Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gambians must hear from Amadou Samba and Yaya Jammeh.

Amendment:  The initial blog post figure read $ 900,000 instead of $ 900,000,000


Monday, May 22, 2017

Photo editorial: Kololi land protest/demonstration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing story ...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SEMLEX is the wrong company for the New Gambia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Muddling through

Here's a 3-year old nugget which we could have easily retitled "An anatomy of 'The Struggle.'"  We've indeed come a long way considering the odds.  Enjoy!!

This week has been a bad week for "The Struggle."  Factional cracks are apparent everywhere after accusations of embezzlement and other unsubstantiated malfeasance that have yet to be proven.  But the damage has already been inflicted, with or without proof, and which may or may not have been the accusers' intent.  Things cannot stay the same.  They will have to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

GAMBIA: Foreign exchange controls are the wrong way to go

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

Sidi Sanneh  

 First published May 5th 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Sulayman Gassama, State House videographer

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

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

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

Sidi Sanneh


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A perpetual state of political dissent is not an option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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

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


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.


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.
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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.