Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, June 12, 2017

Is Jammeh's exit Agreement legally binding?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, June 11, 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Foni is NOT enemy territory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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