Friday, June 27, 2014

The case of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh: Is the World Bank risking being accessory to travesty of justice?

The trial of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh, former project coordinator of the West African Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP), has been delayed for the umpteenth time because the fourth prosecution witness, Samsideen Kebbeh, decided not to show up in court because of the presence of a World Bank mission in the country.  What has this got to do with a court case?

The prosecution was unaware that Mr. Kebbeh was not going to attend the court, and when State Counsel Agiah called, the witness informed him he cannot be in court because of the presence of a World Bank mission visiting an ongoing project.  We'd like to know if the World Bank mission presence takes precedence over the legal duty of a prosecution witness to attend a court where a former colleague of his is being accused of very serious crimes - charges, in our opinion, that are bogus.

The local World Bank Office must pronounce on this matter because the statement of State Counsel Agiah seem to suggest that it is the Bank's official policy that its missions to host countries takes precedence over the legal duty of witnesses to be in court.

The case of Sheikh Tejan Sosseh is a travesty of justice, and the World Bank or any respectable institution should not be seen to be lending tacit support to the case.  By telling the court that a state witness is indisposed because of the presence of a World Bank mission that will only add to the length of time this case has been dragging on, it gives the impression that the Bank encourages the flouting of the law.  We have expressed our concern about this, and numerous other cases: The pattern of using the judiciary as a blunt instrument by this regime has emerged that is disconcerting at best and sinister at worst.

Sheikh Tejan Sosseh is charged with failure as project manager to apply the entire EU grant implimented by the World Bank on behalf of the European Development Fund of € 5.3 million, approximately US$ 7.3 million.  The balance of the grants that was returned to the Bank was approximately US$ 67,000.  Mr. Sosseh is being charge with 'economic crime' for achieving 92% rate of implementation and, as far as we know, in accordance with the project objectives and grant covenant.

It is not as if Mr. Sosseh pocketed the balance which actually reverted to the Bank to be returned to the EDF.  As we have said earlier,  instead of being commended for the efficient manner he implimented the project, he's being labeled a criminal, dragged into court to sully his reputation.  The World Bank and the European Union should step in and side with Mr. Sosseh who is one more victim in a long line of victims of a callously corrupt regime.

As we speak, there's an addition twelve EU/FAO/WFP project managers and agriculture experts who's services have been summarily terminated, and their persons jailed, for reasons known to the dictatorship and no one else.

A copy of this blog is being made available to the World Bank's Coutry Director for The Gambia.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Where is Gambia's Public Service Commission?

Yaya Jammeh carried out his threats by firing 12 civil servants, all from the Agriculture Ministry.  Among these are two, Amie Jallow-Jatta and Kujay Manneh, who can be readily identified as staff of the EU/FAO/WFP food self sufficiency project implementation unit. Therefore, these two staff are either seconded officers or direct staff hires to the UN agencies concerned, and cannot thus be fired by Yaya Jammeh or anyone within the civil service.  If there are any others in the remaining ten staff members who share similar status, the same protection applies in their individual case.

The extent to which the Gambian dictator had to go to address what is purportedly "a disappointing performance (of the agriculture sector) and the abysmal failure of...agricultural projects since 1994", the year Jammeh seized power promising Gambians "self-sufficiency in food in the shortest period of time" is draconian but all measures.  Some Gambians in The Gambia are characterizing his latest mass sackings as "insane and  crazy".  It is also illegal and unconstitutional, not that it matters to Jammeh because he's contravened the law and the 1997 Constitution.

The relevant constitutional provisions recognize the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the helm of the public service.  The Mission of the PSC " is to maintain an effective and efficient Civil Service by ensuring the persons who meet the criteria for jobs are recruited, trained and disciplined in an open, fair and impartial manner."   The PSC sees itself as a provider of "efficient and cost effective service for all civil servants and other stakeholders throughout The Gambia by the formulation, management and the supervision of the management and implementation of Government policies which pertains to recruitment, development and discipline of Civil Service."

But where is the Public Service Commission?  It is moribund by deliberate action of one man - Yaya Jammeh.  This blog has written severally on this and related matter, showing how Jammeh and his criminal gang came in 1994 with the conscious policy of instituting a police state which will require the absolute obliteration of the democratic institutions implanted by the Jawara government.  The Public Service Commission was among the first victims of the so-called July 22nd Revolution, together with the Scholarship Advisory Committee which was correctly housed in the Ministry of Education, and the Majors Tender Board.  The pattern started to develop on the evening of 22nd July 1994.

To dismiss twelve highly trained agriculturalists-cum-food sufficiency experts in response to what is perceived as failure of his agricultural policies failures since 1994 is an asinine way of trying to solve the problem.   Food self sufficiency is not an easily attainable good, however laudable and worthy a goal, but it must be done through rational and realistic set of policy measures sustained over the long-term.

As the FAO Resident Representative. tactfully counseled the regime recently, to attain the goal of self sufficiency, the regime must learn to build on what is already on the ground and on past experience of good practices.  Yaya Jammeh is incapable of rational thinking, therefore he lacks the ability make use of professional advise.  All he understands and appreciates is force through intimidation as we are witnessing with this mass dismissals of highly qualified experts who are all Gambian who could have elected to serve outside Gambia as many of us have decided to do.

So as to draw attention to those dismissed and will most certainly face criminal charges, we will list their names and titles as listed by the official mouthpiece of the dictatorship in Banjul :  They are listed as Ministry of Agriculture staff by The Daily Observer :

Mr. Foday Jadama, Regional Director, Kutubo Sanyang, Project coordinator Cow Pea,  Kebba Drammeh, Senior Agricultural Officer Wellingara Model Center,  Musa Dampha, Communication Education Extension Service, Fafanding Fatajo, Project Coordinator, FASDEP (Food and Agriculture Sector Development Project), Lamin Fatajo, Project Coordinator Rural Finance, Miss Amie Jallow (identified in our previous blog post as Amie Jallow-Jatta), Project Coordinator MDG-C, Kujay Manneh, FASDEP,  Dr. Saikou E. Sanyang, Regional Director for Agriculture NBR, Regional Director, Regional Director for Agriculture CRR, Mr. Mballow, Agric, Business and Mr. Dajaba, Regional Director for Agriculture URR.





Sunday, June 22, 2014

European Union funds for GPU blocked by Jammeh

The fight for access to European Union funds by the cash-strapped regime of Yaya Jammeh is not only limited to the agriculture sector.

The Gambia media is also a target of the regime, a problem, our sources suggest has been simmering since last November over access to the € 800,000 provided by the European Union to the Gambia Press Union.

The project is to increase capacity at the GPU with a training component that The University of The Gambia hopes to benefit from by training journalists.  Anxious to access EU funds, UTG has proceeded with its announcement for its Fall classes and inviting students to apply despite having "neither a complete curriculum nor ready staff" to teach journalism courses, according to our source.

The EU is adopting the same approach as it did in the agriculture sector by utilizing the services of specialized United Nation Agencies.  The EU, in this case, selected UNESCO, (Dakar Office) to implement the project. But the agency cannot get started without an Agreement with Government, similar to the one EU, FAO and WFP signed with the regime in 2013.

UNESCO, Dakar office headed by former Education Minister under Jammeh seemed unable still to get his former boss to instruct the Ministry of Education or the appropriate Ministry to sign the Agreement.  The government representatives are always "unavailable' to sign the € 800,000 project until, presumably, government signs a separate Agreement with the GPU to allow government access to the EU funds.

It is no surprise that Jammeh is threatening to interrupt implementation of the MDG 1c Project because he cannot get his hands in the till.  So he'll try to gain access in the EU-UNESCO project even though the amounts are small compared to the € 7.6 million the EU plans to invest in the food security projects.  But a regime struggling to pay salaries, every penny matters.

What is at stake for the GPU is not only denial of much needed funds to train journalists (not necessarily through UTG) but the withdrawal of the National Training Authority's accreditation of GPU's highly acclaimed Diploma course.

Correction and an apology:  In our earlier version of this blog, we had a sentence that mentioned that the owner of the premises occupied by GPU was the Chancellor of the University of The Gambia.  We actual owner happens to be Mr. Mustapha A.B.Kah, the former Auditor General in the Jawara government.  We apologize to Vice Chancellor Muhammadou M. O. Kah for the error.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jammeh determined to scuttle EU-financed projects

Following the fall-out from the 17-points demand by the European Union and The Gambia government that resulted in the EU taking over implementation of specific food security, including village gardening projects designed to supplement the school feed projects, every effort has been made by the EU to continue some development assistance to the Gambia to avoid depriving the general population pf vital aid.

The MDG 1c project was an offshoot of the 2000 United Nations MDG that set targets for member states to achieve by 2015 in various sectors, including agriculture.

In 2010, ten years into the MDG, it was realized that the agriculture sector goals would not be met despite Jammeh's claim that Gambia was on target to achieving many of its MDG goals.  Gambia's own National Agricultural Investment Program (GNAIP) has confirmed that the current level of agricultural productivity is woefully inadequate to address the acute food security and poverty issues facing the country.

Gambia human rights abuses reached a crescendo in January 2013 with the 17-points demands by the EU to the regime of Jammeh were issued which included European demands for a more open society through free media access to the upholding of moratorium on the death penalty.  Jammeh's refusal to give in on the EU's demands is still real, even though he has agreed to a few of the demands.

Jammeh's reaction to the EU's 17- point demands was that his government was not going to give in on any of the demands.  He addressed his cabinet following the EU Article 8 Dialogue in 2013 during which he quoted as saying "I will compromise with evil. I will not compromise with anything that will question our independence, and I will not compromise with any institution that thinks that we are not fit to rule our country, more matter what they think they have."  This was part of his now famous or infamous "chicken change"speech when he ridiculed the small size, in Jammeh's own world, of the EU's development package, universally recognized as the single biggest aid package in Gambia's portfolio.

To allow for the continuation of the EU program while they dialogue with Gambia on the deplorable state of the human condition, an agreement was reached and a document signed in 2013 that will allow the EU to channel financial resources to the FAO and WFP to implement its food security projects.  Gambian project staff were hired by these UN agencies to implement the MDG 1c project in three regions of the country where the most vulnerable communities are located.  In 2013, the projects were implemented by the same arrangement without any known or reported issues.  However, in 2014, the story is different.

Jammeh revealed his displeasure with how things are going within his government during this week's cabinet retreat in his home village where, during his opening remarks, he warned agriculture sector workers in particular about the level of corruption, project implementation rates etc.  He threatened massive dismissals and the jailing of those found wanting.  He gave them until December to shape up or ship out.  In less than two days after his warning, he pounced on Gambian project managers and staff hired, not by government but by the specialized United Nations Agencies contracted by the European Union to implement the MDG 1c project that it created and financed to help countries lagging behind in achieving their MDG goals.

The number of project staff under arrests is still unknown, except the two i,e. Mrs. Amie Jallow-Jatta who was identified in previous news items as Project Manager of the EU-financed FSCA and Ms. Kujey Manneh who, we have come to learn, worked at one point to Action Aid.   It is evident that Jammeh views these Gambians as independent and outside the sphere of his influence, managing a € 7.6 million project. They have successfully implemented a similar-sized project last year and Jammeh has vowed to interrupt this year's program unless he has a piece of the action.  This is story has some of the elements of a previous case involving Gamcotrap and Yolocamba, the Spanish NGO that was dragged unawares by Jammeh's NIA operatives into a scheme to discredit the management of Gamcotrap.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Mass arrests of FAO and WFP project managers - DEVELOPING

Reports reaching us indicate that all FAO, WFP and UN project managers who are responsible for the implementation of the food security and school feeding program have been arrested.  We have names of two of those project managers.

The European Union's sponsored MDG 1c Project plans to spend € 7.6 million this year to help the most vulnerable areas and communities of the North Bank, Central and Upper regions of The Gambia, targeting to impact 3,725 rural farmers.  The project was the subject of our blog of this morning.

The government of the Gambia and the European Union had agreed in 2013 that the project will be implimented by two of the EU trusted partners in development i.e. the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Feed Program.  Gambian project managers were hired by the FAO and WFP to implement the projects that involves crop production and school feeding program that provide food to school children.

How many project managers and staff were involved in this mass arrest is unclear.  What we do know at this moment is that Mrs. Amie Jallow-Jatta, FAO's national project manager of FSCA and Kujeh Manneh.  The acronynim FSCA stands for Food Security through Commercial Agriculture.

Both Mrs. Jallow-Jatta and Huja Manneh, together with the rest have been released on a one million dalasi bail.  Our source has also indicated that government has 'dismissed all of them' even when they are all UN-FAO-WFP employees.  This may be a bizarre development but it appears to be a deliberate ploy to interrupt the smooth implementation of the project which have been free-standing and protected of government interference.  All project documents have been seized by the security forces.

The Jammeh regime has been engaged in a tussle with the EU over the country's deplorable human rights record.  The EU has effectively stopped most financial assistance to a struggling regime, except view projects that are either implimented by NGOs or agencies within the UN system.   Jammeh appears to be targeting the EU-financed and UN-implimented projects.  It is easier target locally-recruited Gambians working for these projects even if their salaries are being paid by the European Union or the United Nations.    

EU provides seeds and fertilizer to Gambian farmers

Gambian classroom scene.
The Delegation of the European Union is providing € 7.6 million to the MDG 1c project for the purchase of 100 metric tonnes of certified seeds and fertilizer to the Gambian farmers so that they can have a good start in the coming farming season.

The program will be limited to the North Bank, Central and Upper River regions of the country considered to be the most vulnerable areas as it concerns food security.

According to the EU Facebook page posting, the project "aims at reducing and poverty in food insecure and vulnerable communities by focusing on food security through crop production intensification and school feeding" to be implimented by the FAO and WFP respectively.

EU, FAO, WFP and farmer reps.
The most vulnerable communities in the three targeted regions of the country will benefit from almost 8,000 bags of 50 kg of fertilizer and about 2,500 bags of seeds, according to reports.  The number of individual farmers to benefit from these vital agricultural inputs is estimated to be 3,725 farmers, that will include those tending to community gardens.

The distribution of the fertilizer will be done exclusively by the FAO and directly to the beneficiaries. We cannot be happier with these arrangements that will ensure that the inputs will go to where they are intended and to the proper beneficiaries.

In her remarks during the handing over of the inputs, the EU Delegate, Agnes Guillaud, provided some historical context about how we got to where we are and why the MDG 1c project which came about after it was realized as earlier as 2010 that Gambia will not be able to meet its agriculture sector MDG goals by 2015, the EU created a $ 1 billion development fund to help countries lagging behind to catch up.  The Gambia was one of them and thus the MDG 1c project that is currently financing the nearly 4,000 Gambian farmers.

According to The Point newspaper that quoted the EU Delegate, Gambia's own National Agricultural Investment Program (GNIP) suggested that although the sector has the potential to contribute significantly to the attainment of the MDGs in The Gambia, "...the current level of productivity of the sector is well below the growth required to tackle food security and poverty."  The target has been reset to 6% annual growth in production to achieve the goal.  Yet, Yaya Jammeh is still running around the country trying to sell us a bill of goods that The Gambia can achieve food self-sufficiency in two years.   To continue his assault on our collective intelligence as a people, he has now advanced the date to next year.  Anyway, let's get back to our story.

Last year, The Gambia benefited from the MDG 1c project to the same tune as this year.  However, as a condition for participation in the program, the EU insisted that both the crop intensification and school feeding will be implimented by FAO and WFP.

As we have maintained in the past, the European Union's continued assistance to The Gambia is essential if we are to avoid cutting off our nose to spite our face.  Yaya Jammeh should not be the cause to deny ordinary Gambians access to development assistance, especially at a time when the economy continues to be mismanaged by Yaya Jammeh at the expense of the most vulnerable communities that our traditional development partners led by the European Union.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yaya : The fish that rots from the head

Yaya Jammeh told an assembly of cabinet ministers and civil servants that he would like to see an attitudinal change within their ranks.  He cited the agriculture ministry for special mention, conveniently ignoring the Office of The President which houses the Head of the Civil Service.

If the Gambia Civil Service were a company, Yaya Jammeh would be both the Chairman of the Board and CEO,  Secretary General Sabally the Chief Operating Officer and the Ministers, the line managers.

The Chairman and CEO provides the leadership and guidance, the COO makes things happen by ensuring company policies are implimented accordingly at the line manager level and the line managers translate company policies into actual programs or products.

What CEO Jammeh tried and succeeded in doing, from the unset of his regime, was to separate himself from the entire Gambia enterprise, pretending to be anything but the head of the team.   Thus, when he admonishes his line managers, accuses them of corruption and ultimately sends them off to jail, he wants us all to believe that he's doing so from the neutral position of say, a CEO Emeritus who came out of retirement to instill discipline before he retires again to his holiday resort of Kanilai.

Pretending to be an Emeritus CEO doesn't make him one because dictators, by their very disposition and controlling nature, like to always be in charge.  Jammeh is no different.  He has developed the reputation of being a control freak of legendary proportions.  Despite his reputation, the Gambian dictator has managed to blame everybody but himself for the dysfunction that engulfs Gambian society.  

Not to speak of the hypocrisy that permeate a society that  seem to mimic the chief hypocrite of them all - Yaya Jammeh - who is threatening his line managers with seizing their vehicles if they are found to be unnumbered.  Who introduced unnumbered and unregistered death vehicles that ply the highways, byways, and lurking in every street corner to zip innocent Gambians away to their deaths by Jammeh's death squads. Gambia did not know of unnumbered vehicles until they were introduced to us by the military and security forces of Yaya Jammeh.   Now, he pretends this to be a new scourge being spread by his line managers.

Rampant corruption was one of the reasons Jammeh advanced for seizing power in 1994.  Today, twenty years later, the Gambia has slid 20 positions down Transparency International's corruption scale.  The situation does not seem to be getting any better.  Instead it is getting worse, with the expansion of the drug trade threatening the very sovereignty of the country.   Corruption is at a new level never seen before in the country's history, yet Jammeh is giving his line managers up until December this year to change their attitude.

It is because of the unsustainable level of corruption of the Jammeh regime that has decimated and bankrupted every single one of these once thriving parastatal group of companies.  Managing Directors of the Gambia Ports Authority and other agencies are being prodded by the CEO to operate at a higher profit margin. Simply breaking even is not good enough.  They must run a profitable operation to subsidize Jammeh's extravagant lifestyle.    

Attitudinal change in the midst of the promiscuous and irresponsible behavior that Jammeh seemed to have succeeded in promoting in The Gambia will be extremely difficult when the Chairman and CEO shows up for work at 3PM because he stayed up all night with a group of his "comfort women" in the style of his former and late friend, Muamar Qaddafi.  Jammeh dislikes work so much so that he reduced the workweek from five days to four, in a country where its citizens live on a dollar a day.  

Jammeh, the Chairman and CEO is the last man in the office and the first one out.  Maybe he should start exercising self discipline by acting responsibly, and by assuming his fare share of blame for the country's economic melt-down and the weakening of its social fabric.  Unfortunately, it is late because the rot has already started in the head of the fish.  It is only time before the rot infests the rest of the body.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More horse manure from Yaya Jammeh

The Gambian dictator has retreated to his home village of Kanilai for a whole workweek with his entire government in tow for the purpose of viewing government policies and programs, according to official explanation.

This is the eighth government retreat, a period where government machinery comes to a screeching halt in the name of "rededicating themselves and taking the lead in national development."  Jammeh cares less that the entire week will be wasted in Kanilai in a desperate move to repackage failed policies that he will try to sell to a citizenry that has grown restless lately due to increasing economic hardship in the face of increasing official corruption.  

His opening remarks at the retreat suggest that he is conscious of the sour mood of a country he ruled with an iron fist for nearly two decades with endless promises he made that they never delivered on.  His promises ranged from transforming Gambia to  a middle income country - which he later upped to making Gambian the Singapore of Africa - to adopting agricultural policies that will result in rice self-sufficiency and/or food self-sufficiency, two concepts he used interchangeably depending on his idiosyncratic mood swings.

His most recent variation is that since he could not achieve rice self-sufficiency in 20 years, he's see how he can compact the time line into two years.  So a couple of months ago, he unveiled his Vision 2016 -rice self-sufficiency which he later changed to Vision 2016 - food self-sufficiency a couple of days later.  The cabinet members are now being told that, in fact, rice self-sufficiency is achievable not in 2016 but in 2015 instead.

Jammeh appears to be unsure as to which of these programs and time-frames is easier sold to an increasingly skeptical electorate.  They have been promised so much and delivered so little in the last twenty years, they wished they resisted his rule earlier and before the dictator entrenched himself in power.  It has now become a cruel joke, and a painful thing to watch when Jammeh trots out one program after another knowing full well that they are unachievable.

According to Jammeh, he's advancing the date to next year for Gambia to stop importing rice because the country is blessed with "rivers that have fresh water, lakes and waterfalls and ample arable lands, all suitable for vast agricultural activities."  For someone with zero knowledge of the geography of the Gambia will leave with the impression that the country is lush with abundance of sources of water.

True, the Gambia is endowed with a river by the same name, but it has it limits as a source for irrigation purposes because if salt intrusion.  And as far as we are concerned, there are no lakes, waterfalls (not that they matter that much for the subject being debated) and the entire arable land is liberally estimated  by the
World Bank in 2011 at 450,000 hectares.  When the elements of double-counting are isolated, the figure will obviously be less than the World Bank figure.  Jammeh is fond of exaggeration with little or no respect for factual information, especially the kind that does not support his personal wishes and desires.

As always, Jammeh covered a number of unrelated subjects, a favorite ploy of his to occupy his government with issues of less consequence while he engage his inner circle in state matters whose mismanagement has landed The Gambia in its current economic predicament, no to mention the deplorable state of human rights.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The radical form of Islam preached by Dr. Baba Ceesay has no place in The Gambia

Religion being the universally sensitive topic it is, and always will be, has often been avoided as a topic of discourse, and at at all cost for a variety of reasons, ranging from absolute ignorance to avoidance of  social discord, especially in closely knit societies like The Gambia.  No one is more aware of this than the recent Gambian Mullahs who have descended upon The Gambia at the invitation of Yaya Jammeh who is overseeing one of Africa's most repressive regimes.  

In a country of less than 2 million inhabitant, squeezed in a 4,1270 sq km slither of a land making it the second most densely populated country in Africa where over 90% of its population is identified as Muslim, every care must be taken by religious bodies and proselytizers of all faiths in propagating their respective faiths.

Gambia is a secular state that guarantees everyone, Gambians as well as non-Gambians, the freedom of worship among other fundamental freedoms.  The 1997 Constitution also guarantees every Gambian the right to associate and to assemble. These freedoms are universally guaranteed under the United Nations.   However, the version of Islam preached by Sheikh Dr. Baba Ceesay that demands total and absolute submission to the leader of say The Gambia.

There is no need to argue over the content of Dr. Baba Ceesay's sermon at the Ibo Town Mosque which was captured on You Tube.  Unless doctored, the video is clear and unequivocal about the incendiary and callous sermon by the venerable Sheikh who is presently a member of staff of the University of The Gambia, employed at the direction of the Gambian dictator.  Therefore, to suggest that Islam in The Gambia is apolitical is inaccurate.

The Islam in The Gambia organization reacted vehemently to the blow-back from Dr. Baba Ceesay's radical view of how Islam, according to him, views authority. The absolutism of authority as depicted by the radical cleric was the subject of a blog post that kick-off the debate.  The reactions from Gambian and non-Gambians alike have been swift and our mailbox inundated with concerns about the radical nature of the cleric's message that preaches death to opposition leaders as legitimate.  To deny this is fact by Islam in The Gambia is shameful and against everything they claim to represent.

The 'Letter to the Gambian opposition' by Islam in The Gambia, posted in the Islam in the Gambia web site tried to conceal the fact that Dr. Baba Ceesay advocated for the murder of anyone who is opposed to the current leadership in the most disingenuous manner by attacking this blog, being the first to comment on the sermon.  We will not react to the rest of the letter but to reiterate our position by standing by our criticism of the vile words of Dr. Baba Ceesay.

Our friends at the Islam in The Gambia organization invoked Boka Haram's name in Nigeria as an example of political instability but stopped short of naming Islamic radicalism of the sort propagating by Baba Ceesay, as the cause.  And it is for this reason that we will continue to oppose any attempt by Islam in The Gambia or any other organization for that matter that tries to transplant radical and unorthodox forms of Islam in The Gambia from afar.   These are foreign interpretations of the Quran to fit a particular political objectives.

To tolerate any form of Islam that preaches and justifies total submission of the political will and freedoms to Kings and Presidents will be met with the strongest form of resistance.  In closing we'd like to leave you with these thoughts from our Facebook entry of yesterday in reaction to the political transformation that is taking place in real time as sectarian violence when we warned against sectarian politics of divide, isolate, conquer and rule.  It is a policy that is not only expedient, temporary and dangerous, but a recipe for disaster once the layers of sectarianism start peeling off to expose the false premises of false prophets like Dr. Baba Ceesay that formed a faulty foundation.    

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reinstate second round voting in 2016 or else ..

Gambian Opposition party leaders
There is approximately thirty months before the next scheduled Presidential elections in The Gambia which may seem like eternity.  But just as Harold Wilson reminded us that a week in politics is a long time, the reverse of the adage appears to be equally true when it comes to the Gambian case.

The British electoral system encourages participation, whereas the Gambian system discourages the participation of the opposition with endless obstacles put in the way to the ballot box.  Thus even eternity might not provide the time needed to tackle the hurdles constructed by Yaya Jammeh.

Another historical account of the failures of the opposition to mount an effective strategy against the dictatorship will not help but would, in my judgement, hinder progress.  To render account again will provide the excuse necessary for opposition leaders to bog themselves down or be entangled in the process rather than outcome.

We will, therefore, spare you the agony of all of the intricacies involved in the process which Jammeh will be hoping you will entangle yourselves in, again.  Instead, we will outline a simple, straightforward strategy (if you can call it that) that will constitute the entire opposition strategy for 2016.

We have posted two conditions that the dictatorship must meet or fulfill for the opposition to participate in 2016 :
  • The primary and non-negotiable condition is the reinstatement of the 50 + 1 rule.  
  • Equally non-negotiable is the reconstitution of the IEC with members selected by a non-partisan body.  
  • Membership in the New IEC and the non-partisan body selecting the IEC members will be negotiated and agreed to by all parties.   
  • Also open to negotiation is the time-frame that all of the above should be in place prior to the 2016 elections.
Party Manifestos may be alright but not the most urgent issue facing the opposition unless the above conditions are the Preamble.  Everything else, in our view, will serve only as potential source of distraction and the usual shenanigans that we had witnessed in 2006 and 2011.

2016 should be different with a simple but different approach which must be telegraphed to potential international partners, to include ECOWAS and the European Union among others  Keeping it simple will help in the messaging that everyone will understand, including the international community.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jammeh's acts of irresponsibility: From ignoring US deadline to abandoning diplomatic staff and students

President Obama, in a January 2014 statement, announced the First US - Africa Summit by proposing to host 47 African leaders in Washington from 5 - 6 August.   The purpose, according to the White House is to build on progress realized since the American president's last summer's trip to Africa.

In spite of the fact that he has lobbied for a White House invitation since he seized power twenty years ago, and the importance of the relevance of an agenda exclusively devoted to the problems of Africa, Jammeh is apparently the only leader who has failed to meet the May 19th, 2014 registration deadline.  Several reminders have apparently been ignored, a pattern of behavior endemic in a regime that prides itself of 'in-your-face' approach to diplomacy. 

Jammeh lack of social etiquette is well known.  Protocol requires and human decency dictates that The Gambia observe the deadline set by the host because, even for America, hosting this number of Heads of State is no easy task.  Waiting for the last minute only to disrupt plans and arrangements for the host is rude and unbecoming any delegation.

We have written recently about the Gambia's diplomatic presence in Washington with a dysfunctional Embassy that lacks the presence of a diplomatic staff capable of engaging Washington, diplomatically, and any engagement seems to be of a personal nature that revolves around or relating to the private requirements of Yaya Jammeh, his wife and two children. 

The welfare of the diplomatic staff is scandalous.  The Deputy Head of Mission was abruptly withdrawn for consultation, leaving eight children and a wife behind.  He's been gone for months, and while in Banjul, he was dismissed thus, of course, losing his salary and benefits leaving his wife and children in a huge immigration limbo.

Another staff who recently passed away was posted in Washington with a litany of terminal diseases.  The officer never worked a day at the Embassy because of his degenerative health ailments.  He spent his entire stay in and out of hospital until he finally succumbed.  The Embassy sent $24,000 to send the body to Banjul but left the wife (who is very ill and cannot speak a word of English) and at least children behind.  

Between the two officers, there are a total of 10 dependent children and two others whose employment authorizations have expired which cannot be renewed because their father is no longer employed by the regime. The health and immigration challenges of these kids and their mothers are huge.  Therefore, to abandon them is a callous act that the regime must remedy as soon as possible.

These are not only irresponsible acts but they are inhumane and against the human rights of the wives and children who have been abandoned by the very government that brought them in Washington in the first instance.  It is a trademark of the Jammeh regime to abandon diplomatic staff abroad and cease paying tuition fees to students sponsored by the regime to study abroad.  These destitute Gambians are strewn across the globe from London, New Delhi, Taipei to Caracas.  Thanks to Yaya Jammeh. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Former Justice Emmanuel Nkea is a wanted man

The former 'hanging judge' of the Special Criminal Court, Justice Emmanual Nkea has been declared fugitive from the law by Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator.

Former Justice Nkea has been one of the most prolific dispenser of justice, the Jammeh way, until he ran afoul of the dictatorship he served and helped entrenched.

Now, he's being hunted by the same forces he helped empower using the Special Criminal Court to sentence the opposition to the dictatorship, real and imagined, to long prison sentences.

Former Justice Ngea was described by this blog last October as the "eye of the new storm" as he was tapped by the Gambian dictator to replaced the sacked Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Joseph Wowo.   He didn't last long.

Emmanuel Nkea was seen more as a political wheeler dealer than a legal luminary who was more interested in carrying out the wishes of Yaya Jammeh by locking up opponents of the regime than dispensing justice.

The Cameroonian-born judge resumed from a two-week vacation back in February this year only to resign abruptly for unspecified reason(s) - a resignation that came at the heels of the firing of the Ghanaian-born Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang who was under Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation.

Given the embarrassing circumstances under which the former Special Criminal Court judge fled the country, only handing over his resignation letter to a friend just before his plane safely took off to avoid arrest, the regime had concealed the fact that the former mercenary judge is wanted by the law.

His fugitive posters have been posted in police stations across The Gambia, and presumably in Gambian Embassies abroad.  The hunter has now become the hunted.  What an irony.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Supreme Court refuses to undertake death penalty review

The Gambia's Standard newspaper is reporting that the Supreme Court of The Gambia has refuse to review the death penalty case of Gen. Lang Tombong Tamba and others before adjourning the court to its next session which is scheduled to be in November.

According to the Chief Justices ruling, he cannot proceed with the review because the law provides that for the court to proceed, the panel must be made up of seven judges.  The panel he is chairing is made up of six judges, and thus short of a judge to would allow him to proceed.

The death penalty which was upheld by the Supreme Court following the verdict of the High Court was imposed on Chief of Defense Staff Tamba, Omar Bun Mbye, Lamin Badgie, Momodou Gaye, Kawsu Camara alias Bombardier,  Gibril Ngorr Secka and businessman Lie Joof.

The new Pakistani Chief Justice Chawhan is quoted as saying "There is a constraint...We don't have a panel of seven members for the case to be reviewed.  We cannot hear it until we are seven."

Why there is no seventh judge now or whether there will be one at the next session of the Supreme Court is unclear at this time.

Gambian opposition leaders are legitimate targets for murder/assassination says Sheikh Dr. Baba Ceesay

"It is within Islamic sharia law to kill opposition leaders who oppose the leader or President of a country" says a young Gambian cleric named Sheikh Dr. Baba Ceesay, a recent university graduate in Medina, Saudi Arabia recruited into the administration of the University of The Gambia by Yaya Jammeh.

It is incendiary remarks like these that the fiery cleric made at a recent two-day seminar held at an Ibo Town mosque where Sheikh Baba Ceesay said that elections are not only new devices concocted by non-Muslims but they are also irrelevant within the context of the Islamic Ummah.  Leaders or Kings, are selected or chosen by consensus and should rule for as long as they are alive or are no longer physically and/or mentally unable to do so.  If possible, the leader must select a successor.  We believe the Sheikh has been hired by Jammeh to start the process of paving the way to be crown King of Gambia.

The fiery mullah has a long list of prohibited behavior and actions from citizens against their leaders.  Demonstrations, strikes and opposition of any kind is against the version of Islam that he preaches.  Citizens are dictated by Baba Ceesay's version of Islam must be slaves to leaders like Jammeh because they have neither the right to rebel against a repressive authority nor the option of public expression of opposition through strikes or demonstration of any kind.  Citizens are expected under his version of Islam to grin and bear it, as the saying goes.  After all, it is only Allah that will judge Kings and Presidents, including Yaya Jammeh.

The You Tube video which you can find here  was brought to my attention by Imam Baba Leigh, who is himself is in exile in America from the vicious regime of Yaya Jammeh who Sheikh Baba Ceesay is counselling Gambians to obey at all cost, even if facing death at the hands of the regime.  This is a new form of slavery that this cleric, who appears to be a part of a larger group of Mullahs recruited by Jammeh to help pacify the population in his latest  attempt to crown himself King of Gambia.

We must admit that when talk about the possibility of a Gambian royalty resurfaced a week or two ago, we didn't take it seriously because for lack of evidence that the idea was independently being advanced by the parliamentarian from Banjul Central.  Evidence is now pointing towards Jammeh, and must thus be taken seriously.

Recruiting these Mullahs to fan out the country with their a version of Islam is inimical to Islam as it is taught and practice in The Gambia is dangerous and, as one prominent member of the Muslim community told me over the phone, "this kind of Islam can cause sectarian war in The Gambia."  When he was asked why he thought so, he responded "this is not the Islam we practice and neither is it something the opposition leaders and their supporters will tolerate, because Sheikh Baba Ceesay wants us to be slaves to Jammeh and his regime.

This should serve as a warning to the opposition of things to come before the 2016 election cycle which Jammeh will use to catapult him well beyond State House and into the Jammeh Throne.  Jammeh is assembling a well-structured organization to start the campaign to be King, and these Mullahs led by Sheikh Dr. Baba Ceesay spreading his vile and convoluted version of Islam are an integral part of that campaign, but so are Hons. Abdoulie Saine, Seedy Njie and Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council Yankuba Colley.

The presence of these radical Mullahs in The Gambia, according to Imam Baba Leigh, should serve as an early warning to Gambians that the form of Islamic radicalism that Baba Ceesay and his group of Mullahs preach are a threat to the stability of the country and to countries in the sub-region.    

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rethink strategy

The component parts of what is now known as "The Struggle" have been as much in disarray, it is time for a reboot.  The adhesive that kept the parts together - the novelty - of having the various dissident groups from Senegal, Western Europe and the United States converging to the North Carolina capital of Raleigh has worn out, and with it the glue that kept them together.

Raleigh was a success, as it was historic, even though there were glaring flaws which the organizers weren't keen on entertaining any suggestion that would deviate from their vision of things.  Thus, no new idea was neither encouraged or entertained.  Mindful of the sensibilities of the organizers to criticism, suggestions and advise were voluntarily suppressed  which resulted in missed opportunities in strengthening the process. Criticism should be invited and encouraged by the constituent parts of The Struggle, as a way of improving their respective strategies as well as on their individual capacities to assess progress, at any given point, on deliverables.

We have gone past the stage of re-litigating the debate about how Dakar became Raleigh because we see no utility in it, and we certainly do not want to provide fodder to a minute few who enjoy pulling the scab over old wounds.  We'd rather apply medication and plaster.

We will also not dwell on whether political parties were originally intended to be an integral part of what we refer to as the Raleigh Process.  We had preferred to separate the politicians from the civic/political activists for reasons we had advanced in these pages previously.

That said, it is still possible to let the political parties do what they do best  i.e. campaign for votes, and the civic organizations do what they do best i.e. advocate, agitate, educate (civilly) and raise funds for organizations/political parties they support at home.  Again, we had made some suggestions in previous blogs on how this realignment can be achieved.

We hope CORDEG and GCC will take some of these suggestions on board.  Leaders of the opposition political parties have been so much entangled in the intramural sport of online radio 'interviews' that they usually end up in acrimonious political point scoring than enlightening the public.  Decoupling the parties from the civic/activist groups, these "interviews" will become purely political events if party leaders elect to go on the shows.  

The latest addition to the mix is NRMG or the National Resistance Movement of The Gambia which promotes itself as both a political movement as well as a military outfit.  Reconciling these two distinct missions is a subject of internal debate within the existing frameworks.

We hope a clear understanding is reached soon because the presence of this group has cause great angst within the constituent groups which is one more reason why political parties must be shielded at all cost.  Rethinking The Struggle's strategy is necessary at this point.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sit up, Yaya

Sit up, Yaya.  The country has been drifting for a very long time.  Now, it is treading water rapidly, and at a rate that Gambia is on the verge of sinking.   Nothing works in a country that was once the pride of the sub-region, if not the entire continent of Africa.

When you seized power, the first commitment you made to us, Gambians, was, you were not in it for the money or glory, you were not a politician and therefore not interested in staying beyond the transition  You said, you would rather settle in Kanilai, your home village, and farm, once you and your "Council of Soldiers With A Difference" have sorted the Gambia out after 30 years of a regime, you considered then, as one of the most corrupt 'in the world', your words not mine.

It has been twenty years, two thirds of the way of matching Jawara's record in the governance chair.  If you had matched his other records, probably most of us wouldn't have cared one bit.  His record on human rights was exemplary and too high to measure up to, but you could have restrained yourselves from using brute force on a defenseless population to remain in power..

Your security forces and military have killed, maimed, tortured, made to disappear, imprisoned and exiled.  I am one of the victims forced to seek refuge in America with my family.  I have, of course, since settled but how many Gambians are in limbo across Europe, America and Senegal?  Families, loved ones, colleagues have been separated as a result of your poor human rights record.

Your economic management record is no better, and perhaps with more victims than the naked eye can see. Businesses have closed, entrepreneurs both Gambians and foreign have been chased out their businesses by confiscatory tax regime or through the old fashion way of brute force so that you and your minions can lay claim to assets that are not rightfully yours.  In America, we call this form of extortion, highway robbery.   The resultant effect of your form of economic management has been devastating to the private sector, and thus cannot operate freely, expand job opportunities and grow.  Instead, the sector is contracting, and so is the reputation of the country as a safe foreign investment destination.  Youth unemployment is extremely high.  You have, therefore, failed your most important constituents and reliable source of political support.

Gambia's limited stock of infrastructure has been allowed to crumble despite claims of your regime to the contrary.  If it weren't for the European Union's roads program and the determined efforts of the AfDB and the World Bank, ( despite accusing them of being neo-colonial edifices) matters would have been even much worse than they currently are.   Other sectors are not fairing any better.  School buildings may be up but test scores are down nation-wide, teachers untrained and basic school supplies lacking; University of The Gambia producing graduates that are well below expected standard.

As for the agriculture sector, the lifeblood of the economy has been plagued by lack of public investment, reduced public spending in agricultural research and the linkage between research and extension severed at the detriment of the rural farmer who has been left to fend for himself/herself in many ways.  Your regime can no longer meet the bare minimum of guaranteeing the purchase of the farmers groundnuts.  Some had to be returned to them because the Gambia Groundnut Corporation, the sole player in marketing, processing and export of groundnuts ran out of cash.  No wonder, this year's total tonnage is 34,000, which represents 4,000 tonnes more than last year but 130,000 tonnes less than what Jawara purchased before he was thrown out of office unconstitutionally.

I will not close this personal note to you without mentioning the three words, you said, lead you to seize power twenty years ago: Transparency, Accountability and Probity.  By any of these measures, your regime had fallen short of expectations.  Most of your avid supporters are of the same view.  You have really let them down but they are afraid to say for because they might end up in jail or the worst could happen to them. If its transparency, your regime is the most opaque in the sub-region.  Accountability?  You are accountable to no one,  not even to the people who 'elected' you.  Probity? You probe nothing that does not threaten the interest of Yaya Jammeh.  By suggesting that you sit up, what I am really trying to say is it is time for you, Yaya, to go.