Monday, July 30, 2018

Asombi Bojang's body expected in Banjul on Friday; Government delegation extends President Barrow's condolences to the Jammeh family

Vice President Darboe 
Vice President Darboe led a government delegation to the Brusubi residence of Ansumana Jammeh, brother of the former dictator Yaya Jammeh to express, on behalf of President Barrow and his entire cabinet, is condolences on the death of Asombi Bojang - mother of Yaya Jammeh - who passed away last Friday in the Equatorial Guinean capital of Malabo.

In a brief but solemn statement, the Vice President said that the death of a matriarch such as Asombi Bojang leaves a huge void in its wake.  The size of the delegation is a manifestation of the government's sincere commitment to uniting the entire country in times like these. 

It also serves as a reminder that the Gambia is one big family and when death visits a family, the community always pulls together despite our differences.

Vice President Darboe recalled that when his mother passed away in 2000, the former president sent a delegation led by Abdoulie Kujabi, former Director General of the NIA and uncle to Jammeh led a similar delegation to extend his condolences and those of his government despite the obvious political differences.

According to a prominent family source, the Jammeh, Bojang and Kujabi families appreciate the magnanimous gesture of the President Barrow, Vice President Darboe and the entire government, including but certainly not limited to members of the delegation that accompanied the VP comprising of the Ministers of Agriculture (Lamin N. Dibba), Fisheries (James Gomez), Local Government (Musa Drammeh), Information (Ebrima Sillah) Secretary to Cabinet , National Assembly Member Fatoumatta Jawara, Government Spokesperson (Ebrima Sankareh) Sefo Kombo North, Musa Susso and Kawsu Cham.

On related developments, a family spokesperson informed us that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the body of Asombi Bojang will arrive at Banjul International Airport on Friday from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.  The same source also revealed that Yaya Jammeh will be conveying a message of appreciation to the Government and people of the Gambia for all the courtesies extended to the Jammeh, Bojang and Kujai families during these difficult times.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

The body of Jammeh's mother will be returned to The Gambia; UN, ECOWAS and two Heads of State mission enroute to Equatorial Guinea

Mrs. Asombi Bojang with her son, ex-dictator Jammeh
Mrs. Asombi Bojang, the mother of the ex-dictator of The Gambia died yesterday, July 27th in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and the body is expected to be returned to The Gambia for burial.

"Asombi", as she was affectionately known by many, was born in Bugingna, Foni Kansala, West Coast Region. According to a prominent member of the family, she married Jungkung Jammeh of Kanilai and had one son; that son being Yaya Jamus Jungkung Jammeh who seized power in 1994, and the rest, as they say, is history.

A long term resident of Bakau, she was a petty trader at the local market.  She was known to be humble and very kind and generous, and in spite of being a woman of limited means then, she was a guardian to numerous kids from Foni to facilitate their attending schools in the Greater Banjul Area (GBA).

It was public knowledge that Dembo "By Force" Bojang, a prominent resident of Bakau who is currently serving as Religious Affairs Adviser to President Barrow "contributed immensely towards her welfare when she lived in Bakau" according to sources close to the Jammeh family. Even during her 18 months in exile, every effort by Mr. Bojang to get her to return home was met by an emphatic resistance from Yaya Jammeh.

In a text message from another family source familiar with my close association with the late Abdou Draman Touray said and I quote " Mr. Sanneh, can you imagine that the Touray brother ( Draman and Hassan) were providing some of her needs  and expensive medication from the US for the old mum.  In fact, Draman Touray offered to pay for her tickets from Malabo should she decide to come home."

Many Gambians, even in death, will continue to be highly critical of Asombi Bojang for not playing the influential role that is expected of a matriarch in helping stop the human rights abuses and high level corruption that was the hallmark of her son's 22-year dictatorship, and rightfully so.

However, Asombi was also known to be opposed to the undue influence Zainab Jammeh had on her son, and the fact that she (Zainab) helped implant a new class of Lebanese businessmen - in my book, they are members of international criminal cartel -  the likes of Mohamed Bazzi who are playing, to this day, a detrimental role in the life of our country - The Gambia.  Perhaps, we are expecting too much from an old lady, swept into unexpected prominence by the treasonous act of her son - an overwhelming role she was never prepared for or expected to play.     
Meanwhile, plans are afoot to transport Mrs. Asombi Bojang's body to the Gambia to be buried in her home village, according to a family source.  The Government of Adama Barrow is not expected to borrow a leaf from Jammeh's playboo by denying the body to be flown in and buried in The Gambia as the ex-dictator has done on several occasions when prominent opponents to his former regime died in exile.   

In a related development, a high level delegation comprising of the United Nations, ECOWAS and a couple of Heads of State will be travelling to Malabo on Tuesday to meet with President Nguema and Yaya Jammeh.  Although the mission was prompted by the death of Asombi Bojang, during such occasions the scope of the mission is usually broadened to discuss other important matters relating to the status of Jammeh and his entourage. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"All religions, including non-believers, are equal and safe in this Country": President Barrow assures Gambians

Barrow in Foni 
State House Press Release 

Bwiam, Foni Kansala, 24th July 2018 - President Adama Barrow has reaffirmed the commitment of his government to the promotion and advancement of religious tolerance and equality in the country.At a meeting in Bwiam, Foni Kansala, as part of the ongoing nationwide tour, the President said, from the onset, the government has always adhered to the practice of religious freedom and equality for all people of faith, including non-believers, as guaranteed by the constitution of the Gambia.

''We have different kinds of faith groups in this country, including atheist and followers of the African Traditional religion. We do not discriminate against any one religion because they are all part of my family, the Gambian family. All religions are equal in this country and I treat everyone equally. Even in my Cabinet, I have Christians that I have so much respect for''.

While saying that all religions and faith groups are safe to practice and have been catered for in the development strides of the government, President Barrow reemphasized that ''we are one people, and that tribes and ethnicities are not important''.

He added that he would remain committed to strengthening the secular republican status of the country, pointing out that was why within one week of assuming power, he reversed the declaration of Islamic statehood that was proclaimed over the republic by the former regime.  

President Adama Barrow made these statements in response to what he called ''detractors and hate mongers'' that are bent on planting the seeds of religious discord and conflict in the minds of unsuspecting Gambians by twisting his comments about the Barrow Youths for National Development.

Clarifying that funds from the Brussels conference will not be used by any non-government organization to promoting any one religion, he said the speculators and hate peddlers deliberately picked on the mosques construction issue to bring misunderstanding in the public. The President said he was shocked to learn in the media that he was engaged in promoting one religion against others or threatening Christian minorities.

Addressing the issue of the Barrow Youth Movement for National Development, he described them as a youth group that meaningfully wants to support his government’s development agenda. He was quite unequivocal in stating that he would embrace any other organization or individual that is serious about supporting progress and development of the country.

“I am open to anyone who wants to join me in national development. It’s in that spirit that we provided vehicles for all National Assembly Members, including the opposition, to honor and dignify the national office that they occupy. The vehicles would facilitate their movement and they don’t have to join passenger vehicles to get to work’’.    

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

ECOWAS Commission President and UN Special Representative for West Africa and Sahel concluded a High-Level visit to Gambia

The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, concluded on 13 July a three-day visit to The Gambia.
The objective of this joint visit was to renew the engagement of the two organizations to support the authorities and people of The Gambia in their efforts towards sustaining peace.
During their visit, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and Mohamed Ibn Chambas were received in audience by H.E. President Adama Barrow and by H.E. Vice President Ousainou Darboe. They also called on the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Trade, Regional Integration, Industry and Employment, and met with representatives of the diplomatic corps, international organizations, ECOMIG and civil society organizations.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General pledged to continue their support to the implementation of the National Development Plan and called on the people of The Gambia to fully participate in the security sector reform and transitional justice processes, and regional integration in West Africa.
On 12 July, H.E. President Adama Barrow inaugurated the ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority (ERCA) Headquarters in Bijilo.
Commission President Brou and Special Representative Ibn Chambas who have been following closely the political and socio-economic situation in The Gambia, underline the importance of safeguarding the progress that have been achieved so far, and encourage all Gambians to work hand in hand to consolidate peace and bring about prosperity to the country.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Right2Know (Gambia) demands that parliamentary inquiry into SEMLEX be open, extended and outcome debated in National Assembly

Right2Know (Gambia), a non-profit advocacy organization established a year ago to reduce the level of state secrecy in the way we are governed, increase access to information, and to protect freedom of expression, all in an effort to promote a clean, open and transparent government today filed a letter of complaint to the Chairperson (Hon. Momodou Sanneh, Deputy Speaker) of the Standing Committee on Defence and Security of The Gambia's National Assembly expressing grave concerns about the ways the National Assembly has elected to carry out the Inquiry into the SEMLEX contract.
Hon. Momodou L.K. Sanneh, Deputy Speaker 

Back in March, the Right2Know (Gambia) addressed a letter to the  leadership of the National Assembly to test the vibrancy of our new found democratic freedoms in the New Gambia by subjecting the Semlex contract to a public inquiry.  Recognizing the capacity issues that permeates the entire governance infrastructure, R2K offered support to assist, in any and every way possible, to ensure the call for a motion is adopted, debated and executed.

Although an Inquiry is being conducted, R2K is concerned that the appeal made last March is being adhered to y the National Assembly which is deeply worrying to the organization.  For instance, the fact that the mover of the motion, Hon. Madi Ceesay - Serrekunda East, is not involved in the Inquiry.  This is a highly unusual development, according to the R2K letter addressed to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Defence and Security, copied to concerned diplomatic missions in the Gambia, the Pan African Parliament, ECOWAS Parliament and the Inter Parliament Union.

The July 11th, 2018 statement by Mrs. Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Director of Press and Public Relations, Office of The President regarding the SEMLEX contract was also characterized as both "baffling and alarming".  The Press Director reiterated a position government held in over a year that "on the printing of national identity cards, SEMLEX is the contractor and the details of the contract are being reviewed.  The President has been briefed that the review process of the Agreement with SEMLEX is at the final stages."

This statement appears to have been constructed to have the desired preemptive effect since the National Assembly Inquiry is yet to take off the ground.  In short, the Office of The President has issued the final verdict on the matter, regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry.  Executive Orders and directives from State House still appear to be norm in committing public resources, superseding all public procurement processes. 

The non-profit advocacy organization also sought from the Chairman of the Standing Committee to clarify the supposed 10-day time frame allotted to the Inquiry for such a muddled up and complex procurement process that engulfed the SEMLEX contract award.

This process involves biometrics contracting, individual identities, private information, and other individual and collective assets such as passports (given to Africard owned by Mohamed Bazzi, who is being investigated by the Janneh Commission, and has supposedly had his own assets frozen by the Government of The Gambia and is currently blacklisted by the U.S. Government.  In a nutshell, more time, and not less, is needed to invite witnesses as called for in the ToR proposed by R2K.

Finally, R2K stated emphatically that they will not "allow our passports, driver's license, car registrations, death certificates and voters cards (which was blatantly illegal as it breached the Elections Act), to be outsourced to a company that is being investigated by Belgian authorities for illegal and corrupt practises."  In doing so, the organization demanded that the Inquiry be public like the Janneh Commission, its Terms of Reference be made public, citizens and experts be invited to proffer submission about the case and that the findings be debated by the National Assembly.


Disclosure:  I'm a co-founder of the 7,000-member Right2Know - Gambia, a non-profit advocacy organization, rapidly growing into an army of young, energetic and conscientious activists to protect our newly found democratic freedoms as means of promoting a clean, open and transparent government in The Gambia.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

African civil society call on AU leaders to do more in combating corruption

African civil society release a Call to Action Document calling for AU leaders to do more in combating corruption and halt 60 billion USD Africa loses to graft annually-
July 11, 2018 Johannesburg, as the run up to the first Africa Anti-Corruption Day, representatives of African civil society organizations, parliamentarians and other AU institutions released a Call to Action document, on 7th July, 2018, asking African leaders to commit to do more to prevent and act against corruption in Africa.  The document is far reaching and has been endorsed by a diverse group of stakeholders that work in the African transparency and anti-corruption sector.  The Call to Action document strongly provides that corruption and illicit financial flows threatens Africa’s goals to end poverty and hunger and to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, protecting the environment and promoting social inclusion.  This reflects the theme of the Year: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”. 

“We cannot continue to lose such colossal amounts of money as a continent, and yet wait for decades to recover what we have lost; we need to track, stop and recover stolen assets, if we are to have a lasting impact in stemming the scourge of corruption and IFFs”, said Dr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

There are ten (10) specific issues participants felt should be prioritized if the 2018 theme of ‘winning the fight’ is to be realized. At the top of the list was the need for the AU Advisory Board on Corruption to finalize the proposed amendments to the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption, as a strategy for ensuring that the it functions effectively and is able to competently implement the mandate established within the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, which 40 AU member states have ratified.

“This is the most fundamental and urgent exercise that the Board must do this year, which has been dedicated to combatting corruption, we have the support of the citizenry who want to see an effective board, and I believe we also have the support of the Assembly of the heads of state to amended the AU Anti-Corruption Convention,” said Hon. Miarom Begoto, chairperson of the AUABC. 

The AU Advisory Board has faced insurmountable challenges, which is not of its making.  The Board members are dedicated and capable individuals, but the mandate, which include a tenure system, which sees a two year mandate interspersed with an election cycle every 24 months makes it almost impossible to have a functioning entity that can discharge its role effectively.

“We have been calling for an effective AUABC for years, precisely because the current board does not have security of tenure, it cannot plan, and it has no prospects for continuity and sustainability; if boards are rotated every 24 months, effectiveness and productivity is undermined,” said Jeggan Grey-Johnson, Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional office.

The African Union has made at least six far reaching Executive Council Decisions, which are binding, aimed at strengthening the mandate of the board, yet most of the decisions have not been implemented.   Participants agreed that the surest way to demonstrate that there is political will at the continental level to tackle corruption as a collective, would be to empower the Board, through the decisions it has taken, and trigger an amendment of the Convention under article 25, which speaks to longer terms of office, and financial contribution of state parties to the mandate of the Board, which is grossly underfunded. Africa would also benefit from a strengthened Secretariat, which is struggling with capacity issues.    

The Call to Action Document also places importance of stopping corruption in the elections processes, by exposing all local, national, regional occurrences of fraud, corruption and illicit flows of resources, together with all any actions, which point towards the capture of public institutions for purely private illicit and fraudulent interests. 

“Corruption in elections has been a constant feature in the political contestation processes in many AU member states, which is why the recently finalized Access to Information on Elections is a valuable tool that AU member states should embrace so as to infuse greater integrity and transparency in the electoral processes,” said Adv. Pansy Tlakula, former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission- South Africa, and former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information - African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Participants also placed on record their concern with reports of gender discrimination at the level of the African Union Commission.  They raised alarm over media reports on corruption and management difficulties at the level of the African Union Commission, the Pan African Parliament and the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, and called on all stakeholders to work urgently towards speedy and credible investigations directed at securing and restoring the credibility of all affected African institutions.

Certain elements of the Call to Action Document will implemented by a working committee, and it is envisaged that concrete results will be registered by December 2018, before the Theme of Year of the ends.


This forum comes at a time when reports reveal that over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess 1 trillion US dollars in illicit financial flows (IFFs) (Kar and Cartwright-Smith 2010; Kar and Leblanc 2013). This sum is roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by Africa during the same timeframe. Currently, Africa is estimated to be losing more than $50 billion annually in IFFs. But these estimates may well fall short of reality because accurate data do not exist for all African countries, and these estimates often exclude some forms of IFFs that by nature are secret and cannot be properly estimated, such as proceeds of bribery and trafficking of drugs, people and firearms. The amount lost annually by Africa through IFFs is therefore likely to exceed $50 billion by a significant amount.

Despite the plethora of efforts deployed to combat corruption, it remains an endemic problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Anti-corruption polices that have been pronounced upon have not been operationalized.  Laws that have been enacted to promote transparency and public accountability have been flouted. Fundamental regulations and cardinal principles that serve as triggers to unlocking the barriers to exposing corruption, such as: access to information; whistle blower protection; and asset declaration have still not found their way into the statue books of many AU member states. 

African Regional Office of the Open Society Foundation- AfRO, works with national civil society organizations to conduct systematic audits of government performance in Combating Corruption.  It also does advocacy work and supports civil society better engage with regional and continental Pan African institutions through the following thematic areas:  Citizenship and the Right to a Nationality; Elections; International Justice; Youth Participation; and Security Sector Reforms.

The Advisory Board on Corruption- AUABC, is the emanation of The AU Convention on Combating and Preventing Corruption (AUCPCC) and it was created on 26th May 2009 under Article 22 (1) of The Convention. This organ bases its work on the provisions of this legal instrument and in this regard, it is the unique continental organization mandated by the African Union to deal with corruption and related themes in Africa.

The Pan African Parliament-PAP was established as an organ the African Union (AU) in order to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent. The ultimate aim of the Pan African Parliament shall be to evolve into an institution with full legislative powers, whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage. The new protocol granting these powers has been adopted by the AU and is currently under ratification by member states. However until such a time that the new protocol comes into force, the Pan African Parliament shall have consultative and advisory powers within the AU.

Multi Sectoral Working Group Against Corruption in Africa- MSWG’s hypothesis for change is that, given strong motivation from a diverse group of actors within an African sub-region, it is possible to build pressure at the level of the sub-regional body, or REC level, to strengthen national-level action against corruption.  The MSWG Eastern Africa region currently has 14 organisations namely: Advisory Board on Corruption Secretariat; Africa Regional Office-OSF; Transparency International (Germany; Uganda; Rwanda and Kenya); Uganda NGO Forum; Centre for Citizens' Participation on the African Union; East African Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies; East Africa Civil Society Organizations' Forum; Pan African Lawyers Union; Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARWa); Commonwealth Africa Anti- Corruption Centre (CAACC); Radio Veritas.

For more information please contact:
In Johannesburg, Jeggan Grey Johnson – Mobile 0836 200578- email:

Jeggan Grey-Johnson,
Advocacy & Communications Coordinator
Africa Regional Office, AfROPresident Place
1 Hood Avenue
PO Box 678, Wits, 2050
tel: +27 (0)     11 587 5000
fax: +27 (0)   11 587 5099
Cell: +27 (0) 83 620 0578