Sunday, December 31, 2017

State of Gambian agriculture from OJ's vantage point

Patcharr Rice fields
Hon. Omar Jallow, affectionately referred to by his initials O.J. is Gambia's agriculture minister who had previously served in the same position for over a decade during the Jawara administration.  He is, therefore, as qualified as any to assess a sector of the country's economy that is the single largest contributor to GDP and provides employment to 70% of the country's 2 million inhabitants.

Despite its absolute importance to Gambia's economic well being, and the former dictator professed  commitment to promoting it, the agriculture sector has suffered discernibly in the last two decades.

Faced with steady decline in agricultural production, particularly as it relates to the main cash crop, due to inappropriate policies.  Agricultural land has been expropriated from communities by the former dictator in an agrarian with devastating effect that denied access to communal lands across the country, causing disruptions to an otherwise traditional tenure system, negatively impacting production.
Although exogenous factors have contributed to the general decline in agricultural production, the constant human disruptions by the former regime in the name of food self-sufficiency have contributed to the decline.  According to the agriculture minister, government is in the process of returning communal land to its rightful owners.

In the last two decades, the role of government has increased in agricultural production while its role in extension services in support of the farmer has declined. with the obliteration of the Extension and Crop Protection Services, leaving the Gambian farmer to his or her own devises.  It is encouraging that the agriculture minister recognizes the problem and he's in the process of restoring these very vital support services to the farming communities.

The Cooperative Societies of farmers that formed the Cooperative Union empowered farmers and gave them ownership, stake and control of a very vital aspect of their lives have been disbanded.  Through their societies - owned and operated on behalf of farmers - local farmers were able to channel their agricultural input requirements and ultimate distribution in preparation for the next farming season.

The Cooperative Societies also served as buying points as well as agent for agricultural credit extended to farmers.  The reintroduction of cooperative societies will put the farmer back in the driver seat while focusing government's role more in providing extension/support services.  It will also expedite the process of the private investor partnership with local communities to replace government whose energy should refocus on providing extension services to the sector.

For a very long time, lip-service has been paid to agricultural diversification with a disproportionate time focused on a single cash crop.  The economic value of clinging on to groundnut at the expense of other economic crops like cotton, sunflower seeds and cashew, is increasingly questionable.

Adding value through processing of our agricultural products has also fallen short, more out of lack of a secure and friendly investment climate under Jammeh, despite several government pronouncements and false starts under Jammeh.  The current political environment lends itself to new private investment policy initiatives that will attract serious investors in agri-processing. 

The horticultural sub-sector fell victim of the 1994 Jammeh-led coup d'etat with the expulsion of owners of Radville Farms, the leading exporter of vegetable produce to the U.K. market, as well as to Jammeh's clandestine mining operations and land grabbing binge in the Kombos that saw horticultural land expropriated.  Operators of Radville Farms, at the time of being expelled, were employers to 100,000 Gambians.  It is gratifying to learn that efforts are underway for the company to resume business in The Gambia.

Joint Press Statement by Cherno M. Njie and Alhagi Saidy Barrow

Cherno M. Njie
Alhagi Saidy Barrow

                                                     Joint Press Statement

Banjul – December 30, 2017   Three years have now passed since the early morning of December 30th 2014, when a group of Gambian patriots attempted with purpose and principle to overthrow the illegitimate, tyrannical regime of Yahya Jammeh. We paid a heavy price in the loss of three of our compatriots: Colonel Lamin Sanneh, Captain Njaga Jagne, and Alhagi Jaja Nyass. We are home today to our beloved homeland to pay tribute to these valiant men. We return to commiserate with their families, and their loved ones. We return to pay our respects to all those who, before and after that day, fought for an end to the 22 years of Jammeh’s rule. We return to offer condolences to the families of those Gambians who, since 1994, have lost their lives during the struggle for freedom. We return to sympathize with the many victims left in the wake of that odious regime.

We return home as but ordinary Gambians. There is nothing special about us. Our imprisonment, the momentary loss of our freedom, in the United States was but a small price to pay to add our efforts to the long quest to halt the misdeeds of tyrannical power in the Gambia. We recognized evil and, together, we made our own attempt to cast it from our homeland. Many before us tried to stop the despotic rule of Jammeh and his clique. A number paid the ultimate price—Basiru Barrow, Dot Faal, Ndure Cham, Saul Ndow, Deyda Hydara, Solo Sendeng, and countless others, many without name. May their souls rest in peace—they are not forgotten. The Jammeh regime imprisoned, tortured, maimed, and traumatized many; the list of victims, including Shyngle Nyassi, is tragically long. So, let it be known that these, the victims, are, in truth, the real heroes. It is they who struggled against evil, fought towards good. A brutal state machinery had trapped them, yet each had the unwavering courage to stand, saying no to dictatorship.

The testimonies before the Janneh Commission have revealed that the depth of the damage inflicted upon the nation extends far beyond the brutality of state violence and the horrible misconduct of the security forces. We are speaking of the theft of public funds in staggering amounts, so much so as to undermine the economic viability of the nation, imperiling the future of its young people. We are all, as a whole, the victims of Yahya Jammeh. But Jammeh did not emerge out of a vacuum —he was in some ways both a product, and a symptom, of our present society. He was enabled time and time again. We cannot pretend to indict him and, at the same time, absolve ourselves of our ruinous mistakes. We meant to suggest that citizenship naturally makes certain demands of us, chief among them are personal responsibility and the duty to hold each other accountable. So as we reunite with our families and fellow citizens after Jammeh, we must reexamine the makeup of the Gambian character in order to better see our mistakes. Tyranny, after acquiring the tools of violence, capitalized upon our fear and apathy; we, in other words, permitted evil to solidify its power, allowed evil to get a better grip upon our bodies. This must not happen again—or, to put it better, we must not let it happen.

In this spirit, we return also to contribute to the difficult process of rebuilding our lives after Jammeh. We will meet with a broad section of the Gambian community, to listen and learn, and to discuss the new direction of the Gambia, of its democracy, and of the challenges and opportunities we face. We are hopeful of working with the government and civil society groups to ensure that no one will ever have to make the decisions we made to free our country. We are hopeful for recuperating after the damage done by 22 years of misrule. We are hopeful for rebuilding a nation rid of such violent tragedy. We are hopeful for a country that is safe for our children, who do not have to fight such battles down the road. We feel that we have, in any case, no other choice.

Cherno M. Njie
Alhagi Saidy Barrow

Thursday, December 28, 2017

President Barrow's China interview: Another view

President Barrow in China 
A singular response to a simple question posed by a Chinese journalist to Gambia's president, threatened to obscure an otherwise reasonable and sincere effort to respond truthfully and accurately. 

President Barrow assumed office without pretense and with genuine openness about his lack of preparedness for the job which he admitted publicly that led him to solicit help and advise from those around him.  Frequent missteps from the Office of The President seem to suggest that the president is not being served well by his staff and a crowd of advisers. 

Barrow's response to the One China Policy question posed by the journalist drew the ire of his opponents and the sympathy of his supporters.  The question to Barrow was, to paraphrase,  you have been holding on to the One China Policy since you assumed office last year - the journalist meant early this year - "and you have been very dear to that principle, what's so strategically important about this?"  The phrase One China Policy was obviously not drummed into his ears since he assumed office, especially in the preparatory phase of his China trip. 

His response that referred to Gambians belief in "unity and oneness" seemed to suggest that it was in reference to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Gambia and China - broken by "the decision of one man and not the Gambian people" and not about Taiwan being an integral and inseparable part of China.  Barrow's response was perplexing enough to instinctively led the journalist to exclaimed  "great point there, Mr. President.  Anything shy of a complimentary comment would have been considered impolite, especially from a journalist from the host country.

Obscured amidst all of the hullabaloo was Barrow's less than thought provoking response but sincere performance in response to the other questions.  What his responses, in general, lack in insight, they make up in sincerity and candor - two infrequently utilized but valuable commodities in diplomacy.  At least, the journalist appreciated Barrow's comportment and responses by unabashedly expressing her delight at his use of the adjective "genuine" in describing the type of investors he's interested in inviting to The Gambia.   " I like that adjective you've used  - "genuine", she said gleefully.  Who is considered a genuine investor, she asked, probably insinuating that China is more worthy an investment partner than Taiwan.  We may be reading to much into this particular exchange because it was revealing from our vantage point.

China is very conscious of its position in the world, with the second largest economy and her increasingly visible role in Africa.  It was, therefore, not surprising that the 2015 Forum on China - Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Johannesburg came up during the interview.  It was at the 2015 FOCAC when China pledged $ 60 billion in economic investment in the form of grants, zero interest loans, concessional loans, buyer's credit as well as commercial financing. 

Conscious of the criticisms leveled against the West's economic relations with Africa as being one of exploitation, particularly of the continent's mineral resources,  China downplays its interest in Africa's natural resource endowment and instead lay emphasis on industrial capacity cooperation and what it refers to as "strategic complementarity."  This strategy is viewed with a high degree of skepticism among Western countries, citing Angola where oil-backed loans have been routine between the two countries.

When President Barrow was asked about where is The Gambia in China's blueprint for Africa,  the journalist had in mind what type of economic cooperation Gambia prefers and expect.  Several African countries have started to rethink Chinese economic policy and overall strategy and the debate is timely. 

China is still a developing economy with similar problems as ours - a youthful population and high unemployment rate.  While keen on exporting its labor intensive industries to Africa, it will be doing so along the exportation of excess Chinese labor which has serious implications, both economic and social.  Striking the right balance is what many African countries are grappling with because the sight of a Chinese laborer pushing a wheelbarrow at a construction site in any African city is difficult for an African politician to explain, much less justify, to an unemployed African youth.

President Barrow promised to exercise due diligence in screening prospective investors before inviting them to The Gambia.  We expect the same criteria to be applied henceforth to ensure proper an efficient utilization of public funds.  The public procurement record of the new administration has been nothing to write home about.  With Barrow's promise to his Chinese hosts, we expect him to see it through.  Who said the interview was a dud? 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Editorial: We prefer civility and goodwill to acrimony and vengeance

This editorial was first published exactly a year ago - Dec. 26th 2016


Sidi Sanneh 
At this critical point in our politics, persons wishing to join the progressive forces of positive political change must be encouraged.  In particular, former APRC officials, supporters and ordinary citizens ready and willing to add their voices to those of us asking Jammeh to step down must be embraced.  We must bring as many of them into the fold as we possibly can prior to the 18th January deadline.  Jammeh's refusal will inevitably lead to the loss of life, as well as destruction of property which we must try to avoid.

Our immediate goal as a country, therefore, should be to do everything humanly possible to avert military intervention that can only set us back even further than necessary.

The 22-year record the Jammeh regime will be bequeathing the next generation of Gambians is a challenge of herculean proportion that will require a conducive business and political environment to successfully address these difficult challenges.  Peaceful and orderly transfer of power must, therefore, be the main preoccupation of not only the incoming administration but of every Gambian.  And Jammeh is the main obstacle to achieving this goal.

We can only measure up to the challenges confronting us in these consequential moments if our parochial and/or partisan instincts are in check to prevent them from clouding our judgment. Jammeh's 22-year presidency has so negatively and profoundly transformed Gambian society that nearly every aspect of the social fabric holding our communities together is fractured and can disentangle, threatening the social cohesion Jammeh inherited when he seized power in 1994.

If we fail, it will be catastrophic for a country that once prides itself of having pulled itself by the bootstrap from the status of an "improbable nation" to one that held great hope and promise among the community of nations.  We must restore our lost national pride by first coming to terms with the magnitude of the problem we will be inheriting from the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh.

In moving forward, we must do so in civility and goodwill and not in acrimony and vengeance.  We fought Yaya Jammeh to return the rule of law and the reestablishment of our civil liberties guaranteed under law.  These guaranteed rights etched in our Constitution apply to every Gambian and non-Gambian alike, without exemption,

While appealing to our compassionate senses of fair play, we want to make clear that we are not advocating immunity from the law for anyone because no one is above the law and that applies to Amadou Samba and any other Gambian businessman or businesswoman who've had business dealings with Yaya Jammeh.  In an environment where the rule of law prevails, every Gambian is entitled to his or her day in a regular court of law and Mr. Samba is no exception.

Conversations with Amadou Samba:"I was never a business partner of Jammeh, I managed him."

This blog post was first published December 23, 2016. 


Amadou Samba, Gambian businessman 

To many, Amadou Samba is Yaya Jammeh's right hand man and business partner, period.  A few have even referred to him as "Jammeh's bag-man" and viewed by many as the sole individual who can lead the transition government to Jammeh's hidden wealth, inside and outside The Gambia.

Since we at have written extensively on matters relating to Jammeh alleged illicit wealth and/or business dealings, Amadou Samba's name has always featured, either as a central player or on the periphery, but always present.

So, it was, therefore, surprising when, in reacting to me referring to him as "Jammeh's business partner", he corrected me tersely and swiftly by denying that he was never a business partner of Jammeh.  His response was, and I quote "I managed him [referring to Yaya Jammeh], I was never a business partner of Jammeh."

He also said something that will take many by surprise and that is, as far as he is aware, all of Jammeh's wealth is in the Gambia and not abroad.  Of course, public records in the United States show that the $ 3.5 million Brentcross Road Potomac mansion although sold to the Trustees of the MYJ Family Trust is owned by Yaya Jammeh.

Mr. Samba said he fully understands the perception held by many because of his close association with Jammeh which weighed heavily on him.  Now, that load has been lifted off of his shoulders, he's ready to make amends so that he can move on with his life.

The cryptic nature of the response led me to ask for clarification in a subsequent telephone conversation because as he, himself, has admitted that the public perception is that he is intricately linked with the Jammeh business empire.  Was he managing Jammeh, the person or his businesses to which he replied that he was managing Jammeh, the person, because he was unpredictable and erratic as he was impulsive.

On the Panama Papers, which was the subject of a couple of blog posts, Mr. Samba admitted that all the companies listed were registered in his holding company's name and stressed the fact that they were companies and not bank accounts.  In our coverage of the issue also we cautioned readers that "operating off-shore accounts and/or companies in and of themselves may not be illegal" unless the origin or origins of the funds are derived from illegal activities such as arms trafficking, drugs or other forms of international criminal activities.

He cited tax shelter as the reason of operating these companies offshore.  According to him, operating these companies from Panama made business sense but became "less interesting" once Britain started to clamp down on offshore evasion "is using a non-UK. jurisdiction with the objective of evading UK tax,.  He decided to close them and they have not been operational since the new laws came into effect and enforcement intensified.*

We have been working on the Panama Papers for several months now with little progress.  Offshore financial transactions are difficult to trace and the legal huddles insurmountable even for forensic accountants and international lawyers activities much less a lone blogger with a couple of volunteers who help in research.

What investigative reporters working for internationally reputable news agencies and companies have said is that the $ 900,000,000 listed under the three registered companies may represent the total proceeds that passed through those companies, and do not necessarily mean money stashed in some bank fault somewhere.

During our third telephone interview, the $ 900,000,000 figure was disputed by Amadou Samba which, according to him, is substantially different from the total turnover of all his companies.  He said he doesn't know where the figure came from.  Needless to say that the services of competent forensic accountants and lawyers are needed to thoroughly investigate these accounts with a view to confirming or otherwise Mr. Amadou Samba's claims.

On the re-establishment of the rule of law:  Mr. Amadou Samba has made clear in his letter to Jammeh where his heart is - in The Gambia with his wife, children and grandchildren.  "Gambia is my home and I will never live anywhere else", he said to me.  He said he will return home once the rule of law is established under the new political order.  He believes strongly that under President-elect Adama Barrow, the rule of law will be re-established at which time he will subject himself to any and all legal scrutiny.

 ----------------------------------- #########-----------------------------------

*We are also in possession of some additional background information about AMASA Holding Company through which Mr. Samba's property development business in the UK was handled until it ceased operation around 2013 when the new offshore tax laws were amended lifting capital gains tax exemption for non-UK residents.

In our next installment, we will delve into the Airport, Arch-22 and Farafenni APRC Hospital and the Amadou Samba building (on Pipeline Rd) that collapsed that resulted in loss of lives.

Amadou Samba speaks: advises Jammeh to cooperate with President-elect Barrow for smooth and orderly transfer of power

This is the first in a series of blog posts that were first published a year ago.
As the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh is nearly
six months old and the United States has commenced issuing sanctions against
Yaya Jammeh and some of his close associates. Gambians, including the Commission, must take stock as part of national justice and reconciliation process.

This post was first published December 22, 2016.


Amadou Samba 
As Yaya Jammeh political fortunes dwindle, his future uncertain and untenable with every passing hour, Gambians of all shades and hue are also coming to terms with the inevitable - the fall from power and grace of one of Africa's most colorful dictators.

One such Gambian is Amadou Samba, a Gambian businessman who has been among the first to declare support to the then 29-year old obscure army lieutenant who successfully mounted a coup d'etat on the 22nd July 1994 that deposed the government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.

Mr. Samba has been at Jammeh's side throughout the 22-years that Jammeh had ruled The Gambia with an iron fist that has brought pain and suffering to many citizens inside and outside the country.   However, what appeared to have been unquestioning loyalty, fueled, in part, by business interests, began to give way to practical realities when Jammeh failed to secure a 5th term as Gambia's president.

What followed after the results were declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in favor of Adama Barrow was an avalanche of denunciations of Jammeh's 22-year dictatorship and euphoric celebrations of joy by both supporters of the political alliance including some supporters of the ruling Yaya Jammeh's APRC party.

In an authenticated letter in our possession from Amadou Samba to the outgoing president Jammeh, dated Friday 16th day of December 2016 and entitled "Peace and Stability in The Gambia", the businessman and confidante of Jammeh praised Jammeh for his December 2nd declaration on national television that was beamed across the world in which he conceded defeat to Adama Barrow and promised cooperation that will guarantee a smooth and orderly transfer of power to the President-elect Barrow.  He said in the letter " This noble gesture of yours was applauded around the world.  It generated many positive references from newspapers and statesmen around the world including President Barack Obama and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

However, "since your statement of December 9th, [reneging on his December 2nd concession] many organizations including the UN Security Council, the USA, the EU, the African Union, The Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders and others have all asked that you respect the choice of the Gambian people made on the December 1st 2016 elections.  Given this strong global reaction, it is important  to reflect on the fact that the Gambian people have made their choice and the world community is strongly supporting this choice."

Amadou Samba reminded Jammeh that throughout his 35 years business experience, has achieved "many successes and endured many setbacks".  He has also been "a supporter of the APRC from its earliest days" who has "freely contributed to many projects undertaken by the APRC Administration my own pocket."

The Gambian businessman implored Jammeh "to cooperate with President-elect Adama Barrow  for a smooth transition" and affirm his conviction that "the wisest course of action today is to undertake a process of respecting the commitment Your Excellency made on national television on December 2nd 2016 of cooperating with President-elect Adama Barrow for a smooth transition."

Mr. Samba concluded his letter by further imploring Jammeh "to cooperate with your (his) fellow ECOWAS Presidents and Members to ensure that peace and stability shall forever reign in our motherland."

Our sources in Banjul are reporting that when Jammeh called Amadou Samba, whose precise location as we go to press is unknown, similar sentiments expressed in his letter were verbally communicated to Jammeh who proceeded to slam the phone of Amadou Samba's ears.  We are assuming that it as a result of this incident - probably, among many others -  that led the Gambian businessman to record his views in the letter that is being liberally quoted here. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Toward a depoliticized civil service

The politicization of the Gambian Civil Service started with the purging of the senior cadre of a service that was considered by many in Africa as one of the best in the continent.  Small, but very efficient, in helping initial and, ultimately, implementing government policies, the civil service quickly developed a reputation as a leading recruitment ground for many international organizations. 

The success of the service was partly due to the ability of President Jawara to keep it as apolitical as possible with a rigid seniority system to guarantee stability.  The conscious decision to keep politics out of the civil service and Sir Dawda’s ability to spot and retain bureaucratic talents, the likes of Eric Christensen, Francis Mboge, Dr. J. Ayo-Langley and Abdou Sara Janha to lead the Civil Service as Secretary General.  These personalities were the custodians a Civil Service that prided itself of its independence from political interference, to ensure that it served the interest of the Gambian people and not any politician or political party. 

The 1994 coup ushered in a new era that was heavy on politics and light on everything else that contributed to an orderly and transparent bureaucracy.  The rules of the road governing the civil service were ignored, trampled upon and eventually discarded in favor of opaque and unwritten rules and regulations manufactured along the way by Jammeh designed to satisfy their thirst for money to buy their way to permanency and absolute power. 

Internationally-certified and standard procurement systems and procedures were deemed to be too transparent and cumbersome and thus do not lend themselves to rapid implementation of their programs financed with loan from Taiwan that Gambians will have to pay.  These procedures were thrown overboard by the AFPRC.   

Contracts were awarded willy-nilly without tender and that includes the first projects under the junta such as the airport terminal building and Arch-22 to memorialize their illegal and unconstitutional treasonable acts of July 22, 1994.  Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh replaced the Major Tender in awarding contracts, contrary to every rule in the procurement book.

Fast forward to 2017.  The Coalition Government headed by President Adama Barrow inherited all of the structural changes Jammeh effected during his 22-year dictatorship, and the hope has been that the new administration will start the deconstruction process to rid the system of prevalent crony capitalist   embedded in the Civil Service.

An overhaul of the civil service with a view to restructuring it to meet the challenges of the new era is imperative.  The rationalization of its staffing - both numerically and qualitatively – is a matter of must and a prerequisite for a successful generation and implementation of appropriate policy measures to address the myriad of problems that threatens the stability and, in turn, the economic progress of the country.  The initial staff audit that was recently concluded is a start but not sufficient to provide a true and accurate profile of the civil service inherited from Jammeh.  

Unfortunately, the trend since last January suggests that the heavily politicized administrative infrastructure that Jammeh constructed to maintain his dictatorship for twenty-two years is still intact and relatively undisturbed which is unsettling to many Gambians.  This is what, in our view, is fueling the regime change versus the systems change debate. 

The depoliticization process must start with updating of the Cabinet Manual, as well as the General Orders and the Financial Instructions which must undergo a rigorous public comment period and/or validation processes, as an integral part of the participatory approaches to our new and hard earned political dispensation.  A politicized civil service will rob it of its traditional independence necessary to provide unvarnished advice to the government of the day.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Panic has set in on the Jammeh camp

Now that the United State Treasury Department has identified some of Jammeh's assets which include some of the business entities that have been the subject of our past blog post, we are republishing some of them to provide background and context of hard work from all those who have collaborated with us and our sources over the years. 

This post was first published in October 2015 when the Jammeh regime was already sufficiently weakened enough politically that made it possible for the Gambian voters to turn against him on the 1st December, 2016.


Jammeh surrounded by soldiers
An ardent critic of the Gambian dictatorship was libelously called a serial rapist and a pedophile by a publication in a website owned by an international con-artist who goes by the royal title of His Royal Highest, Prince Ebrahim of the Koring Dynasty and a well-known business associate of one of Jammeh's brothers.

The Africa Specialist at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights was accused of biased, unprofessional behavior, and called him a Jammeh-hater.  A letter writing campaign was thus launched to get him fired from his job.

Now, a well-known radio personality who ran a successful television talk show in The Gambia and now in exile in the United States is the latest victim of Jammeh's smear campaign against what the dictatorship sees as political opponents, critics and arch enemies.

What is so unique about the latest attack on Fatou Camara is that the official mouthpiece of the Jammeh dictatorship, The Daily Observer (DO), was used to reproduce a purported cautionary statement the authorities claim she wrote when she was detained at the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in September 2013.  The material used appeared to have been doctored and fabrications added to make it salacious.  This appears to be the first time that the DO is being used to personally attack a non-politician in this manner, and a female at that.

The fact that the regime of Yaya Jammeh will stoop to such a low level by reproducing an official document in the form of a Cautionary Statement meant for the exclusive use in the judicial process is further demonstration of the amateurish character of a regime that continues to display high level of incompetence and vindictiveness that fittingly explains Gambia's current political predicament.

It is evident that the regime has decided to adopt a scorched-earth policy to deal with its enemies - real and perceived - using both the official media, and other communication outlets, owned and operated by supporters like Kora Broadcasting and Gambian Inquirer as part of Jammeh's propaganda machine in readiness for the 2016 elections.  It is no secret that the diaspora is campaigning very hard for the exclusion of Jammeh from the 2016 elections when he would have been in power for 22 years.

The media conglomerate put together by the dissidents living abroad is unmatched, both in terms of content, reach and sophistication.   This media infrastructure has been further enhanced by the cooperation that exists between this network of online radios and websites, exchanging programs and guests across the internet.

The superior media arrangement by the diaspora led us to observe the panic within the Jammeh camp following the sudden burst of nervous reactions from Kora Broadcasting, Gambia Inquirer and Daily Observer. The Gambia Radio and Television Service is next in the Jammeh arsenal to be used against diaspora Gambians.  What a shame and an inappropriate way of using scarce state resources in a battle that the oppressed Gambian people will ultimately triumph against an evil, corrupt and incompetent regime.             

KORA Broadcasting Corporation is scam by a professional scammer

On 5th September 2015, we published this blog post outlining the extent of
Jammeh's scams that will continue to haunt Gambians for a very long time.

Read on.

H.R.H Prince Ebrahima and Jammeh

The Clown 

Gambia;s Paramount Chief Demba Sagnia
Former S.A.President Thabo Mbeki

Former President of Ghana - J.J.Rawlings

The CEO of KORA Broadcasting Corporation is "His Royal Highness Prince Ebrahim is", according to his official website of his charity called Future Africa Foundation, from the Koring Sanyang Royal Dynasty dating back to the Kabuu and Mali Empires.  The website also claims that Prince Ebrahim "is one of Africa's foremost investors and entrepreneurs that spans real estate, commodities, financial services, media and entertainment, as well as two charitable foundations."

The Prince is also "an investment banker, an African expert analyst on cross border risk, government and private sector structured financing and settlement."  That's not all.  His Royal Highness is also "a mandated development economist,ans sovereign government policies adviser serving numerous governments, multilateral, multi-nationals and NGO." He is also a "Member of Chatam House (Royal Institute of International Affairs)"

Prince Ebrahim is Chairman of the Royal Africa Holdings "with over $8 billion in pipeline development projects.  "He is arguably one of Africa's most energetic entrepreneurs making a significant impact across Africa."  He appears to own a bank too named The Africaada Bank "through which "he is set to revolutionize financial service provision on the continent and deepen financial inclusion."

The Advisory Board of his Future Africa Foundation has such recognizable names as former President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Prime Minister of Ireland Mary Robinson who was also  United Nation's Human Rights Commissioner, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Gambia's own Demba Sagnia, our First Paramount Chief.  Coincidentally, all of these dignitaries are in line " awaiting approval", presumably from HRH Prince Ebrahim to serve on the Advisory Board.

These are the kind of buffoonery that Gambia's dictator, Yaya Jammeh, has been subjecting our beloved country to.  This is the character that Jammeh is encouraging by receiving him at State House and having business dealings with him.  It is a painful experience to prepare this blog post if only to expose the type of embarrassing leadership that Jammeh provides to a once proud and serious country named The Gambia.

Gambians must rise up to stop this nonsense,  

'Prince' Ebrima of KORA Broadcast Corporation and Yaya Jammeh may face libel charge in a District of Columbia Court

The day of reckoning is coming sooner that we anticipated with the announcement by the United States Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Executive Order dated December 20th, 2017, designating most of Jammeh's known assets that included many of his companies that we have been the subject of the for a number of years. 

This blog was first published in September 2015 lists all of the companies that have now been linked to Jammeh, even though the front man was "Prince" Ebrahim Sagnia.  The fight has just begun.  The outcome of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh has also taken on added importance with international dimension. 

Read on:


'Prince' Ebrahim of KORA Broadcasting Corporation

Following our two blog posts entitled "KORA Broadcasting Corporation: What's in a name" and "KORA Broadcasting Corporation  is a scam by a professional scammer" both of September 8th, 2018 which were subsequently sent as twits, the reaction was the Prince (he's no Prince but an impostor) threatened to sue me and all those who re-twitted the two blog post which we were gladly anticipating.

Instead what we received was a libelous piece of garbage libeling me for being a child molester,  a rapist and that I was fired form every job I ever held for incompetence.  Of course, and needless to say, there is not an iota of truth to their "investigations."   As an observer of the Gambian political scene said "APRC havyweights are involved in this article" referring to the piece published under the KORA Broadcasting Corporation twitter handle as seen here.

We, at, are in consultations and seeking legal advise that, we expect, will lead to legal action against Prince Ebrahim of  KORA Broadcasting and Future Africa Foundation and any business associates, including Gambia's ruling APRC Party.  And if it can be established that His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh is in anyway associated in the bogus "investigations" that resulted in this libelous piece of junk, he, also, will be dragged into court in the District f Columbia.

As we have announced on Twitter, the propaganda outlet for Gambia's dictator KORA Broadcasting is desperately trying to slander critics.  It won't work and I am undeterred. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

FAR announces preparations for first well

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Economic recovery threatens by huge public debt, says IMF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about this for a minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gambia: Truth Commission to Uncover Jammeh abuses

Bill Should Ban Amnesties for Most Serious Crimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Banjul is dead, Long live the Port City of Banjul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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