the same time-frame, a thirteen-year old girl was raped by members of the same Jammeh security henchmen.  We stayed silent.  As a result of our irresponsible behavior as elders, fellow students had to take to the streets in civil disobedience to demonstrate against injustices meted out to the populace resulting in 14 students being mowed down.

In this one instance, Pa Dacosta, with Manu Kumba as master of ceremony spoke up while the rest of us stayed mute.  Eventually, Manu succumbed and was consumed by a vile regime that thrives on sectionalism.  Rape and murder have become a weapon of choice of the tyrannical regime in Banjul. We all know it but chose to stay silent.

On the eve of the unofficial release of the 'United Nations' Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment' which describes The Gambia's precarious security position as being at a "pivotal moment".  The Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs warned that, as a result of last 30 December events, Jammeh "seems poised to further suppress fundamental human rights and retreat into isolation The Gambia's neighbors, the region and international community."

We have seen the proliferation of military check points and marauding "bulldozer death squads" tormenting civilians which has resulted in the assassination of Ya Binta Jarju, a Red Cross volunteer because she was a passenger in a taxi that, according to the polices, fail to stop at a military check point.  The official version of events contradicts witnesses versions - witnesses who will not come forward for fear of reprisals which is not surprising because report after report, ranging from Amnesty International to the Robert F. Kennedy's Center for Justice and Human Rights substantiates the fact that The Gambia is ruled through fear instilled on the population by the regime.

Community policing has failed precisely for fear of reprisal - a failure confirmed by the Rapporteurs' Report.  We have become the enemy and yet we continue to support a regime that has us under siege with military checkpoints every 500 meters, choking traffic and affect normal conduct of business.

It pains me to write this blog post because of we have failed the most vulnerable of the Gambian population in pursuit of our own selfish ends.  Perhaps when the NIA agents come knocking at our door in the dead of night, maybe we would have realized then that the strategy of keeping one's head down and to pretend that everything is hunky-dory is not such a wise idea after all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TransGambia Bridge Project : Now you tell us

At the height of the border closure in 2016, The Gambian delegation to the talks in Dakar led by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue of the design of the bridge when the construction of the bridge was about to start or has actually started.  It was public knowledge that Jammeh played politics with the bridge project ever since he seized power in July 1994.  The on-again off-again bridge has resulted in two postponement or stoppages during the mobilization phase.  So it came as a complete surprise to Senegal and Gambia when design objections were raised at the border closure negotiations by the foreign minister which led to the blog post below.

I am republishing this specific blog post first published on 15th May, 2016 to supply context that led to our pre-post of yesterday which has generated interest but unless the genesis of the project is known and its long history studied and appreciated, the complete picture will remain a mystery.

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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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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

The TransGambia Bridge Project has become current again as a topic of discussion following the recent visit of President Barrow to Senegal where it appears that of the Bridge Project is one of the three Agreements signed.

We have written a great deal about the genesis of the project and about subjects related to it.  The most recent one was the 25th May, 2016 when we expressed concern about the final design of the bridge which, if it's mishandled, will have a lasting impact on the economic, social and environmental fabric of our society. 

We are republishing the blog post by request. 

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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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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Barrow's administration must tread carefully

Economic prospectors, as opposed to the traditionally serious and genuine investors, have been hovering above everything of financial and economic value for easy pickings to take advantage of the newness and the inexperience of the Barrow administration.

Their eyes are step on the Mandinari petroleum storage facility, the ownership of which was transferred to government under dubious conditions.  It is a project, the financing of which is still unclear.

It is claimed that the project costed $ 50 million.  Neither the principal investor nor the Jammeh regime has been forthcoming on who guaranteed the $50 million.  Was it a sovereign guarantee through the Central Bank of The Gambia?   Protecting the national interest is paramount in such a strategic investment as the Mandinari facility.

Regarding the upstream portion of the petroleum sector, there are more questions about the cancellation by Jammeh of his ESPC contract with the African Petroleum Corporation (APC) for Blocks 1 and 4 (offshore) which resulted in APC filing an arbitration request with the World Bank's ICSID the outcome of which is unclear because Jammeh abruptly changed his mind by reinstating the once cancelled contract. What drove him to do so is a question needs answered.

The other outstanding issue that requires explanation is the apparent variation of the standard contracting formula of 90% for the oil companies and 10% for government.  Petroleum companies doing business in Africa, APC included, maintain the same standard formula for similar contracts in Senegal, Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana.  But in the case of The Gambia, APC has the entire 100% allocated to it and zero accruing to The Gambia.  Why the variation in contracting?  Is the 10% intended for an escrow account?  We need answers before any divestiture is even contemplated,    

This 'cowboy' class of investors must not be encouraged, especially when they are crowding out potential investors - domestic and foreign - from playing a central role in helping The Gambia achieve its economic development goals and growth potential .  Return on investment must go hand in glove with benefit accruing to the national economy.

That said, we welcome the fact that the full compliment of the cabinet has now been realized with the swearing in of six more ministers, permanent secretaries and senior civil servants thus finally paving the way for the convening of the inaugural cabinet meeting.

We need not reiterate nor itemize the numerous problems facing the new government.  What is urgently needed, however, is a data-driven blueprint outlining the government's agenda for the coming 3 - 5 years, prioritizing its goals and objectives.      

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ousman Sonko may walk out of a Swiss jail a free man soon unless...

Ousman Sonko, former Interior Minister
The man who once proudly referred himself  as the disciple of Yaya Jammeh may soon be freed from a Swiss for lack of solid and irrefutable evidence against Jammeh's most trusted and longest-serving Interior Minister.

Unless witnesses step up to the plate and provide evidence against one of the most notorious characters that the 22-year dictatorship has ever produced, Ousman Sonko will be a free man in the next 48 hours, according to a very credible source.

We at sidisanneh.blogspot.com have been collaborating with investigative journalists and international lawyers and organizations who have used our blog posts as open and secondary source of information.   However, there is only so much we can do from where we are.

Witnesses and victims who have evidence against him must step forward.  The identities of those who volunteer information to authorities will be protected by the Swiss authorities whose duty it is to guarantee anonymity of witnesses.

If Ousman Sonko walks out of a Swiss jail a free man in the next 48 hours or so, you will have no one to blame but yourselves.  Good luck with that because we would not want to think of the implications as well as the fallout from such an eventuality.  Who will take us seriously, then?  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part III

This is Part III of a four part series that we ran last year on the downstream petroleum sector.  This part deals with the ownership structure of the GNPC from its inception to when the regime of Jammeh was forced to buy-out Bazzi and partners.  This involuntary - or more appropriately, forced divestiture - was made possible because of a little known clause, apparently buried in the agreement, that many government official said they were unaware of its existence, made it possible for the non-government shareholders to milk the alliance for 5 years before off-loading the liabilities of the GNPC to government.

We, at sidisanneh.blogspot.com, have been focusing more of our attention on the downstream activities that involves GNPC with little attention paid to the off-shore or upstream activities of Yaya Jammeh who was, without doubt, the dominant player and most consequential player in these activities that have resulted in arbitration, cancellation and reinstatement of contracts.  There is no doubt that the entire set of agreements with African Petroleum Corporation and other foreign companies must be reviewed to ensure equity.  Our next new blog post will be looking at these developments and how they will impact future petroleum exploration in The Gambia.

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Yaya Jammeh, Head of the cartel 
The one-of-a-kind 51,000 metric-ton petroleum storage facility built in 2008 at a cost of $ 50 million and located at Mandinari village was jointly owned by a consortium of public enterprise and private individual investors until it was 'nationalized' last year.

Social Security and Housing Finance (31%), Gambia Ports Authority (10%) and Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd (7%) represent government share in the venture that totals 48%.

The private investors led by the Lebanese-Syrian, Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%) comprise of another Lebanese, Fadi Mezaggi (10.3%), a Gambian, Amadou Samba (9.9%) and Premier Investment Group (1%) which is jointly owned by Mr. Bazzi and Fadi Mezaggi.  How the 1 per cent is shared among the two is unknown.  The two, however, control 42.1% of the facility and with Amadou Samba's 9.9%, the private investors control the facility with 52% an with it the management and operations of the facility.

The Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility Company, as the company is officially known, had two other strategic entities who do not own shares in the company but are critical to the viability of the venture.

The two non-shareholding strategic partners were Total International and the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) - the former serving as the international procurement arm and the latter as the single biggest consumer of heavy and light fuel oil and other petroleum products.

Total International is a French multinational energy company that enjoyed the exclusive right to procure petroleum and petroleum products on behalf of Gam-Petroleum Company and also for its own retailing purposes.  NAWEC on the other hand is a public enterprise whose current liabilities as at 31st October 2014 stood at nearly D 5 billion, D 3 billion of which was outstanding heavy fuel bills owed to supplier.
A separate storage agreement was entered into between Gam-Petroleum and Total International, the details of which are not known in full.  According to official documents government - at least, one or more key ministries - was unaware that the storage facility was used as collateral with obviously the full knowledge and approval of the majority shareholders and Total International.

The fact that the storage facility was used as a collateral without the knowledge of a certain segment of the government, came to light when another surprise was sprung on a regime that is either incompetent or corrupt or both.  It was discovered that the private investors i.e. Messrs. Bazzi, Megazzi and Samba had supplied stock belonging to Total International to NAWEC without the knowledge of the owner.

The discovery was by Total International when it went to access its stock and it was empty who immediately invoked the collateral clause by demanding full and immediate payment of US $ 24.2 million, barring which investors will forfeit the facility.  Under the agreement Total International will take possession and the subsequent selling of the facility, depriving all shareholders, including government of ownership.

During the negotiations, it was revealed that the US$ 24.2 million owed to Total International is inclusive of the US $ 64 million Mohammed Bazzi claimed NAWEC owed to the Euro Africa Group, a company owned by the same Mohammed Bazzi.
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Part IV will look at the events following Total International's decision to invoke the collateral clause, matters relating to NAWEC debt settlement proposal and its implications on the future of the national electricity company.           

Thursday, February 23, 2017

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


On March 22nd 2016, we posted the blog post below about the death in custody of Sheriff Diba, a transport union leader.  According to the International Transport Workers' Federation and as reported by Reuters, Mr. Diba's crime was his union "lobbied Jammeh for the reduction of retail fuel prices".

The Gambian Union leader was one of the many victims of Jammeh's total dominance of the energy sector, from upstream to downstream operations.  The former Information Minister who seemed to have had access to the autopsy report owes it to Mr. Diba's family and the Gambian people at large to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities in their investigations of the circumstance leading to his death. The Commissioner of Prisons will also have to be call to book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We posted this blog on the 17th March, 2014 immediately following the African Petroleum Compnay (Gambia) Ltd lodged an arbitration request with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute. when Jammeh suddenly decided to terminate the corporation's exploration licences for Blocks 1 and Blocks 4. "for failure to meet the licence obligations of the licencees." Jammeh sooner thereafter and before the final conclusion of the arbitration panel's came out, he dropped his claim and reinstated the contract.  This is part of an ongoing story that has not reached it final conclusion.  

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African Petroleum Corporation has announced that it's wholly-owned subsidiary African Petroleum Gambia Limited has lodged Requests for Arbitration with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID) based in Washington DC.

The arbitration request is in relation to the regime's notification of the termination of African Petroleum Gambia's exploration licenses over Blocks A1 and A4.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh in January this year terminated the contracts to the relevant Blocks claiming that the company violated Gambia's petroleum laws.  In a press release issued by the Office of The President on January 6th, 2014, an unsuspecting and surprised Gambians were treated to yet another bizarre decision of termination in which the regime was accusing African Petroleum of "failure to meet the license obligations of the licensees."

According to the same release, the terminated licenses are for Blocks A1 and A4 licensed to African Petroleum Gambia Limited and Buried Hill Gambia BV as joint partners and Onshore Block Lower River licensed to Oranto Petroleum Limited.

This is the third time that the Jammeh regime has been taken to arbitration, after Alimeta and Carnegie Minerals.  In the case of Alimenta, the regime had to end up paying $14 million for wrongful seizure of the company's Denton Bridge assets, a debacle that the groundnut sector has not recovered from since. Jammeh is at it again.  This time with multinational oil companies that are literally floating in money and resources.

We have reached out to Buried Hill and Petroleum Gambia's parent company for details of the multiple arbitration requests to find out whether they were jointly filed, and if so, which of the three companies are involved in the arbitration.  We have yet to hear from them.

Gambia's reputation as a safe investment destination has taken another hit.  This time it may prove fatal. These oil companies have the resources to inflict serious and lasting damage to what's left of Gambia's battered image, and to the national treasury at a time when The Gambia can least afford it.

The oil companies will not sit idly by while Jammeh steals proprietary information of these companies after spending huge sums to reach this stage of the process.

We will, of course, continue to follow the story and related developments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gambia is a criminal enterprise, and Jammeh should assume personal responsibility

This blog post was first published in February 26, 2014.  As the new government of Adama Barrow start to look into the extent of the damage Yaya Jammeh inflicted on the country and its citizens. 

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We learned today that one of Jammeh's multitude of former Foreign Ministers, Mambury Njie, has been charged with "neglect of office" and hauled before a magistrate at the Banjul Magistrate's Court.  Mr. Njie, who has been out of a job for a couple of years and cannot travel out of the country because his travel documents have been seized, is being accused of negligence of duty.  Despite the seizure of his passport and the fact that the courts had granted him bail, he is being held at the Burusibi police station, contrary to law.

According to the charge sheet, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has finally come to realize, after 13 years, that Mambury Njie was a negligent officer for failing to advise government properly before a mining concession contract was signed in 2001 between an Australian mining concern, Carnegie Mining, and the Gambia government.

Carnegie an AIM quoted company is a sand mining concern that entered into a 50-50 joint venture agreement with another Chinese mining concern who were engaged in the development of a zircon/rutile mine in The Gambia in 2002.  It was not until in January 2008, six years into its mining concession in The Gambia that the company received a letter from government requesting Carnegie to cease all operations "pending receipt of certain information in relations to its minerals mined and laboratory results."

The government proceeded to give Carnegie 24-hours ultimatum to come clean or face losing its license to operate in The Gambia.  This order was issued by Yaya Jammeh as the country's Minister (at the time called the Secretary of State) for Mineral Resources.  Jammeh accused Carnegie of concealing the actual minerals being mined, and proceeded to arrest and detained the Managing Director of the company.

We have written extensively on this issue, and those who want some of the details, including arbitration actions taken by Carnegie Minerals, can be found here : http://sidisanneh.blogspot.com/2014/01/carnegie-minerals-falls-victim-of.html

The charging of the former Secretary General with negligence of duty is the latest bizarre action by an embattled government that has obviously lost its way in the face of mounting public pressure resulting from the regime's incompetence and high level corruption.  This regime lacks all moral authority to judge anyone because the regime itself is rotten to the core and needs to be uprooted..

It is to be recalled that as recently as January 2014, another bizarre twist to the Carnegie saga took place when a Cameroonian-born judge of the Special Criminal Court named Emmanuel Nkea surprised everyone but Yaya Jammeh by convening his Court to announce that he's found Carnegie guilty of mining uranium and iron on the sandy beaches of Sanyang village.  The judge proceeded to pronounce to an empty court that he has fined Carnegie $ 200 million.  This was at a time that Carnegie's case was, and still is in arbitration before the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a court action we considered a preemptive move on the part of the Jammeh regime.

After delivering his bizarre judgement, Special Criminal Court Judge Emmanuel Nkea went missing only to resurface two weeks later to tender his resignation in absentia - the letter hand delivered by an acquaint.  The judge had already fled the territory.  It is conceivable that Justice Nkea's fleeing the scene of the crime may be related to the Mambury Njie's case.

It is tempting to draw parallels between this case and the one involving the Financial Director and Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) who were both acquitted and discharged by pleading no case to answer.  The two were also charged with negligence of duty when it was proven the power rested with the Task Force created by and operated from the Office of the President.

Similarly, the Ministry of Mineral resources is under the Office of the President with the President as the Minister for Mineral Resources.  It is public knowledge that the mineral resource portfolio is one of the most secretive Ministries, and thus the least known.  In fact, the public knew nothing about it until heavy duty lorries were seen transporting stuff to the ports for export, and they start speculating beofre they started asking questions.

The Carnegie deal, like the petroleum contracts Jammeh has signed with African Petroleum (Gambia) Limited, Buried Hill (Gambia) BV and Oranto Petroleum, was negotiated and sealed in secret with usually only Jammeh and his Secretary General privy to the details.  He now has a Petroleum Minister who was sacked and reinstated in a span of 24 hours.  The Minister is effectively a hostage of a criminal enterprise because she knows too much.  The entire episode has become a theater of the absurd

It is time for Yaya Jammeh to take full responsibility for his incompetence, and for being the head of a criminal enterprise that characterized his A(F)PRC regime instead of putting the blame elsewhere, always.

Carnegie Minerals falls victim of Gambian dictator

In a recent press conference, Gambia's new Finance Minister revealed the level of  corruption under the regime of Yaya Jammeh after a casual investigation and review of the pubic accounts.
Preliminary figures suggest that Jammeh siphoned of hundreds of millions of US dollars over the years, especially in the last decade.  What has been revealed thus faris the tip of a iceberg.

This blog has written a great deal about several dubious business dealings involving foreign and local business partnerships with Jammeh during his 22 years dictatorships.  One of those business associations was with Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd.

Below is one in a series of blog posts about Carnegie Minerals that was published in January 2014. We will be republishing blog posts relating to Jammeh's other business dealings including but not limited to African Petroleum Company, March Petroleum and Westwood.
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This blog post was first published in 20th January, 2014
Uranium mining in Niger


Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Australian mining giant, expelled from The Gambia by the dictatorship in 2008 has been found guilty and fined over U.S. $ 200,000,000 by the Special Criminal Court presided by a Cameroonian mercenary judge who is, himself, reportedly under arrest for unknown reason.

It could be recalled that in 2008, security forces raided the offices of Carnegie Minerals in Sanyang village and arrested its Managing Director, Charles Northfield, and accused the company of illegally mining for titanium, iron ore and uranium which was outside the contract which allowed for only zircon, silicon and ilmenite.  Mr. Northfield was later smuggled out of the country by a private British security firm to save their client from certain torment at the hands of a megalomaniac dictator.

In October 2008, following the accusations by the government, Carnegie Minerals(Gambia) Ltd filed for arbitration with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSI) which is a World Bank body established in the mid 60s for this very purpose.  A tribunal has been established comprising of two Americans and a French national, with both parties engaging the services of legal counsel with Jammeh retaining the services of Mayar Brown Rowe & Maw, Paris, France.  Both parties have already filed a post hearing brief on the 19th September 2012 which signals that final decision of the arbitrators couldn't be too far off after almost six years into the process.

Questions being raised now is why would Judge Nkea proceed with the judgement while arbitration tribunal in Washington is still deliberating.  Is it that Jammeh smelt the rat?  Is it a preemptive move in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling from the ICSI tribunal?  Jammeh's record of honoring binding contracts has been anything but good.  He's walked off contracts, seized private investor's property and has deported investors who end up forfeiting investments left behind in The Gambia.  And as a South African online paper at the time Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd ran afoul of Jammeh aptly put it " Being dispossessed is turning into a common occurrence to those that dare venture into Gambia, and as African countries clamor for investors, the list of countries being forced to leave the West African nation seems to be growing."

Accusing the company of malfeasance and breach of contract in 2008, after operating in the country for almost a decade was suspect.  More puzzling and illogical was the accusation that Carnegie Minerals was mining uranium, iron ore and ilmenite in the sandy beaches of Sanyang village, contrary to the mining concession. Granted, ilmenite was mined in the general area in the late 1950s but, as far as records go, there's no record of discoveries of uranium or iron ore deposits in the village of Sanyang or any part of The Gambia.

According to mining experts, the geology of the area doesn't seem to support Jammeh's claim.  It is seen rather as a ploy to get rid of Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd. in an attempt to seek out a more favorable deal for himself.  After all, the entire petroleum and mining concessions in the Gambia have been negotiated exclusively by the Office of the President with few officials having access to details of contracts signed with foreign entities, including the Carnegie deal.  Since they are not tendered internationally, they remain the exclusive domain of the dictator and few of his officials which explains why those who even worked in the Ministry of Petroleum and officials handling the mining concessions are either in jail or they have their travel documents seized and thus prevented from travelling abroad.  It is an industry shrouded in secrecy and for good reason, as we begin to uncover more of the corruption that permeates the Jammeh regime.