Saturday, May 31, 2014

State vs Individual responsibility: Time for some straight talk

Gambians enjoy bashing Yaya Jammeh a great deal.  Even those who support him publicly, bash him privately to their hearts content. We know because we are one of them.  We can also see it in the data Google collects for the sidisanneh.blogspot.com

Titles that include the words Yaya Jammeh tend to attract more pageviews than bland tittles like 'agriculture purchasing season' which, I wish, attracts as much pageviews if not more because it is more important to dislodging Jammeh than his human rights record.  We do not hesitate to blame him and others for our troubles than ourselves. We always like to put the blame on someone else and not ourselves.

To illustrate the point, we will revert to the past several weeks, and particularly to last week that saw, yet again, some outlandish claims driven more by politics of spite than anything else.  Some of us are guilty of rearranging the facts so that they validate and prop up our talking points.  Interestingly, the culprit is always the government : it is because of Jawara that we find ourselves  in such miserable condition, the scholarships were awarded to this group of students in preference to other equally or more deserving group of students.  Nothing about you and me. 

Those who were following the challenge we put to readers last week can attest to the fact that not a single name was produced to back up the claims. While we have no intention of prolonging the contest, we must say it revealed the existence of a wide gap between what the opposition parties during the PPP era cooked up as facts (when they were more about politics of distortion) that ended up being nothing more than the figment of the opposition's imagination.  

It was these false allegations that Jammeh used to justify his coup d'etat such as Jawara built one high school, conveniently leaving out Farafenni High School. Armitage High School doesn't count because it was build during the colonial era to use the logic of the Jawara era opposition but which came into prominence during the AFPRC/APRC regimes. 

To pretend that Jammeh and the anti-Jawara forces lack the rational fortitude to know that claims were designed to score political points rather than laying out the facts is to be both naive and irrational.  By engaging the populace in what was both frivolous and spurious, they succeeded in deflecting attention away from the real and substantive facts because the claims ignored the significant and tremendous strides Jawara achieved in government partnership with the private/religious groups that converted schools like Nusrat, Nasir Ahmad, Muslim High Schools into grant-in-aid with heavy government subvention without which they would have folded under their own weight.  

By the logic of the opposition during the Jawara era, these High Schools do not count because they were not built by Jawara but by religious or private organizations.  What they same folks fail to tell their supporters was that it was Jawara's government footing most of the bills that kept those insolvent schools from closing their doors permanently. 

The biggest expenditure items of these schools were teachers salaries which were met by government through annual government subvention to these schools, sometimes constituting 90% of the entire school's budget.  

We  have come to learn the hard way that educational success is not necessarily measured by the number of school buildings erected by government but by the qualified teachers in front of pupils with adequate school supplies, teaching and reading materials. 

We love blaming government for all of our personal failings as much as we hate owning up to them.  How many times have we seen and/or heard folks blaming government for lack of provision of adequate educational facilities for their failings or lack of success in life when a good part of those failings are more attributable to us than to government.  

How many of us come from the same ill-equipped schools, but yet managed to outcome the odds by that extra personal effort of putting in more time on our books and less on playing hooky (skipping in excess of a day of school).  At what point do we to say to ourselves that the blame should be on me and my family and less on the government. Folks like me, prefer to put my destiny squarely in my hands than in the hands of a government, any government.  

How many times have we seen kids thrown out of school for non-payment of school fees when the mother, or sister or aunty is covered from head to toe with gold ornaments worth a year or two at Harvard University.  The dad?  Who knows. 

These are truisms, yet we prefer to look the other way.  We prefer to look the other way because it is a more politically portent narrative to blame Jawara than to apportion blame to include our mums and dads and ourselves.  

So next time we point fingers at government, let us ask ourselves what did we do, as individuals, as families, to have contributed to our own human failings.   Before we put all the blame on Jawara and Jammeh, let us try to be an equal opportunity finger-pointers for once by pointing fingers at ourselves too.  Is that too much to ask?       















Thursday, May 29, 2014

The 2016 election season is now

The regime of Yaya Jammeh has refused the National Reconciliation  Party's (NRP) leader permission to conduct political meetings and consultations in over a 100 villages in the Upper River Region.

The Inspector General reasoned that because of the Women's Week celebrations and Women Empowerment Forum made it impossible to allow political meetings to take place anywhere else in the country of almost two million people because the security personnel is required to secure these two functions both located in Banjul.

This refusal is a shot across the bow of the 2016 Presidential campaign season, and a warning to the Gambian opposition of signs of things to come.  Yaya Jammeh's dictatorial regime will not relent.  We hope the opposition will take this as warning that unless a new modus operandi is adopted, 2016 will be a repeat of 2011; the opposition will be muzzled, denied campaign space and most likely leaders and supporters will end up in jail.

The opposition should not only protest the fundamental right of NRP of assembly, in spite of the fact that it has been an unreliable opposition partner, they should protest all future denial of rights of political parties to interact with the electorate in town meeting settings and to discuss their programs.

We implore the opposition to act individually and collectively to cultivate the attention and support of the international community through, and in partnership with ECOWAS, as the lead institution in the fight to restore second round voting.  50 +1 must be restored.  A comprehensive set of demands that will usher in comprehensive electoral reform must be formulated, agreed upon and submitted as opposition conditions for participating in the 2016 presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.  The battle should start now, and not on the eve of the 2016 election season.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The truth behind Mambury Njie's case

Mr. Mambury Njie has occupied or had direct influence in every significant financial and economic portfolio, in addition to serving as Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Taiwan in Yaya Jammeh's regime.  He was, therefore, a trusted personal envoy of the Gambian dictator and has acted on numerous occasions as the carrier of personal messages of his former boss.

The bottom fell off abruptly, as it is usually the case with Jammeh, between the former collaborators, and it has been a downward slide ever since.  He first faced the charge of wrongly advising Jammeh in a mining concession deal involving an Australian mining concern that, the regime claimed, caused huge financial losses to government.

According to the dictatorship, this advise was made in 2001, thirteen years ago.  After being intermittently placed under house arrest and police custody, he was granted bail only to have it revoked, we believe.  The charges were modified to add a charge that almost every senior official who has worked under Jammeh and has been taken to court was charged i.e. economic crime.   He was also charged with negligence of official duty.

The former Minister is privy to many of Jammeh's dealings, both official and private.  Mambury Njie served as Gambia's Ambassador to Taiwan, a post that is occupied by close confidants of Jammeh.  It is generally a well known fact that Taiwan acted as Jammeh's ATM, the financial transactions of which have always been handled outside of the budgetary and accounting process.  Mambury Njie has worked as a senior official in the Jawara regime in the Finance Ministry, and should, therefore, be familiar with the inner workings of the Treasury Department.

Since the diplomatic rupture, a lot has been revealed about the Taiwan millions and who ended up benefiting from them.  Former Ambassadors to Taiwan can shed light on the vexing problem of the hundreds of millions of dollars Taiwan provided to The Gambia ostensibly as development aid.  Many former occupants of this key position in the Jammeh regime have either died, or are in exile.  The three former occupants who happen to be in The Gambia are under close surveillance, and all are out of a job.

The mining concession that Jammeh negotiated and signed with Carnegie Minerals of Australia has been referred to the World Bank's International Center of Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) for arbitration when the regime suddenly accused the company of breaching the contract.  Mambury Njie is a key player in this and similar deals involving petroleum companies who are also taking Jammeh to arbitration.

If previous arbitration decisions, especially the one involving ALIMENTA is anything to go by which ended costing the regime US$ 11 million, the costs of the Carnegie and the African Petroleum cases should they win, will be prohibitively high.   Should this happen, it would then be easier to point fingers at Mambury Njie than sharing in the blame of mismanaging the economy.

Mambury Njie is Yaya Jammeh's insurance policy as he sees the freight train barreling towards him.  So you can tell that we do not buy into the entire notion all his troubles started with his objection to the recent execution of the nine death row prisoners.  They are deeper and extend further than that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gambia: A nation of celebrations in photos

This is a country that spends millions of dollars in celebrations from the Dictator's 49th birthday to the 7th anniversary celebrations of the discovery of the cure for HIV/Aids by Professor Dr. Yaya Jammeh. Gambians are forced to celebrate the birthdays of the dictator's children to Kunta Kinteh/Roots Homecoming.

The dictator has just completed a 21-day 'celebrations' of promise to make Gambia "Self-sufficiency in rice" in two years when the Gambia currently imports 95% of all the rice it consumes, spending additional millions of dollars in a country that people are dying of hunger. Oh BTW, FAO estimates that local rice production has gone done by 70% in the last decade yet this man wants Gambians to believe his self-sufficiency concoction.

The ruling party has postponed its Congress twice for lack of financial resources, yet the dictator is planning to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of his coup d'etat that brought him to power by asking every Gambian school child to contribute D20.00 (about 50 cents).  

The anniversary is actually on 22nd July which falls on the Muslim month of Ramadan.  August is the beginning of the rainy season when farmers will be busy on their farms that continue to experience a decline in yields because of poor agriculture policies of a regime that is too busy celebrating than governing.  Don't you worry, he'll clear an entire week for more celebrations even if it means interrupting the farming season. To Jammeh. enjoying himself is more important than work.  It's the ultimate.   The laziest person to head a country. 


Zizzla sizzling 


The Gambia is the only country in the world that has cut the work week from 5 to 4 days to make room for more celebrations.  Serious countries are adding hours to the work week in the face of stiff global conpetition, especially in the least developed countries but Gambia has chosen the opposite route.  When this national idleness will end is anybody's guess.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sports Council will respect sovereignty of GFF

Frankly, this has become more than a national embarrassment.  The firing, jailing, releasing, firing again, reinstating of duly elected members of the Gambia Football Federation (GFF) is not only a mockery of Gambian football but it has become an international embarrassment, and Minister of Sports, Alieu K. Jammeh an albatross around the neck of not only Gambian football but an unpopular regime that continued to interfere in football, and other sport as well.

In a newspaper interview, Mr. Omar Sey, Chairman of the now dissolved GFF Normalization Committee that we have been critical of, has made it clear that his committee did what was thought to have smoothened the pathway to sanity by ushering in a new Constitution.  According to the former Foerign Minister in the Jawara administration and former CAF and FIFA Executive, "structures were laid, and if those structures were followed then football will develop."  Mr. Sey also reminded Gambians that a free and fair elections were conducted which yielded the current Executive members of GFF.

Mr. Titao Mendy, Executive Director of the Gambia Sports Council announced over the weekend the lifting of the suspension of four senior officials of the GFF, namely Mustapha Kebbeh, Buba "Star" Janneh, Kebba Touray and Basirou Barjo.  The Sports Council is silent on the seven others jailed, together with the four, and then released last week.  We hope they will also be reinstated.

The Sports Council, in explaining the rationale for lifting the suspension, said they've reached the decision so as to ensure that the "pride we are about to lose as a nation is restored."  We ask what pride?  There's none left.  Minister Alieu Jammeh and his government-dominated National Sports Council have brought nothing but shame and disgrace to Gambian football by their continued insistence on interfering in the administration of the sport.  To them football is politics as usual even if it reduces The Gambia to a midget in the eyes of the wider footballing community.

As part of the agreement reached with the Gambia Football Federation, the National Sports Council (read the regime of Yaya Jammeh) has agreed to recognize the sovereignty and independence of the Football Federation.  We hope the same plead is made to the Gambia National Olympic Committee and all other similar sports organs because their respective Charters share the same principle of sovereignty and independence from government.  CAF has suspended Gambia and FIFA is threatening suspension.  Soon, it will be the International Olympic Committee if the regime fails to get its act in order.  

We hope the CAF suspension will not be reversed given the flagrant and persistent violations of CAF and FIFA laws by the Gambia Football Federation.  It is time for the GFF to look inward, instill discipline in players by demonstrating discipline as administrators and leaders of the game of football.  Cheating is not what you want to continue teaching youngsters.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Commentary on some aspects of PDOIS Agenda 2016

The People's Democratic Organization for Democracy and Socialism better known by its acronym PDOIS is first off the starting blocks with what it labels "Agenda 2016: a provisional Manifesto of PDOIS" which was unveiled in Wuli Barrow Kunda in the Upper River.

Since it is labelled "provisional", the manifesto is expected to be put through a process of validation by the PDOIS membership.  How long the comment period will be is unclear.

What strikes us immediately is the scope of the Manifesto, as we have noted on our Facebook page where we suggest that PDOIS is trying hard (maybe too hard) to cover most, if not all, of the bases.  The Manifesto covers everything from the electoral process and reform to the discussion of tactics to be employed to achieving some of the party's goals. 

Agenda 2016 has two stated goals namely to put a definitive end to (i) voter apathy and (ii) sectarian politics. Both goals are laudable in and of themselves but whether the strategy adopted will achieve these goals given that PDOIS has been conducting civic education since it became a registered political party in 1986, especially as it relates to voter apathy.

Civic education addresses one aspect of why voters don't go to the polls, the other aspect of voter apathy in developing countries like the Gambia has to do with how the governed see the governors.  A regime that intimidates by creating a siege environment around voting stations and around town will help drive voter participation rates down, especially in opposition stronghold.

Regarding sectarian politics, the Gambia was, and we hope, still is a model of peaceful coexistence between various ( to borrow PDOIS's own classification) "faiths, casts and ethno-linguistic" groupings.  A quick glance at the state of affairs of sectarian politics in the sub-region will convince any reasonable person, with equally reasonable knowledge of Gambian politics, that Gambian politics is not based on the groupings listed in the Manifesto.

As we are used to saying in these pages, Gambia has numerous other problems but sectarianism isn't one of them, and, thus, to make it a central theme of a political document like Agenda 2016 is only advancing the cause of those who attribute their personal failings on tribe, region, religion or cast.  Every society has its fair share of knucklehead politicians who see utility in exploiting these groupings for their own political ends.

We will not dwell further on this issue except to flag the danger posed by twenty years of ethic politics that Jammeh has insistently played which may cause a destabilizing effect down the road between his minority Jola tribe and the rest.   The fact that all of the key and strategic posts in government are held by members of his tribe has raised eyebrows, even among his own political party, but nothing beyond that.  The worry is what happens post-Jammeh.

Electoral reform, in our view, should have been the centerpiece of the Manifesto and the driving force behind the 2016 Agenda of all political parties. the driving force.  To relegate it to the second-tier of the document conveys the message that voter apathy and sectarian politics are the predominant factors facing the opposition in 2016.

And to suggest that opposition participation in the 2016 presidential elections should still take place even if Jammeh refuses to restore second round voting deals a devastating blow to many in the opposition who support electoral boycott if their basic electoral demands are not met.

It is our view that a strategic error of monumental proportion has been committed by signalling to Jammeh and his APRC that PDOIS is ready to throw in the towel even before the weigh-in.

We have decided limit our comments on the politics of the Manifesto and to leave the economic and other issues out of the discussion, unless the readership would like us to comment more than what we are prepared to say in the following sentences :

We do not support nor do we encourage the promotion of an expansive role of government in the management of  The Gambia's economy. Public enterprises like Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) and similar enterprises are often referred to as "the productive sector" and increasingly seen by PDOIS and confirmed in the Manifesto as the engine of growth of the economy.

Whereas, they may provide much needed revenue when they operate profitably, these enterprises are almost all bankrupt and a drag on the economy.  Government must divest more of its holdings in these public enterprise to private investors.  A comprehensive diagnostic studies of all these institution must be conducted prior to any divestiture program is put in place.

Finally, it is not government's business to operate mineral mines and oil rigs, even if it wanted to because the financial outlay and expertise necessary are prohibitively high. These sectors are the business of private mining and petroleum companies.  Of course, GASPROM and similar State petroleum and natural gas companies are the exception rather than the rule.

        

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Let us crown him King Junkung The First

Honorable Abdoulie Saine, Member of the Gambia's National Assemble from Banjul Central, proposed during the debate on the adjournment motion to crown His Excellency Sheikh Alhaji Professor Dr. Yahya Abdulaziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh, King of Gambia.  We support.

We may be in the minority but we support the idea of being a monarchy,.  "Let us crown him",  the Banjul parliamentarian bellowed from the floor of the National Assembly, an idea echoed by another member of the ruling party.

We were convinced by the reasoning advanced by Hon. Saine rather than the carrot he dangled before the opposition.  He reasoned that since the opposition has tried and failed to dislodge the dictator for twenty years, it is about time that the opposition come on board in support of the idea.

After all, if His Excellency Junkung is anointed King Junkung I, he reasoned, that will create the position of a Prime Minister which can be occupied by one of the opposition parties.  That way, the parliamentarian continued his flawless reasoning, the opposition will finally have a shot at running something in The Gambia free of King Junkung's interference.  Dictatorial tendencies simply evaporate with being crowned King.  For non-Banjulians, we call this Banjul Central logic.

Given the promise Hon. Saine's proposal holds, we are surprised that the opposition did not jump at the idea, head first, because it will solve two of their immediate problems (i) put them in the driver's seat as Head of Government and (ii) provide them a backdoor route to the reinstatement of Gambia's membership in the Commonwealth which was, if we can recall, a major preoccupation of the opposition.

In fact, he biggest prize of crowning King Junkung I of Gambia is putting the international spotlight back on the Gambia, once more, after the HIV/AIDS medical break-through, to be likened to the crowning of the late King Bokassa I of the Central Africa Republic.  The Right Honorable was probably unaware of this possibility which will be the surest way of getting rid of both King Junkung I and the buffoon from Banjul Central.

  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sir Dawda was a dictator? REALLY?

"The Struggle" has lost not only its way but its credibility if those who claim to be its leaders have resorted to calling Sir Dawda Jawara who's just observed his 90th birthday, a "dictator".   Who will take such characters seriously?

It is not an insult to call a universally-acclaimed democrat a dictator but it is rather a public display of ignorance and a reflection of the caliber of the representation of those who are the public face of the so-called "The Struggle".

The problem, as some of the more level-headed members of the Struggle have been advising, wisely, those in the struggle, the problem facing The Gambia is not Sir Dawda who has exited the scene almost twenty years ago, but Yaya Jammeh.  Despite such wise counsel from the sensible few, there are those who continue to propagate discord among "The Strugglers", and continue to insist of using the Father of The Nation as a wedge issue.   They feel more comfortable blaming Sir Dawda for their own personal failings than critically assessing the damage done by a vicious dictatorship under Yaya Jammeh with a view to charting a way forward.  This is not a preferred option because it involves a little bit of think and some hard work which is a bother for some knuckleheads who continue to engage in frivolity.

Even though the final chapter of Sir Dawda's record is still in the process of being written, we do not think that it is going to be influenced by a spurious and baseless statement from an individual or two.  The personal liberties enjoyed by Gambians under Jawara is a matter of public record and which can be attested to by even the most ardent opponents of Jawara.  Whereas distorting historical fact in the age of the internet and social media is very easy these days, it is equally easy to debunk blatant lies and concoctions.

It is these type of vicious lies and insincere posturing that we continue to impress upon the political parties, especially the PPP, UDP and GMC, to focus their attention on the revitalization, strengthening and modernization their respective parties, and avoid getting entangled in the current mess which will only get worse because of the clown side shows that have threatened the so-called "Struggle".   As we keep saying, the battle will be won or lost not in Washington, London or Stockholm but in Banjul, Brikama and Basse so it is prudent to focus all attention in the direction of The Gambia.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note:  We must reflect here that Coach Pa Samba Jow has denounced such spurious conjecture as unwarranted in his radio show.  We wish other leaders will denounce such spiteful claims as unacceptable, if The Struggle is to gain any credibility in the eyes of ordinary Gambians. Accusations of this nature are driven by political spite and nothing else, pure and simple.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Former Foreign Minister's safety is of concern

Mr. Mambury Njie, former Minister of Foreign Affairs who was released from police custody was returned to the High Court on 8th May where he faced two charges of economic crimes and negligence of official duties.

The former Minister pleaded not guilty to both charges of economic crime and negligence of duty.  But instead of being released on bail as was the case previously, Mr. Njie was remanded in the notoriously dangerous Mile II prisons until 14th May when the court was again adjourned.

Since he was relieved of his functions as Minister of Higher Education last year, he has been in and out of police custody and from one police retention center to another, and from one court to another.

Government's motives are being questioned by those who are keen followers of the regime of Jammeh. Family members and former colleagues are equally concerned about Mr. Njie's health.

We, on the other hand, are not only concerned but health, we are equally concerned about the physical integrity of the former Minister.  Mile II prisons is notorious for prisoner abuse that range from bad food to torture and poisoning of prisoners.  Mambury Njie entered the prison in relatively good health for man his age - the same age as Yaya Jammeh.

We expect the regime of Yaya Jammeh to release him on bail considering the flimsy charges leveled against Mambury Njie, one of the closest advisers of Jammeh who has been Jammeh's Finance Minister and his Ambassador to Taiwan (the most important diplomatic mission of the regime) among numerous other sensitive assignments.

"I was told so" is not enough

Note:  This blog post is unusually long and necessarily so. Debunking urban myths is not an easy task, especially myths concocted  over 40 years ago.
--------------------------------------------
President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, President Bill Clinton murdered Vince Foster, 9/11 was an inside job, the Holocaust did not happen are a few of the craziest urban myths that made their way, and embedded into the consciousness of many anti-Obama, anti-Clinton, anti-Big Government and anti-Semites around the world.

We can add a favorite Gambian urban myth concocted by died-hard opponents of the administration of Sir Dawda. These are members of a group of Gambians who have tried and failed with Kukoi.  They continued their effort through the electoral system they despised at every turn and at every attempt to be elected to either the State House or the national parliament.  Their failure then was attributed falsely to the absence of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

When they finally succeeded in helping overthrow a legally-elected government, their candidate established an IEC and he was "elected" president in the most rigged election in Gambia's history.  Now that we have an IEC, I guess we can say Gambia is a democracy.  We are learning the bitter way that the establishment of an IEC and fair elections are two mutually exclusive propositions - to have one does not necessarily mean the other follows.

The children of Jawara's Ministers, and those of members of the privileged class were awarded scholarships to the United Kingdom and the United States while the rest were sent to African universities or not at all, was the favorite urban myth concocted by the opposition, a spurious claim that unfortunately went unchallenged by the PPP.

To speak of Gambians in such targeted fashion is not only repugnant, it is degrading to children in this category because they are Gambians and students first, and thus entitled to compete for scholarship just like everyone else.  But since they have been targeted by opponents of the Jawara regime for political ends, I am forced to follow the same first and

It is unfortunate that his vicious myth took root.  And once firmly planted in the bosom of the Jammeh regime with the help of the anti-Jawara movement who by 1994, have become staunch supporters of Jammeh, himself a product of the same underground opposition movement, the lie was transformed into the Gambian version of the "Truther" Movement i.e. transforming a myth into reality.

Jammeh, of course, found great propaganda value in this and similar urban myths propagated by the anti-Jawara movement, especially among the youth.  He was able to use it to his advantage by suggesting to Gambian youth that their support will guarantee a reversal of what they falsely labeled as a hideous trend.  It has, indeed, been reversed, but to the detriment of those he promised scholarships.  He also failed them on the employment front when Gambia is faced with over 60% of youth unemployment under Jammeh.

Inevitably, the facts did not support the myth.  When asked to provide data to substantiate their claims, a blank is drawn.  The leaders of anti-Jawara movement are allergic to data and statistics ( a favorite of a favorite follower would put it). Instead, they'd rather rely on their very fertile imaginative minds to continue disseminating falsehood even in old age.  The unfortunate consequence of their dogged pursuit of false propaganda to gain political power is to continue to spread myths.  One would have thought that the so-called intellectual wing of this shadowy group would provide data, statistics and/or empirical evidence to back their claims.

Scholarship programs under Jawara regime were broadly of three kinds (i) government scholarship (ii) agency-sponsored and (iii) project-based.  Government scholarship provisions up to 1988 were never in excess of D100,000 - D200,000 (dalasi exchange rate of D1 : $2.) annually, barely enough to support a dozen Gambian students in African universities, but not enough to support one student in America.

Therefore, not a single Gambian student was supported by "government scholarship" to an American university while I was at Education.  The cost was prohibitive.  I am being categorical here because I was Secretary of the Scholarship Advisory Board under the Ministry of Education for four of the six years I worked there.  To say government scholarships were awarded to sons and daughters of Jawara's ministers or senior members of his administration for that matter, is factually incorrect.

I again invite evidence.  For any one, deserving or undeserving student named, I will name ten from humble backgrounds who benefited from Government scholarships to Fourah Bay, Legon, Nsukka renamed University of Nigeria, Lagos, Dakar and Makerere, and ended up contributing immensely to the social and economic development of The Gambia.  The biggest names in Gambia public service and administration did not come from Harvard or Cambridge.  They came from these great African universities on government scholarships.

Those students who went to Dakar with government scholarships, soon secured the more 'lucrative' scholarship from the French government.  Again, I am cracking my brain to name a single son or daughter of Jawara's ministers who secured one of these scholarship, however repulsive the idea is to single them out because their parents were Ministers or high level officials who worked hard, contributed immensely Gambia's development .

Agency scholarships were those awarded to students who met the specific agency's criteria, primarily comprised of educational attainment.  These included organizations like African Scholarship Program for American Universities (ASPAU), International Institute of Education (IIE) and I will include university-based scholarship programs.  American education was never a popular pursuit in former British colonies in Africa in the 60s to the mid-70s and some would say to the mid-80s.

It was not uncommon for Gambians to be seen, literally being forced, kicking and screaming to compete for an ASPAU or IIE scholarships to the United States because it was instilled in all of us by our British teachers that American education was inferior. Those who finally went for them were not sons and daughter of Jawara's ministers but sons and daughters of farmers, fishermen and cattle herders from Barra to Basse. Yes, there were Banjulians as well as rural folks, and of all tribes.  It is a lie perpetuated by opponents of the Jawara regime who cannot still provide proof.

Of course, the anti-Jawara will not tell you that it was not until the late 70s or early 80s that Gambians started going to the US for further studies, and every single one did so without the benefit of a government scholarship.  They were all 'can do' students, working all night and attending classes all day.  They are doing it to this day, flipping burgers, pumping gas and many other rotten odd jobs to get through school.

Those of us who bucked the trend and came to America in the 60s were less than a dozen and we knew where everyone was.  Most came on ASPAU, IIE or similar Foundation scholarship programs, and the rest of came through private scholarships from high schools that recruited African students on full scholarship. At the time, Gambians did not clamor for American education as the opponents of the Jawara regime would like you to believe.

The third category of scholarship is generally attached to projects financed by loan or grant.  Except in extremely rear cases, these scholarships and training programs are specific to the project, be it agriculture, education or infrastructure.  The eligibility requirements are usually specified in the project document that have been appraised and endorsed by other parties - the donor and government.  Any candidate selected under this category will undergo a vetting process to satisfy the requirements stipulated in the project document. There's little chance for any shenanigans and favoritism because the recipient is almost always someone already working in a job that is related or specific to the project.

Cost of education in Britain and the United States has always been the reason why government preferred directing its scholarship program to African universities. Government can train half a dozen to a dozen students in an African university for the price of one student in a top flight US or British university.  It was one of the most cost-effective measures that the Scholarship Committee adopted.  And to berate African universities like Fourah Bay College, Legon and Makerere is to be ignorant of the fact that the greatest Gambian public servants, administrators, educators and scholars had their grounding in these and similar institutions.

As a favorite teacher of mine used to say, its more about the student than the university.  It is amazing that the revolutionary vanguard is still blaming their favorite boogieman - Sir Dawda Jawara - to their personal failings even after they succeeded in helping overthrow his constitutionally elected government almost twenty years ago.

Until the overthrow if the Jawara regime, students from well-to-do families were mostly sponsored by their parents to the UK.  Very few families to this day can afford sending their kids to the US and the UK simply because it is expensive, even for the American.  It was never a fact that the sons and daughters of Jawara's ministers went to British and American universities.  I have been asking for the anti-Jawara movement to come forward with empirical evidence to show that their claim is not spurious, and all I am getting is "I was told so" or "I heard it somewhere". Well, that is not good enough. You either put up or shut up.

All said, I will be the last to claim perfection in fairness or otherwise under Jawara.  Scholarship Advisory Committee Members were "lobbied" by friends, family and colleagues, and at times 'discretionary and arbitrary' means were employed in some rear cases when the competition was close between two students. Even in these cases, the Committee had gone back to Finance to seek supplementary funding to accommodate an extra deserving student or two.  At least, Jawara's system was fairer and more transparent.

By contrast what did Jammeh do after seizing power?   He transferred the Scholarship Advisory Committee to his office, and to this day no one knows who gets what, how much and to what schools.  The very same folks who are still yapping about the scholarship myth are very silent about scholarships under Jammeh.

Oh, by the way, the latest from Jawara's opponents is that Gambia was not democratic under Jawara.  It was, according to one, "a semblance of democracy" because there was no "IEC" and that Jawara ran an "incompetent civil service."  Both claims are laughable but, nonetheless, are new attempts at historical revisionism that will add to their long list of tales or as we like to refer to them as urban myths.  I guess urban myths don't really die, just like great Army Generals, they simply fade away.  After all, there is still a high number of Americans who still believe President Obama was born in Kenya, even after he presented his original birth certificate.

Friday, May 16, 2014

UPDATE: GFF Executives released

Reports reaching us is that The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) president Mustapha Kebbeh,  vice president Buba "Star" Janneh and nine other officials, including Malang Jassey of the Ministry of Youth and Sports have been released from custody a little over 24 hours ago.

Although the conditions of their release are unknown, we continue to suggest that they be released unconditionally.  Their infractions are within the purview of the GFF, and the Executive can and should manage their own affairs, including taking disciplinary actions against its members without interference from the government.

The eleven officials are being harassed with the ultimate aim of forcing them to resign their respective posts. Under Part III, Sec. 1 (a) of the National Sports Council Act of 2000, the Minister cannot discipline the GFF membership unless the Federation "ceases to operate as a national sports association" as provisioned in the Act.  As long as the Executive continues to refuse to be intimidated and forced into resignation by the regime, the Federation is on solid ground.

If anyone should go, it is the Minister of Youth and Sports who should be fired.  He is incompetent, period. Gambians are absolutely fed-up with the regime that continues to trample on their rights and liberties as human deserving to a dignified life.

The GNOC should also resist any attempt by the regime to threaten them with jail time.  The regime, meanwhile, risk being sanctioned by the international sporting authorities to the recalcitrant behavior of the Jammeh regime that is constantly at odds and out-of-step with the rest of the sporting world.  This is not a surprise because the habitual nature of being constantly meddling in the affairs of the administration of Gambian sports.  Let these sporting associations manage their own affairs, so that you, as a government, can tend to the more important and urgent matters of state, like the staggeringly high percentage of youth unemployment.

We will follow developments of this and other stories relating to the Minister of Youth and Sports.  The guy is simply over his head.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Football clubs deliver ultimatum, threaten boycott

GFF president Mr. Mustapha Kebbeh and VP Mr. Buba "Star" Janneh
To charge ten members of the Gambia Football Federation and one Ministry of Youth and Sports official as the National Sports Council (NSC) has done is a travesty of justice.

The members of the Executive have taken full responsibility for fielding over-age footballers during a Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournament.

The fielding of over-age players that has plagued Gambian as well as African football is as old as the introduction of internationally-sanction tournaments by football's governing bodies like FIFA and CAF.  The Gambia's two FIFA U-17 World Cup and two CAF U-17 Championship, all in 2005 and 2009 respectively were largely attributable to the fielding of overage players.  Cheating is glorified and has become a way of Gambian life under a regime that views football as a political activity, and if you can cheat and get away with it, do it.  But when you are caught, I will not only throw you under the bus, if you survive, I will throw you in jail.

Jammeh proceeded to inject his huge personal fortune in football as investment, to use it as a propaganda tool to keep the youth vote in his corner by awarding cash prices and plots of land to "football champions." He has helped aggravate the plague until the footballing authorities introduced new measures to make it difficult to cheat.  Now, he is lashing out at the Football federation for committing an infraction that he, Jammeh, has encouraged and condoned since he seized power in 1994.  There are two culprits here:  the GFF and Jammeh.

The 22 representatives of football clubs have risen to defend the GFF officials by pointing to a National Sports Council (NSC) created under the regime of Yaya Jammeh to control football by stacking the membership with his political cronies and a disproportionate number of government Ministries/Department. The clubs are demanding the release of the GFF 11.  The clubs are citing Part III Sec. 1 (a) as reason to allow the GFF to utilize provisions under its own constitution to take disciplinary action since the federation did not "cease to operate as a national sports association as provisioned in the NSC Act.  

Consequently, the clubs have issued an ultimatum that if the suspensions of the officials are not lifted unconditionally within seven days,  they will boycott all league matches and other activities organized by the Interim Committee.  The suspension and the appointment of an Interim Committee by the Minister of Sports is violation of the Statutes of the GFF and the NSC Act of 2000 according to representatives of the 22 football clubs.

The National Sports Council Act 2000 is considered by many as the genesis of Gambia's sporting problems. The law gives the semblance of a democratic control of the game by the various associations, as required by the respective international governing bodies.  When Part II, Sec.4 (a-g) of the Act provides that the Chairman of the NCS is appointed by the Minister and the Minister of Education is a member of the Council, and so are three nominated members by the same Minister, where is the balance.

The clubs that are supposed to run their respective sports are now taking instructions and command from the Minister, and by default, Yaya Jammeh.  No wonder, football, track and field and others sports are in a state of complete chaos because the Gambia is unfortunate to have a minister who is over his head with no managerial experience with a high degree of partisanship that has irreparably damaged Gambian sports just as Yaya Jammeh has damaged all of Gambia's institutions since seizing power illegally almost twenty years ago.  

The National Sports Council Act of 2000 a very bad law that must be repealed are the earliest opportunity. Sports should be administered by the stakeholders who are the clubs and other sporting associations and not politicians. to assure a majority.  Until then. we stand in support of the GFF, GNOC and similar national sporting federations in their fight to take politics out of Gambian sports.

Some thoughts on the current online media fuss

The online Gambian media appear to run on two types of business models.  One, maybe two, appear to be operating a free market-based model or 'for profit' and the others operate 'not-for-profit' or 'nonprofit' models or what, in America, is referred to as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)  

Whereas not-for-profit and nonprofit models are used interchangeably by ordinary folks like you and me, to the IRS the two models are not synonymous, and therefore are treated differently for tax purposes.  We will not deal with this aspect because it is very complicated even for the tax lawyer.  

What we should be concerning ourselves with, and the question we should be asking is whether "The Struggle" is better served by the "for profit" model or the "not-for-profit" model, given the fact that the former must generate revenue to meet payroll and remain viable, whereas the latter tries to break even or even run as a loss - a loss usually defrayed by voluntary contributions. "For profits" cater to everyone who can afford the goods or services produced, and "nonprofits" serve a limited number of groups targeted for free or subsidized rates.  Take your pick.

As long as online media have staff in their payroll on full time basis (or 'run as a business'), they must operate profitably, and to operate profitably, they must generate traffic and to generate traffic, they must attract listeners.  How do they generate traffic to attract listeners?  Different media have different ways of generating traffic.

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of the above models, and in America, everyone is free to pursue the "American Dream", and the market-based model is the quickest way of attaining the Dream. What I find objectionable, however, is to pretend to be operating a 501(c)(3) when in actual fact something totally different may be happening.  

All Gambian online media must level with their readers and listeners, of which I am one.  Let me repeat, all models are legitimate and everyone is free to price their advertisements, construct other forms of revenue streams, including appearance fees, with the proviso that everything must be above board.  "Lu nekka nyu tekko chi yon." roughly translated "Let it be transparent and legal".  After all, we demand that of the dictator in Banjul at every opportune moment.  Opponents of Yaya Jammeh, including my very self,  must demand the same or higher standards than those demanded of Yaya Jammeh.  



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Central Bank is a threat to the financial system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, May 12, 2014

Jammeh plans to arrest GNOC Executives


Now that six members of the Gambia Football Federation (GFF), three senior staff have been a former secretary general have been arraigned before a court today, we have now come to learn that Malang Jassy, a senior official of the Ministry of Youth and Sports has also been arrested, bringing the total of arrest to eleven.  They have all been charged with "negligence of duty" in fielding over aged players in a CAF-sponsored tournament.

The regime arrested the eleven and tried forcing them to resign. When they all refused to resign, they were charged with "negligence".

We have now learned from reliable sources that Executives of the Gambia National Olympic Committee are the next targets of the Jammeh regime for arrest.

The regime is still nursing a grudge when the Minister of Youth and Sports retreated from a decision that saw the Executives of the GNOC fired and replaced by an Interim Committee when threatened with sanctions if the decision was not reversed.  The Youth and Sports Minister had ordered paramilitary forces to occupy the premises of the GNOC and barred staff from entering their offices, effectively shutting down operations.

However, it took a scathing letter from IOC in response to the unilateral and illegal act of the Minister, including demands that the paramilitary be withdrawn, hand over the offices to their rightful owners and to refrain from further infringement on the rights and privileges of the GNOC guaranteed under the Olympic Charter.

The IOC warned the Minister of Youth and Sports in its 14th April letter that "protective measures or sanctions" will be applied if the regime fails to accede to the demands of the Olympic Movement.  The Minister advised Jammeh to dial back the rhetoric and quietly allowed things to return to normal, but not before a response was sent suggesting to the IOC that "moving forward,..the Gambia NOC puts its house in order...and to have a respectful and harmonious working relationship with Government."

The arrest of the Executive members of the GNOC, according to reliable source, appears imminent if they refuse to resign from their positions.  They have tried it with the GFF Executives and when they refused to resign they were charged.  The same ultimatum will be presented to the GNOIC officials, once they've been arrested.  If they refuse, they will be charged.  Of what, that remains to be seen.

Until then, we urge the Executives of the GNOIC to follow the footsteps of the GFF by refusing to succumb to the whims of a very corrupt, inept and vicious regime.  To do otherwise, tantamount to willful abandonment of the fundamental principles, spirit and ideals of the Olympic Movement, and leaving your Gambia Football Federation comrades in the battlefield.          

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Sports Minister must go, and he must go now

Alieu K. Jammeh, Minister of Youth and Sports
Mr. Alieu K. Jammeh, Minister of Youth and Sports has the dubious honor of being the first and only Minister of Youth and Sports to have been sanctioned or threatened with sanction, not by one but by two major international sporting authorities.

FIFA was the first and IOC less than a month ago to threaten the regime of Yaya Jammeh with sanctions for interfering with the independence of the the Gambian Football Federation (GFF) and The Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOC). Minister K Jammeh is evidently the point man for the dictator who appears bent on molding Gambian sports to his image and liking. Jammeh sees sports as politics; as a means of advancing his political agenda, using his successive Sports Ministers to achieving his goal.

But there is something special about this particular Minister.  He appears to lack the basic faculties as a rational human being.  He keeps repeating the same infractions of the rules of both FIFA and IOC by dissolving the local sporting organizations with the full knowledge of what that means.  He keeps repeating the same infraction , expecting different results.  The definition of this syndrome is insanity.

Minister Jammeh has completely turned the entire sporting fraternity on its head, and has sent the entire membership of the GFF Executive Committee to jail for, what is referred to as infraction of the Sports Council Act.  The Executive members of GFF are being accused of fielding over-age players during a CAF competition between Gambia and Liberia for which they have taken full responsibility.  Yet, they were rounded up like a bunch of criminals and thrown in jail.

To target this set of officers to punish is purely a political move, designed to put the preferred candidates who enjoy the support of Yaya Jammeh and his APRC minions in place of the current Executives who were recently elected in an election that the preferred candidate of the regime were defeated.  This regime does not believe in a free and fair elections because Jammeh and his cronies know they are so unpopular they will lose.  They cannot be elected dog catchers if they tried.

Back to Alieu K. Jammeh; he's not only inexperienced but lack the basic managerial wherewithal to run a stall at the Albert Market much less run a Ministry.  He is causing embarrassment to Gambians and Gambia, must, therefore be removed as soon as possible.  This is the Minister who dispatched the paramilitary to Olympic House, headquarters of the IOC-recognized GNOC, seized its property and disbanded its Executive to be replaced by an Interim Committee of his own.  He was threatened with sanction and he backed down.  He's at it again.  We already have dictator Jammeh, who is enough an embarrassment.  To add another Jammeh to the circus is too painful for Gambians to endure.  Please get rid of this guy, and do it now.
------------------------------

In our second installment, we will look at the role the National Sports Council Act plays in the current flux

Friday, May 9, 2014

Muddling through


This week has been a bad week for "The Struggle."  Factional cracks are apparent everywhere after accusations of embezzlement and other unsubstantiated malfeasance that have yet to be proven.  But the damage has already been inflicted, with or without proof, and which may or may not have been the accusers' intent.  Things cannot stay the same.  They will have to change.

 "The Struggle" which is the name given to a loosely-assembled groups of Gambian dissidents in the United States, Europe and West Africa has faced challenges in the past, which they've succeeded in overcoming, not necessarily because they've been adequately addressed but because they were not as visible and accountable now as they were then.

Thanks to the online media which, in itself, is proving to be a blessing as a curse by publicizing the activities of "The Struggle" as well as blowing it apart through irresponsible reporting and outright partisanship and personal agendas.  There also exist a clear and discernible partisan divide within the media which is normal and expected.  We wish they'd stop pretending that they are non-partisan and - to borrow Fox News' faux mantra - 'fair and balanced'.  The online media has contributed immensely to the muddles messages filtering through the various organizations that constitute a significant chunk of "The Struggle."

We believe that the muddled messages of the 'civil organizations' in the dissident communities are a direct results of conflicting and competing political philosophies and leanings of the major players in the Struggle which further aggravates an already desperate condition.  A return to their respective political parties will reduce the current confusion and allow the non-party affiliates to mount a credible international advocacy against Yaya Jammeh.

Within what we now take to constitute "The Struggle" goes beyond CORDEC, CCG, GGC and NRNG to include individuals who are not affiliated with any of the above groups.  It just so happens that the most influential of the lot are the non-affiliated individuals who happens to be the proprietors of the online radios and newspapers.

And if this category of membership of the Struggle insists, as they always do, that they are impartial in their reporting, as their profession dictates, yet they take on overtly partisan stance against other members of "The Struggle" because he happens to be a Ousainou Darboe, Omar Jallow, B.B.Dabo or Mai Fatty, it inevitably poses a problem.  It exposes leaders of political parties who decided to, in good faith and in the common interest, join a broader coalition to fight the enemy that is Yaya Jammeh.

We have seen Ousainou Darboe, Omar Jallow, B.B. Dabo and Mai Fatty attacked personally and the records deliberately distorted because they decided, wrongly, to place themselves and their respective political parties in the line of fire while Halifa Sallah stays out of harm's way - a sensible political move even though we opposed the reasons PDOIS advanced for staying out of Raleigh.  Political parties, in our view, should remain political while the other organizations do what they do best - advocacy.

Which brings us to the latest entry into "The Struggle", the National Resistance Movement of The Gambia (NRMG) into the scene with a full-blown press conference to introduce its leaders.  They describe NRMG and themselves as a political organization and politicians respectively with military backgrounds that will not hesitate to use military means as last resort to remove Jammeh from power.  They are not interested, according to its spokesperson, in political power but yet they claim to be a political grouping and not a military one.  They are retired military officers but they do not consider themselves soldiers.

To be fair to the NRMG, they have tried, through their spokesperson and through a couple of press releases and radio interviews but regrettably it left people like us in more confused state than before their arrival.  The muddling through continues with an additional layer added to the Struggle that, in our view, further complicates an already difficult situation.

We continue to suggest that the political parties ring-fence themselves from all the structures of the Struggle as GMC has done.  And those who belong to and active in party politics should rejoin their respective political parties and help party leaders build, revitalize and rehabilitate them.  Those interested in a political career but do not subscribe to the philosophy of existing party should take steps to form their own and join the political fray.  A realignment along political allegiances and leanings is inevitable, and the time is now.  It will reduce the muddling through that we are witnessing currently.  




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Arab Gambian Islamic Bank sold to Muhammed Jah

Muhammed Jah, CEO, QuantumNet
We made a verge reference, in today's blog, to the impending sale of the Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB) to a Gambian businessman because we couldn't confirm at the time the salient features of the deal.  

We can now confirm that negotiations were concluded last week and the Board of Directors of the AGIB has approved the sale of the Nigerian-owned bank to Muhammed Jah, a prominent Gambian businessman and owner and CEO of QuantumNet, an IT company.

Details of the deal are not known, but the Central Bank which must give its approve for the deal to be consummated.  Approval of the sale is expected within the next few days.  

When we asked about AGIB's balance sheet, our source indicated that it is not as strong as it could be, given the overall state of the economy and the keen competition in the banking sector as a result of the numerous banks in a very small market, leaving them with small margins.  Of course, AGIB has a niche market with a growth potential, as the only bank that provides Islamic banking to a large Muslim population.

Our source who has a wide and authoritative knowledge of Gambia's banking/financial sector said, in response to our question about AGIB's strategy to survive a very strong competition, "AGIB has the potential to grow to be the third largest bank if he, (Muhammed Jah), knows what he is doing."   One of the things he must do, according to the same source is to bring in competent staff.  In short, bankers must be allowed to run the bank if AGIB is to survive the competition. 

Access Bank (Gambia) Ltd. and Keystone Bank (Gambia) Ltd. under supervision : who's next?


The Central Bank of the Gambia's announcement that Access Bank (Gambia) Limited and Keystone Bank (Gambia) Limited, two Nigerian banks, have been "taken over" is just one more reminder of a struggling monetary policy environment that remained persistent throughout the period of the Jammeh regime, but particularly since 2007.

The exponential growth in the number of commercial banks in The Gambia since the year 2000 is phenomenal as it is worrying.  Between 2007 and 2010, the number of banks doubled from 7 to 14 which represents a phenomenal rate of growth for any economy, regardless of size.  But for a small economy like The Gambia's, it is worrying.  The doubling of the number of banks resulted in intensified competition and diminished profits, bringing the sustainability and viability of these banks into the fore.

In 2010, two banks went into voluntary liquidation.  They were Prime Bank Gambia (PBG) Limited and Oceanic Bank Plc. who opted to close shop than meet the two-step increase in the minimum capital requirement implimented end 2010 and end 2012.   Of course, Prime Bank (PBG) was accused by the United States Treasury Department of "money laundering" and "funding international terrorism" which provided the convenient cover and a decision point for management to opt for liquidation.

Recent increases in the reserve requirement on deposits did two things :  they increased banks' intermediation costs by depriving them on income they could have generated income for them, and in requiring high reserves, it placed fiancial squeeze on small and less efficient bank.  There are many weak and exposed banks that run the risk of going under at anytime.

There is currently one bank that has changed hands before, that is about to change hands again to be bought reportedly by a Gambian businessman.  We are still in the process of getting additional details as the bank in question continues to invite its premium and preferred clients for consultations about the possible transfer of ownership.

The Central Bank announcement was issued on Monday but was deliberately ignored by the regime's own mouthpiece, The Daily Observer, that acts as the paper of record.  By ignoring the fact that two banks have been "taken over" by the Central Bank as it "sort out irregularities in their operations."  According to StarAfrica.com, "the move is meant to stabilize and bring sanity to the Gambia's Nigerian-dominated banking industry."  That sanity will not come until more banks go under, allowing the strongest and viable banks to re-organize themselves to serve their clients and the economy better.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gambians must fight the predatory power of Jammeh

It is the unchecked predatory power of Yaya Jammeh that has been a contributing factor to the current economic problems facing The Gambia.

Jammeh has been a dominate player in the Gambian economy which sets him apart from many heads of states in the world, perhaps in the same league as Angola; even Dos Santos has his bidding done through his daughter and other proxies.

Jammeh runs enterprises himself, together with family members, and on our dime.  He spends more time on his businesses than on the affairs of state, and when he does spend some time on official functions he devotes less time and pays less attention to details, unless it personally benefits him either financially, or affects his personal security.  He hardly shows up for work, and when he does he's known to be notoriously late.  His poor work habit is well known.

You cannot, however, tell that he's lazy by watching him conduct his 21-day tour of the provinces.  He's full of energy and enthusiasm, not because he is genuinely interested in advancing the interest and welfare of Gambians but because he sees great opportunity in opening up a new front in his quest to expand his business empire - an empire that expands the length and breath of the Gambian landscape that involves every sector, from agriculture to mining.

His recent craze is what he calls agricultural land development.  We call land speculation because we know better.  Vision 2016, we are told, is about rice self-sufficiency which would require a fundamental change in Gambia's traditional land tenure system.  In the truly Jammeh reckless fashion, he's about to make these monumental changes to the tenure system without the engagement of the services of expertise, ranging from land tenure experts, to agronomists to legal experts.  The concept probably came as a result of his numerous "ataya"sessions (Chinese green tea drinking sessions) with members of his security detail, most of whom are either primary school products or are outright illiterates.

It is evident that Jammeh has already decided that any "excess land", including, presumably those laying in temporary fallow, will be transferred to a yet to be formed Food Security Corporation.  But before it is formed, a Commission will be appointed to study his proposal and a cabinet sub-committee selected to monitor the activities of the Corporation. We have raised concerns about the treatment of the "excess land" that will be transferred to the Corporation, will it be held in escrow or will it be sold or leased to investors abroad.  We are totally opposed to the tampering of the tenure system without competent advise from international experts because Gambian experts have all been turned into refugees by an incompetent, corrupt and brutal regime.

Jammeh's party Secretary General revealed that the "operations" of the Food Security Corporation will not only be involved in rice but also in fishing and other crops.  Since the Corporation is still on the drawing boards, it's structure and mission will remain a mystery to Gambians, except Yaya Jammeh.  Will FSC be involved in production, processing or marketing or will it be another vertically-integrated entity like the infamous Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC).

We all know what happened to the Gambia Ports Authority and GAMTEL and Social Security - they have all been bankrupted by the Gambian dictator. Unless we stop the Food Security Corporation from being formed, and refuse to allow for the drastic transformation of existing tenure system that Jammeh is trying to implement, it will not only disrupt the social order but will change the face of rural Gambia for good and for the worse, and in doing so, bankrupt the Corporation in the process.  The predatory power of Jammeh must be curbed, and now is as good a time as any to start resisting these asinine policies.      

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The deplorable state of Gambia's diplomatic missions

Deputy Ambassador Bojang with Head of Tourist Office, UK
It is generally agreed that the state of Gambian diplomacy is in shambles at best, and dysfunctional at worst.

The state of its missions abroad is in no better shape than its diplomacy which is to be expected. The state of your Embassy, physical location, general appearance and most importantly, the caliber of diplomats that staff the facility usually reflect the state of your diplomacy.

A government that withdraws its membership from the Commonwealth without a sensible reason except to attribute it to the spurious claim that the organization has done nothing for The Gambia and that is a colonial relic, cannot be considered as having neither a functioning foreign policy nor an effective diplomatic corp. Even the handful of trained professionals currently serving abroad cannot salvage a broken system brought on by the extreme form of dictatorship The Gambia is going through with Jammeh.  Almost all professional diplomats have left the service and The Gambia because of the incompetent and corrupt leadership of Yaya Jammeh.

The break-up of diplomatic relations with Taiwan illustrates the point of a dysfunctional and personalized form of diplomacy.  When the notification emanated from the Office of the President that caught everyone by surprise, it included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of Gambia's diplomacy who learned about the decision after the Taiwanese Ambassador, but with the rest of the world in the news.

The state of the missions abroad are equally dysfunctional.  We did write about the Washington Embassy which is still without an Ambassador for almost two years, and how staff welfare has been neglected and the sick among them have been left to fend for themselves for lack of lack of health insurance coverage. Consequently, staff morale is low and it should not come as a surprise if some decide not to return to The Gambia when their tour is up or recalled as it is often the case.

The disposal of the Embassy building located on fashionable High Street Kensington only to move to a residential area of London was a sign of things to come because the formally Gambia High Commission, now Gambia Embassy in the U.K. is presently caught up in a scandal involving allegations of trafficking in duty-free contraband, involving the Deputy Ambassador, the Head of the Tourist promotion Office and a protocol officer.

The fates of the three Gambian diplomats are still in doubt because of the uncertainty surrounding their current diplomatic status.  The British authorities did request the Jammeh regime to waive immunity of the diplomats concerned so that they could be tried in a British court, and if found guilty, sentenced and subsequently deported from British shores.  What we've been able to gather thus far is that Jammeh did throw his diplomats to the wolves by agreeing to the lifting of the diplomats' diplomatic immunities.   However, the defense claimed in court that (i) the "Waiver of Immunity" was illegally obtained, and (ii) the Waiver was not signed by the Designated Permanent Secretary.

This is a plausible outcome, especially where Yaya Jammeh is involved.  He probably instructed his Secretary General or one of his two Permanent Secretaries at the Office of the President to sign the waiver instead of the Authorizing Officer or Permanent Secretary 1 at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.  Rather than engage in yet another request to the regime for the proper signature, the British authorities would rather end the ordeal by expelling the officers outright and never to enter Britain again, and saving them the possibility of jail time.  Britain is as fed-up with Jammeh as the rest of the world.

Jammeh's other diplomatic posts are not faring any better.  Some Gambian diplomats from Rabat to New Delhi to Caracas are today sleeping in the dark because the regime did not pay their electricity bills or pay their salaries on time, exposing them to temptations that can only bring disgrace to The Gambia.  No wonder that standards have dropped so low that a cinema hall gatekeeper and ticket vendor can end up being Deputy Head of Mission.  Only in Yaya Jammeh's Gambia.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jammeh is the law


The Gambian dictator has decreed that every civil servant, including staff of the Medical Research Council (MRC), will contribute D25.00 each towards the celebration of 20 years of the July 22nd Revolution.

The dictator's edict did not exempt school children.  They are each to contribute D10.00.

The civil servants' involuntary contributions will be deducted from source this month to meet the D60 million target that Jammeh wants for the 22nd July bash.  Jammeh has, according to him, already contributed D200,000.

Welcome to Jammeh's Gambia

An open letter to IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze

H.E. Kanayo Nwanze
President, International Fund for Agricultural Development
Via Paolo di Dono, 44
00142 Rome
ITALY

Dear President Nwanze,

Subject :  GAMBIA : NEMA Project and the proposed Food Security Corporation

We write to flag our concern about a proposal by The Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh to establish a Food Security Corporation (FSC), an idea that appears to be still in the works, so to speak, and thus evolving.

The announcement that is causing consternation in the Gambian farming community came as a complete surprise to farmers attending a political gatherings during Jammeh's 21-day tour of the rural areas to sell the idea.

What is the FSC?  Information is scanty but what Gambians have been told by Jammeh and his Secretary General of his ruling party, Momodou Sabally, is that a "comprehensive review" of Gambia's traditional tenure system will be undertaken with a view to, and we quote "freeing surplus land for agricultural production."

Will the "freed surplus land" be deeded to or owned by FSC?  What does the shareholder structure looks like?  We believe the Government of The Gambia needs to step back and study this issue carefully with IFAD, EU and other donors involved. The EU design experts that have collaborated with your organization in the design of NEMA should be involved in this review exercise as well.

The legal implications of a botched experimentation with our traditional tenure system, especially when foreign entities are involved, will be unimaginable.  The social and cultural implications will be even far more disruptive threatening the very social and cultural cohesion that has held rural farming communities together for centuries. At the risk of being seen as engaging in hyperbole, we say Jammeh's proposition is dangerous.

We are, therefore, suggesting to your esteemed organization known for its efficient management, excellent project designs and effective M&E system, study Gambia's proposal within the context of the Gambia's National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project, referred to as NEMA, and funded by IFAD.

NEMA is one of the single-biggest project in The Gambia, at a total estimated cost of about US$65 million, designed for "poor smallholders, predominant women engaged in vegetable and rice production."

As we understand it, the commercialization component of the project provides strategic support, and it also complements the first component with investments in "private economic assets of producer organizations and entrepreneurs" which makes it all the more important for IFAD to investigate whether a Food Security Corporation, as outlined by the Gambian leader, will adversely affect NEMA in such a manner that it will require re-assessment or a re-appraisal of the project.

We look forward to your early reaction to our suggestions.

Sincerely yours


Sidi Sanneh
Former Executive Director, AfDB
on behalf of a group of Gambian farmers


Friday, May 2, 2014

Serving notice to Jammeh and an alert to IFAD

By request of readership of sidisanneh.blogspot.com, we are reproducing a Facebook entry that was intended to be just that - an entry in our Facebook page regarding the proposed establishment of the Food Security Corporation (FSC).  The FSC has been dealt with our blog post of 30th April 2014 entitled "Food Security Corporation: This is a dangerous idea". If you've missed it, check it out here: http://sidisanneh.blogspot.com/2014/04/food-security-corporation-this-is.html
                                +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Momodou Sabally, Secretary General of the APRC claims that Jammeh has succeeded in attracting the attention of the international community,  community that is now beginning to understand that the food self-sufficiency target that the dictator is pursuing is not a far-fetched objective.

We have said a couple of days ago that the target of 24 months to achieve rice self-sufficiency is not only far-fetched but it is ludicrously dangerous. These bozos grabbed the international community's attention not because of the brilliance of Vision 2016 but because of it's ridiculousness.

Since National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (NEMA) is International Fund for Agricultural Development-funded, a Rome-based UN organization (IFAD-funded), and we see great similarities in the focus and objectives of Vision 2016, we will be writing to the President of IFAD to raise our concern about the potential impact the proposed Food Security Corporation (FSC) will have on the $65 million NEMA Project.

If the FSC is formed, and there are identifiable linkages - as we suspect there will be - between it and NEMA, we will be petitioning IFAD to have the entire NEMA re-appraised for reasons that would be clear to IFAD experts as it would be to us.
We will share our IFAD letter with the readership of sidisanneh.blogspot.com