Friday, November 23, 2018

SSHFC staff loan schemes explained

Sidi Sanneh 
Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation's staff loan schemes are known to have been notoriously mismanaged in the past because they lacked stringent and observable terms and conditions.

The laxity in applying standard loan rules appears to have been deliberate to favor the borrower at the expense of the corporation, and by extension its clients i.e. Gambian pensioners and contributors to its allied Funds.

For the schemes to be viable and sustainable, they must be restructured, including the liquidation, in one form or another, the non-performing loans contracted by former staff who have retired or are no longer in the service of the corporation for whatever reason.

During a recent interview, the Managing Director revealed that the total amount of staff loans outstanding stands at D130 million or approx. $2.6 million.  This amount, according to the MD, is probably more that the combined total of the outstanding staff loans of all the commercial banks. There are about a dozen commercial banks i n The Gambia.

There are three loan categories at SSHFC, Building loan which carries an interest of 3%, Car and Personal both carry a 5% interest.

The car loan scheme for senior staff is subsidized with the cost shared at 50/50 with the corporation after every 5 years, but according to sources, this facility is generally abused.  Senior level staff were accessing the scheme every 3 years instead of 5 years and buying significantly less than the value they claim.

For example, one will take a D400,000 car for which the corporation adds D400,000 for an D800,000 but the staff will instead buy a D300,000 and pocket the half a million dalasi difference knowing that in about 3 years another loan request will be made.

A condition of the housing loan is insurance - fire, allied perils and life - but staff was not taking our cover for any of these.  These were issues that the Managing Director and the Board of Directors were starting to correct which resulted in staff resistance from a handful of them.

There is also what is known as "free deduction months".  These are months when no loan deduction is made such as "Tabaski", "Koriteh", Christmas and other religious or traditional occasions which amounts to 5 to 6 months of the year, the impact of which is the automatic extension of the repayment period.

As consequence of these free deduction months, loan repayment periods are automatically extended by up to 10 years instead of the 5 years the laos was originally contracted.  Effectively, the extension means 10 extra years of low interest benefiting the staff and 10 years of lost interest to the corporation.  Whenever interest is waived, interest is also deliberately or inadvertently waived, in either way, it is the corporation that must absorb a tremendous loss.

There is no commercial bank that will loan amounts of the magnitude and at such liberal terms and condition and still expect to remain in business.  The outstanding loan amounts and the laxity of the rules governing these loans are unsustainable and must be addressed urgently.

The abuse will have to stop if SSHFC is to be saved.  And the micromanagement of the corporation from State House and/or the Ministry of Finance must cease.  The current financial trajectory of the corporation is unsustainable.  A few of the staff, especially those who have been benefited the most in the past would want to maintain the status quo despite the threat posed by the current state of the corporation's financial profile.  We say, the party, using pensioners' money, is over.     

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Monday, November 19, 2018

State House did not seek legal advice before signing the airport/border security tax contract with SECURIPORT and no exit clause in the contract.

The contract signed by the Interior Minister with the Washington-based airport security firm, SECURIPORT, and co-signed by the Director General of Immigration and the Secretary to Cabinet of the Office of The President that became effective on the 21st September, 2018 is already posing additional challenges for the Barrow government.

The $20.00 airport security tax for each airline passenger traveling to and from Banjul International Airport - or $40.00 for each return ticket holder - proposed by government to go into effect next January was immediately opposed by airlines and tour operators alike.  FTI, the German tour operator's letter of October 30th, 2018 addressed to the Secretary General informed government that proposed tax comes with added hidden costs of $15.00 due to VAT and rental commissions to be paid in the destination of origin, increasing the total figure to $55.00 instead of $40.00.

FTI's further informed the government that if it is serious in creating a conducive investment climate, authorities must guarantee that additional costs similar to those currently being contemplated will not be implemented because it will have dire consequences.  In fact, the Board of the FTI has directed that should the tax be implemented, any and all investment will be put on hold, including the $100 million the company plans on investing in The Gambia in the next 5 years.  Its summer plans are also being put on hold until an amicable resolution is found.

The TUI Group has also put the government on notice.  For many years, they have been operating to Banjul and have increased the number of flights substantially since. They operate 5 flights per week from Amsterdam and 2 flights from Brussels which means that over 21,000 seats are allocated to The Gambia this winter.  TUI also plans to operate in the summer, all of which will inevitably cause a reduction in tourism spending and therefore negatively impact the local economy should the proposed tax be allowed to take effect.   

Among the reasons advanced by IATA, the international air transport association, on behalf of member airlines was the lack of consultations with airlines prior to implementation.

The setting of airport and air navigation charges falls under the purview of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s policies on charges (Document 9082) and taxation (Document 8632) and the manner in which the proposed airport/border security tax was handled by the government seemed to have contravened these regulations.  Tour operators such as FTI, the German tour operator, hotel resorts and others in the business followed suit in objecting to the proposed tax.

In addition to the stiff opposition from airlines and tour operators to the new tax because of the threat it poses to the tourism sector that generates 20% of of the country's GDP as well as the second foreign exchange earner, the contract between the government and SECURIPORT was negotiated and signed without the benefit of any legal advice from the Attorney General Chambers.

And as far as it can be ascertained, the project was neither subjected to rigorous appraisal nor publicly tendered  to attract other eligible companies, making the entire transaction susceptible to standard financial and ethical scrutiny. 

To further compound the problems of the government of Adama Barrow, the contract, according to our sources, doesn't have an exit clause that would allow for the contract to be terminated under certain circumstances specified in the clause.  A standard clause in a government contract gives the government the right to unilaterally terminate a contract with or without giving reason or reasons.  The contractor in certain cases is entitled to a negotiated settlement.

In the case of the SECURIPORT contract, the government can only extricate itself from the contract if it is willing to pay the contractor the full amount of the projected profit the company is projected to earn during the entire contract period of 5 years.  Insufficient due diligence was conducted on the company, otherwise it would have shown that the company's Sierra Leone experience would have been a red flag based on local reporting by Standard Times Press of a US$16M that was allegedly fraudulently billed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It goes without saying that such a contract clause is as disadvantageous to the government as it is callous disregard of a fundamental norm of making use of a team of lawyers as an integral part of any contract negotiations for the singular purpose of providing legal advice.

In this case the lawyers were conspicuously absent and so where the ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal affairs of the government, the Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority responsible for managing the Banjul International Airport. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Border security tax is bad for Gambia's economy, bad for tourism and bad for Barrow's government

Sidi Sanneh 
The persistent and flagrant violations of the open tender process, otherwise designed to encourage and promote competition among prospective bidders, is proving to be the bane of the Barrow administration. 

We have seen recently such tender violations in the SEMLEX case, the CHINA BRIDGE AND ROAD CORPORATION and now with the SECURIPORT contract for the provision of border security services at will impose a $20 security tax on arriving as well as departing airline passengers passing through Banjul International Airport.  This means that every tourist visiting The Gambia will see an additional cost of $40 every time they visit the Gambia.

There is no evidence that the award of the contract to SECURIPORT was tendered.  And if exempted, no proof exists that the rationale for the exemption.  The lack of transparency in the tender process almost always results in the wrong company being selected at greater cost to the public treasury than when the project is tendered in an open and transparent fashion.

The impact of the proposed tax is devastating because the demand for air travel is highly sensitive to air ticket prices as well as incomes.  For instance, a 10% increase in the ticket price can result in a 10% reduction in the demand for travel for international long haul leisure flight (elasticity -1.0).  It is therefore important for government to plan well in advance for a series of consultations and to engage an air travel consultant, if necessary, with stakeholders, airlines, tour operators, hotel owners and local tourism-based enterprises.

Obviously, the process that the government adopted lacked transparency and was deliberately exclusionary.  Not only were tour operators excluded from the process that resulted in the border security tax, even government departments such as the Ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal matter of the Government, the Ministry of Works which is the line ministry of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority responsible for managing Banjul International Airport and as far as be ascertained, the Tourism Board.

As we have reported recently, the contract was negotiated and signed by the Minister of Interior, Director General of Immigration and the Cabinet Secretary for Government and The General Manager of SECURIPORT (Gambia).  Conspicuously absent from the tender award and negotiations process were the Ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal matters of the Government, the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Infrastructure,  Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority.  It is evident that government's preferred process lacked transparency and was deliberately exclusionary.

The Head of Operations of Meeting Point, The Gambia, a subsidiary of Germany's FTI one of the world's largest tour operators regrets to confirm that there was no consultations and as far as he can ascertain no one from the industry was involved in the process of assessing the new tax.  According to Meeting Point, "not even Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Hotel Association were consulted prior to publishing this [meaning the tax] and as far as I am informed, are adamantly opposed to this border tax."

The subsidiary of FTI believes that the border tax will probably discourage many from travelling to The Gambia for the following reasons: (i) the demand for air travel is price sensitive (ii) for many tourists, especially from new markets, Gambia is often not the first choice and when the price is high, prospective visitors will choose another destination  and (iii) the very existence of what is labeled as a "security tax" gives the feeling of insecurity i.e. the feeling that The Gambia is an insecure place; its a bad PR job. 

FTI finds the introduction of such a huge tax increase in the middle of the season is something unheard of in any of the markets they operate in. Although FTI has not altered its plans for the Gambia, the same cannot be said of some of its partners where the Gambia is a new product.  In such markets, they are seriously considering withdrawing because the manner in which the tax was being introduced suggests that the Gambian market is unpredictable and cost planning difficult.

Imposing such a tax will  affects FTI's plan to promote summer tourism because, unlike winter months, there are many destinations Europeans can select from at that time of the year.   

The mere fact that government is thinking of implementing a security tax "may deter foreign investments because it shows how unpredictable the government can be and gives the impression they focus on short-term potential gain instead of long-term sustainable growth for the benefit of the Gambian economy and its people," the Head of Operations opined. 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

French aid to Gambia comprises entirely of grants, says Gambia's Finance Minister

Mamburry Njie -  Gambia's Finance Minister 
The international press reported last week that France's aid package to The Gambia signed last week in the Gambian capital may have gone against IMF warnings to the government that 50% or future financial aid package must be in the form of grants. 

The claim implies that the Euro 50 million French aid package - significantly more than the Euro 30 million press reports - did not meet this criteria and thus will not meet the approval of the IMF.**

Ignoring the Fund's warnings may result, not only in the derailment of the country's Staff Monitored Program but may also affect its standing with other development finance institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank. 

The Gambian Minister of Finance in an email to us confirmed that the French aid package signed recently in the amount of Euro 50 million was the pledge made by France soon after the conclusion of the 2-day Donors Conference on the National Development Plan held last May in Brussels. 

He also confirmed that the entire package, contrary to current reports, is in the form of grant and therefore does not contravene any agreement and its is within the IMF guidelines as it relates to the proportion of grants to loans in any future aid package the country will be contracting.

The Euro 50 million French aid will go towards the financing of access to water in the urban areas to improve and develop sustainable public services and agriculture with the objective to increase food self-sufficiency and develop commercial crops.

Additional financing from the aid package will go towards budget support, the financing of the special audits of state-owned enterprises, support negotiations with external creditors to help the country restore debt sustainability and also to help government ensure that specific health expenditures voted in the 2018 budget are committed and spent before the end of 2019.

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**The difference between the reported figure (Euro 30M) and actual grant figure (Euro 50M) remains unexplained.  As soon as we receive clarification either from government or the French Development Aid Agency (ADF), we will be happy to report back.     

Monday, November 12, 2018

Airport/border security tax contract signed with SECURIPORT

The decision by the Barrow administration to impose a $20 airport/border security tax on passengers going through Banjul International Airport has attracted immediate negative response from IATA and the tourist operators. 

The fact that negotiations have already been concluded and a contract signed with SECURIPORT, a Washington-based security firm has further complicated matters and has posed a real threat to the country's tourist industry.

The contract between Government and SECURIPORT was signed on 21st September, 2018 with the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ibrahim Mballow,  Director General of Immigration, Mr. Buba A. Sagnia and Cabinet Secretary - Office of The President, Mr. Ebrima Ceesay, all three signing on behalf of the Government of The Gambia and General Manager, Securiport Gambia, Mr. Luc Keppens, as the sole signatory for SECURIPORT. 

The contract is for a period of 5 years, according to sources. The profit sharing formula or any financial aspect of the contract, for now, remains unknown. 

Under Addendum IV, the contract is for the provision of Civil Aviation and Immigration Security services and E-Visa Management System services for the Government of The Republic of The Gambia under the Build-Maintain-Transfer modality.

 In view of the threats posed by international terrorist groups in the sub region and in order to identify other dangerous individuals such as drug traffickers and other criminals that would use the Banjul International Airport, the government decided to upgrade its system for the screening of arriving and departing passengers to ensure the safety of the air transportation industry. 

To pay for the cost of the system upgrade, "government has decided to request the airlines to charge a fee to the direct beneficiaries of the system which are all the air passengers arriving and departing the national territory through the international airports."   

The border control fee will be $20 for each arriving and each departing passenger which shall be collected directly by all the airlines operating in The Gambia.  The Addendum made reference to ICAO's Doc 9082 which provides the framework within which charges and taxation to aid in the decision making process for government and airlines to arrive at mutually acceptable conclusions based on the four principles of non-discrimination, transparency, cost relatedness and consultation with users.

Effective 15th January, 2019, the scheme is expected to be operational with "airlines being 100% responsible for fee collection and its payments made monthly to the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). A late payment fee of 5% will be levied against airlines that will include the impoundment of aircraft and/or the cancellation of landing rights.

Airline crew and staff, children 0 - 2, passengers whose transit time does not exceed 24 hours and passengers whose flights are diverted to the Banjul International Airport re exempt from paying the border security tax. 

As we noted previously, tour operators and IATA are all opposed to the border security tax based on the principles outlined in ICAO's Docs 9082 and 8632 (on taxation) which would require extensive consultations with stakeholders.  The airlines are also demanding the cost bases of the tax, supported by breakdown of costs and revenues as well as traffic forecasts and airport activities, documentation that has been absent up to this point.

This is a developing story.... 
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In subsequent blog post, we will take an in depth look at SECURIPORT, its track record, the manner in which the contract award was handled and why only the Interior Ministry and the Office of The President appears to have been the only one involved in the procurement process, if there was one.  What legal advice was provided, why the Finance Ministry appears to have been left out of the process when the project has huge fiscal implications.  What of the Tourism Ministry?  What about GCAA that runs the airport? Does the threat warrant the huge cost to the economy, to tourism.  This issue is more than a security problem.  

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Airport/border security tax will result in D167m decline in GDP and approximately 2,000 job losses, says IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association of the world's airlines has issued a stern warning to the Government of The Gambia against its decision to introduce what the Barrow administration labeled as border security tax, if levied as is, will have a devastating impact on tourism and air travel into the country. 

It is a $20 tax schedule to take effect on the 15th January, 2019.  Initially, the proposal was for a $40 tax  subsequently halved to its current level which will still going to impact both the economy and tourism negatively, according to industry experts.

Based on industry figures, the introduction of the border security tax will result in 8,500 fewer passengers departing from Banjul International Airport.  The impact will be shared between those travelling within Africa (- 4,200) and those travelling to/from Europe (- 4,000).

The impact to the economy will be equally devastating.  Based on the UN's World Travel Organization (WTO) estimates, 35% of visitors to The Gambia arrive by air and the percentage of those coming from outside West Africa is assumed to be 100%.  The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on the other hand estimates that total travel and tourism account for 20.1% of Gambia's GDP, generating D9.8 billion and supporting 107,500 jobs.

Consequently, a 5% reduction in demand would lead to a reduction of D167 million in GDP and a reduction of 1,835 in the number of jobs supported by aviation.

IATA's warning to the Barrow administration was accompanied with a reminder to its international obligation as member of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) whose regulatory functions include policies on charges and taxation for decision-making processes, based on these four principles namely: (i) non-discrimination (ii) transparency (iii) cost relatedness and (iv) consultation with users.

As regards to cost relatedness, IATA is yet to be convinced that adequate consultations took place between government and airlines.  They are, therefore requesting that airlines operating in the Gambia be provided with information on the cost bases of the tax, supported with a breakdown of revenues and costs as well as traffic forecasts and airport activities.

In the absence of user consultation and transparent financial information, IATA and its member airlines will not be in a position to evaluate and appreciate the cost relation of the immigration/security services that will be provided and the level and structure of the related user charges.  IATA is thus requesting that a proper consultation mechanism be established so the requested information can be jointly analyzed.

IATA's letter to the Hon. Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure dated 6th November, 2018, is recommending the suspension of the border security tax based on the issues raised therein that includes what is referred to as "a meaningful consultation and proper discussions with the airlines."

As regards the introduction of the new immigration/security measures, performance indicators - such as waiting time in security queues, passenger satisfaction, number of security staff, number of passengers screened per hour etc. - must be put in place to measure the quality of service, productivity and cost effectiveness of the new measures.

Government has yet to respond to the IATA letter and the threats by local tour operators to withdraw from the Gambian market or scale back their operations.  The Government has suddenly find itself in yet another dilemma that threatens the country second biggest foreign exchange earner - tourism.  It appears that the government has committed yet another infraction of standard procurement rules and procedures by entering into a contract with SECURIPORT without inviting proposals from other companies that could provide the same service. * 

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* The subsequent blog posts we intend to take a closer look at the SECURIPORT contract, the procurement process and related issues. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gambian economy expected to grow at 6.6% this year, Finance Minister informs cabinet colleagues

Sidi Sanneh 
The Gambian Finance Minister reveals that the Gambian economy is expected to grow at 6.6% in 2018, which is 2 percentage points higher than the growth registered in 2017.

The convening of the cabinet session was part of the 2019 budget preparation process to prepare cabinet ministers for, what will likely be, the introduction of stringent belt tightening measures designed to lift the economy from its anemic state.

The Finance Minister stated intention, according to the official release, is to instill the ever illusive fiscal that has been promised to our development partners over the years with little success.  As part of the new austerity policy, a temporary freeze has been placed on recruitment into the civil service "unless extremely necessary".

We particularly welcome the rationalization of Gambia's representation abroad.  We have too many missions and embassies in far-flung countries that must be downgraded or closed.  In fact, this should have been implemented by the Jammeh regime back in 2016 as part of the Staff Monitored Program.  We hope that this time, the government will garner enough courage to bite the bullet for once.

Other austerity measures include strict adherence to the travel budget limits imposed on sector ministries.  The release is silent on presidential travel and we hope during the budget exercise, the overall budget of the Office of the President and the Office of The First Lady will be subject to the same prudent allocation and management going forward.

On the government revenue side,  effective January 2019 no physical cash disbursement will be allowed at service points as government initiate the digitization of the payment system to reduce level of cash transactions in the system.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Gambia Government wins a one year temporary reprieve from paying Carnegie Minerals $23 million

The contract dispute between the Australian mining company Carnegie Minerals and the Government of The Gambia in 2008 that resulted in a judgement in favor of Australian company is back in the news.

The arbitration at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) resulted in an award worth $22 million plus interest and arbitration costs. 

According to African Intelligence newsletter, the ICSID has decided to grant the Government of The Gambia a one year reprieve.  Government, represented by the law firm of Mayer Brown, sought to have the judgement annulled via arbitration and has stalled on its payment to Carnegie in the hope that the court will rule in its favor.

The ICSID's three arbitrators, Canadian lawyer Donald M. McCrea, Nigerian Dorothy Udeme Ufot and Spanish national Bernado Cremades, agreed to stay enforcement of the award against the Gambia for a period of one year on the strength of the argument that for the government to pay the $23 million award could further jeopardize the country's fragile economy.   

Gambia to pay Carnegie Minerals over US$ 22 million for breach of contract

This is a re-publication of a blog post first published in July 2015
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Astron/Carnegie, the Australian mining giant has, in a company news release announced that the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has awarded damages in its favor.  Carnegie (Gambia) Ltd took The Gambia government to arbitration in 2008 for breach of contract.

For background information leading up to the decision by the ICSID, check hereand here.  You may also want to check this blog, as well, for a complete picture of the story which will end up costing The Gambia several more million before it is all over with.

Total damages awarded to Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd, a subsidiary of Astron/Carnegie of Australia is in the region of US $ 22 million of which about $ 18 million is for breach of the mining licence by Yaya Jammeh, plus interest and arbitration costs of roughly US$ 1.5 million.

According to the Astron/Carnegie release, there is an expiry date by which a party must lodge an appeal.  It is uncertain how long the Jammeh regime has to lodge an appeal, if the government will pursue the option.  If not, the execution of the ICSID judgement which will certainly bankrupt an already financially distressed regime.

As regards Astron/Carnegie, it says in its release that "Astron will consider its options for enforcing the judgement against the Gambian government,"

One more reason why the Jammeh regime MUST GO and NOW.

Carnegie Minerals falls victim of the Gambian dictator



This blog post was first published in 20th January, 2014
Uranium mining in Niger


Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Australian mining giant, expelled from The Gambia by the dictatorship in 2008 has been found guilty and fined over U.S. $ 200,000,000 by the Special Criminal Court presided by a Cameroonian mercenary judge who is, himself, reportedly under arrest for unknown reason.

It could be recalled that in 2008, security forces raided the offices of Carnegie Minerals in Sanyang village and arrested its Managing Director, Charles Northfield, and accused the company of illegally mining for titanium, iron ore and uranium which was outside the contract which allowed for only zircon, silicon and ilmenite.  Mr. Northfield was later smuggled out of the country by a private British security firm to save their client from certain torment at the hands of a megalomaniac dictator.

In October 2008, following the accusations by the government, Carnegie Minerals(Gambia) Ltd filed for arbitration with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSI) which is a World Bank body established in the mid 60s for this very purpose.  A tribunal has been established comprising of two Americans and a French national, with both parties engaging the services of legal counsel with Jammeh retaining the services of Mayar Brown Rowe & Maw, Paris, France.  Both parties have already filed a post hearing brief on the 19th September 2012 which signals that final decision of the arbitrators couldn't be too far off after almost six years into the process.

Questions being raised now is why would Judge Nkea proceed with the judgement while arbitration tribunal in Washington is still deliberating.  Is it that Jammeh smelt the rat?  Is it a preemptive move in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling from the ICSI tribunal?  Jammeh's record of honoring binding contracts has been anything but good.  He's walked off contracts, seized private investor's property and has deported investors who end up forfeiting investments left behind in The Gambia.  And as a South African online paper at the time Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd ran afoul of Jammeh aptly put it " Being dispossessed is turning into a common occurrence to those that dare venture into Gambia, and as African countries clamor for investors, the list of countries being forced to leave the West African nation seems to be growing."

Accusing the company of malfeasance and breach of contract in 2008, after operating in the country for almost a decade was suspect.  More puzzling and illogical was the accusation that Carnegie Minerals was mining uranium, iron ore and ilmenite in the sandy beaches of Sanyang village, contrary to the mining concession. Granted, ilmenite was mined in the general area in the late 1950s but, as far as records go, there's no record of discoveries of uranium or iron ore deposits in the village of Sanyang or any part of The Gambia.

According to mining experts, the geology of the area doesn't seem to support Jammeh's claim.  It is seen rather as a ploy to get rid of Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd. in an attempt to seek out a more favorable deal for himself.  After all, the entire petroleum and mining concessions in the Gambia have been negotiated exclusively by the Office of the President with few officials having access to details of contracts signed with foreign entities, including the Carnegie deal.  Since they are not tendered internationally, they remain the exclusive domain of the dictator and few of his officials which explains why those who even worked in the Ministry of Petroleum and officials handling the mining concessions are either in jail or they have their travel documents seized and thus prevented from travelling abroad.  It is an industry shrouded in secrecy and for good reason, as we begin to uncover more of the corruption that permeates the Jammeh regime.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Gambians feel less safe in their own homes, fearful of political violence but confident of the armed forces to protect the territorial integrity of the country


The Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies has released its inaugural national survey conducted under the AFROBAROMETER banner described as a pan-African research network of researchers that conducts opinion surveys on wide-ranging topics such as democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues. 

The survey methodology includes a sample of the survey that involved 1,200 adult Gambians who were interviewed last July and August that yielded a margin of error +/-3 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

The survey is as refreshing as it is revealing, covering a wide range of issues that the government is currently grappling with.  On whether ECOMIG should stay or leave, the survey found that Gambians are split on this very vexing issue.  If you are young and between the ages of 18 and 35 or you live in West Coast and Upper River Region who have been identified as men, educated citizens and urban residents are somewhat more likely for ECOMIG to leave Gambia than women, the uneducated and those who live in the rural area.

The respondents, although split on ECOMIG, were certain of their views on the Gambia Armed Forces (GFA).  A majority - 60% - say the GFA "often" or "always" will protect the country from security threats and half (50%) say they are respectful to citizens.  However, only 37% say they get the necessary resources required to be an effective force.

At the personal security level, Gambians feel less secure.  In the past year alone, 40% of Gambians say they have something stolen from their homes, 36% feel unsafe just walking in their neighborhood, 25% fear crime in their homes and one in every fourteen Gambians (7%) claimed to have been physically attacked.

On political violence, the numbers aren't very reassuring either.  For instance, in the last two years, 49% of half of respondents have feared violence during public protest while 53% fear neighborhood violence.  56% of Gambians expect violence at political events and one in six or 17% actually experienced violence in the neighborhood or at political events. 

Public expectations and trust of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) established, among things, to investigate human rights abuses under Jammeh, was found to be low among Gambians.  When Gambians were asked the two most important outcomes of the TRRC, 34% cited national peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing, 30% hope for a proper and accurate record of human rights abuses under Jammeh and 28% expects those found guilty of crime to be prosecuted.

On the specific remedies and reparations for victims, they registered the lowest.  However, when taken together i.e. supporting victims and families (16%), returning seized property (12%), offering monetary compensation (8%), offering non-monetary compensation like free education for victims and/or their children and medical care (5%) and offering proper burial for victims (2%), 43% of those surveyed expects the TRRC to extend these remedies to victims and their families.

On the issue of trust, 46% of Gambians trust the TRRC and the CRC "a lot" or "somewhat", 29% trust the commissions or refuse to answer the question.  The TRRC and CRC are the least trusted even though they have barely commenced work in earnest, signalling a rough road ahead for both Commissions.

Among the other key institutions, political parties are among the least trusted with 38% and the highest on the question of trust are religious leaders with 85%  and traditional leaders 71% and the president 67%.

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The Afrobarometer project manager for the Center for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies is Mr. Sait Matty Jaw who heads a ten of ten researchers from the Political Science, Journalism, Sociology and the Development Studies Departments of the University of The Gambia.