Friday, September 15, 2017

The IMF, the deficit and the National Assembly

For the record
Four years ago today we wrote about the persistent budget deficit caused by Jammeh's fiscal irresponsibility, encouraged by the complicity of the National Assembly and the Fund's inability to encourage the Jammeh regime to be fiscal responsible.
The maintenance of an aircraft that doesn't belong to the government was being operated and maintained using public funds resulting in huge supplementary budget requests, year in, year out.
The issue took four years but it finally came to the fore at the Commission of Inquiry into Jammeh's illicit wealth. And as Nuha Touray said, whether it takes 100 years or 1,000 years, the day of reckoning will come, in response to a question of why he took meticulous notes of the transactions he conducted on behalf of The Gambia dictator.
Read the piece here:
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Gambia's large fiscal deficits that have been plaguing the economy for over a decade did not occur in a vacuum and neither were they accumulated without the endorsement of the National Assembly.   Therefore, members of the Assembly have helped create the mess, they can help clean up the mess by simply voting down the next Supplementary Budget request which is expected to be submitted by the Ministry of Finance in the next fortnight or so.  This is, of course, and as the saying goes, easier said than done.

The fiscal deficit is financed primarily by domestic borrowing.  The borrowing is done by government from the Central Bank to finance its projects, and pay for other government activities.  Domestic borrowing has exploded under this regime, especially since 2000/2001 starting with the then presidential elections.

Last year, a total supplementary budget request by the Finance Ministry amounted to D471 million which was submitted to the National Assembly and approved near unanimous vote.  D102 million of this amount or approximately 25% of the additional monies requested went to the President's Office, of which D43 million was supposedly for the maintenance of "state aircraft."  Why should we be paying for the operation and maintenance of an aircraft or a fleet of aircrafts where official records do not exist showing that they were purchased by the Government of The Gambia.  If we do not own the aircrafts why are we being asked to pay for their operations and maintenance?

I am using this case to illustrate how the budgetary process is being used increasingly by Yaya Jammeh to conceal dubious expenditures now that Allah's Bank has been placed under receivership.  The Office of the President is not an operational agency, and therefore cannot justifiably have a budget that twice the size of the Ministry of Agriculture or the combined budgets of the Judiciary and the National Assembly.  This is exemplifies the Imperial Presidency of Yaya Jammeh where the rest of us are being asked to go eat cake.

My difference with the International Monetary Fund is how to go about getting the deficits under control. Granted, the Fund has over a number of years warned about the problem, about how it slows down economic growth and development, and consistently urged government to reduce the overspending.  Instead, these deficits have been going up and spiraling out of control.  Jammeh is undisciplined and so is his government and therefore cannot restore fiscal sanity without the application of external pressures.

This brings me to the National Assembly which has been an integral part of the deficit problem because all expenditures must be approved by the parliamentary body which has not been spared of the dictatorial tendencies of the regime.  Their role as representatives of the people has been compromised through the application of governing party's rules.  The APRC selects them to stand as candidates.  They can be expelled not only from the party but from the National Assembly as well if they should fall out of party line.  The party is Jammeh.

The Fund, acting in concert with donor agencies, must start addressing these blatant forms of intimidation by the dictatorship that amounts to usurpation of the power of the electorate to elect their members of parliament who should be answerable to them, and not to a political party or an individual.  Donor support and encouragement of the Assembly Members is necessary to allow them to 'break away' from the grip of Yaya Jammeh.  It is only then that National Assembly can begin to act independently, including saying 'no' to the next supplementary budget request that is due before them shortly.

This approach, of course, raises a series of questions of external interference into the political process and the like.  But one could argue that such interferences already exist anyway, and as long as an independent National Assembly contributes to good governance, and good governance is a necessary ingredient in economic progress, it is worth trying this approach.  The leverage exists within the donor community, and it should be used.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gambia to reform its security apparatus with help from the UN, EU, ECOWAS and AU




Gambia's President, Adama Barrow, has announced the launching of a project aimed at reforming the security apparatus of a country that has just emerged from 22 years of brutal dictatorship which poses a challenge that the EU Ambassador described as "deep-seated" to signal what's ahead for the new administration.

The statement by President Barrow recognizes the fact that he's inherited "a deeply politicized" security apparatus that is "not responsive to the needs of the people."

He expressed the hope that a reformed security force will be "effective and accountable...under democratic control with full respect for human rights, the rule of law and fundamental principles of good governance."

When the reform process is complete and in full implementation phase, he expects the outcome will enable The Gambia to, once more, "take charge of its own security and destiny."

The ECOWAS Ambassador warned the authorities that they cannot afford to fail in the endeavor and that a successful exercise in The Gambia will most certainly be replicated elsewhere in a region has experienced a period of instability in the last couple of decades.

A multidisciplinary task force comprising Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice and key reform partners, namely United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and the European Union.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

A case for the disaggregation of the G.R.A.


The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) was established in 2004 by an Act of Parliament (National Assembly).  It merged the Customs and Excise and the Income Tax Departments.  In a statement posted on the GRA website, the current Director General claims that his agency collects “about 20% of GDP and 80% of government revenue” thus making it the premier revenue collection agency of the government.

The rationalization of government departments, as well all major restructuring exercise in the private sector, is driven by the primary objective of enhancing efficiency and thus increasing the revenue (profit) streams of the operation.   The same concept generally applies to the private sector as well.

In the case of the GRA, the rationale is no different.  But has centralization increased both efficiency of operations and increased revenue?  The jury is still out on both questions.  And we are being charitable on the efficiency question for lack of tangible evidence resulting from unreliable data in the era of Jammeh.  One this can be said is that the rollout of the Value Added Tax did not inspire confidence in the new GRA and was considered a disaster that left great many businessmen and women, especially the petty traders and small businesses, frustrated, confused and felt cheated. 

We have written numerous blog posts for a number of years on the subject and you can find some of them here and here and here.  The efficiency issue is not specific to GRA but it is a civil service-wide problem that the new administration must respond to, perhaps in conjunction with a total review of the Government Statistics Bureau. 

Back to the efficiency and enhanced revenue collection capacity, centralization always concentrates power in the hands of the few.  In the case of the GRA, as we have seen time and time again, in the ear of Yaya Jammeh, the DG of GRA is the focal point of every budgetary intervention demanded by the Office of The President, whether legal or – mostly – illegal demands on the agency.  Either it is transfer of collected revenue that belongs to the Gambian people to the private business entities of Jammeh or for his private use. 

By centralizing the revenue collection capabilities of an entire government into what we now called the GRA,  Jammeh has created a one-stop-shop to satisfy his insatiable thirst for hard cash by issuing the now infamous Executive Orders (EOs) to one man, as opposed to having to deal with two or more individuals - say the Director General of Customs and Commissioner of Income Tax – which increases the chances of one of them proving to be the bulwark that prevents the type of abuse to the system that is being revealed in the Commission of Inquiry into his illicit wealth.

Reverting to the previous status of having a Director General of Customs and Excise and a Commissioner of Income or Domestic Tax would return competitiveness between the revenue collection centers that made the inter-departmental rivalries good for government’s bottom line.  Those old enough to remember, the most anticipated portion of the Annual Budget Speech of the Finance Minister was the section dealing with the revenue and loss column of the parastatals.   Only the Managing Director of NAWEC would dread having a return of this feature of the annual event.

Finally, it is oxymoron to centralize government revenue collection while in the same breath promoting the decentralization of government services which goes hand and clove with power of the purse strings. It is time the Barrow administration consider disaggregating the GRA into smaller manageable agencies which is more consistent and supportive of government’s long-held policy of devolving power from the center to the provincial areas of the country.     
        




Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Central Bank is a threat to the financial system

This blog post was first published May 13th 2014, raising the alarm on the Central Bank of The Gambia with specific reference to its apparent inability or unwillingness or both to perform one of its most important statutory functions - the supervision of commercial banks to protect depositors by ensuring their solvency.   At the time, we are not aware of the extent of the CBG role in managing 22 illicit accounts on behalf of the Office of the President.  These accounts were operated as they would have under a normal commercial banking operations.

Sidi Sanneh

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Perhaps it is time for the Central Bank The Gambia (CBG) to be "taken over" by a competent set of central bankers because it is under-performing under current and previous managements.  It has been so sloppily managed that it were a commercial bank it would have been declared bankrupt.

Not that central banks don't go broke; they do.  The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, as its central bank is called, went broke with the bank's balance sheet succumbing to Zimbabwe's 100,000 percent hyper inflation.  But bankrupt central banks, however rare, rely of the public national treasury i.e. the tax payer.

We do not expect the CBG to find itself in a Zimbabwe-like situation, but unless prudence and strict adherence for banking principles are observed, the financial system and the economy they were trying to safe, as they claim, that led them to "take over" Access and Keystone Banks, will come crashing down, and with it the hopes, dreams and aspirations of million and a half Gambians.

Last week Monday, we were greeted by the news that two Nigerian-owned banks were being taking over by the Central Bank for reasons that we have covered on several blogs and Facebook posts.  Exactly a week later, we were greeted with yet another press release from CBG informing us that Access Bank has been returned to its owners but not before they paid US$ 15.2 million (D600 million), and a promise to pay another US$ 4.8 million (D198 million).

These payments could not have been for the minimum capital requirement (MCR) that the CBG raised to D200 million, to be paid in two tranches.  This is so because the payments are huge and besides we were assured back in January 2013 that 12 of the 13 banks operating in The Gambia had fulfilled this requirement. Cronyism and weak management aside, the Central Bank has been caught fudging the books and cooking up up numbers that led to IMF sanctions in the past.  It is only reasonable, to be skeptical about any  figure that they brandish and an explanation they give.   Transparency is lacking in the CBG, and it is that lack of transparency that is the bigger enemy than the critics of the regime and CBG management.

In its May 5th, 2014 press release which the official government newspaper refused to carry for reasons only known to the management of the Daily Observer, Gambians were told that the CBG was stepping in to take over Access and Keystone Banks, and in doing so assures respective clients and the public that "the two banks would continue business as usual, and depositors are assured that the banks have ample liquidity to meet current and future obligations. '

We find the first press release very misleading, coined to conceal the real financial health of the two banks and maybe other banks.  There may be ample liquidity to cater to the needs of the current need of clients, but it is highly questionable whether it can address future obligation which is part of the reason why the CBG stepped in in the first instance.

The return of Access Bank to its owner after a week under CBG supervision and why its owners are required to pay US$15.2 million now and an additional US$4.8 million for a total of US$20 million or approximately D800 million to recapitalize the bank.  This figure reveals that Access Bank was operating underwater for an extended period time and yet no signal or red flags were raised by the CBG, thus exposing depositors to unacceptable risk until last week.

One  plausible explanation is the Access Bank was carrying in its books a huge none performing loans.  It is not surprising that the financial system was exposed to this dangerous level because of the weak supervisory capacity at the CBG as evidenced by one IMF report after another warning about this condition.  What we would like to know, what was the cause of the exposure?  Who were Access Bank's clients who accumulated such huge sums, and for what purposes were they contracted.      

 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mohammed Bazzi requests his appearance before the Commission of Inquiry to be in-camera

Mohammed Bazzi, CEO Euro-Africa Group 
A highly reliable source has just revealed that Muhammed Bazzi, the CEO of the Euro-Africa Group and numerous other companies operating in The Gambia during the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh is requesting that his appearance before the Commission of Inquiry into the former dictator's illicit assets be conducted in-camera.

The Lebanese-Syrian businessman is considered by many to have been the most influential businessman in the country who had a stranglehold on the economy with business interests in everything from importation of petroleum to mineral mining.

His substantial holdings and business interest in The Gambia, coupled with the influence he had over a regime that controlled every aspect of the Gambian economy makes him one of the most important witnesses to face the Commission.

The only other person of interest that can rival him is Amadou Samba, his business partner in Euro-African Group that enjoyed the exclusive right to import petroleum products into the country.  They also owned majority shares until Amadou Samba divested his 9.9% share, allowing the government to become majority (52%) shareholder.  They lost their privileged monopoly status after Yaya Jammeh was defeated in last December's elections.

Given their prominent role in the regime of Yaya Jammeh, particularly as it relates to the exploitation of the country's resources, it is an absolute must to invite Mohammed Bazzi and all his business associates to come before the Commission and be questioned in a public setting and in full view of the public just like all other witnesses have been subjected to.  There should be no exception regardless of status.  Gambians look forward to their testimony.  

African Petroleum taking Gambia to arbitration

We reported last week that the African Petroleum Corporation Ltd was contemplating taking the government of President Adama Barrow to court over Blocks A1 and A4.   You can find that report here. 

The CEO of the company said in a statement posted on the company's website that his company has decided to take the Government of the Gambia to court over the exploration rights in two areas suspected to contain over 3 billion barrels of crude oil.

The announcement further states : "It is a matter of regret that it has come to this; however we are confident in our legal position."  Ghe statement continues, "We now believe that in order to protect our historical investment we have no choice but to take this case to arbitration."

According to Reuters news agency reporting from Dakar,  the market reaction to the news has been negative, causing the company's shares to fall by 8.84%

Monday, September 4, 2017

What is at stake at the Commission of Inquiry - Petroleum sub-sector

Commission Of Inquiry into Jammeh's illicit wealth 
Prior to the nationalization in March 2015 of the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation, procurement of petroleum and petroleum products was monopolized by the Euro-African Group.  

The company that is jointly owned by Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%), Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (31%), also built the Madinari Fuel Depot a company jointly owned by the Lebanese businessman Mohammed Bazzi, Amadou Samba, Faddi Magezzi (10.3%), Amadou Samba (9.9%), GPA (10%), GNPC (7%) and Premier Investment Group (1%). 

For six years, the controlling shares (52%) of this strategic national infrastructure was controlled by private/foreign interests. The products the Bazzi-controlled company imported ranged from petrol, diesel and jet fuel for petrol stations and airport to heavy fuel and lubricants for NAWEC.

The monopoly environment was deliberately created by Jammeh for himself and his business cronies which proved quite lucrative for the very favored few at the expense of the economy and everyone else. 

How lucrative was it?   According to our sources, the cartel bought one metric ton of fuel for US$400 and sold it to NAWEC for US$700 per metric ton, nearly double the price, the profits of which were deposited in offshore accounts.  

This exorbitant price fixing that borders on criminality partly answers the question in the lips of many frustrated energy consumers as to how NAWEC  ended up being in arrears of US$64 million  to the Euro-Africa Group resulting in further costing the government millions more.  

The government was forced to purchase the Brikama power plant which was an IPP owned by Bazzi which he had to surrender to the Standard Chartered Bank because he defaulted on a loan.  The history that led to this default which was costly to the public treasury must be investigated.   

With annual consumption in the tens of thousands of metric tons, hundreds of millions of dollars in profits were realized since the Madinari fuel facility was inaugurated by Jammeh in 2008 at a cost of US$50 million.  We are still investigating whether it was government that guaranteed the loan that built the Mandinari facility.

NAWEC now buys at US$400 per M/T instead of US$700 per M/T unless these economic predators are allowed to bribe their way back into having a stranglehold on the Gambian economy.  For them to succeed, they will have to fight an increasingly restless and highly agitated population that have been exploited for over two decades by Yaya Jammeh and his cronies   NEVER AGAIN.

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Note to our esteemed readers:  To help you focus on what we consider to be the important areas of the Commission of Inquiry's deliberations, we will be highlighting key aspects of the inquiries with special attention paid to details that may have been lost in translation or not covered in detail.   

This is the first of several installments that focuses on one aspect of the petroleum sub-sector which has been dominated by a handful of Lebanese businessmen with Gambian collaborators.  Gambians welcome the breaking up of the monopoly who will insist that those still holding on to their shares must dispose of them as soon as feasible. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The specter of tribalism rearing its ugly head online

This is a republication of a piece we did on 'tribalism' a couple of years ago, on the 3rd of September 2015.  The specter still lingers because of a few knuckleheads who insist on exploiting it for political reasons.

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Victims of the Rwanda genocide 
In October 2013, we blogged warning opponents of the Jammeh regime not to fall into the tribalism trap which the Gambian dictator has been setting by accusing the single biggest opposition party, United Democratic Party (UDP) of practicing tribal politics without providing any proof, except the fact that its leader, Ousainou Darboe, is from the Mandinka tribe which is the single largest, no matter how you slice the numbers.

We again wrote in the same month and year arguing that although the British promoted tribalism and parochialism, pitting the colonial territory against the protectorate, urban versus rural, educated versus the uneducated that tested the social cohesion of the British outpost, tribalism never permeated neither the Gambian society nor the body politic.

The reasons we advanced included what we referred to as the "fusion of the various population groupings into an amalgam of hybrids that denied the divisive forced the use of the tribal card." We, therefore, believe then as we do now, the charge that tribalism is inherent and widespread in The Gambia is a red herring which will not prevent your crazy uncle or a knucklehead to use it as a cudgel by using a totally meaningless term as "Terri Kafo", a social club that existed in the early 70s through the 80s whose membership was drown largely from all tribes - though the majority were of Mandinka origin - that are found in the provinces.

Mind you, there were numerous social clubs in the Banjul area at the time of which yours truly was a member but not one of these clubs were ever accused of representing or favoring any singular tribal grouping.  The closest comparison would be the "Presidential Action Group" that was accused to have been formed to protect the gains of, what was referred then as, the "Banjul Mafia".  Why is "Teri Kafo" being singled out?  Why is it being used pejoratively?

The simple answer is it's an effective cudgel that worked prior to and during the immediate aftermath of the Jammeh-led 1994 coup d'etat when he used the tribal card to malign the ousted PPP leadership despite the fact that non-Mandinkas were seen to have been, at least, equal beneficiaries of a regime that was headed by a Mandinka in the person of Sir Dawda K. Jawara.

Fairly or unfairly, the term "Terri Kafo" is once more being applied in a case that has aroused emotions, implying that the Mandinkas opposed to the Jammeh regime are ganging up against the other tribes.  The motives of those applying the term against a group that is not exclusively of one given tribe is left to those in The Struggle to decide.  What is evident, however, is, if it is being used as the cudgel in a divisive way, the strategy is not working for the same reason that it failed during the colonial period.

The size of The Gambia, once again, is working in its favor and against those employing sinister tactics to fan the flames of tribalism.  Yaya Jammeh has failed, up to this point despite concerted effort.  Others trying to employ similar tactics will also fail.  Gambians are too smart for these knuckleheads.

Dr. Isatou Touray's Acceptance Speech, Independent candidate for president, Republic of The Gambia

Dr. Isatou Touray threw her hat into the ring to be the Coalition candidate's that will attempt to unseat Yaya Jammeh,  Gambia's brutal dictator of 22 years.   This was her acceptance speech as the Independent candidate published exactly a year ago today

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Dr. Isatou Touray, Independent candidate


Gambians are hardworking and peace loving people. In the last two decades I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, I have met hardworking men and women in the city, towns and villages, and have heard your stories and aspirations. I have also heard your frustrations. I am inspired and motivated by you the Gambians, by your desire for change in the face of immense economic hardship, restrictions on our freedom and personal liberty.

Alerted by a deep sense of concern for the Gambia, committed to our country’s advancement unfettered by repression, abuse, impunity and persecution, I have observed the current dispensation over the years.

What I have seen is a deteriorating Gambia with deteriorating institutions, where those in authority abuse state power to instill fear and hopelessness within the people. Gambians today are not free to say what they think. Fear and terror, through the abuse of state power, have so gripped the people that, most will look behind their shoulders before they speak.

The immediate and compelling task before us all is to awaken our consciousness of the sovereign power that resides in us – the people - to use our votes as the instrument of change to free ourselves from the rule of fear and terror, unleashed by a regime that created a series of laws or made amendments to existing laws that erode the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

I also observed the trends and patterns of the systematic mismanagement of our limited resources. Two decades of APRC misrule witnessed a series of false starts. While Gambians were yearning for results, APRC’s visions became mere illusions and so called operations were compromised.

During the recent past, the Gambia’s economy has been challenged by shocks, largely domestic and to a lesser extent external, resulting in low growth and resurgence inflation. The financial position weakened considerably compounded by weak policy implementation, particularly as regards excessive spending relative to mobilization and dwindling external budgetary support.

Those in power are not listening to the demands for political or economic reform. Conditions for political participation have been so crafted that political pluralism has been curtailed, generating a feeling of powerlessness among many. Too much power is concentrated in too few hands. We need a new approach to government that involves the people in decisions that affect them. Those who make decisions on behalf of others are too often not accountable. I will restore the sovereignty of the people, end impunity and decentralize authority and power.

It is my fervent belief and conviction that we can bring about change for a better Gambia by directing our efforts and political capital towards one end - the singular pragmatic goal of ushering in a new and third republic that brings progress by building strong democratic instruments and institutions, repealing the obnoxious laws that restrict our freedom and liberty, building a strong economy, and leveling the political playing field, so that the sovereign will of Gambians will always prevail in their choice of leadership.

I am committed, if elected to serve for one five year term only, working with all those who have the capacity and commitment to salvage the Gambia as it totters on the brink of total collapse. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance. We cannot walk it alone neither can we turn back. Together, we can bring the change that is needed. Principles and values need not be compromised, but strategies and tactics must be flexible enough to make progress possible, especially under the difficult political conditions we face.

Everything I learnt in my years of work with the women, men and the youth of this country, and in academia, has convinced me that Gambians need a president that will serve them, not one that looks down on them, a president who will uphold the constitution, the rule of law and restore good governance; a government that will bring economic prosperity to Gambians. People want more say in the decisions that affect their lives. The old command and control politics, doing things to and for people, but never with them, has not and will not work.

True democracy does not mean voting every five years. True democracy requires the active participation of all citizens in planning the development programmes and activities for their localities, working with their wards, Village Development Committees and other development committees. Allowing people affected to take leadership in advancing the best interest based on the common good.

Together we can stop further degeneration of our beloved country and contribute to give it a new lease of life where hope, love and appreciation of each other, respect for fundamental freedom, dignity of the person, rule of law and peace will thrive, in an entity that is nothing other than Gambian, ensuring that nobody is victimized on the basis of tribe, religion or political affiliation For this is the true nature of the Gambian people.

Gambians face a dire situation with the APRC regime and every Gambian has a story to tell. But I urge you to muster courage and strength so that we can make the Gambia better.  I seek your support in our quest to bring the Gambia out of isolation, to build bridges and linkages with peoples of other nations in partnerships that safeguard, protect and promote the interest of the Gambia as a sovereign state.  Gambia’s interest is best served by engaging with other nation states and being part of the wider international community.

I want us to usher in a Gambia that will bring on board the hearts and minds of all Gambians in the Diaspora, including those who left the country because of the tribulations, persecutions, fear and abuses they face as private citizens, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, and activists, but more than anything else, a new Gambia of economic prosperity, freedom, rule of law, peace and stability.

The youth of this country are frustrated and their hopes dashed. Those born at the cusp of the second republic have now come of age. Twenty years of APRC rule has failed to give them opportunities to fulfill their aspirations and achieve their goals. What their country has failed to give them i. e. jobs and decent living, they try to seek elsewhere, embarking on perilous journeys across the harsh desert and the wild Mediterranean. The Gambia needs you most now of all times, as nation builders and agents of change to build a better Gambia for us all. Your votes are your weapons to effect the change you desire. Under our sovereign third republican constitution, we can be the architects of our own destiny.

By investing more in the productive base of the economy, in the private as well as in the public sector, by avoiding wasteful spending, we will create more jobs that would motivate the young generation of school leavers and job seekers, remain in the country. We would motivate and encourage Gambian scholars and academics abroad to return and contribute their quota.

We would encourage and lure the private sector to open opportunities to the young people to earn a decent living and fulfill their dreams. We must preserve the Gambia for our children and the future generation and must open the doors for development.

We cannot afford to leave matters to chance and to men alone, heaven helps those who help themselves. Hardworking women of this country have waited far  too long for mainstream politicians entrusted to address the things that matter to you; family, home, work and the economy, garden inputs, access to credit and market outlets for your garden produce. Over the years, you have lobbied government to pass bills that could bring meaningful change to the lives of the women and men of this country. You have marched to protest against rape and domestic violence and other rights violations and you have campaigned for more inclusiveness for women in decision making. Women can no longer remain as onlookers and cheer leaders.

We can, together with the youth and men of this country, work to bring about unprecedented development in record time. Your personal concerns could become political if you use your voices and votes to be heard. You have a choice, you have a voice. The personal can be political and women and the economy are directly related. Where one is flourishing so is the other.

Your children will face new challenges. But each of you can help prepare for that future by standing for justice, equality and women’s rights at home and at the workplaces.

Human rights framework and perspective will continue to be central in our approach to issues as we strive to restore the dignity and integrity of all Gambians and all those who chose to live in the Gambia. We commit ourselves to democracy and good governance as we address the emerging issues of the state in order for the Gambia to gain its rightful position in the world.

 We cannot afford to be isolated in the current inter connected world of development initiatives. All sovereign citizens of the Gambia, living abroad, would be free, as a matter of right to return or visit the country their motherland which belongs to us all.

In this election of 2016, the country has a choice. The APRC regime has brought the country to the brink of economic collapse and dysfunctional social sectors.  The secular and republican status of the constitution is under threat. Youth unemployment and inflation are soaring and the level of human rights abuse is alarming. That path led to the Gambia’s descent from the unenviable status of ‘least developed country’ to our current pitiful status of ‘heavily indebted poor country’, a status that will change with me as the president of the Gambia.

When the Government of the First Republic was unconstitutionally toppled in a military coup in 1994, Yaya Jammeh, then a young army officer said he wanted to end self-perpetuation in power and condemned what he called the flamboyant lifestyle of the former regime. But in a twist of irony he then changed the constitution and removed term limits without consulting the people, perpetuating himself in power for twenty odd years. His lifestyle is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross with planes, and a multi-million dollar home. He has broken faith with the people. It is time for him to go.

Together we can change that direction towards the path of economic growth, creating wealth, creating jobs for the youth, rewarding the hard work of Gambians across the country, upholding the fundamental rights and freedom of Gambians, the rule of law, and the promotion of women’s rights, and the national interest and security of the Gambia.

If elected, I intend to serve only one term, during which period, I would work with all the existing parties and Gambians ready and willing to steer the Gambia towards a direction that will enable it respond to the needs and aspirations of the people.

I reject the call to turn Gambia into an Islamic State intended to bring division and set us against each other. I will uphold and reinforce the secular republican status of the constitution, where every Gambian will be free to practice his or her religion in accordance with their faith; in a Gambia where democracy, good governance and human rights will prevail. I will bring the smile back to the face of the people of the smiling coast.

Culled from Dr. Touray website. This version was not checked against delivery 

Adama Barrow's Acceptance Speech : UDP 2016 presidential candidate

A year ago, a little known presidential candidate accepted his party's nomination to be the Coalition of 7 + 1 opposition parties to unseat Yaya Jammeh's  22-year dictatorship.  

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Mr. Adama Barrow, UDP flag bearer 
It is our pleasure to introduce Mr. Adama Barrow, the United Democratic Party's (UDP) presidential candidate who was selected today 1st September, 2016.

The 51-year old Barrow hails from Basse and has been a member of the UDP since its inception in 1996.  He started his grassroots support of the UDP and worked in the Jimara Constituency.

His educational background includes a stint at Kuba Kunda primary school and at Muslim High School in Banjul via Crab Island Secondary Technical School.

We will allow Mr. Barrow to introduce himself to our readership, in his own words, as he accepts the nomination of his party today, 1st September 2016.

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Acceptance Speech as UDP Presidential Candidate for the 2016 Elections.

The National Chairman of the United Democratic Party, Alhaji Dembo Byforce Bojang, the Acting Party leader and Secretary General Aji Yam Secka, honorable members of the Central Committee representing the party structures from all the Regions, party militants, Members of the diplomatic Corps, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.
There comes a time in the life of an oppressed nation when its people just get up and say enough is enough. We have seen it over and over again throughout the whole world.  Gambia is not going to be an exception. WE have reached that stage. We have allowed our country to exist in fear and we do nothing about it.  It was Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States who once said that "When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny."  It is tyranny that prevails in Gambia.

I stand before you, before the whole nation, in humility having been honoured by my party, by the members of my party, by the entire Gambian people in selecting me to carry the flag of the United Democratic Party to victory in the forthcoming presidential elections. This is a great responsibility and I am accepting it with my unquestionable belief in Allah the Almighty and the confidence and trust I have in the Gambian people. I know the Gambian people are yearning for change. They have done so since 1996 and I believe that time has come for that change.  My nomination is the first step and I know that with the suffering that all Gambians irrespective of age, sex, religious or tribal background, have without exception experienced, we will bring about change in December. 

The United Democratic Party, being the largest single party in the Gambia has done what is expected of it. We have participated in all elections since the lifting of the ban on political activities imposed by the military junta in September, 1996 and apart from the ruling party, we have had the highest number of votes and the largest number of seats in the National Assembly. It was certain to everybody therefore, that the UDP was going to participate in the forthcoming cycle of elections starting with the nomination of its own candidate for president.Yes, we have indeed gone through unimaginable trials, our party alone, among all political entities in this country, our party lone has been singled out for the worst treatment one can imagine to mete out on one’s political opponent. Our party is the only party that has recorded since 1996 hundreds of unlawful arrests and detentions, a dozen of deaths and a handful of unexplained disappearances in the course of this political struggle against the APRC rule

The past twelve months have marked the beginning of drastic change in this country. It started in Fass Ngagga Choye when our Party leader and the UDP convoy going on a countrywide tour were stopped from continuing their tour. The standoff that followed led to the capitulation of government and granting of a permit to continue. The demonstration by our youths led by Solo Sandeng our Organising Secretary in April this year which led to their illegal arrest and detention and subsequent death in custody of Solo, was the turning point in the history of politics in our country. Our party leader and /Secretary General Lawyer Ousainou Darboe led his Executive to demand the release of Solo or his corpse, and his group and they in turn were arrested and tortured. The kangaroo court that tried them sentenced them to three years. The majority of the arrested executive members are over sixty-five years old. Three of them are over seventyThis cowardly action has led the Gambian people to appreciate that UDP is and has infect always been the party of the people and we are convinced that with the forthcoming elections the Gambian people will show this government that enough is enough.

I have been a member of the UDP since 1996 . As an ordinary member I worked for the party in my native constituency of Jimara, in Upper River Region where I was born in the town of Basse. I started my education from Koba Kunda primary school then in 1981 I went to Crab Island Secondary Technical School. After doing well in the secondary school leaving certificate examinations I proceeded to Muslim High School from 1985 to 1988. However, I spent most of my adult life in   Banjul in the guardianship of the famous Alhagie Momodou Musa Njie, who introduced me entrepreneurship and that’s what I have been doing successfully until today. I also lived and traveled extensively in both England and Germany. In 2010 the National Executive of the party appointed me as Coordinator of the UDP URR Committee.  This gave me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the Region and that way extended the membership and support of our party.  In 2006, I was again appointed by the Executive as Deputy Treasurer to Amadou Sanneh. I was quite comfortable in accepting this post because I did have prior accounting skills. This job, with the encouragement of Amadou, also broadened my interaction with the grassroots organisations of the party and today I can say that there is no Regional Committee that I am not known in. 
The unfortunate and unjustified detention and imprisonment of Amadou Sanneh further added a heavy burden on my shoulders. Not only was Amadou, with his extraordinary experience and knowledge highly suited for the job, he conducted his work with extraordinary skill and humaneness. I had had the fortune of working with and accepted to take on the job and in accepting it I knew what experienced working with him would stand me in a good position.  This position not only further brought me into wider contact with our members throughout the country, but as a senior member of Executive gave me the possibility of taking part in major business of the party and contributing  personally in the  decision making regarding matters of national importance.
 My role as Acting  Treasurer, a position I have now held for the past three years, has enabled me to cultivate a rich relationship with my colleagues on the Executive as well as party officials in the various regional committees and indeed at grassroots level. I can say with absolute certainty therefore, that I enjoy the confidence and support of both the Executive as well as the party rank and file.  As has been the case in my normal interaction with them I know that I will get their full encouragement and support knowing full well that that is the way to achieving our noble object of taking back our country. I have also within the framework of our interactions with the Gambian Diaspora, worked closely with UDP Chapters overseas.

As we take this bold step to enter the fifth cycle of elections since the military coup, we do so for our leaders, who have been unjustly arrested, imprisoned for months without bail maltreated and then sentenced to four years in prison. We will be letting them down and betraying them if we sit by and allow Yaya Jammeh to win these elections. As the leading party we owe it to them and the entire Gambian people to fight as if they were with us and win. Winning the elections will enable us to remove them from unlawful imprisonment and enable them to take their rightful places among their fellow Gambians and continue relentlessly their mission of redeeming and reconstructing our country from the terrible situation it has found itself for the past twenty two years.

As I accept the nomination as the party’s presidential candidate, let me urge you all - members of my party, and fellow Gambians in general, to rededicate ourselves to this noble task of salvaging our country. I wish to appeal to all Gambians particularly leaders and members of other sister parties to get together and unite around the common cause that we are unanimous that we have in common – remove this government in the polls and create a government truly of the people and by the people. In the coming days, my fellow Gambians I will be stretching my hands to other parties to come together to form a single front to once and for all take this soulless dictator out. It is a monumental task but we owe it to our country, to our leaders to do it and do it the right way.

In the next few days, our Executive and I would be contacting our colleagues in the other parties and other interested groups with a view to engaging in a dialogue that could lead to creating a conducive and feasible arrangement that would lead to the defeat of this government. I wish to call upon all Gambians to take these forthcoming elections seriously. We cannot continue another five years under Yaya Jammeh.  
I thank the Executive and the Central Committee for giving me honour and privilege to serve the party in this capacity and solemnly promise I will do all in my power to lead the party to success in the polls and beyond.  May Allah guide and protect us and bless our beloved country.

Long Live the United Democratic Party
Long live Ousainou Darboe and his colleague political prisoners
Long live the Gambia
I thank you all for your attention.


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