Monday, November 13, 2017

Strong and confident leadership demanded of our politicians and men and women in uniform

Circa 1959 
At the height of our fight to rid The Gambia of Jammeh, there were many doubters as to whether we will be able to pull it off in 2016.  We happened to have been among those who were not expecting his defeat through the ballot box but through public protests employing Arab Spring tactics of civil disobedience.  Therefore, it was as much a pleasant surprise for us as it was for millions of Gambians and friends of the Gambia across the globe to dislodge an entrenched 22-year old brutal and corrupt dictatorship. .

Although skeptical of the election route, what was never in doubt was the power of the human resolve to achieve what looked, at the time, unachievable and thus the battle cry of the moment among the online activists: "Never Relent".   Our advice then, as now is never give up or surrender your core beliefs and values because your life is meaningless without them and a life without a set of values, in our view, makes you less of a human.

Although a child of the colonial era, born, raised and high school educated in the colony of Banjul, I have always felt liberated, enjoying all the inherent freedoms that every freeman and woman was endowed, even when the top three to four most senior police officers in the Police and the Field Forces were British and so were most of the Commissioners (now called Governors).  

This brings us to the incarnation of the Public Order Act of 1955, not by any colonialist or imperialist oppressor but by one of our own, a brutal and corrupt African dictator in the name of Yaya Jammeh that sent the top echelon of the United Democratic Party, including its leader to jail using the very same 1955 odious law.  It now appears that it is the same sword of Damocles that is being dangled over our heads by the transition government we all fought so hard to elect to usher in the New Gambia under new management and new orientation.  

Instead, the government decises to operationalize a relic of our colonial past that Jammeh used to jail his opponents and Governor Edward Windley used to crush the “Bread and Butter" riots of 1959.  

Whether the Barrow administration realizes it or not, the insistence by the Inspector General of Police to reverse the previous decision to allow the #OccupyWestfield protests is raising concerns among our traditional allies and friends abroad.  The trend is chilling as it is disappointing. 

If the Inspector General of Police cannot guarantee the safety of a few hundred peaceful demonstrators, as initially projected by the organizers, then Gambians have every reason to question his fitness to man the post.  The security of the country must also be in a much more precarious state than ever imagined to cause the denial of law abiding Gambians to exercise their inherent right to publicly display their displeasure at their government; even in the presence of ECOMIG troops in the country?   

ECOMIG’s mandate had recently been extended for one year with the simultaneous drawdown from the initial troop level of 4,000 to its current 2,500 stabilizing force level.  Can you blame laymen if the IGP’s claims are treated as suspect?  We believe we could do better, as a country, with more confident leadership from our politicians as well as our men and women in uniform, especially now. 
  
          


Saturday, November 11, 2017

EDITORIAL: President Barrow must put his stamp on the transition government

President Adama Barrow 
When Gambians went to the polls last December 1st, their choice to lead the Coalition of 7 +1 was Adama Barrow.  He campaigned and won an election that the entire world, except Yaya Jammeh, acclaimed as free, fair and credible. 

In fact,  Barrow's election was historic as being the first time that a sitting dictatorship, with all the instruments of power still firmly under his control, was defeated at the ballot and democratically without a shot being fired. 

African dictators have lost power in the past but it has almost always been through the use force or the threat of the use of force.  Because of the uniqueness of our last December experience, we have been pleading with the new administration to avoid stepping on a very powerful and unique story that should serve as a platform to start the consolidation of out new found democratic freedoms. 

The Coalition government stumbled right out of the gates as some of us expected.  If you ask a dozen Gambians the cause for it, you are likely to get a dozen but one different answers.  The one reason they all share in common is that the majority of the cabinet lack experience in governance.  Whereas this common factor may not be sufficient reason for failure, it is a necessary condition for a slow start as cabinet members feel their way around the treacherous terrain.  Most, if not all, have been out in the political wilderness for over two decades. 

After almost a year at the helm, President Barrow and his team have made some progress, not of the earth-shattering kind, but progress nonetheless especially in the judiciary where discernible progress is being registered in appointing qualified and experienced Gambians on the bench.  Members of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of the former dictator have been seated over three months ago and its live extended for an additional six month. 

The law establishing the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission is on its final stage of being tabled before the National Assembly.   The security sector has also been scheduled for restructuring.  This is by no means an exhaustive list because there are ministries where public information is thin. 

All of the gains enumerated here will come to naught if hard choices are not made in the country's economic management team.  A significant draw down of the ballooning domestic debt over the last decade must be made to start the reversal of the crowding out of the private sector that has been starved of cash from the commercial banking sector for investment purposes. 

The rebuilding effort  of the Central Bank must commence from the ground up after what has come to light at the Commission of Inquiry.   Without the restructuring of the civil service, it'd not be possible to successfully implement the reforms that must take place to set us on the road to economic recovery.         

#OccupyWestfield group has been issued with a permit to protest on Sunday, November 12th


President Adama Barrow 
After a week of much ado about nothing, the government of Adama Barrow has decided to allow the #OccupyWestfield group to protest at the Westfield Junction, a decision that should have been made last week to avoid the unnecessary rancor and vacillations that ensued.

However, the decision was finally taken by Hon. Ba Tambadou, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who has been been selected by President Barrow to oversee the Interior Ministry while a substantive holder of the post is identified and appointed.  Hon. Mai Fatty's dismissal is unfortunate but as the saying goes in these parts it comes with the territory.  Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president and thus can be removed without offering reason(s) for the removal.  That is the prerogative of the President.  It is not a right but a privilege to serve in a cabinet post.

Regarding the protests, Mr. Alieu Bah of #OccupyWestfield speaking to us from Banjul confirmed that permission has been granted for his group to protest at the Westfield Junction on Sunday 12th November from 3PM - 6PM. 

To peacefully protest in a democracy is a right that must not be infringed.

The decision is a welcome relief that will serve as an outlet for pent up frustrations for a number of our youth - an important constituents of the Coalition -  frustrations resulting from the lack of progress in the provision of reliable supply of electricity, as seen from their vantage point.

Yes, we acknowledge the promises made by government and the efforts made for the realization of those promises which should not preempt the inherent right of every Gambian to publicly and peacefully express his or her dissatisfaction or otherwise without fear of arrest or worse. 

The government has shown, through action, that reasons advanced by the former Interior Minister that resulted in his decision to deny #OccupyWestfield permit were, in our view, without basis.

The refusal to allow the protest to proceed projected weakness and not confidence in our security forces to maintain order at all times.  It was also a grave mistake for the paramilitary forces to be on high alert and in full battle gear thus escalating a problem to unnecessary levels.  Let us leave such knee jerk reactions to dictators.

Today, we are all democrats.

President Barrow's government should consider memorializing Solo Sandeng in naming the Westfield Junction in honor of the UDP youth leader and to designate it as a zone for Gambians to peacefully assemble to show their opposition to or support of issues they consider to be essential to contributing to a stable and prosperous society. 

The Gambia needs a clean break from its dictatorial past by throwing away the Jammeh playbook.  Many Gambians will lend support to this or any other effort that will solidify our democratic gains.  These young people are the future of the country and must be seen as a reservoir of hope for the future of the country and not as a source of potential conflict and instability.     

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mai Ahmad Fatty has been fired as Gambia's Interior Minister, effective Friday November 10 2017

PR/C/6/Vol. 21(84)                                             

Media Advisory

Fajara, 10th November 2017 - The General Public is here by informed that His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia, acting under the provision of Section71 (4) (b) of the Constitution of The Republic of the Gambia, has decided to relieve  Mr. Mai Ahmad Fatty of his appointment as Minister of The Interior with effect from today, Friday, 10 November 2017.  

Mr Fatty has been re-deployed to the diplomatic service. 

In the same vein, His Excellency, the President has assigned the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Honourable Abubacarr M. Tambadou to oversee the Ministry of The Interior until further notice.
 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

To what are Gambian migrants returning home to?

The European Union signed recently a D 200 million grant agreement with IOM and the government of the Gambia, represented by the Interior Minister, as part of the $ 2 billion EU - Africa emergency trust fund.*

The initial tranche is earmarked for the irregular migrants of 1,500 Gambians who will be repatriated from Libya, where many live in squalor and grim conditions and whose lives are under constant threat from human traffickers and bandits. 

According to local reports, the head of IOM said the project is designed to strengthen migration in The Gambia and also to raise awareness of 250 communities.  Awareness programs are also envisaged for the potential 2,500 migrants expected to return on migration options and alternatives which must include training programs to prepare them for reentry into an under performing economy. 

The IOM head emphasized the lengthy and complex nature of reintegrating migrants that must focus beyond economic integration but social, psychological and other aspects as well.  As part of the assistance to the initial batch of irregular migrants coming from Libya, the project provides € 65 (approx. D 3,600) to each of the returnees upon arrival in Banjul to cover their transportation fares to their respective towns and villages and also to take care of incidentals.  The figure has already raised a few eyebrows.

Returnees needs are subsequently assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the type of assistance accorded to each.  The challenges facing government and returning migrants are huge.  It therefore requires careful and a realistic implementation schedule.  The European Union also must be prepared to make adjustments to the project design to accommodate concerns expressed by local and international development practitioners. 

The Oxfam is reportedly calling for more clarity in the design of these types of emergency projects to avoid them being repackaged as border security projects with no development goals.  The Oxfam EU migration policy adviser, recognizing the quick disbursement nature of emergency projects of the sort being envisaged, is calling for more transparency and accountability.   There are no "quick fixes" to the long and tedious process of reintegrating a group of migrants who have little or no skills to speak of to be successfully integrated into society.

Gambia's reentry program for returnee migrants will require, in addition to the Ministries of Interior, Trade and Youth and Sports, the robust and proactive involvement of  civic society organizations in the monitoring of its implementation by civil society organization specializing in such programs.  Because the stakes are high, the program must be properly implemented with some changes to the original design as suggested by Oxfam and others. 

Public awareness campaign utilizing both the public and private media must be mounted by the implementing agencies, as well as the government, to publicize project objectives.  Government must develop a communication strategy around the reentry program will help the general population understand the process and help, as part of community support mechanism, in easing the reentry pains that returnees are likely to encounter.
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* This is the first in a series of blog posts that will examine certain aspects of the EU - Africa emergency trust fund including the implementation of this and similar projects in the pipeline.

Monday, November 6, 2017

EU drops mass deportation idea for African migrants - This is a republication

We've come a long way from exactly two years ago when the EU was contemplating massively deporting African migrants to their respective countries until the African leaders raised massive objection to the idea. 

President Macky Sall of Senegal led the way which ultimately resulted in the Europeans dropping the idea and replaced by the $2 billion Trust Fund that Gambia and other migrant-exporting countries are benefiting from.  We will be taking a closer look at the re-entry programs and how it will potentially impact The Gambia, in particular.

Here's the blog post we wrote on November 12th, 2015.
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EU - African Heads of State Summit in Malta  

On the final day of the two-day summit of heads of state and governments of the European Union and Africa, the idea of an EU-issued travel document to African migrants to facilitate their deportation back to their countries of origin have been rejected.

The Africans strongly objected to "laissez passer" idea which would have been an EU-issued travel document.  According to the African Union Ambassador to the European Union the idea was unheard-of in international law.

Realizing that the idea would have meant that the EU would have had the power to determine one's nationality on behalf of the migrants country of origin, the idea was quickly dropped, preventing EU mass deporting African migrants.  The focus then was rightly directed at how to absorb the migrants by focusing on the long-term solutions of addressing the problem comprehensively.

The seed money for the proposed  $2-billion "Trust Fund" as additional aid package for participating African countries was approved by the EU, provided from the Commission's central budget with matching funds expected from individual EU Members States.

The  fact that the issue of readmission is central to the refugee crisis, it should not be exclusive domain of Europeans alone.  This issue was driven home more emphatically by the Senegalese president Macky Sall who was highly critical of the European and Western multinationals business operations in Africa.

The Senegalese president was clearly referencing the little-known and less publicized  UN's High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows led by Thabo Mbeki that estimated as much as $ 50 billion annually was being siphoned out of Africa by multinational companies - an amount that represents approximately twice the size of official development assistance.

It would appear from the European Union has abandoned is ill-advised approach of separate and unequal treatment of the Syrian and African migrants.  In addition to the "Trust Fund", Britain plans to increase its aid package in the next four years on education and job creation schemes.  Britain is also pushing EU countries into accepting failed asylum seekers.

The tone certainly changed on the second and final day of the Summit.  It is hoped that, in moving forward, the migration crisis will be viewed and treated as a global issue, requiring global solutions that must take into account the root causes - both man-made and natural - moving forward.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Press Release from #OccupyWestfield

#OccupyWestfield Official logo 
Gambia: Barrow government breaks promise to protect citizens’ right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly

Banjul November 5, 2017- President Adama Barrow has reverted to the ways of his predecessor, dictator Yahya Jammeh, whose intolerance for criticism and disdain for protest, locked the tiny African nation in a rule of terror  for 22 years. Matters came to a head on Sunday November 5th, when the Ministry of Interior deployed military and police units to Westfield, in the Kanifing Municipality, a densely populated area, which hosts the majority of businesses, and residents.  The move by the Interior minister Fatty, was to deter public service delivery protests from going ahead, and intimidate the organizers and supporters in the process. 

The Inspector General of Police denied the group a permit to peacefully gather at Westfield, through the use of the Public Order Act, a law that Jammeh relied on in suppressing freedom.  This was the same law that was used to jail the entire United Democratic Party leadership, which ironically saw President Barrow ascend into the position of leadership, ultimately becoming president.

“What this new government is doing is very disappointing as it is worrying.  They are showing tendencies of a dictatorship, with their disdain for dissent.  It has not even been a year since we kicked out a previous dictator, who was notorious for levels of intolerance for citizens’ rights,” said Alieu Bah, the leader of the Occupy movement.
Occupy Westfield’s call for a nationwide protest is due to the dismal failure of the water and electricity company, which continues to plunge the country in darkness, a situation that has worsened under the Barrow administration. Although the new administration is not responsible for the technical insolvency of the electricity and water company, which has been unable to deliver basic supply of water and electricity for almost 40 years, it is nevertheless, obligated to respect the constitution, which allows for citizens to peacefully gather and express themselves, in whatever form, as long as such assembly is lawful. Added to this caveat, the current leadership of the United Democratic Party, which is now in power in a coalition government, challenged the very act that it is using to suppress the rights of Gambian’s to protest poor service delivery.  The case is currently at the Supreme Court.       

“The contradictions of this government are now clear for all to see.  They say one thing, and do the complete opposite.  Their credibility levels are diminishing by the day, which is disappointing for people like me that stood up to the previous dictatorship,” said Ali Cham- aka: Killa Ace, an activist, and the first musician exiled for standing up to Jammeh’s dictatorship in 2015.

A year ago, in the run up to the presidential elections, President Barrow, through the opposition coalition, made a specific pledge to repeal the notorious Public Order Act.  The coalition’s manifesto explicitly stated that: "Public Order Act, Laws of The Gambia 2009 gives too much power to the Inspector General of Police and does fetter freedom of association and assembly. The Coalition government will repeal any provision in the Public Order Act which is not reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society such as those which hinder peaceful procession to highlight public grievances which is the main tool for exercising civil society oversight over the governance process." 

It seems that the Barrow administration has forgotten that pledge. #OccupyWestfield, is not deterred by the show of heavy-handedness by the government under President Barrow.  The group’s right to freedom of assembly and the right to protest will not be surrendered.  The Gambia government has an obligation to promote and protest these rights.  The 1997 constitution guarantees us these rights, as do the plethora of regional, continental and international treaties. 

The fact that President Barrow, made several undertakings to uphold the rights of all Gambians, when he addressed the continental rights body last week, which Banjul continues to host, should at least prod this government to lead by example in respecting the rights of its citizens as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.   Article 11 of the Charter states: Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, heath, ethics and rights and freedom of others. 

The #OccupyWestfield Movement is not a threat to anyone.  We have made this absolutely clear, to a point whereby our weapon of choice is a candle- something that signifies peace, spirituality, and power of the human spirit to endure in difficulty and preserver with hope. But our candles are being met with guns, bullets and batons.  Our supporters for peaceful protest are being met with soldiers that are ready to unleash violence.  Our calls for our rights to be respected as we demand for better service delivery, in the process asserting our rights to access basic electricity and water, are being ignored and silenced.  This was what former President Jammeh practiced with great success, in the process turning The Gambia into a state of fear and terror.  This is something that we will not accept.  This is unlawful and tyrannical in every respect.  We will exercise our rights.  We will continue to call for better service delivery and asserting our fundamental right to assemble, and to express ourselves.

For more information please contact: +220 7571117, +220 7309494, +220 7202981

Background:
Key dates and timelines:
October 26- Alieu Bah, a Gambian citizen posted a message on Facebook using the hashtag #OccupyWestfield, which called on Gambians to gather and protest the lack of service delivery (water and electricity);
October 31- the #Occupywestfield group applied for a permit from the Inspector General of Police to proceed with its planned protest, which would take the form of a candlelight vigil;
November 1- the Intelligence Agency invited the members of the group to an interview.  The meeting was meant to “screen” the members, and personal details were taken;
November 2- A meeting was held with the IGP, and other security chiefs, where the application for a permit was denied;
November 3- Meeting with the Minister of Interior, Mr Mai Fatty;
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About #OccupyWestfield:

#OccupyWestfield is not a formal organization but a shared desire, even as it is a shared grievance, for the very basics of life namely: water and electricity. It’s a rallying call that took a life of it’s own and became a movement. It started as a hashtag on facebook for Gambian ctitzens to come out and protest peacefully and share their frustrations. It has since grown into a movement with a coordinating committee.



Sidi Sanneh Blog is not an organ of any political party

Sidi Sanneh 
sidisanneh.blogspot.com is the undisputed  flagship of blogs on the political economy of The Gambia and related subject matter.  

The brand was built on a carefully crafted reputation since the summer of 2013 as a reliable and accurate source of information for Gambians at home and abroad, as well as non-Gambians and friends of the Gambia.

At home, it is accessed by the political class, as well as professionals, public and civil servants as well as private business operators.  Students and the youth, in general, constitute an important part of the blog’s readership that assures them a reliable source of news and analyses.

The blog is followed by academics, researchers, diplomatic missions, UN agencies including the World Bank and IMF and numerous universities around the world.  Governments in the region are also an important consumers of our content.     

Our views on the economic and political developments of not only in The Gambia but in the region and across Africa are regularly sought by reporters representing international news agencies and outlets such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, RFI, VOA and numerous others because they trust as a source of reliable information about The Gambia and Africa.

We also serve the diaspora communities across the globe regardless of political affiliation because we are non-partisan.  We are neither members of, nor affiliated with, any political party, to further guarantee our neutrality and editorial independence.

Sidi Sanneh      

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Jammeh Victims Speak : A Wax Media Video Production

Ebou Waggeh, CEO Wax Media 

It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to a video film by Mr. Ebou Waggeh, one of Gambia's leading TV producers, presenters, news reporter and editors who is CEO of Wax Media, a multimedia consulting company.

His film credits include by not limited to CNN's Sights and Sounds of The Gambia, a documentary that firmly placed The Gambia on the tourism map, The Making of the Second Republic, a documentary chronicling political events that led to the 22-year dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh and In a Nutshell, a documentary about Gambia's groundnut industry.

Prior to venturing as media entrepreneur with leading Gambia companies such as Africell, Q-Cell,Gambia Tourism Authority, Gambia Ports Authority, Pristine, UNDP as clients, Ebou Waggeh wasPrincipal Producer of News and Head of the Current Affairs Department of the Government's Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS)

Mr. Waggeh covered the public forum with several news outlets in attendance to cover the conclusionof the newly formed Campaign to Bring ex-Dictator Yaya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice.  The video is a record of the testimony of some of the victims of Yaya Jammeh, in their own words.

We find the video of the Victim Forum to be riveting in a very compelling way that Ebou Waggeh can.  The video captures every moment of each of the victims featured in the most vivid manner as they tell their horrid and dehumanizing stories of torture at the hands of Jammeh's accomplices.

The video documentary will certainly form an integral part of the 22-year dictatorship that an entire nation endured under Yaya Jammeh.   We hope that the victims' individual voices will help tell a story that will galvanize the world into action, as we have seen in the case of Hissene Habre.

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NOTE: It appears that because of the large size of the video, we will not be able to upload it to the interface of this blog post.  Consequently, we will try linking this write up to our Facebook page.  We hope Facebook accepts the video.  Let's give it a try and see what happens.

Friday, November 3, 2017

#OccupyWestfield protest postponed pending further discussions with authorities, says protest leader

Alieu Bah, Leader of #OccupyWestfield  
On the phone to Banjul, Mr. Alieu Bah, the leader of the #OccupyWestfield confirmed that a meeting took place today between his protest group and government officials to discuss the stalemate caused by the recent decision of the Inspector General of Police to deny them permit to protest the persistent lack of electricity. 

According to Mr. Bah, who was accompanied by approximately a dozen of his #OccupyWestfield group, they met with the Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, the IGP, President Barrow's Security Adviser, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Managing Director of NAWEC, the Manager of Corporate Affairs of NAWEC and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior.

The Interior Minister reaffirmed government's position that the group's request for a permit to protest next Sunday was denied due to security reasons given that the recent emergence of the country from decades of brutal dictatorship has left the security of the country in a precarious state.  It is the view of government that every effort must be made and every precaution taken to preserve the delicate balance between the rights of every Gambian to free assembly and the rights of every within Gambia's borders to be guaranteed of their individual safety or safety of person.

The meeting was characterized by Mr. Bah as amicable and as a result, the request by the Interior Minister for another meeting scheduled for next week Wednesday was confirmed and agreed to by both parties. 

When asked what is the purpose of next Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Bah refused to speculate but reaffirmed his group's determination to still proceed with the protest regardless of the outcome of the next meeting because, according to him, Gambians earned the right, as a free people, to publicly display their grievances in a peaceful manner. 

Peaceful protest is considered by the #OccupyWestfield as an earned, under the new political dispensation, they will not willingly forfeit. To do otherwise would tantamount to abdication of their responsibilities as good citizens and strong believers in and advocates of democracy and the rule of law.         

The mental state of Gambia's health

Because of the interest shown, we'd like to share the blog post written on 16th September 2015 about the state of Gambia's mental health under Yaya Jammeh.  The youth problem facing the country is huge and we wish we, as a country, will focus more on finding solutions to our problems rather than the continuous partisan bickering.
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Scary, staggering, distressing and deplorable were among the words employed in social media  to describe the number of Gambians suffering from some form of mental illness as reported by a local newspaper and quoting from The 2015 – 2025 Mental Health Policy.

According to the Mental Health Policy document, 91,000 or 10% of Gambians 15 years and above suffers from some form of mental illness.  Based on a 2004 World Health Organization estimates, 27,000 or 3% of Gambians 15 years and over I s suffering from a severe mental disorder.  118,000 or 13% of the adult population and according to the mental health expert who worked on the study, this figure is an underestimation.   When adjusted, the prevalence of the scourge is 25% or 1 in 5 Gambians, a figure comparable to figures in developing countries like Nigeria and Uganda.

Drug and alcohol abuse are a major cause of, what has become, a major public health problem that is further complicating the economic and social advancement of a country whose economy is already on a melt done mode.   The figures are dismal.  In the Banjul – Kombo St’ Mary’s area ( or Greater Banjul ) 6 – 8 persons of every 100 persons are classified as alcoholics.  5 – 10% of all Kombo Central residents are habitual users of illicit drugs – a figure that is likely to be under-reported. 

The prevalence of illicit drug use, especially cocaine has accelerated under the regime of Yaya Jammeh. To illustrate the point, a recent visitor to The Gambia who has lived in the United States for a decade and a half, returned to admit that he has never seen cocaine in his life until his last visit to his home country.  

A two-ton, $ 1 billion street value cocaine haul in The Gambia in 2005 was the proof that the regime of Yaya Jammeh is very much involved in the South American drug trade that uses The Gambia as a transit point.  Jammeh has admitted of a $ 3 million per month in exchange for his regime to turn a blind eye for the South American drug barons to use the Bonto facility. 

Drug and alcohol abuse contribution to the mental illness problems of the country is further aggravated by a deteriorating economic environment resulting from bad economic policies of a regime that has displayed breathtaking level of incompetence and high-level corruption which has pushed the level of poverty to unacceptable levels.  

The stress levels are high, especially during the periods of the Muslim Feast of Eid ul-Adha (known as "Tabaski" locally) when the prices of ram for sacrificial purposes are beyond the reach of many Gambians.   

Unfortunately, the regime has also fallen short on the treatment of the mentally ill, and thus the gap is widening with a shortage of treatment facilities.  The old treatment center at Campama in Banjul was transformed into a prison - when the Tanka Tanka facility was built - instead of it being renovated to increase capacity, given what has become a national endemic affecting not only families but the economy as well.  The failure of the policies of the regime is at the center of the mental health crisis which has taken on a degree of urgency that must be addressed if Gambia is not to lose an entire generation of Gambians. 



Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Public Order Act: Is it going to be Adama Barrow and Mai Fatty's way or Ousainou Darboe's way?

Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty and President Adama Barrow 
On the 20th of April, 2016, Ousainou Darboe, leader of the opposition United Democratic Party, was arraigned in Banjul High Court on six counts of criminal charges.  Arraigned also were eighteen members of his party executive and supporters. 

Darboe and co were not only the victims of a vicious dictator who had ruled the Gambia with an iron fist for decades, but they were prey to a vestige of a 1955 colonial era law that requires persons to obtain a permit from the Commissioner now Inspector General of Police to hold a public procession.  They were charged with unlawful assembly because they lacked the permit to  publicly.assemble.

Mr. Darboe and his colleagues were found guilty and sentenced to three-year prison terms but they were freed on bail on December 5, 2016, three days after his United Democratic Party led by Adama Barrow defeated Yaya Jammeh in the December 1st  presidential elections.  All of them were subsequently pardoned by the new Gambian leader but Darboe decided, nonetheless to challenge the constitutionality of the Public Order Act that was used by the ex-dictator to imprison him and his colleagues.
Ousainou Darboe, UDP Leader 
Fast forward to this week when a little-known group called "Occupy Westfield" group, led by Mr. Alieu Bah applied for a permit to protest against the local electricity company (NAWEC) to the persistent lack of reliable electricity supply caused by management and structural inefficiencies, aging plants and equipment and marred by corruption. 

The permit to publicly assemble to protest the intermittent supply of electricity was denied, according to a police spokesperson, for security reasons.  Another reason cited was that on the proposed protest date coincided with a football match which could pose security challenges to the police.

The denial of a permit to lawfully protest by relying on the same Public Order Act that Ousainou Darboe, the current Foreign Minister in the Coalition government of Adama Barrow, is challenging its constitutionality in the Supreme Court of The Gambia poses an awkwardly delicate situation for a coalition that is still struggling to find its footing. 

The Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, the principal adviser to the President Barrow and presumably must be in agreement with, if not the originator, of the decision by the Inspector General of Police to deny "Occupy Westfield" the permit to stage the protest.

Now that the permit has been denied Occupy Westfield, using the same law that Jammeh used to incarcerate Ousainou Darboe and his entire executive, Barrow will either have to reverse Mai Ahmad Fatty and the Inspector General of Police or President Barrow instructs Ousainou Darboe to withdraw his appeal to the Supreme Court and embrace the law that sent the leader of the United Democratic Party and most his executive members to Mile II.

We subscribe to the view shared by many that the Barrow government has missed an opportunity of using the protest to address the vexing electricity problem one more time with the "Occupy Westfield" group, most of whom, very likely, voted for the Coalition.  These young men and women must not be seen as enemies of the state or the government but as concerned citizen with equal claim to what Gambia has on offer.

We cannot help but, at this juncture, quote American Ambassador C. Patricia Alsup who, in addressing National Assembly Members, stated that "as elected leaders, to their constituencies are to provide strong oversight of the executive branch,  ensure that government is transparent and accountable to the people, establish a budget that reflects the need of the people, repeal unjust laws and pass laws that protect basic human rights and ensure no one is left behind." 

The Coalition Government of President Adama Barrow and the National Assembly Members will be doing the Gambian people a great disservice if their individual interests take precedents over the basic needs and aspirations of the citizenry.   The voices of the Gambian people must be heard.  Ignore them at your peril. 

Promoting The Gambia: Oil and Gas Opportunity Event - 10th November 2017 - in London


The Government of The Gambia is inviting prospective investors "to an exclusive event" on its Oil and Gas Opportunities hosted by Berwin Leighton Paisner, a London law firm, in association with Amie Bensouda & Co. the Lead Counsel of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh.

The Road Show promises a detailed update of the hydrocarbon investment opportunities.  It also promises to provide " a road map to licensing the open blocks in the country in general and the anticipated selection process that will be implemented in the coming months to engage in the petroleum industry."

The Gambian side will be led by Hon. Fafa Sanyang, Minister of Petroleum and Energy with the following officials in tow :-

  • Mr. Dawda Fadera, Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service
  • Hon. Amadou Sanneh, Minister of Finance 
  • Hon. Abubacarr Tambadou, Attorney General and Minister of Justice
  • Hon. Demba Jawo,  Minister of Information
  • Mr. Mod K. Ceesay, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy
  • Mr. Jerry Barrow, The Commissioner of Petroleum
  • Mr. Mambury Njie, Managing Director,  GNPC
  • Mr. Cherno Marenah, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary
  • Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance
  • Mr. Assan Faal, CEO, GIEP
  • Mrs. Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Director of Press and Public Relations, PRESOF
The Finance Minister is scheduled to update prospective investors on progress made since the transitional Coalition Government assumed office.  Presentations from other officials will highlight the opportunities in the oil and gas sector by unveiling the oil blocks that will be available, the quality of the data and how to access it.  The legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks are also expected to be discussed.  The finale will be for the Minister of Petroleum and Energy to announce the selection process.

While we continue to monitor developments, we will refrain, for now, from offering our views on the petroleum sub-sector that has been recklessly managed by the previous regime resulting in loss of future revenue, high level corruption, false starts and endless litigation with threats of arbitration by Frank Timis's African Petroleum Corporation.  A new legal framework is necessary to guarantee the protection of the sovereign interests.   

A Sovereign Wealth Fund modeled on the Norwegian prototype is worthy of consideration to ensure that Gambians yet unborn will benefit from the proceeds of revenue expected to be derived from an estimated 2 - 3 billion barrels that is within our boundaries.  We must not rush it.  If we do, history will not be kind to those responsible for squandering the nation's wealth.                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

President Barrow addresses 61st Ordinary Session of ACHPR on its 30th anniversary



 On behalf of the Government and People of The Gambia, and on my own behalf, I welcome you all to this historic opening ceremony.   The Government of The Gambia is delighted to host the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which also coincides with the 30thanniversary of the establishment of the Commission.

It is without doubt that the Commission has worked tirelessly towards the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent for the past 30 years.   I wish to recognize its excellent contributions and achievements in this regard. The establishment of the Commission continues to be a source of immense pride and hope for Africa - and in particular The Gambia as the host nation.

Madam Chairperson,

The people of The Gambia recognise the commitment and support of the African Commission in ensuring that human rights are protected in The Gambia despite the uncooperative attitude of the former government. The Commission never shied away from carrying out its mandate even when it seemed impossible to do so in The Gambia and for this we will remain forever grateful.

Madam Chairperson,

Allow me to also acknowledge the tremendous contributions of regional and international human rights organisations, human rights defenders and NGOs, who have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that the unfortunate situation of our people remained on the regional and global political agenda. Thanks to their efforts, the people of this country were not forgotten by the international community.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will agree with me that the African Continent has come a long way since the inception of the Banjul Charter. Although there have been many obstacles along the way, there have also been numerous achievements and milestones.  Since the establishment of the Commission, African States have made great strides in the promotion and protection of human rights in their respective countries through the adoption of laws and policies in fulfillment of their human rights obligations under the Charter. 

Although the level and extent of human rights protection varies from State to State, the commitment to advance human rights is steadily gaining ground throughout the continent. The sessions of the Commission are therefore an important mechanism for all stakeholders to carry out an objective assessment of the levels of implementation of our individual obligations under the African Charter.

Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

On the home front, the Government of The Gambia has enacted numerous laws aimed at the protection and promotion of Human Rights. Most recently, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, I signed five international treaties including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, and the Convention Against Enforced Disappearances. In the next few months, we intend to ratify many human rights related treaties including the Convention Against Torture.

One of the key reforms of my administration is the adoption of a new Republican Constitution within the shortest time possible. Existing constitutional provisions on protection of human rights shall be strengthened in the new constitutional order.

However, it is important to note that human rights protection must not only be about enacting laws on paper. Concrete steps must be taken through the creation of institutions, policies and programmes for the full realisation and enjoyment of these rights.

Madam Chairperson,

Conscious of the fact that Human Rights are undeniable and interdependent, my Government has been working - towards - enhancing the lives of our citizens and ensuring that our obligations under the African Charter are fulfilled.

My government has resolved to improve the country’s legal and institutional environment and to align the entire governance structure with international justice and human rights standards. To this end, my government has developed a National Development Plan for the period 2018 to 2021 which will serve as a blueprint for the realisation of our goals in various areas of the Public Service. These include Security Sector Reform, administration of Justice, the health sector, education, empowerment of women, youths, and addressing children’s issues.

We are focused on rebuilding a broken nation, and to lay the foundation of an administration of justice system in the country capable of sustaining our democracy, and at the same time deal with the past in a constructive manner.

As part of our transitional justice project, we are in the process of establishing a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. This Commission will document the widespread human rights violations of the previous Government with a view to establishing an impartial historical record of the truth to foster social cohesion and encourage national reconciliation. Essentially, these initiatives aim to address impunity, and to recognize the rights and dignity of victims through the provision of appropriate reparations to ensure the country is able to move forward.

Madam Chairperson,

I am proud to inform you that since the inauguration of my Government at the beginning of the year, a total number of 334 prisoners have now been released from prisons and other detention centers around the country including all political and prisoners of conscience.


241 pending criminal cases involving 304 accused persons were reviewed; prosecutions in 36 cases involving 86 accused persons were discontinued on the basis of insufficient evidence. Currently, there are fewer people held in remand awaiting trial or the conclusion of trial. Prisoners with medically certified mental disabilities have now been transferred from prisons to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

There has been a considerable positive shift in the public space on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and the media which is vital in any genuine democracy. Presently, we are working closely with international human rights organisations for the total overhaul of the media laws to remove all repressive provisions that suppress the fundamental right to freedom of Expression and opinion. Additionally, all censorship of the private and public media has been removed.

My government also recognises the need for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission which has been delayed over the past few years. Efforts are currently underway to finalize the bill for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission in compliance with the Paris Principles for the first time in the history of this country.

Madam Chairperson,

My Government is aware of the obligation of The Gambia under the “Host State Agreement” to construct a permanent structure to house the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Consequently, the Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Secretariat of the Commission, has constituted a taskforce comprising all stakeholders mandated, among other things, to raise funds for the construction of the said Secretariat.

will be making a Declaration pursuant to Article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to allow individuals and NGOs to have direct access to the Court. The Government is equally conscious of its other treaty obligations including the timely submission of reports to the Commission under the Charter.


Madam Chairperson,

The African dream that gave life to the establishment of the Commission 30 years ago is much alive today as it was then. I wish to reiterate the total commitment of the Government of The Gambia to the African Commission and its ideals. We stand ready and willing to work with you to champion the cause of respect for and protection of human rights of all peoples on the African continent.
We call upon all States on the continent to give their full support to the Commission.

Madam Chairperson,

I am certain that this session would open the platform for fruitful deliberations to assess and take stock of our achievements and challenges in the last 30 years.

I extend my appreciation to you all for traveling from far and wide to attend this celebratory session. Whilst wishing you fruitful deliberations, it is my fervent hope that you will take time to explore and enjoy our smiling coast during your stay.

Finally, I extend my appreciation to the outgoing Commissioners for excellent service rendered to the Commission over the years. We acknowledge your immense contributions, individually and collectively, to the promotion and protection of human rights in our continent.  I am optimistic that your successors will continue the good work that you have all carried out during your respective tenures.

On that note, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen it is my singular honour and privilege to declare this 61stOrdinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights officially open.

I thank you all for your kind attention. 

                                                                   ####

Source: Press Office, State House
Verbatim reproduction of the speech delivered today, Wednesday 1st November 2017 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A perpetual state of political dissent is not an option

Sidi Sanneh 
When we published the blog post entitled "The online media must also transition' following the stunning defeat of Yaya Jammeh by Adama Barow last December 2nd, the reaction was instant and varied. 

To those who thought I was trying to tell them to close their media empires down, I referred them to the raison d'etre of their media outlets was reflected, and rightly so, in their respective business models which must necessarily need modification because the central figure - Yaya Jammeh - is no longer the central objective.

We followed that a few months later with this piece which we are happy to republish entitled "A perpetual state of political dissent is not an option ."  Enjoy 
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Last December, an obscure 51-year old real estate agent and a political newcomer named, Adama Barrow, stunned the world by defeating an entrenched dictator who’d ruled the Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years.  Equally stunning was the manner he achieved the feat - through the ballot box as opposed to the conventional route via military intervention.

While the defeat of Jammeh stunned Gambians, it left the online media flatfooted, just as it had of the opposition parties who selected Adama Barrow as their presidential candidate, setting off a wild scramble, both in The Gambia and among the online radios and social media communities in the diaspora, that had served, up to election day, as the front line in the fight against a brutal dictatorship.

In this regard, we advocated for the reorientation of online radio programming that will focus more on issues that will solidify the democratic gains realized as a result of getting rid of Jammeh democratically and without bloodshed, as opposed to getting stuck in either continuing the demonization of Jammeh or succumbing to the temptation of replacing the ousted dictator with President Barrow as a means of holding on a captured audience.   This was seen in some quarters as an attempt to silence the press by bringing them in line with, and in support of the new government which was never our intention.  The blog in question entitled "[T]he online press must also transition" can be found here.

Covering the Jammeh regime was a nightmarish experience full of carnage and brutality that can only be equated with the worst of the worst of dictatorships.  The raw brutality meted out to fellow Gambians by the Jammeh and regularly reported on by the online media, tended to have numbed the sensibilities of a portion, (hopefully, a small portion for the good of the country) that have come to normalize the gory stories that were streaming out of the NIA dungeons (Bamba Dinka).

The temptation to continue to wet the appetite of the online audience is great; driven in part by the desire to retain a captured audience, even if it means jazzing-up and/or ginning up stories at the expense of national reconciliation.  Some unsavory and unhinged characters have been taking to the airwaves, inciting people to start a new 'Struggle' against a government that is barely 100 days old, accusing the Barrow administration of promoting tribalism - a red herring -  as well as favoring certain caliber of investors.

There is no significant difference between these accusations that pit one tribe against another and Yaya Jammeh's infamous incendiary denunciation of the Mandinka ethnic group that drew an incitement to violence charge from none other than the United Nation's Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary General on Genocide, who reminded the former dictator of how incitement to violence led to mass killings along identity lines in Rwanda and other countries around the world.  Jammeh was reprimanded as a result which should serve as a reminder that incitement to violence is a serious bridge of international law.  

The truthfulness of the accusations leveled against Barrow and his government agencies are not what are at issue here.  What is at issue is the appropriateness of taking to the airways and making unsubstantiated accusations and literally making up stuff about simple facts that can easily be verified by a click of the mouse to access official websites.

On our part, we will continue to engage the Barrow government constructively, while holding it responsible for any policy decision, particularly on issues pertaining to the public policy processes, and to provide solutions and policy options.   We do not have neither the desire nor the intention of being part of the perpetual state of political dissent because it is neither rational nor realistic.

What we will be focusing on is to be part of a process that will contribute to the building of a viable and last democratic society, using the democratic gains of last December 2nd and the international goodwill currently on offer as foundations for a better future for all Gambians.         

More Gambian judges sworn-in as part of the Gambianization of the judiciary

Justice Awa Bah 
Justice Haddy Cecillia Roche being sworn in 













Six Gambian judges were sworn-in today at the temporary State House at Fajara was part of the Barrow administration's effort to reverse the undesirable trend that saw the Gambian judiciary dominated by Nigerians judges most of whom were referred to as "mercenary judges". 

According to the press release emanating from the Fajara State House,  President Barrow is quoted as saying that the appointments of these judges would, in the long run, ensure that the entire Gambian judiciary will be managed efficiently by qualified Gambians.

To preserve public confidence, the judges are being called upon to uphold the virtues of integrity and professionalism.  Independence of the judiciary, which was absent in the 22-years of Jammeh's dictatorial rule, will form the cornerstone of the new judiciary, according to Adama Barrow, who assured the Gambian judges that the Executive will not interfere in the dispensing of justice, as expected by the citizenry. 

Chief Justice, Hassan Jallow, admonished the new judges to uphold the virtues of professionalism and integrity in dispensing justice.

The new justices are : Honorable Justice Awa Bah as President of the Court of Appeal,  Justice Haddy Cecillia Roache, Justice Basiru Vassili Portier Mahoney and Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara as justices of the Court of Appeal.  Justice Buba Jawo and Justice Ebrima Jaiteh were sworn-in as Justices of the High Court.

It is noteworthy to cite the fact that half of the justices sworn in were female - a trend, we hope, will be not only be maintained but replicated across the civil and public services.  Another historic first is the appointment of Justice Awa Bah as the first woman President of the Court of Appeal.



President Barrow to EU Rep.: "In politics, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies"

Stravros Lambrinidis, EU Special Rep. for Human Rights
Stravros Lambrinidis, the European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights led a delegation to State House yesterday to pay a visit to President Barrow, according to a press release from the Office of The President. 

The Lambrinidis-led delegation congratulated Barrow and the Gambian people in what they characterized as "the remarkable democratic transition in the country and the bravery of the Gambian people."

The discussions of the delegation centered on the soon to be launched The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) as well as the urgent need to engage the youth of the country through employment creation.  This is an obvious reference to the series of EU initiatives relating to and/or tied to the repatriation of thousands of Gambian migrants who escaped the 22-year dictatorship.  The $13-million EU Emergency Trust Fund has recently come under criticism for lack of ownership with the implementing agency, based in Dakar, only recently opening offices in the country. 

The proper utilization of the resources committed by the EU to the reentry program has also been a recent concern and has generated lively debate within and outside Gambia.  The concern is that the monies will probably go to travel, study tours, impact assessment studies, workshops and financing the Project Implementation Units instead of going to directly assisting returnees in the form of appropriate training and seed money to start their own businesses.

The EU delegation was also brought up to speed on the pending review of the Constitution and the reforms slated for the security sector, including the issue of FGM.  Speaking to the media, the leader of the delegation outlined some of the challenges facing the Barrow government such as youth unemployment, rehabilitation of the prison facilities and security reforms that President Barrow has promised to achieve through human rights-based policies.

President Barrow, ever so conscious of the human rights situation in the country, reassured the EU delegation that the rights of every Gambia continues to be guaranteed under his government including supporters of the previous regime despite the human rights abuses the country underwent under Yaya Jammeh. 

Barrow informed the delegation that some of Jammeh supporters have embraced the change and some are supporting his Coalition-led government.  It was in this context that he said that "there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies." He added that "one has to be courageous to take criticism."  The comment will undoubtedly invite the attention of pundits.

While imploring the leadership in Banjul to focus on human rights as the country's new flagship and to act as the inspiration to other, Mr. Lambrinidis encouraged the Barrow government to exchange ideas and good practices with others in the region and Africa.

The upcoming Donor's Conference scheduled for next February and an African-European Union continent-wide Conference on youth employment and job creation was discussed.