Wednesday, December 13, 2017

FAR announces preparations for first well

FAR, the Australian Securities Exchange listed oil and gas exploration and development company has completed geotechnical studies and a resource assessment over offshore Blocks A2 and A5 and is looking to drilling its first well in 2018.

Last month the company announced an estimate of 1.1 billion barrels of resources in the two blocks.

Blocks A2 and A5 cover 2,682 sq km and are adjacent to and on trend with SNE discovery offshore Senegal and thus hold great promise.  Both concessions are also within the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea-Bissau basin.

The two drillable prospects named "Samo" and "Bambo" are very similar to the shelf edge explored off Senegal.

The Managing Director of FAR was quoted last month saying : " The Gambia represents a huge prize, if successful" and that the geological chance of success is high for a frontier exploration well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Economic recovery threatens by huge public debt, says IMF

The Gambian economy has started to recover, following a slowdown in 2016 stemming from a bad harvest, foreign exchange scarcity and a drop in the number of tourists that visited the country last year because of the Jammeh-induced political stand-off.

This assessment is from two IMF missions to the country in November and December to conduct Article IV consultations and review performance under the Staff Monitored Program (SMP).

Economic growth is projected at 3%, and inflation, according to the IMF, has reversed its rising trend as a result of the stabilization of the dalasi and a gradual decrease in food prices.  With the gradual return of fiscal discipline under the Barrow administration and coupled with external financial support, the dalasi has remained stable since April, according to the Fund.  Foreign reserves have recovered strongly.

By 2020, the growth rate is projected to be 5% "assuming continued good policy implementation and a significant expansion of electricity supply, expansion of irrigation and commercial farming, investment in tourism and trade sectors and continued infrastructure investment."

The IMF considers the Staff Monitored Program to be on course and "encouraging but more progress is needed."  Interest rates are down in part because of the drastic reduction in government's net domestic borrowing.

The IMF mission reports have strongly hinted at the need for the government to exercise prudence in conducting due diligence procedures when it comes to its public investment programs.  We have little doubt that recent procurement missteps that brought the entire procurement process into disrepute has raised equal concerns among our development partners.  "Careful evaluation and prioritization of investment projects within the due diligence procedures of the Investment Implementation Task Force will be crucial" in restoring faith in the public procurement system.

Reform of parastatals, especially NAWEC, is a critical because of the fiscal risks they pose in contributing to the high public debt.   The flexible exchange rate regime, according to the IMF, should be maintained by the Central Bank in order to continue rebuilding of external reserves and safeguarding the stability of the financial sector.

Think about this for a minute

This post was first published in August 2013.  We are re-posting it for the purpose of reminding ourselves of the need to restructure UTG for the purpose of bringing its output in line with the job-creating capacity of the economy. 

The University of The Gambia (UTG ) has been producing graduates in astonishing numbers in its brief history.  From 2005 - 2012, UTG graduated a total of 1,790 in various disciplines and professions including medical doctors, lawyers and diploma and HTC awardees in the Schools of Agriculture, Business and Public Administration and Education.    This figure excludes the year 2011 for which we have been unable, so far, to get figures. (Any help from our readers will be appreciated.)

In 2009, the university graduated 207.  The following year, it graduated a mind-numbing 486, more than doubling the size of the previous year's graduating class.  In 2012, 453 were graduated.  We assume, therefore, that in 2011 close to this number were graduated. 

By simply taking the annual average graduating class to be 255, UTG will produce 2,550 graduates by 2023 in various fields.  This is the most conservative of estimates, given that 2011 figures are excluded.  With an agriculture-based economy where 75% of the population eke a subsistence living, the government and private sectors must grow sufficiently to absorb these graduates yearly.  The tourism sector, the second biggest employment generator, like agriculture, is seasonal thus cannot guarantee full employment throughout the year, even for some of its professional staff. 

In spite of the Gambia economy's growing at 4-5% rate with low to modest rates of inflation by IMF figures, these numbers have, unfortunately, not translated into jobs.  Instead, there has been contraction in the private sector after a sudden surge in the commercial banking sector with new banks being opened, and stagnation in the government sector ( except in the security/uniformed forces ) over the past 5 years followed by, what appears to be, a hostile attitude by Jammeh against private operators causing some investors, including Gambian businessmen and women moving their businesses across the border to friendlier Senegal.   

If the government payroll is not expanding to absorb UTG graduates and the private sector is similarly under-performing in the area of job creation, then the 'social time bomb' that made the Jawara regime hesitant in creating a University may be closer to reality than anticipated.  The absorptive capacity of the economy is being tested less than a decade of UTG's existence.  It is, therefore, imperative that the problem be studied closely. 

These are just my preliminary observations pending the availability of further data in areas of training and specialization of these graduates, the levels and the cost of graduating a student per year.  Our analysis will focus on the quantitative aspects of this phenomenon, leaving the qualitative issues of UTG graduates to the market cum employers to decide.

What is evident, even at this preliminary stage of our enquiry, is the urgent need to re-calibrate the annual intake and the subject mix to better reflect the demands of an economy that has been underperforming for a decade, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future due to bad and inappropriate A(F)PRC policies.

 Post script:  As I was about to publish this blog, my attention was drawn to a BBC story that says that the University of Liberia will not be having an intake in the 2013/14 academic year; not due to strike action but because not a single candidate passed this year's university admission exam.  All 25,000 failed the exam.  It is not that I am putting ideas into the heads of UTG examining board members but this might be one way of slowing down the rate of production of graduates until the economy is in a better shape to absorb the new graduates. 

Gambia: Truth Commission to Uncover Jammeh abuses

Bill Should Ban Amnesties for Most Serious Crimes

(Banjul, December 12, 2017) – Gambia’s truth commission bill, to be debated on December 13, 2017, is an important opportunity to shed light on human rights violations committed during the rule of former president Yahya Jammeh, Human Rights Watch said today. The National Assembly should amend the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission bill to prohibit amnesties for those responsible for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape or torture, in accordance with international law and practice.

“Gambia will greatly benefit from a truth-telling process that shines light on Jammeh’s abuses,” said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Gambian victims deserve a truth commission that gives them a platform to tell their stories and lays the groundwork for those most responsible for grave crimes to face justice.”

The proposed 11-person truth commission will document human rights abuses during Jammeh’s two-decade rule, which ended when he left for exile in January after losing a December 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow. The bill permits the commission to grant amnesties to perpetrators who testify truthfully about their role in abuses. While it precludes amnesties for acts that “form part of a crime against humanity,” it does not rule them out for other serious crimes under international law.

Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou put forward the truth commission legislation after conducting a countrywide consultation process in August. The government also consulted widely with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch.

In appointing commissioners, the bill requires President Barrow to consult with a range of civil society groups, including victims’ organizations, as well as to consider Gambia’s geographical, regional and gender diversity. Identifying the right commissioners will be essential for the truth commission to be viewed as independent, impartial and competent, Human Rights Watch said.

Tambadou told Human Rights Watch that the government will offer individuals the opportunity of an amnesty to encourage them to come forward to disclose their role in past abuses. The bill’s preamble states, “It is important to have an accurate and impartial historical record of the violations, [and] document them for posterity to ensure that ‘never again’ do we encounter a reoccurrence of such abuses.” The commission plans to hold public hearings and publish a final report, with the government required to issue a white paper within six months describing how it will implement the report’s recommendations.

The bill itself acknowledges that responding to Gambia’s legacy of human rights violations also means addressing the country’s culture of impunity. It empowers the commission to identify and recommend for prosecution the persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and other abuses. However, by permitting amnesties for serious crimes that do not amount to crimes against humanity, the law could prevent many Gambian victims from seeking justice, Human Rights Watch said.

As the truth commission advances, the government should also consider whether and how the commission should share evidence with Gambian police and prosecutors investigating grave crimes, Human Rights Watch said. The justice ministry should consider negotiating a formal memorandum of understanding between the truth commission and public prosecutors that sets out how the commission will provide guidance to investigators while preserving the confidentiality of victims and witnesses.

“Gambia’s truth commission is the first step in efforts to bring justice to victims and hold those responsible for serious crimes accountable,” Wormington said. “Gambia’s international partners should assist the government to ensure that the commission achieves its important aims.”

In October, Human Rights Watch and Gambian and international groups launched the “Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice” (#Jammeh2Justice) to press for Jammeh, as well as those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes of his government, to be brought to trial with all due process guarantees. Jammeh now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Gambia, please visit: 

For more information, please contact: 
In Banjul, Reed Brody (English, French): +220-791-0848 (mobile); or +1 917-388-6745 (mobile, WhatsApp); or Twitter: @ReedBrody
In New York, Jim Wormington (English, French): +1-917-592-8738 (mobile, WhatsApp); or Twitter: @jwormington

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gambia denies signing an agreement with Antone Bakov to establish the "Romanov Empire" within territorial Gambia

Dawda Fadera, Secretary General
In a statement issued today, December 11th, the Office of The President denying claims made by a Russian national that The Gambia had agreed to cede 10 sq kilometers of its territory to Antone Bakov, a Russian national in exchange for $ 60 million.

Mr. Bakov who is referred to as founder of the Monarchist Party of Russia convened a news conference at the TASS press center in Russia a few days ago to announce the deal and to display what he claimed to be the authentic agreement he's entered into with the Government of The Gambia.

According to the press release from Sate House, the statements of Mr. Bakov are false and the documents accompanying his claims are fake.   The signature of the Gambia's Secretary General have been falsified and the document purported to be the agreement was not issued on an official letterhead.  However, the press release was silent on the identity and authenticity of one Modou Lamin Saidykhan who signed the document as the Foreign Minister of the imaginary Romanov Empire.  He is presumed to be, at least, a Gambian national, if not holding a dual Gambian-Russian citizenship.

The official release admits that Antone Bakov was received at Sate House and expressed interest in investing in tourism.  During the course of his visit, he presented an MOU dated 13th November 2017 for the consideration of government.   The proposal, according to the State House release, called for the government to provide Mr. Bakov "with 10 sq kilometers of land to develop an artificial island called BITCITY for an annual payment of $10 million for six years which would total to $ 60 million."
Anton Bakov with Jammeh 
 The proposal was forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for legal advise which opposed the idea on several grounds including the fact that the "Romanov Empire is not a real state" and Mr. Bakov's desire to recreate the Russian Empire.  The Justice Department, convinced that Mr. Bakov's intent was to acquire the land for his own use.   Because Romanov Empire is not a real state, it cannot enter into international treaty for lack of a permanent population, a defined territory etc.

In addition to the objections of the Justice Department which seem to suggest that the proposal from Mr. Bakov was on behalf of the Romanov Empire, the State House press release cited the environmental and financial impact as additional factors that led to the disapproval of the proposal.

The official reaction to the Romanov Empire fiasco concluded with the following that "while the Gambia government wants genuine is aware of dubious individuals and companies who would want to exploit the New Gambia for scam projects."  It concludes by assuring the Gambian people that the Barrow administration "will always seek the best interest of the Gambia for any investment opportunity."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Banjul is dead, Long live the Port City of Banjul

Photo of "Pa Machine" by Ishmail Sarr 
This piece was first published in September 9th 2013 about our beloved City of Banjul that has fallen on hard times.  Its republication is triggered by Ismail Sarr's nostalgic photographic depiction of "Pa Machine" at Bund Road.

The sight of only little kids coming out to greet Yaya Jammeh as he pretends to be touring the devastation that is the city of Banjul is further reminder that the dictator has lost all credibility, and with it, support of the people of Banjul and the Gambian people as well.  One look at the state of Banjul should prove the devastation of its infrastructure, and with it the city's moral and spiritual fabric.  Although the people of Banjul have finally started blaming Jammeh for their predicament, the slide into the current deplorable state started well before Jammeh seized power.

Unlike the Jawara who attempted to address the urban decay with roads and sewerage projects, Jammeh in fact accelerated the deterioration by focusing an inordinate attention and state resources to the far-flung village hamlet of Kanilai, his home town.  Capital cities generally contribute significantly not only to national incomes, but to the political, social, cultural life of countries.  Kanilai does just the opposite.  It drains resources away from the national treasury, and into wasteful and idle endeavors like the "Futamgpang" and women wrestling matches which, some have argued, have contributed to the promiscuous behavior of our young men and women folk.  Kanilai is not all play.  It has a good and well-maintained access road leading to the village.  Its infrastructure is far superior to Banjul's.

Banjul is a dead city.  Like the city of Detroit, once the pride of America and the home of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, Banjul has been abandoned by the very people who once profited from its strategic location as the seat of government and the hub of commerce.  The decline of Detroit was slow and painful but avoidable.  And so is the decline of Banjul.  Some urban planners suggest that the decline of the Motor City started in 1967 with the worst race riot in U.S. history which saw 42 people killed, mainly African-Americans by National Guard troops.  This led to White flight to the neighboring suburbs thus depriving the city of tax base necessary to provide services and the maintenance of the city's infrastructure.  The decline in the share the world market which started with the competition from Japanese autos led to the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler.  The financial melt-down provided the coup de grace until the Obama administration stepped in to save two of the Big Three.  .
If a similar inflection point in Banjul's good fortunes is to be suggested, I'd venture to say it is the advent of Gambian tourism of the mid-60s which quickly accelerated in the 70's and 80's.  What was once the outback of the Kombos soon was dotted with tourist hotels and other amenities, including access roads, never seen before were springing up everywhere from Cape Point to Kotu and beyond.  City dwellers who did not venture much outside the city limits, except for an occasional Sunday trip, were now venturing out to enjoy the night life that the tourism paradise around the Cape Point, Fajara and Kotu corridor had on offer.  Night club operators in Banjul moved to the Kombos to cater for the tourists.  Other businesses along Wellington Street followed suit.  Then you have Pipeline, a once residential street soon turned into the business center of the Kombos.  Fuelling all of this was the land use policies of the Jawara era which is a separate subject of interest.

Banjulians abandoned the city in droves for the Kombos.  In heading for the hills ( some have argued that the legendary Banjul mosquitoes contributed to the exodus ), they deprived the city of much needed revenue.  Instead of an expanding tax base, Banjul city administration was also collecting less in rates, some of the money found their way into the notoriously corrupt rate collectors.  For the first time in the city's history, entire compounds, some even of historic significant ( especially those along Clarkson Street ) were being abandoned as well. These newly-transformed 'Kombongkas', including yours truly, did not only deprived the city much needed revenue, they also posed another problem for not only the city but for central government as well.  They clung on to their "kerr chosan" even when offered compensation to make way for the Port Expansion Project.  They eventually succumed but not before the right of eminent domain was likely to be applied by the State which would have abrogated their right to negotiate for a fair market price.

Jammeh's contribution to the acceleration of Banjul's decline is what Daniel Patrick Moynihan would refer to as "benign neglect".   Banjulians supported the coup and Jammeh.  In return, he engaged the Banjulians in frequent 'celebrations' at the July 22nd Square and beach parties and barbeques in the beach front of the State House.  The support for Jammeh was founded on the basis that the Jawara regime neglected the city in spite of the numerous externally funded projects with 10% contribution from government.  There were more urban development-related projects under Jawara than under the current regime.  The drawback to the efforts were that some of these projects were poorly designed as well as poorly implemented.  The SOGEA sewage project comes to mind.  Some of the current pollution problems relating to the raw sewage that has been found in the flood waters in Banjul is partly attributable to this project because a good number of the toilets in compounds were not connected to the system for various reasons, but primarily financial and technical ones.

The devastation did not start with the floods.  It only aggravated it and spot-lighted the plight of those trapped inside what can only be described as a hell-hole.  Bond Road, the ring road connecting Half-Die to the main road out of Banjul is impassable.  The Pumping Station or "Pa Bokis" that pumps the water to keep Banjulians from drawing in flood waters has been out of commission for years.  The gutters along Albion Place that empties into the Box Bar stream are caked because of solid waste, and as a resident of the city told me the other day is that the cutters are so caked in the dry season that you can skate on them.  Now, I am told there is/are crocodile(s) inhabiting those gutters suggesting, in a horrifying way, that the drainage system has completely broken down.  Banjulians will not have to contend not only with the legendary Banjul mosquito but they are like likely to be eaten by crocodiles right in the middle of the capital city.

Drastic decline requires equally drastic measures.  Whereas the problems of the two cities i.e. Detroit and Banjul share some similarities, the solution that I am suggesting for Banjul is different.  I will not suggest that Banjul be under an Emergency Manager or receivership which I oppose in the case of Detroit.  Instead, I am suggesting that Banjul be transformed into a Port City which would require that almost the entire city be leveled.  Of course, it doesn't mean that bulldozers descend on the city tomorrow and start levelling everything in site.  The feasibility of it should be carefully studied.  It may turn out that a better option is to have half of the city, say up to Allen Street, be converted into an industrial complex relating to port operations and other industrial activities.  A site for a new political capital would have to be considered as well.  Which ever option is finally opted for will take massive investment which I envisage will come from private capital.  However, you cannot attract private capital with a corrupt and incompetent government.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"The Commission of Inquiry enjoys the full support and confidence of the Barrow administration", says a State House source

President Barrow with Commission members

Over four months of eye-popping deliberations to date, the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of ex-dictator Yaya Jammeh has conducted itself - individually and collectively - with dignity and decorum reflecting the high moral and intellectual caliber of its members.

Under the Chairmanship of  Mr. Surahata Janneh, it is our view - one shared by many - that the proceedings have been fairly conducted, up to this point, with a degree of professionalism and decorum that holds great promise for a country emerging from 22 years of one of Africa's most brutal, incompetent and corrupt dictatorship.

The three members of the Commission have been competently served with equal professionalism and unmatched dignity by Mrs. Amie Bensouda  in her capacity as lead counsel.  Despite this or in spite of it, as should be expected, there are criticisms, legitimate as well as unfounded ones, recently, including accusations that the lead counsel is conflicted in the case of the sale of the Kairaba Beach Hotel.  It has also been implied during the course of the deliberations that she may also be a potential witness in other cases that may come before the Commission. 

As a result of these criticisms and despite Mrs. Bensouda's public assurances that she has never acted on behalf of the former president or any of his close business associates, and if there is any appearance of a conflict, she will be the first to bring it to the attention of the Commission members and Gambians and to recuse herself. 

In anticipation of further use of this strategy as a means of discrediting or intimidating the Commission, as implied by Mrs. Bensouda's statement that she will not be intimidated, in response to the witness counsel's accusations, we reached out to a State House source who in response to our inquiry assured Gambians and the general public that "the Commission of Inquiry members and the lead counsel, Mrs. Bensouda, enjoy the full confidence and support of the government of President Adama Barrow."

The State House official went further to suggest that if any person has objections to anyone sitting on the Commission or serving as counsel, the proper and prudent measure to take is through court action; let them challenge any individual's fitness to serve in a court of law.  Character assassination and any form of peddling false accusations will not wash and can only strengthen our collective resolve to hold accountable those responsible for squandering the nation's meager resources that brought the Gambian economy to its knees over the 22 years of Jammeh's dictatorship. 

Similar appointments to previous Commissions, the source continued, have been challenged in the past before the courts.  It was none other than Mr. Fafa E. Mbai who challenged the appointment of Justice Aboagyi to a Commission by Sir Dawda at the Supreme Court.  Hon. Hamat Bah, leader of the NRP also challenged the appointment of Justice M. A. Paul to preside in their sedition case.  His took place at the Court of Appeals.  It is not for lack of precedent to resort to the courts for redress.  Amadou Samba or any other witness before the Commission can do likewise.

Conversely, this may have been the reason why the Chairman had the cause to remind witnesses before him that the Commission is not a court of law but a fact finding inquiry into the financial dealings of the ex-president where normal court procedures do not necessarily apply.

The task before Commission members, though challenging, is not insurmountable if the public continues to provide the necessary input and support by refusing to be party to a concerted effort orchestrated by vested interests - from within and without - whose main aim is to muddy the waters and to deflect the attention of the public away from the evidence being generated by the probing questions of Commission members and Mrs. Amie Bensouda.  The important work of the Commission must neither be impeded nor derailed.

Paradise Papers exposes powerful African politicians

In SOUTH AFRICA, an Isle of Man trust linked to former president Nelson Mandela has emerged following a legal battled waged over the trust's million dollar bank accounts after Mandela's death.

Separately, major retail, medical and mining companies, including some with ties to South Africa's Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, came under scrutiny for using offshore structures.

In NIGERIA, a civil society organization urged the country's Code of Conduct Bureau to investigate Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for false declaration of assets.  He is accused of not disclosing his interests in a Cayman Island during his political career.

In NAMIBIA,  the "Namibian" newspaper reported that the country's finance ministry was already investigating tax evasion in the fishing industry following reports about a mackerel company Pacific Andes.

In UGANDA, the powerful foreign minister and brother-in-law of President Museveni, Sam Kutesa, responded to revelations that he set up a trust in the Seychelles.  "I thought you could avoid, not evade, taxes but I found it was not practical." He said he did nothing with the company.  This is the same guy implicated in the Cheikh Tidiane Gadio's bribery and money laundering case in New York.

In ANGOLA, the opposition called for a parliamentary probe into the country's sovereign wealth fund after revelations from the Paradise Papers that the fund's investment manager moved millions of dollars offshore.

We have added the Paradise Papers to our continued investigations and campaign to trace the source and the finance destination of the $900,000,000 against an account of a company registered in The Gambia and China under Amadou Samba's name. 

We have so far found no Gambian or Gambian-registered companies in the Paradise Paper.  What is shown in the Panama Papers is the cross-referencing of the AMASA Company owned by Amadou Samba.

* This blog post is based entirely on the product of the ICIJ or the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists headquartered in Washington D.C.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The barbarism in Libya must cease

African migrants being sold in slave markets across Libya 
The European Union, the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS were all slow in acting and the results have been catastrophic for hundred of thousands of African migrants who have been held captive, confined in small spaces fit to pack sardines, tortured, killed and maimed. 

Those who survive the inhumane treatment are sent to slave markets were they are sold at slave auctions for as little as $ 400 per human being.   The United Nations have declared the actions of the Libyan slave traders as crime against humanity whose perpetrators must be stopped, arrested and tried. 

But first, countries whose nationals are being traded as slaves must - individually - take proactive measures to put a halt to the barbarism being meted out by the various factions controlling individual regions of Libyan since the toppling of the Libyan dictator. 

Collectively, the African countries must act in concert with all the relevant regional bodies, including ECOWAS and the African Union, to apply diplomatic pressure on both the European Union and the United Nations to consider all options, including military action against the Libyan renegades. 

The United Nations, meanwhile, should station investigators on Libyan soil to apprehend the rogue criminals who capture and imprison African migrants for ransom - a human trafficking trade that has been going on for as long as the human wave of migrants started several years ago. 

The United States should have been a logical partner in this exercise, since they led the military action that toppled Qaddafi but because of the current occupant of the White House, it will be a pure waste of energy to attempt at bringing in the US into the fold.  Trump will simply not be interested in saving African lives.

The challenges facing the international community have grown complex because the signs and warnings of these horrific acts of inhumanity have been ignored for years by the European Union whose main preoccupation was protecting their borders and deporting those who made it through the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.

The Gambia, the smallest of the African countries, is the second highest per capita exporter of migrants to Europe through the Sahara Desert-Libya route.  Despite this proportionally high number of Gambians exposed to these dangers, its initial share of the $2 billion is a $4 million grant earmarked for the resettlement of 1,500 irregular migrants to be repatriated from Libya to the Gambia. 

In as much as the reentry program is an important component of the migrants' problem, their safety and humane treatment in Libya is paramount at this juncture.  Every African government, whose nationals are stuck in no-man's land, must have, as its top priority, their extrication to safety.  They cannot do it alone.  They must do it in collaboration with the European Union and the United Nations.         

Gambia to market offshore Blocks A1 and A4; challenges APC to commence arbitration proceedings

Gambia's Justice Minister, Ba Tambadou 
Gambia has recently announced plans to market two offshore oil blocks that it revoked from African Petroleum Corporation.

The two blocks in question are A1 and A4 that were initially licensed to APC by the previous regime of Yaya Jammeh.  The license was twice revoked without public explanation, the last revocation took place few months before the Gambian dictator was defeated in last December's presidential elections.

The new government of Adama Barrow has decided to put the blocks in question back on the market which led to the London meeting which took place earlier this month with prospective investors.  You can find the relevant block post here.

The African Petroleum Corporation has threatened to initiate arbitration before, the latest threat was as recent as August this year.  Given recent developments and reports of promising potentials of FAR's Blocks A2 and A5, their is renewed confidence on display by new government in Banjul to a have a clean break with APC.

At the London meeting, the Justice Minister Mr. Tambadou was quoted by Reuters as saying his government respects APC's choice to initiate arbitrating proceedings but it is his government's right also to market its blocks and that includes A1 and A4, thus calling APC's bluff.   We'll see what APC's next move will be. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1.1 billion barrels estimated by FAR in Blocks A2 and A5 in The Gambia, offshore

An Australian Securities Exchange listed oil and gas exploration and development company known in the industry as FAR Limited says that it has identified 1.1 barrels of resources in its two blocks offshore The Gambia i.e. blocks A2 and A5.

The resources are in the two prospects known as "Bambo" and "Samo".  According to company sources, operations are already underway to prepare for drilling in late 2018.   Industry sources also observed that it will be the first time that drilling is done in offshore Gambia since the adminsitration of Sir Dawda K. Jawara in 1979.

Blocks A2 and A5 cover 2,862 sq km within the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea Bissau (MSGB) Basin and lie about 30 km offshore in 50 - 1,500m water depth.

From the 3D seismic data, FAR was able to identify the Bambo and Samo prospects.  Despite the quality of the seismic data available, FAR opined that more work needs to be done to improve its understand what's at stake and to further reduce the risk.

According to FAR, the opportunities in Blocks A2 and A5 "represent a huge prize, if successful."  And based on FAR's experience in its drilling operations in neighboring Senegal, the geological chance of success in the key reservoirs in the Samo prospects is "high for a frontier exploration well".   Success in the Samo well would be "truly transformational" for The Gambia and FAR, the firm says.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Senegal's former Foreign Minister, Chinese businessman charged in New York with conspiracy to violate the FCPA

Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Senegal's former Foreign Minister 
Monday, November 20, 2017

Head Of Organization Backed By Chinese Energy Conglomerate, And Former Foreign Minister Of Senegal, Charged With Bribing High-Level African Officials

Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Bribe the President of Chad and the Foreign Minister of Uganda

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” and CHEIKH GADIO with participating in a multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company (the “Energy Company”).  HO and GADIO were charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), international money laundering, and conspiracy to commit both.  GADIO was arrested in New York on Friday afternoon and presented on Saturday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.  HO was arrested on Saturday afternoon and was presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck and ordered detained.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “In an international corruption scheme that spanned the globe, Chi Ping Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly conspired to bribe African government officials on behalf of a Chinese energy conglomerate.  Wiring almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their corrupt schemes, the defendants allegedly sought to generate business through bribes paid to the President of Chad and the Ugandan Foreign Minister.  As alleged, Ho’s Ugandan scheme was hatched in the halls of the United Nations in New York, when the country’s current Foreign Minister served as the President of the U.N. General Assembly, and then continued unabated upon his return to Uganda.  International bribery not only harms legitimate businesses and fair competition, but it also destroys public faith in the integrity of government.  And when this type of international corruption and bribery touches our shores and our financial system, as the alleged schemes did, federal criminal charges in an American court may very well be the end result.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said:  “This alleged scheme involved bribes at the highest levels of the governments of two nations.  The Criminal Division is committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt individuals who put at risk a level playing field for corporate competitiveness, regardless of where they live or work.  Their bribes and corrupt acts hurt our economy and undermine confidence in the free marketplace.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The scheme described in this case boils down to these subjects allegedly trying to get their hands on the rights to lucrative opportunities in Africa.  They were allegedly willing to throw money at the leaders of two countries to bypass the normal course of business, but didn’t realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing.  The FBI, our partners in the IRS and the law enforcement community work diligently day after day to protect the integrity of our financial institutions, and stop foreign entities corrupting international commerce.”

IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett said:  “IRS Criminal Investigation operates worldwide and has the expertise to identify bribery schemes such as alleged in the Criminal Complaint.  Our Special Agents are especially skilled at piecing together these financial puzzles, even those that involve such high level participants.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “These individuals allegedly offered millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials, disguised as charitable donations, in order to seek business advantages. One used his position with a United Nations Council to further this scheme.  We will continue to aggressively investigate financial crimes committed by corrupt foreign officials while working collaboratively with our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.” 

According to the allegations in the Complaint[1] and other statements in the public record:

This case involves two bribery schemes to pay high-level officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for the Energy Company, a Shanghai-headquartered multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in the energy and financial sectors.  At the center of both schemes is CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia (the “Energy NGO”) that holds “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations (“UN”) Economic and Social Council.  The Energy NGO is funded by the Energy Company.

In the first scheme (the “Chad Scheme”), HO, with GADIO’s assistance, caused the Energy Company to offer a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad in exchange for securing business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to obtain valuable oil rights from the Chadian government.  In particular, in exchange for the bribe, the President of Chad provided the Energy Company with, among other things, an exclusive opportunity to obtain particular oil rights in Chad without facing international competition.  GADIO, who is the former Foreign Minister of Senegal and who operated an international consulting firm, played an instrumental role in the Chad Scheme by, among other things, connecting HO with the President of Chad and conveying the $2 million bribe offer to the President of Chad.  HO compensated GADIO by paying him $400,000 via wires transmitted through New York, New York.

In the second scheme (the “Uganda Scheme”), HO caused a $500,000 bribe to be paid, via wires transmitted through New York, New York, to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly (the “Ugandan Foreign Minister”).  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with gifts and promises of future benefits, including offering to share the profits of a potential joint venture in Uganda involving the Energy Company and businesses owned by the families of the Ugandan Foreign Minister and the President of Uganda.  These payments and promises were made in exchange for assistance from the Ugandan Foreign Minister in obtaining business advantages for the Energy Company, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank.

The Chad Scheme

As alleged in the Complaint, the Chad Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO and GADIO met at the UN in New York, New York.  At that time, the Energy Company wanted to expand its oil operations to Chad, and to do so, it wanted to enter into a joint venture with a Chinese government-owned oil and gas company (the “Chinese State Oil Company”) that was already operating in Chad.  Earlier that year, the Chinese State Oil Company had been fined $1.2 billion by the government of Chad for environmental violations.  HO enlisted GADIO – who had a personal relationship with the President of Chad – to assist the Energy Company in gaining access to the President of Chad, with the initial goal of resolving the dispute between the government of Chad and the Chinese State Oil Company, and the ultimate goal of obtaining oil opportunities for the Energy Company in Chad.

GADIO successfully connected HO and the Energy Company to the President of Chad and to other Chadian officials.  HO, acting on GADIO’s advice, then caused the Energy Company to pledge a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad, in what was characterized as a “donation” for charitable causes.  GADIO later solicited from HO a $500,000 payment for GADIO’s firm, arguing that he should receive a percentage of the $2 million “gift” from the Energy Company to the President of Chad.

In reality, this “donation” was a bribe intended to influence the award of oil rights in favor of the Energy Company.  Following this $2 million pledge to the President of Chad, the Energy Company obtained a business advantage in its negotiations to acquire oil rights in Chad, in particular, by having the exclusive opportunity to purchase particular oil rights without facing international competition.  Ultimately, the Energy Company did not complete this acquisition, but instead purchased other oil rights in Chad from a Taiwanese company.  In exchange for GADIO’s efforts to facilitate the bribery of the President of Chad, HO caused $400,000 to be paid to GADIO’s firm, via two wires that were transmitted through a bank in New York, New York.

The Uganda Scheme

As alleged in the Complaint, the Uganda Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO met at the UN in New York, New York with the Ugandan Foreign Minister, who had recently begun his term as the 69th President of the UN General Assembly (“PGA”).[2]  HO, purporting to act on behalf of the Energy NGO, met with the Ugandan Foreign Minister and began to cultivate a relationship with him.  During the year that the Ugandan Foreign Minister served as PGA, HO and the Ugandan Foreign Minister discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and the Energy Company for various business ventures, to be formed once the Ugandan Foreign Minister completed his term as PGA and returned to Uganda.

In or about February 2016 – after the Ugandan Foreign Minister had resumed his role as Foreign Minister of Uganda, and his in-law had been reelected as the President of Uganda – the Ugandan Foreign Minister solicited a payment from HO, purportedly for a charitable foundation that he wished to launch.  HO caused a $500,000 payment to be wired to an account in Uganda designated by the Ugandan Foreign Minister, through a bank in New York, New York.  In his communications, HO variously referred to this payment as a “donation” to the reelection campaign of the President of Uganda (who had already been reelected) and as a “donation” to “support” the Ugandan Foreign Minister.

In fact, this payment was a bribe to obtain business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to secure contracts and ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sectors.  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with promises of future benefits, including proposing to partner with both officials’ family businesses in potential joint ventures.  In exchange, the Ugandan Foreign Minister assisted the Energy Company in obtaining business in Uganda, including by facilitating the Energy Company’s interest in potentially acquiring a bank.

*                      *                      *

HO, 68, of Hong Kong, China, and GADIO, 61, of Senegal, are each charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA, violating the FCPA, conspiring to commit international money laundering, and committing international money laundering.  The maximum penalties for these charges are as follows: five years in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA; five years in prison for each violation of the FCPA; 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit international money laundering; and 20 years in prison for each charge of committing international money laundering.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding work of the FBI and IRS-CI, who jointly conducted this investigation.  He also thanked the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and the Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which provided critical assistance.  Mr. Kim noted that the investigation is ongoing.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas S. Zolkind, Thomas McKay, Daniel C. Richenthal, and Shane T. Stansbury, and Trial Attorneys David A. Last and Paul A. Hayden of the Fraud Section, are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.
[2] Although the Complaint refers to the “Ugandan Foreign Minister” throughout for clarity, during the year that he served as PGA, he did not simultaneously serve as Foreign Minister of Uganda.  Rather, he resumed as Foreign Minister of Uganda shortly after his term as PGA ended.
Foreign Corruption
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Strong and confident leadership demanded of our politicians and men and women in uniform

Circa 1959 
At the height of our fight to rid The Gambia of Jammeh, there were many doubters as to whether we will be able to pull it off in 2016.  We happened to have been among those who were not expecting his defeat through the ballot box but through public protests employing Arab Spring tactics of civil disobedience.  Therefore, it was as much a pleasant surprise for us as it was for millions of Gambians and friends of the Gambia across the globe to dislodge an entrenched 22-year old brutal and corrupt dictatorship. .

Although skeptical of the election route, what was never in doubt was the power of the human resolve to achieve what looked, at the time, unachievable and thus the battle cry of the moment among the online activists: "Never Relent".   Our advice then, as now is never give up or surrender your core beliefs and values because your life is meaningless without them and a life without a set of values, in our view, makes you less of a human.

Although a child of the colonial era, born, raised and high school educated in the colony of Banjul, I have always felt liberated, enjoying all the inherent freedoms that every freeman and woman was endowed, even when the top three to four most senior police officers in the Police and the Field Forces were British and so were most of the Commissioners (now called Governors).  

This brings us to the incarnation of the Public Order Act of 1955, not by any colonialist or imperialist oppressor but by one of our own, a brutal and corrupt African dictator in the name of Yaya Jammeh that sent the top echelon of the United Democratic Party, including its leader to jail using the very same 1955 odious law.  It now appears that it is the same sword of Damocles that is being dangled over our heads by the transition government we all fought so hard to elect to usher in the New Gambia under new management and new orientation.  

Instead, the government decises to operationalize a relic of our colonial past that Jammeh used to jail his opponents and Governor Edward Windley used to crush the “Bread and Butter" riots of 1959.  

Whether the Barrow administration realizes it or not, the insistence by the Inspector General of Police to reverse the previous decision to allow the #OccupyWestfield protests is raising concerns among our traditional allies and friends abroad.  The trend is chilling as it is disappointing. 

If the Inspector General of Police cannot guarantee the safety of a few hundred peaceful demonstrators, as initially projected by the organizers, then Gambians have every reason to question his fitness to man the post.  The security of the country must also be in a much more precarious state than ever imagined to cause the denial of law abiding Gambians to exercise their inherent right to publicly display their displeasure at their government; even in the presence of ECOMIG troops in the country?   

ECOMIG’s mandate had recently been extended for one year with the simultaneous drawdown from the initial troop level of 4,000 to its current 2,500 stabilizing force level.  Can you blame laymen if the IGP’s claims are treated as suspect?  We believe we could do better, as a country, with more confident leadership from our politicians as well as our men and women in uniform, especially now. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

EDITORIAL: President Barrow must put his stamp on the transition government

President Adama Barrow 
When Gambians went to the polls last December 1st, their choice to lead the Coalition of 7 +1 was Adama Barrow.  He campaigned and won an election that the entire world, except Yaya Jammeh, acclaimed as free, fair and credible. 

In fact,  Barrow's election was historic as being the first time that a sitting dictatorship, with all the instruments of power still firmly under his control, was defeated at the ballot and democratically without a shot being fired. 

African dictators have lost power in the past but it has almost always been through the use force or the threat of the use of force.  Because of the uniqueness of our last December experience, we have been pleading with the new administration to avoid stepping on a very powerful and unique story that should serve as a platform to start the consolidation of out new found democratic freedoms. 

The Coalition government stumbled right out of the gates as some of us expected.  If you ask a dozen Gambians the cause for it, you are likely to get a dozen but one different answers.  The one reason they all share in common is that the majority of the cabinet lack experience in governance.  Whereas this common factor may not be sufficient reason for failure, it is a necessary condition for a slow start as cabinet members feel their way around the treacherous terrain.  Most, if not all, have been out in the political wilderness for over two decades. 

After almost a year at the helm, President Barrow and his team have made some progress, not of the earth-shattering kind, but progress nonetheless especially in the judiciary where discernible progress is being registered in appointing qualified and experienced Gambians on the bench.  Members of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of the former dictator have been seated over three months ago and its live extended for an additional six month. 

The law establishing the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission is on its final stage of being tabled before the National Assembly.   The security sector has also been scheduled for restructuring.  This is by no means an exhaustive list because there are ministries where public information is thin. 

All of the gains enumerated here will come to naught if hard choices are not made in the country's economic management team.  A significant draw down of the ballooning domestic debt over the last decade must be made to start the reversal of the crowding out of the private sector that has been starved of cash from the commercial banking sector for investment purposes. 

The rebuilding effort  of the Central Bank must commence from the ground up after what has come to light at the Commission of Inquiry.   Without the restructuring of the civil service, it'd not be possible to successfully implement the reforms that must take place to set us on the road to economic recovery.         

#OccupyWestfield group has been issued with a permit to protest on Sunday, November 12th

President Adama Barrow 
After a week of much ado about nothing, the government of Adama Barrow has decided to allow the #OccupyWestfield group to protest at the Westfield Junction, a decision that should have been made last week to avoid the unnecessary rancor and vacillations that ensued.

However, the decision was finally taken by Hon. Ba Tambadou, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who has been been selected by President Barrow to oversee the Interior Ministry while a substantive holder of the post is identified and appointed.  Hon. Mai Fatty's dismissal is unfortunate but as the saying goes in these parts it comes with the territory.  Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president and thus can be removed without offering reason(s) for the removal.  That is the prerogative of the President.  It is not a right but a privilege to serve in a cabinet post.

Regarding the protests, Mr. Alieu Bah of #OccupyWestfield speaking to us from Banjul confirmed that permission has been granted for his group to protest at the Westfield Junction on Sunday 12th November from 3PM - 6PM. 

To peacefully protest in a democracy is a right that must not be infringed.

The decision is a welcome relief that will serve as an outlet for pent up frustrations for a number of our youth - an important constituents of the Coalition -  frustrations resulting from the lack of progress in the provision of reliable supply of electricity, as seen from their vantage point.

Yes, we acknowledge the promises made by government and the efforts made for the realization of those promises which should not preempt the inherent right of every Gambian to publicly and peacefully express his or her dissatisfaction or otherwise without fear of arrest or worse. 

The government has shown, through action, that reasons advanced by the former Interior Minister that resulted in his decision to deny #OccupyWestfield permit were, in our view, without basis.

The refusal to allow the protest to proceed projected weakness and not confidence in our security forces to maintain order at all times.  It was also a grave mistake for the paramilitary forces to be on high alert and in full battle gear thus escalating a problem to unnecessary levels.  Let us leave such knee jerk reactions to dictators.

Today, we are all democrats.

President Barrow's government should consider memorializing Solo Sandeng in naming the Westfield Junction in honor of the UDP youth leader and to designate it as a zone for Gambians to peacefully assemble to show their opposition to or support of issues they consider to be essential to contributing to a stable and prosperous society. 

The Gambia needs a clean break from its dictatorial past by throwing away the Jammeh playbook.  Many Gambians will lend support to this or any other effort that will solidify our democratic gains.  These young people are the future of the country and must be seen as a reservoir of hope for the future of the country and not as a source of potential conflict and instability.     

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mai Ahmad Fatty has been fired as Gambia's Interior Minister, effective Friday November 10 2017

PR/C/6/Vol. 21(84)                                             

Media Advisory

Fajara, 10th November 2017 - The General Public is here by informed that His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia, acting under the provision of Section71 (4) (b) of the Constitution of The Republic of the Gambia, has decided to relieve  Mr. Mai Ahmad Fatty of his appointment as Minister of The Interior with effect from today, Friday, 10 November 2017.  

Mr Fatty has been re-deployed to the diplomatic service. 

In the same vein, His Excellency, the President has assigned the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Honourable Abubacarr M. Tambadou to oversee the Ministry of The Interior until further notice.