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.

Saturday, April 22, 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.