Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The consignment of arms imported by Abubacarr Jawara are deadly semi-automatic rifles, the pistols are real, not "blanks", as claimed

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Abubacarr Jawara, GACH

The recent shipment of deadly arms and ammunition into the country has raised alarms in the country, as well as the sub-region and other agencies whose work it is to monitor the trafficking in arms and humans, regionally and across the globe.

The consignment of a single container of arms that landed at the Banjul port comprised of 252 boxes containing 1,263 pieces of assorted arms and ammunition has caused great concern and has left a country emerging from 22 years of dictatorship on tenterhooks, particularly the security establishment.  This event could not have come at a worse time when the state's institutions are weak and the coalition that formed the transition government in disarray.  The security sector is in no better shape.

The Inspection Report from the Turkish port from where the weapons were shipped shows that the 1,263 pieces were shipped, made up of 900 pieces of Crossfire Single Barrel Model BR-32 (Wood Forend), 300 pieces of the BR-33 with crossfire pump action Model BR-0, BR-18 and BR 21 for a total of 60 pieces.  For the pump action, the End User Certificate shows 50 but the Inspection Report from Turkey indicates that there were 60 pieces.

The BR-32 and BR-33 are semi-automatic that can be equipped with the BR-01 and BR-21 Crossfire Pump Action to convert them into fully automatic rifles.  So contrary to the press release issued by the GACH Security company, these riffles are far from being hunting riffles.  In the words of the weapons expert  we consulted, these weapons are "more suited for security detail than hunting boar or chasing predator animals off one's farm."

What is missing from the End User Certificate but is in the Inspection Report are the following: 5 pieces of Crossfire Mezine Fed Shotgun + semi-automatic and 8 pieces Sentetien (or Ententien) F-98T and F-99T pistols. The weapons on video display plaid on online television stations did show pistols as well as riffles which are all semi-automatic that can be converted into fully automatic mode.

In the GACH press release explaining the circumstances surrounding the consignment and what they characterize as "the the heart of this whole saga is the free samples... which included Blank Pistols."  The release further claim that these blank pistols utilize a blank ammunition which only makes a loud bang and does not have the ability to cause harm."

The pistols described in the GACH press release may exits but they are certainly not the ones listed in the inspection report confirming all of the items shipped from Turkey.  The pistols shipped were Sentetien or Ententien F-98T and F-99T pistols are real and not "blank pistols", as claimed by the importer.

GACH is also claiming that the BR-32 and BR-33 are "hunting riffles".  The weapons expert we consulted concluded that these type riffles are suited for security details and not for hunting.  We have total confidence in the expert we consulted who is a retired military officer who knows a thing or two about weapons.

This is the first in a series of blog post about this and related matter concerning our national security

Monday, January 7, 2019

Public anxiety persists over selection of privately-owned television station in spite of assurances from Truth and Reconciliation Commission Executive Director

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC), scheduled to start its work today finds itself having to issue a lengthy press release explaining the procurement process it employed that resulted in the award of the contract to QTV, a privately-owned and operated, over GRTS, the government's own national radio and television service  to cover the proceedings of the TRRC.

To calm the nerves of those the Executive Director of the TRRC ascribed responsibility for the "erroneous and wild speculations especially on social media", he assures the general public that the contract is for QTV "to provide technical backup for the TRRC media team by providing the technical capacity to record, edit and process the proceedings as necessary."  According to the Commission's press release, the Commission's own media team will be responsible for the supervision and distribution of the audio and video footages to all interested parties.

One of our fears was allayed with the assurance from the Executive Director that the contract with QTV did not grant the company exclusivity as it concerns coverage of the TRRC's proceedings which we take to mean that other media outlets, specifically the online radio and television platforms, will be granted access and authorization to cover the Commission's proceedings for their respective audiences.

We learned from the press release that a total of   media houses responded to the Commission's Request for Proposals (RFPs).  These were Impact Palace (EyeAfrica TV), QTV, Mediamatic (Paradise TV), GRTS and State of Mic.  Their proposals were based on the technical envelop comprising of four components on which they were evaluated: (a) capacity to record live proceedings (b) capacity to facilitate video conferencing of witness outside the Gambia (c) capacity to distort voices and images for witnesses who request anonymity and (d) capacity to develop a mobile App for the TRRC so the public can access proceedings.

After what was described as extensive deliberations, the Contracts Committee and the Communications Unit, it was decided "in terms of the TRRC's needs, QTV and GRTS were ranked as "the best qualified bidders."  When the financial envelops were considered the "balance tipped in favor of QTV."

The privately-owned and operated television station quoted D150,000 for every month of filming regardless of the number of proceedings or location where they take place.  The publicly-owned and frequently sub-vented GRTS television station on the other hand quoted D30,000 for a month's filming, D200,000 for a week's filming and D800,000 for a month's filming.  There appears to be no price variation due to the number of proceeding or location in the GRTS price quotation.

The Executive Director sees the TRRC's decision to award the contract to QTV as nothing more than renting the station's equipment and its personnel for lack of television equipment and personnel of its own.  And as regards accessibility of the audio and video transcripts of the proceedings to the rest of the media companies, he assured "every media house, including QTV and GRTS, will receive footage and audio recordings..."

Although the issue of media access to the venue has been addressed and their ability to cover the proceedings appears to be limited to note taking, the larger and more thornier issues such as copyrights, intellectual property and distribution rights issues are less clear but where the potential to generate substantial revenue is greatest to supplement government's subvention, especially to the Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations.

We have reached out to both the Information Minister and the Executive Director on these outstanding matters and any further information are ready and willing to share with us.  We will keep our readers informed including, of course, those following us on social media.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

The transitioning of the online press

Sidi Sanneh 
We drew a lot of flack for our December, 16th, 2016 blog post entitled "The online press must also transition", especially from proprietors of the media platforms, that prompted by the unexpected defeat of the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh by a political newcomer named Adama Barrow.

We postulated, then, that since most of the Gambian online press, at least, its proliferation and popularity, was in reaction to the brutality of the Jammeh regime and its attendant muzzling of the local press, realignment of the mission of the online press was inevitable as the next logical step.  In fact, we appropriately couched the choices facing the online press in business terms because they are businesses that rely on advertising revenue from Google and local advertisers.

These media outlets shared the following in common (i) they all served as platforms, outside the reaches of the arms of the dictatorship, for political activism in an otherwise hostile press environment and (ii) they were all foreign-based and almost exclusively operated by Gambian exiles.  With a laser-focused Jammeh agenda, their programming reflected their primary mission of defeating the dictator.  The defeat of Jammeh at the polls and the ushering in of a Barrow-led transition government led us to further argue that the new political dispensation will force the proprietors and operators of the online press to revisit, with a view to, revamping their business models and programming models that will focus more of hard news, educational and entertainment.

The rationale for a change in focus and programming was based on the need to turn a new page - away from the temptation of starting to focus on, and the bashing of the incoming transitional government of Adama Barrow "that will be trying to dig the country out of the hole dug by Jammeh..." and into addressing obstacles to a coherent public policy that the interim government is expected to face.  Although Barrow failed in this mission, the need for a programming that will provide the intellectual content and impetus to help find solutions to a myriad of problems created by the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh exists and urgent as ever.   

In spite of stating that "the new business model does not preclude investigative reporting designed to keep any government - including the Barrow government - honest and as corruption-free as realistically feasible", the blog post drew the ire of critics, especially proprietors of online press who saw it as a feeble attempt at interfering in the freedom of the press at best, and at worst an attempt at advocating their outright closure.  Needless to say, neither was the intent of the December, 2016 blog post.

Fast forward to December, 2018 - we are witnessing precisely what we've predicted at the time.  The commencement of the evolutionary cycle has commenced with the online press adjusting to the new political realities in the Gambia that will determine the viability of very online news outlet.  In response to demand, program content for the different audiences carved out of the realigned Jammeh-era audiences is now undergoing profound transformation, led by the new Banjul-based entrants into the media market dominated by government and state-owned-enterprises (SOE) and a few private sector firms.

The influence of government in apportioning the media market in exchange for overt or tacit support of its programs is beginning to be felt in the form of government/SOE advertisement and representational contracts, preferential treatment and other fringe benefits accorded to the most favored outlets.  Because of distortions in the media market, resulting from government's influential role in who gets government contracts, the most favored media outlets who are seen to be more in support of the government will thrive at the expense of those who are viewed as 'opposing' the government.

Therefore, online media outlets that can successfully adapt to the highly partisan political environment by being closely aligned to the government will survive an equally partisan political media market environment.  As we say, in these parts, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  Those who fail to fall in line by toeing the official line will either be driven out of business or face program interruption and/or censorship as evidenced by the recent spat of cancellations of television interview programs deemed critical of the government and thus ill-suited for public consumption. 

Access the Dec. 16th, 2016 blog post here: "The online press must also transition"

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Moment of Clarity for Vice President Darboe

Cherno M. Njie
A Moment of Clarity for Vice President Darboe

By Guest Blogger, Cherno M. Njie*
Austin, Texas
January 4, 2019

Please, pardon my naivete: I have been insufficiently cynical of the UDP-controlled National Assembly and the Barrow administration.  The recent shenanigans surrounding passage of the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAB 2018) and the contents of the 2019 budget have confirmed my worst fears about the erosion of democratic accountability.  Whether inducements played any part in this travesty, we may never know.  But a legislature open to strangers bearing gifts will be difficult to wean off.

While attention has focused on the late-night parliamentary maneuvers and the credible questions raised about the legality of SAB 2018, the real questions continue to be the unknown or unstated position of UDP, the dominant party in the National Assembly, and that of Vice President Darboe.  The Vice President is not an ordinary cabinet member, for he occupies a position of influence in  the executive branch, and, as head of the UDP, influence in the legislative branch as well.   The UDP’s dominance ensures that no legislation is enacted  without the support of its members.  The division within its ranks in the National Assembly concerning the passage of SAB 2018 was not a sign of nascent parliamentary democracy, but that of policy incoherence and disarray within the party.   

Which brings me to the specific issue of the Vice President’s position on the SAB 2018 and the national priorities reflected in the 2019 budget.  While we have heard statements from the Vice President extolling his judicious use of state resources in recent days, and it is reassuring to know that he conducts party politics after office hours using only party funds, the public has a right to know where he stands on the SAB 2018.  Did the Vice President have reservations about SAB 2018?  Was he consulted about budgetary priorities? If not, how does he justify continued service in a government that disregards his views on the most consequential matters affecting the nation?  The Vice President’s remarks,  which have been interpreted as veiled criticism of the fiscal profligacy of President Barrow, are simply inadequate in addressing the misguided priorities of the Barrow administration.  To have any credibility, his rhetoric must be aligned with concrete action on his part and that of the party he heads. This means that he must salvage his legislative majority and deploy it as a bulwark against the President’s misplaced priorities. 

As a heart-beat away from the Presidency, the Vice President, absent evidence to the contrary,  is presumed to endorse the SAB 2018 and the 2019 Budget which his party enacted.  He simply cannot signal that he stands apart from an administration in which he is a key member, indeed second in command, yet credibly maintain his position within that same administration.  He cannot have it both ways.  There is a fine line between distancing yourself from the President’s excesses to enabling and validating them.  The corruption and misplaced priorities of the Barrow Presidency are in full view.  They will not lessen.  We have seen enough to know that President Barrow represents infinitely more peril than promise to the Gambian political culture and national well-being.  By serving dutifully, the Vice President becomes inextricably linked to that legacy.  If we are to believe that his positions are at odds with the President’s priorities, chief among which is to elevate his reelection above all national concerns, and he cannot in good conscience serve the President’s agenda, he should do the honorable thing and make a clean break now.  This is what I mean when I say that the Vice President has reached a definitive moment of clarity.  I have a suggestion: Resignation.  This is the strongest rebuke he has at this disposal.  But, are the perquisites of power too  great to give up? The Gambian people deserve better. 

 ___________ _____                                        ####                                                       

*NB:  The views expressed in this blog post are those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily represent my views or those of the 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

PPP election results rejected outright by Interim National President and National Executive Members

BBDabo and OJJallow

Press Release
Observations on the Election Results of the PPP National Congress 2018

The Peoples Progressive Party held its National Congress at the YMCA, Kanifing, from the 28th to 30th December 2018 in accordance with the Party’s Constitution. This was the first congress after nineteen years which was convened by the National Executive Committee of the Party.

The preparations to the congress saw the emergence of two factions which came up with different dates, venue and content of the Congress. On the basis of the discussions facilitated by the Independent Electoral Commission, a compromise was reached on the date and venue. The two factions further agreed to have an elective congress. The two aspiring candidates that emerged for the position of Secretary General and Leader of the Party were:
  1.  Bakary B. Dabo, Member of the National Executive Committee, Member of the Central Committee, and national Treasurer; and
  2. Papa Njie, whose candidature as a bona-fide member of the PPP has yet to be approved by the National Executive Committee.
However, the process of registering constituency delegates and the campaign leading to voting were marred by serious irregularities which are now coming to light. These include bribery of delegates, intimidation of delegates by withholding transport funds and food, and registration of unqualified constituency delegates. These undemocratic practices are contrary to the principles, the values and the practices of the PPP.

In the light of the aforementioned inconsistencies and irregularities in the balloting and voting process, which are sufficiently serious to undermine the credibility of the election process, we hereby reject outright the results from the PPP 30th December, 2018 election as we feel it did not reflect the true wishes of the bona-fide members of the Party that met to elect their Party Leader. We shall pursue this matter further to ensure that truth prevails and The Gambian people shall be kept informed.

Thank you,
//Alh. Yahya Ceesay//
Alh. Yahya Ceesay, PPP Interim National President;
Hon Dudu Taal, Member of the National Executive Committee
 Hon Kalilou Singhateh, Member of the National Executive Committee

President Adama Barrow's End of Year Message



Fellow Gambians,
Friends of The Gambia,
Distinguished Listener and Viewers,

The wheel of another year has come full cycle, as today marks the end of 2018. In view of all the successes registered in the year, it is with pride, satisfaction and appreciation that I dedicate this message to all of you.

Reflecting on the past, 2017 was a historic year in the annals of this country. It marked the crucial turning point in the history of The Gambia and a welcome change of government. It was the year that, together, we won the battle against dictatorship, tyranny and fear. Furthermore, it was the year we laid the foundation for a truly democratic government.

Unfortunately, 2017 had bleak undertones. We came face-to-face with the realities of the economy; uncovered how the national wealth was plundered; and, sadly, discovered the nature and extent of the horrible crimes that were committed against the citizens of this country. The revelations and facts were terrible.

With much relief, 2018 will be remembered in the years ahead as the year we broke down barriers and unlocked the doors to success, progress and development. It has been a year of success, inspiration, renewed optimism and hope. The result is that we have been inspired to believe in ourselves and build confidence to run the affairs of this nation. We are convinced that, acting together, we can achieve whatever tasks and targets we set ourselves.

The whole world has opened up to The Gambia, and we have been re-admitted as respectable and dignified members of the comity of nations. The diplomatic relations and renewed friendships established, or mutually deepened with other countries and organisations, such as the European Union and the Commonwealth, are clear examples.

With consolation, the economy that made us nervous, has now been revived - thanks, most especially, to the European Union for spearheading the Brussels meeting in May of this year. Of course, we will ever remain grateful to all other international organisations and friends who have stood by us.

 Distinguished Listeners and viewers,

It is obvious that realistic plans with clear goals, targets, indicators and strategies are essential for national development. In this light, the launch of the 2018 - 2021 National Development Plan was another key achievement of the year. To cite a few more examples, other achievements registered during the year include the Legislative and Local Government Elections; the setting up of three important commissions; namely: the Constitution Review Commission, the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission and the Commission on the activities of the former President.

I am proud to mention, briefly, the successful reforms also initiated by my government. These embrace the security sector, the civil service and the law reforms. The list goes on and on. Based on tangible evidence that cannot be contested, it is conclusive that 2018 has been a year of tremendous success for the Government and People of The Gambia. I congratulate all citizens and our friends on these accomplishments.

Fellow Gambians,
Distinguished listeners and Viewers,

Life cannot be rosy all the time. Quite naturally, therefore, 2018 had its dark side. The Faraba Bantang and Busumbala incidents, as well as the standoff at the Social Security, Housing and Finance Corporation, are regrettable examples. In spite of the complexity of the challenges that emerged during the year, the right approach was adopted and appropriate action taken in each case.
I hope that the lessons learnt in the process will prevent the occurrence of such events.

The change of government last year sparked off a lot of political agitation and activity, which continue to gain momentum in the country. This is part of democracy. Nevertheless, the debates and discourses that underlie political activities should be decent, constructive, positively productive and unifying. This cannot be attained in the absence of discipline, proper education and orientation, maintaining the rule of law and respect for one another.

In a young democracy, such as ours, politics should be handled with tack and caution. In these circumstances, there is need for national unity to ensure that there are no cracks that enemies of the state can exploit.

Distinguished Listeners and Viewers,

The end of any year serves as a reminder of the importance of time in relation to how it drifts away unnoticed; how we grow older; yet, how more mature and wise we become. It reminds us of the urgency to attend to unfinished business and to rededicate ourselves to our duties and responsibilities.

Time and tide wait for no one. As a result, we must not fail to shoulder our responsibilities promptly. It is particularly unrealistic if we fail due to negligence, laziness, indifference, passivity or any other vice that deters progress. Let us be forward-looking, innovative, genuine and steadfast in order to realise greater achievements.

This is the right moment to make resolutions for the coming year so that we can be more productive as a nation. Accordingly, I propose that we resolve that each passing minute, hour, day, week and month of the year will be spent most usefully, most wisely and most productively so that we can accomplish as much as feasible.

I advise all institutions to update their Action Plans, and devise ways of addressing the bottlenecks encountered during the year. Success begins with proper planning.

Fellow Gambians,

There has been a lot of talk about citizenship, rights and entitlements. This is lawful; but, citizenship is not only about fighting for rights and a share of the national cake.

More importantly, citizenship is about belonging to a nation and contributing to the creation, development and expansion of the national cake. In real terms, the national cake is the national wealth, with everything that goes with it.

Like democracy, the national wealth is the creation of all citizens, out of the contributions of all citizens and for all citizens to enjoy. As it is a responsibility to defend one’s rights, so is it a responsibility to build and protect the national wealth. Successful nations have demonstrated this quite amply. Their human resource base has been at the core of their development. Where natural resources did not exist, they used their brains to fetch them from wherever they could. As the human resource of this country, our collective challenge is to develop the country through our natural and acquired endowments. Ultimately, instead of struggling to search for greener pastures elsewhere, other nationals should struggle to come and live in The Gambia. The youth, in particular, have a future here, and we invite and urge them to stay put and work with us.   

On the issue of crime and security, let us support the Security Services, and provide community support systems for them. This can be done if all citizens stand firm against crime, especially against illegal drugs, robbery, murder and corruption. Our development and happiness depend on the degree of our freedom, peace, stability and ability to attain our noble goals. The more we are committed to these noble values, the more we succeed. Let the security, peace and unity of the people come first before any other considerations. This is what good citizenship and selflessness entail.  

Our successes in 2017 and 2018 provide sufficient evidence and assurances of better days to come. At the current rate of development, every Gambian should be encouraged to stand by my government, be sincere to the nation and do the utmost to repel all agents of disunity, evil and backwardness.

Fellow Gambians,
Friends of The Gambia,
Distinguished listeners and viewers,

It is evident that we must have lost dear ones during the year - be they family, friends, neighbours, colleagues or other close associates. Some of us may have had bitter experiences or encountered difficulties. Therefore, I extend my condolences and prayers to all bereaved families. For all those in difficulty, I pray that ease comes your way. May 2019 be much better, much more peaceful and much more fulfilling than 2018 for every one of us.
Wishing all of us, together, brighter days and a more productive and prosperous year ahead, I pray that the Almighty God continues to bless the nation, bless our efforts and grant us perpetual success through His divine help.

I wish you all a very happy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.