Thursday, June 30, 2016

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part II

In Part I of the blog post on the scandal that has engulfed the country and billed by Jammeh as one of the most serious economic crimes in twenty-two years, we looked at the main agencies central to the corruption in addition to NAWEC, the national electricity company and biggest consumer of heavy fuel oil.

The Ministry of Petroleum is under the the Office of the President and thus subject to constant monitoring by Yaya Jammeh.  The Ministry of Energy has focused its attention on renewable energy while the Board of the GNPC oversees the upstream and downstream sub-sector operations of the Corporation.

Like everything else in a dictatorship, Jammeh has absolute control over every aspect of these agencies, including information flows.  Therefore, to act surprise with his "most serious economic crime in 22 years" announcement using both state-controlled television and the Daily Observer - his propaganda sheet - is pretentious behavior designed to prepare the groundwork so that others will take the entire fall for what Jammeh and his Lebanese and Gambian business associates should take a bigger share of the responsibility for the chaotic mess in the petroleum sector.

The initial organizational configuration of the petroleum sector comprised of Gam-Petroleum (Gambia) Ltd that has invested heavily in the Mandinari fuel depot to procure, store and sell petroleum and petroleum products to NAWEC.  Total International also procures and stores at the same depot for it's own operations.  The Ministry of Petroleum under the Office of the President is charge of the sector.

Mandinari Fuel Depot was built at the cost of US $50 million.  The facility considered a strategic infrastructure by the Jammeh regime was inaugurated in 2008.  Until the fuel depot was nationalized in March 2015, the equity share holdings looked like this: Social Security (31%), GPA (10%), GNPC (7%), Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%), Fadi Mazegi (10.3%), Amadou Samba (9.9%), Premier Investment Group (1%) *.  We are unable to say, for now, who the Premier Investment Group that own 1% of the fuel depot are.

It can be seen that 52% of this "strategic infrastructure" was controlled by private/foreign interests for over six years.  The private businessmen namely Mohammed Bazzi, Fadi Mazegi, Amadou Samba and PIG, together, had controlling shares from the inception with little effort to force them to divest until forced by circumstances beyond the regime's control which will be the subject we intend to address in our next installment.

* Premier Investment Group is listed as owned by Mohammed Bazzi and Fado Mazeggi

Part III will look at the hows and  whys Jammeh arrived at the new share structure, the cost to the public treasury and why we think the Gambian people got the short end of the stick as a result of the exuberant cost of the "nationalization" of the Gam-Petroleum Fuel Depot.    

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part I

A week ago, in a highly unusual move by Jammeh regime that raised a lot of eyebrows, the news reader of the government controlled national television read a press release informing the general public that the Office of the President has discovered "one of the most serious economic crimes in government during the past twenty-two years" of the Jammeh regime.

The release characterized the nature of the crimes committed as being related to the procurement of petroleum that involved personnel at the Ministry of Petroleum, Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Board of the GNPC.

Because it is out of character for the regime to make such public pronouncements, it raised immediate suspicions when ten senior officials - past and current -  including a former Minister of Petroleum and Chairman of the GNPC were rounded up and speedily arraigned at the Banjul Magistrate Court in less than 48 hours.  It is important to note that even though the ten have been arraigned, the charges against each have neither been specified - at least, not publicly - nor the amounts involved.

A short historical context is essential to appreciate the problem.  Gambia National Petroleum Corporation was created in 2014 to take over the Gambia National Petroleum Company Limited established in 2003.  In presenting the Bill creating the Corporation, Infrastructure Minister, Balla Jahumpa, on behalf of the Vice President Njie-Saidy, said the GNPC Ltd. was created "to serve as the business arm of the government in the oil and gas industry in The Gambia."

The Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility at Mandinari was inaugurated in May 2008 to address the petroleum storage problems the Gambia faced over the years.  The country had outgrown the only facility owned and operated by Shell company Company (Gambia) Limited located in Banjul.

The new facility at Mandinari is listed as part of the Spectrum Group headed by Muhammed Bazzi, Jammeh's business partner and operator of the Brikama electricity power plant. The Mandinari facility, according to official sources, was build at a cost of US $ 50 million.  Initially, equity was split between the Gam-Petroleum holding group, Total International and Gambian and European banks with Total International designated as the exclusive supplier of petroleum products to the facility.

The storage capacity which is now billed as the sub-region's largest largest oil and gas storage container facility is 51,000 metric tons of heavy and light oils as well as LPG.  The facility is expected to eventually serve as a refueling stop and bunkering hub for vessels en route to South Africa and South America.
Part II will look at the evolving share/ownership structures of these so-called state-owned petroleum companies, the procurement, storage and petroleum retailing practises that led to the massive loss of equity and revenue to the State.  It is inconceivable to think that Jammeh is not part of the scheme. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Baby Aisha's mother's case moved to Basse

Baby Aisha is Jammeh's youngest victim
Whenever you think the Jammeh regime couldn't act any more ridiculously and irresponsibly, they always have a way of reaching into their trick bag to spring a ludicrous surprise on the Gambian people that makes the regime look petty, vindictive and childish.

We'll recall that Kaddy Fatty was arrested by Jammeh's paramilitary agents on April 16th while on her way home after attending her husband's court hearing in Banjul.

She was forced out of the public transport she was riding in simply because she was suspected to be an opposition supporter following a sweep of protesters demanding electoral reforms that led to the death of Solo Sandeng and the arrest of numerous opposition leaders.

Mrs. Fatty  was arrested, severely beaten and held in custody at the paramilitary headquarters in Kanifing.  Her baby, at the time, was only 4-week old, when she was held together with her mother and both were subsequently jailed at the notorious Mile II prisons becoming Jammeh's youngest victim.

Mrs. Fatty was charged together with others for rioting, incitement of violence and host of other bogus charges.  Her arraignment took place in Banjul and we have now learned that her case is being transferred to Basse for no rational reason except to deny her legal representation and support from family and friends.  Her husband is also facing similar charges in a Banjul court.

Separating Mrs. Fatty and her now 3-month old baby from her husband and family is inhumane and callous.  Basse is 375 kilometers from Banjul where she was arrested, raising jurisdictional issues.  Banishing her and her 3-month old to the end of the Gambia is inhumane and callous and a demonstration of the vicious and vindictive nature of Jammeh's regime.

We have been informed that Mrs. Fatty will lose her legal representation that was being offered by the Female Lawyer's Association of The Gambia (FLAG) on a pro bono basis because FLAG lawyers cannot leave Banjul and travel the 375 Km distance to defend her court.  The regime's decision is a miscarriage of justice which we strongly condemn.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Why The Gambia doesn't need the ICC

This blog post was prompted by the Chief Prosecutor's recent interview granted to online radio outlets operated by diaspora-based Gambian dissidents opposed to the regime of Yaya Jammeh,

In response to questions uppermost in the minds of many Gambians living abroad, mainly in exile, about the human rights conditions, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda went to great lengths, unnecessarily so, in our view, to read out loud the mandate of the ICC.

Because the court's mandate is restricted to three broad area of (i) crime against humanity (ii) war crimes and (iii) genocide, The Gambian prosecutor wasted no time in assuring her listeners, repeatedly, that none of these applies to The Gambia.

We agreed with her in a previous post that the legal threshold, under the Rome Statutes, for any and all of these categories of criminal acts have deliberately been set high for a purpose.  You can find that post here.  The ICC was not created to replace existing judicial systems in countries that are signatories (State Parties) to the Agreement establishing the court but rather to compliment them in areas delineated in the Statutes.

We subscribe to the believe that a strong and independent judicial system is the way to go in the case of the Gambia.  Unfortunately, the Gambia was on it's way to achieving this objective until it was interrupted by a military coup that ushered in the current regime that proceeded to decimate the Gambian judiciary to where it finds itself today - the laughing stock of the legal communities, regionally and beyond.

Prior to the coup d'etat in 1994, Gambia's judicial system was developed and independent enough to dispense justice fairly and equitably at reasonable standards. Where it lacked capacity, the system allowed the procurement of legal services bilaterally or through the Commonwealth in the form of magistrates, judges, prosecutors, legal drafts-persons and the like.

Following the failed coup of 1981, Gambia was able to obtain the services of judges in this fashion to handle the numerous cases resulting from it.  It is not that Gambia has not been down this road before.  The re-admission of The Gambia to the Commonwealth should, therefore, be among the most urgent priorities of a new government to help in the major restructuring and capacity building exercise of the country's judiciary.

Chief Prosecutor Bensouda was highly critical of those of us - specifically Gambian dissidents living abroad - demanding public reaction from the ICC following the recent "vitriolic rhetoric" of Yaya Jammeh to quote the UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, in reference to his remarks against the Mandinka ethnic group - the single largest tribe.  Subsequent to Mr. Dieng's condemnation, we wrote, in the previously referenced blog post, appealing to Mrs. Bensouda to "join her UN colleague by adding the voice of the International Criminal Court to the list of those condemning Jammeh for inciting violence against the Mandinkas..."

It is our view that the job requires both prosecutorial as well as moral leadership.

Consequent to referring to Mr. Dieng as a "UN colleague of the Chief Prosecutor, , we received lessons in the organizational structure of the United Nations.  We were also reminded about the fact that the ICC is not a human rights organization.  We wish she had focused attention on the substantive issues instead by answering the interviewer's question, for instance, about how she felt as a woman reading Mrs. Nogoi Njie's sworn testimony which described, in gruesome terms, the torture she suffered at the hands of the notorious National Intelligence Agency agents rather than reminding us on numerous occasions during her interview that the "ICC is not part of the UN system" and neither is it a human rights/NGO organization.

Theoretically, these claims are true but operationally they are furthest from being accurate statements. The UN Security Council brings cases to the ICC on a regular basis since its inception which restricts the operational independence of the ICC.  Without the political muscle and diplomatic cover of the UNSC, the ICC would be more ineffectual as it is today.

As regards the claim that the ICC is not a human rights/NGO, it is the International NGOs that fathered the ICC.  It was as a result of the activism of the human rights organizations around the world that brought the world's attention to the need for such a Court whose activities are keenly followed and monitored by human rights organizations.

Finally however, all is not lost as far as the deteriorating human rights conditions in The Gambia are concerned.  The ICC Chief Prosecutor revealed that her office is monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to issue a public statement should the situation warrants it.  Time will tell.      

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jammeh: A self-loathing, Mandinka-hating tribalist

Jammeh is a self-loathing, Mandinka-hating tribalist who is displaying his true character in the face of his biggest political challenge to his 22-year iron-fist rule of one of Africa's poorest countries.

Jammeh doesn't like who he is because he feels the country he grew up in has not been fair to him and his ilk because of his ethnicity, the region of the country he claims to have been born in and the low economic status of his family.   Consequently, he developed a very low esteem of himself at a very early age, a personality trait that followed him from the Fonis to the capital city of Banjul where he attended high school.

To those who knew him as a high school student in the capital city of Banjul, he has always been resentful of his fellow students from what he considered to be more privileged backgrounds. The parents of most of these students were civil servants because, in most small and least developed economies like the Gambia, the government is the primary employer of its citizens.  Therefore, very early in his life, Jammeh sees the government as the primary cause of the underprivileged status.  It appeared that as a remedial measure, he decided to seize power once he managed to enlist in the military police and subsequently was transferred to the army.

Once at State House, Jammeh exploited the machinery of government for his personal enrichment that promoted him to the upper economic and social strata of society.  Even after accumulating a tremendous of material wealth, Jammeh is still uncomfortable in his own skin.  He still views a certain category of people, particularly the Mandinka- the majority ethnic group - that he views as the main threat to his grip on power, as political enemies.

In the words of Jammeh, "...since 1994 [when he seized power] Mandinka are the trouble makers in this country.  If you do not detest [from making trouble] I will stop you 6 meters deep."  Jammeh has convinced himself that the Jawara he deposed and whom he accused of being "an outright tribalist", was able to hold on to power for three decades because of the support he received from other tribes, including Jammeh's own minority Jola tribe.  He wondered why Mandinkas do not support him - a claim not borne by the facts because the majority of his support is from the Mandinkas.

When recent United Democratic Party-led protest demonstrations, Jammeh accused Mandinka of propagating violence which he followed with a threat.  "I will not send the police, but I will send the army and wipe you out and see who is going to talk about it."  It is statements like these that made the Special Adviser of the Secretary General of the United Nations United on the Prevention of Genocide to issue a warning and a strong condemnation of Jammeh and accuse him of incitement of violence.

The mere mention of or reference to the fact that the United Nations has condemned his "public stigmatization and dehumanization and threats against the Mandinkas," can land one in jail and subject to torture in Jammeh's Gambia.  For instance, three Gambians were recently charged with sedition for simply saying that Jammeh dislikes Gambia's majority ethnic group who make up approximately 41% of the population.

The three were tortured in jail and made to sign false testimonies before further being charged for saying that the Gambia was "at a boiling point"following the recent protests that led to the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, a youth leader and executive member of the opposition UDP.  They could each face two years imprisonment for allegedly saying last month that Jammeh "never liked" Mandinkas.  The Gambian dictator is from the minority Jola ethnic group.                

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Was NAWEC forced to buy Brikama power station from Muhammed Bazzi?

On the 10th of December 2014,  we asked the question whether NAWEC was forced to buy the Brikama Power Station from Muhammed Bazzi, a man who is, for all intents and purposes co-President of the Republic of The Gambia.

We have come to discover that the plant was a BOT project and thus the transfer which we stumbled into during the 2014 budget process following the revelation by the then Finance Minister that he was planning to spend 2.5% of GDP (estimated at D 783 million or approx. $ 31.3 million ).  The regime had to borrow locally to pay Muhammed Bazzi for the Brikama plant.

Is it worth the price considering that the plant was operated by Bazzi for, at least 5 years.  We do not think so.  We believe the Gambian people have been scammed and continue to be exploited by a handful of Lebanese - not Gambian Lebanese - and local Gambian partners of Yaya Jammeh that includes but not limited to Amadou Samba.

The Mandinary Fuel Depot is another facility that has been used, and continues to be used by Yaya Jammeh and the same usual suspects to exploit a poor country like The Gambia.  As we get figures and more information, it is becoming increasingly evident that the facility is being used to fleece Gambian taxpayers by a handful of the usual suspects.

We promise our readership that we will be delving into these and related issues that have resulted in the massive arrests and interrogation of staff ad board member of the petroleum sector.

Below is our Decemver 10th 2014 blog on the Brikama plant.

In what appears to have been a leaked Cabinet Paper (CP) of the Minister of Finance, Kebba S. Touray, laying out the outline of his 2015 Budget Estimates, several stunning revelations and admissions were made to his cabinet colleagues.

The CP's preamble warns of the impending hardship that Gambians should expect in 2015 because of the rapidly deteriorating fiscal condition resulting from imprudent fiscal and monetary management of the economy.

The deficit which was projected to be in the region of 4.5% of GDP is now projected over twice that to 10% of GDP, forcing the Finance Minister to admit to both the Joint National Assembly Members last week, and now his cabinet colleagues that "2015 is not going to be easy."

Despite numerous warnings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the devastating effects a ballooning deficit will have on the overall performance of the economy, the regime of Jammeh has proven unable to control spending most of which are of the frivolous kind that contributes nothing to economic growth.

The latest explanation of the ballooning deficit is what the Minister described as "spending on NAWEC's behalf" equivalent to 2.5% of GDP which we estimate to be in the region of GMD 783 million.  What was the amount for?  It now appears that NAWEC was forced to buy the Brikama plant from Mohamed Bazzi, Jammeh's business partner.

We look forward to the Minister's  Budget Statement in the next few days to see if further details are provided to Gambians about this particular expenditure, the rationale for the sale and terms and conditions of the sale.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ten Gambian trucks laden with redwood seized by Senegalese army in Ziguinchor

One of dozen wood-laden Gambian trucks seized by Senegal army
A day after the Senegalese Armed Forces Minister tour the south eastern part of Senegal in the Casamance region to see first hand the illegal exploitation of the forest by traffickers, more than a dozen Gambian trucks, cranes, logging equipment, and hundreds of logs have been seized by the army, according to news agency reports.

After his tour of the area with two of his colleagues, Augustin Tine, the Armed Forces Minister vowed to end the pillaging of the Casamance forest cover "within days" by a handful of greedy criminal elements bent on destroying the "Senegalese economy and the future development of the country."

The seizure was made in the Ziguinchor area where surveillance has been intensified, according to the military commander in Diouloulou on the border with The Gambia "where seizures have been considerable" according to the commander.

The three ministers of the Armed Forces, Interior and Environment, touring the region have moved from Diouloulou to the Department of Bignona where the illegal trafficking and exploitation is more intense and the destruction of the forest cover more visible devastating.

The seizures of trucks with Gambian registrations and other logging equipment have been taking place in every area that the ministers visited and have netted massive amounts of logging trailers, cranes as well as trucks.  According to a local army commander, "the figures relate only to sites visited, but the seizures go beyond that.  We are in this fight, in collaboration with the other services, to preserve the remaining forest cover." The operation revealed that the traffickers are well equipped and sophisticated.

There are unconfirmed reports that Senegal intends to take legal action against the traffickers.  Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator has been implicated in these illegal operations.  And according to the former Senegalese Environment minister,  The Gambia has earned US$ 238.5 million from the illegal export of redwood to China, the second highest in west Africa, after Nigeria.  When one considers that the Gambia has only 4,000 hectares of forest, it suggests that the redwood exploited in Casamance finds its way into Banjul for export to China.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Three Senegalese Ministers denounce illegal trafficking in redwood timber exports to China

Illegal timber exploitation 
Senegalese Armed Forces Minister, Augustin Tine, was out visiting Medina Yoro Foulah Kunda Department in the south eastern part of Senegal to see first hand the environmental devastation illegal logging has done to the area.

"It is scary what we saw in the department", the minister declared, suggesting that the wanton destruction of the environment by the indiscriminate and illegal exploitation of the forest cover by traffickers in redwood is "destroying the future and the Senegalese economy and that is unacceptable."
The Armed Forces Minister was accompanied by the Ministers of the Interior and the Environment to see the impact of timber trafficking in the area.  They were accompanied by the Regional Manager of Water and Forests.  According to reports, "they were shaken by the sight of the receding forest, leaving the slash and burn trees in its wake."

The three ministers reaffirmed their commitment of the State to fight against illegal trafficking in forest products that is primarily taking place between The Gambia and Senegal.

For more on the illegal trafficking in timber and the role Jammeh plays, click here.    

Friday, June 17, 2016

Is Gambia rising? Is Jammeh under pressure?

Is Gambia rising? Perhaps.  Is Jammeh under pressure? Most certainly. On the first question, the recent protest demonstrations, however intermittent and sparsely attended they've been, against the skewed electoral laws, suggest a change in the mood of the biggest opposition party (UDP) that it is no longer business as usual. And if the political problems of the country resulting from the corruption and incompetence of the regime are to be ultimately resolved in the streets, so be it.  The UDP leadership has concluded that all other legal and civil means have failed in the face of Jammeh's increasing hostility towards the opposition.

On the second question, Jammeh is certainly under pressure from his opponents at home, regionally and internationally.  From the recent Gambia-Senegal border closure that lasted for over three months to the European Parliament's resolution that recommended sanctions for its member states against the Jammeh regime and the most recent condemnation of the Gambian dictator from Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Prevention of Genocide over a speech widely considered as incitement of violence against the Mandinka ethnic group, it is evident that political pressures are being applied from various direction.

Pressures on Jammeh are not only political but economic as well.  He presided over the decline of an economy, though small, was once the envy of the ECOWAS region as being well-managed and growing when he seized power illegally in 1994.  Today, the economy has been in a negative growth territory from which it is struggling to emerge from.  Gambians are poorer and less food secure than they have ever been.  The population is demanding a better standard of living.

Jammeh's troubles are just beginning.  They will compound as international civic society organizations - there are none in The Gambia - and Diaspora group of dissidents continue their campaign against a regime that appears to be on its final throes as Jammeh continues to display mental anguish and erratic behavior while neglecting his sacred duty to govern.

In our article just published in the Foreign Affairs magazine, a Council on Foreign Affairs flagship publication, we tried to outline the problems, challenges and solutions to Gambia's problems which are deeply rooted in one man - Yaya Jammeh.  Hope you enjoy the piece entitled "Gambia rising? Jammeh under pressure."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Solo Sandeng died in custody, admits the Jammeh regime. What about Sheriff Diba and others?

Jammeh's Director of Public Prosecution 
After advancing endless stories and blatant lies about what happened to Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the UDP youth leader who was arrested and taken away by Jammeh's security agents, it is being reported that the regime has finally admitted in court that the youth leader died during "interrogation"at the hands of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Immediately following his arrest, we reported that Solo Sandeng died at the hands of the NIA torturers and his body disposed of at the Tanji NIA office complex.

The story was vehemently denied at the time until Yaya Jammeh finally admitted in a Jeune Afrique interview recently that indeed Solo Sandeng died while under interrogation.

In fact, he went out of his way to wonder why everyone was obsessed that one person died while in custody. According to Jammeh, he cannot comprehend why the international community, particularly the United Nations is demanding an investigation of the death of one person who died in custody during interrogation.  He asked rhetorically "what's the problem?  People die in detention or during interrogation.  It's common," he exclaimed.

His admission, whether it was inadvertent or not, cleared the way for the prosecution to come out clean today to admit that Solo Sandeng died in the hands of Jammeh's security agents. What remains now is for Solo Sandeng's body be exhumed and handed over to his family.

The admission also came at the heels of the escape of the "NIA doctor" from The Gambia who was called upon to provide medical assistance to what was described by an eyewitness as a "lifeless body." Jammeh is worried that the " NIA doctor" will be a valuable witness in shedding light, not only in the Solo Sandeng case but in numerous other torture cases some of which have resulted in deaths.  He may also be carrying in his possession video evidence which could further incriminate a regime that systematically use torture as a means of remaining in power.

Readers will recall that Sheriff Diba, the union leader of the Gambia National Transport Control Association (GNTCA) also died under similar circumstances and his death was also denied by the regime.  In this case, Jammeh's Information, Sheriff Bojang, denied reports that the trade unionist was tortured and killed by the country's security agents.  The Information Minister told AFP that GNTCA leader and other union officials "were never picked up or at anytime detained by the National Intelligence Agency."
The Minister proceeded to offer his own diagnosis of the medical condition of the union leader who suffered from "...uncomplicated malaria and hypertension."  His illness took a turn for the worse" and died the next day.  There was no evidence of external or internal injury," Minister Bojang concluded his diagnosis.

The International Transport Workers' Federation's official who demanded an independent inquiry into Mr. Diba's death could not help but describe Minster Bojang's performance as nothing more than "sophistry."

The international community will continue to demand for independent investigations of all victims of the vile regime of Yaya Jammeh who have been tortured and murdered by his security agents.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Impeach Yaya Jammeh

Yaya Jammeh 
When Yaya Jammeh took the oath of office, he swore to protect all Gambians regardless of political or tribal affiliation.  He has violated that pledge on June 6th 2016 when he went on a incitement of violence tirade against the Mandinka ethnic group whom he vowed " to kill one by one and put them where even a fly cannot find them."  He referred to Mandinkas as his "enemies and foreigners" in their own land.

Jammeh should therefore be impeached by the National Assembly for violating the Constitution and shirking his responsibilities as Head of State.  He is guilty of incitement of violence by threatening to eliminate the Mandinkas.

He has been condemned by the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide to his Tallinding speech was characterized as an "irresponsible and extremely dangerous" statement coming from a head of state.  The U.N. condemnation continued to say that "such public a national leader...can contribute to dividing populations, feed suspicion and serve to incite violence against communities, based solely on their identity."

Yaya Jammeh poses a threat not only to the safety and security of Gambia and Gambians but he is a threat to the regional and sub-regional peace and security.  

Jammeh has failed Gambia and Gambians by overseeing a declining economy in his 22-year dictatorship while eroding our civil liberties and freedoms in the process.  His human right record competes that of North Korea with more Gambians fleeing the country's shores because of the repressive nature of a dictatorship that is among the worst in the world.

Because Jammeh has failed in every aspect of governance with nothing to offer to Gambians who are poorer today than when he seized power illegally 22 years ago, he's left with no option but to divert people's attention away from their Jammeh-induced misery by issuing threats to a section of the population with the hope that the other ethic groups will turn against Mandinkas.  What Jammeh fail to realize is that true Gambians will not turn against each other.

The responsibility is now up to the National Assembly to commence the process of impeaching Yaya Jammeh for incitement of violence of one ethic group against another which could lead to genocide.  

Increasing anger over Jammeh incitement of violence

Yaya Jammeh at the United Nations 
Yaya Jammeh is no stranger to putting his foot in his mouth but his June 6th Tallinding political rally speech when he was inciting his supporters to rise up against the Mandinka ethnic group whom he threatened to "kill one by one" and referring to them as "enemies, "foreigners" is attracting attention and generating reactions from many quarters that have shaken his confidence on clinging on to power.

The Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide has called the speech "irresponsible" who was "profoundly alarmed by...Jammeh's public stigmatization, dehumanization and threats against the Mandinkas."

An editorial in a Rwandan newspaper, in turn, cautioned Jammeh that when he calls Mankika names like "enemies and foreigners" in their own land, "he is paving the way for impunity and the world should worry."  The paper recalled the devastating effects Leon Mugesera's inflammatory anti-Tutsi speech he delivered in 1992 that is regarded as a precursor to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Reactions from the Diaspora Gambia communities across the globe has been equally vehement, furious and pointedly critical of the Gambian dictator.  Locally, the protesters continue to defy Jammeh and his threats of killing demonstrators.  In fact, he has instructed his security agents to keep a distance from the demonstrators to avoid confrontation from an emboldened opposition protesters.

Jammeh recognizes the tension his vitriolic and irresponsible rhetoric has created.  His intent is to send a delegation, made up of his cronies and sycophantic supporters, across the country to claim the fears and anger of the Mandinkas.  He is worried that his incitement speech will help derail the presidential elections that are already precariously hanging on a thread for several reasons.

What Janneh fail to realize is that the ground has shifted drastically from under his feet.  His incitement speech against the largest ethnic group in the country is certainly not going to help him cling unto power beyond his current term of office.  It is time for him to come to grips with the reality that a new dawn in Gambian politics that rejects dictatorships.  Gambians are ready to turn a new page without Yaya Jammeh.  #JammehMustGo  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rwandan newspaper asks Mandinkas be protected

Jammeh with guards 
As the world starts to come to grips with Yaya Jammeh's recent speech at a political rally that he vowed to kill Mandinkas "one by one" who oppose his regime and put them away where "even a fly cannot find them", more voices are being added to a chorus of condemnations of what is being described as "irresponsible and extremely dangerous" rhetoric.

Rwanda, where one of the worst genocide took place, has added its voice to Adama Dieng, United Nations Secretary General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide who denounced Jammeh's callous and incendiary remarks againts the Mandinka ethic group.

In an editorial entitled "Rwanda: The Mandinka of The Gambia must be protected", the The New Times said that after what happened in Rwanda, one would have thought the world and more specifically the Gambian leader had drawn lessons from it.   In lamenting about the fact that "the ghost of ethnic hatred" still lingers on the African continent, the paper said the most worrying in the Gambian case is that "the head of state making threatening remarks against a section of his population."

Incitement of violence against an ethnic group, especially coming from a head of state must be taken serious and according to the editorial, "Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide was quick to sound the alarm" which he must be commended.  Unlike some of Yaya Jammeh's apologists and sycophants who continue to burry their collective heads in the sand, he editorial "Dieng knows what he is talking about when it comes to matter of ethnic cleansing and incitement of genocide by people in authority and who wield enormous powers of persuasion."

For those who continue to be in denial that Jammeh is dangerous and a threat to regional peace and stability by continually degrading those who criticize their Great Leader Jammeh like Adama Dieng did recently, the Special Adviser is anything but "a puppet on the service of Gambia's enemies" as he was recently described by a renegade Gambian diplomat.

Adama Dieng spent over ten years as head of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and "saw first-hand the effects of genocide and the role of leaders in fanning it."  To question Mr. Dieng's motives - as Jammeh's sycophants have attempted - for condemning an irresponsible behavior of incitement of violence by one section of the population against another by the Gambian dictator is a mark of desperation od supporters of a dying regime.

We join The New Times of Rwanda in demanding that the world not just stop at "mere condemnations" but to "flex its muscles and take decisive measures" against a tyrant who is threatening not only The Gambia but the sub-region as well.            

Saturday, June 11, 2016

ICC's Bensouda must join the UN Genocide Adviser in condemning Yaya Jammeh

Fatou Bensouda , ICC Chief Prosecutor  

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, had excused herself in the past for not proactively pursuing the deplorable human rights abuses in her native Gambia because her mandate is limited to three types of crimes : genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. And, in short, none of these apply to The Gambia.

We are OK with her explanation up to this point regarding her silence, however atrocious and brutal Jammeh's human rights abuses have been and continue to be.  We appreciate the fact that the legal threshold for any of these categories of crimes under the Rome Statutes is very high and for a reason.

However, after Yaya Jammeh uttered those incendiary statements against the Mandinka ethnic group at a political rally in the outskirts of the capital of Banjul, referring to them as "enemies and foreigners" and threatening to kill them one by one and "put them and out them "where even a fly cannot see them", Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide condemned the Gambian dictator in unequivocal and unambiguous language.

He said he was "profoundly alarmed at...Jammeh's public stigmatization, dehumanization and threats against the Mandinkas.  Public statement by a national leader are irresponsible and extremely dangerous.  They can contribute to dividing populations, feed suspicion and serve to incite violence against communities, based solely on their identity."

Mr. Dieng reminded Jammeh, if a reminder was necessary, of how incitement preceded the carnage in Rwanda and Bosnia.  Ironically, Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the biggest opposition party is currently in court charged with inciting violence, among other charges, for simply exercise his constitutional right to protest against a youth leader and member of his political party.

Madam Chief Prosecutor, you cannot stay silent anymore.   Join your UN colleague by adding the voice of the International Criminal Court to the list of those condemning Yaya Jammeh for inciting violence against the Mandinka ethic group that can lead to genocide.  Jammeh has embarked on a dangerous path that must be stopped.  He must be told so and warned to refrain from making further irresponsible statements that incite violence against a group of Gambians who happen to belong to a different ethnic group.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Jammeh incendiary denunciation of the Mandinkas ethic group condemned by the United Nations

Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide condemned Jammeh's recent speech directed at the Mandinka ethnic group which the UN characterized as "inflammatory".  

The speech was delivered at a Tallingding rally on the 3rd of June in which he reportedly threaten to eliminate the Mandinka ethnic group.  Jammeh alleged referred to Mandinkas as "enemies and foreigners" and threaten to kill them one by one and to put them "where even a fly cannot see them."

In a statement issued by the UN Special Adviser he said and we quote "I am profoundly alarmed by President Jammeh's public stigmatization, dehumanization and threats against the Mandinkas. Public statement by a national leader are irresponsible and extremely dangerous.  They can contribute to dividing populations, feed suspicion and serve to incite violence against communities, based solely on their identity."   

"We have seen" the statement continued ", in Rwanda, Busnia - and more recently in the Middle East - how incitement to violence has led to mass killings along identity lines."

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide reminded the Gambia dictator that his vitriolic rhetoric against Mandinkas constitutes a hate speech that that falls in the category of advocacy for national, racial or religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence which contravenes international human rights law as well as local laws.

The Gambian dictator who is currently putting Mr. Ousainou Darboe, leader of the main opposition party, on trial for "incitement of violence and riot" among other ridiculous charges for simply peacefully demonstrating against injustice and impunity, was reminded by the United Nations that [S]tates have the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and their incitement.  Finally, Jammeh was urged to "...ensure that the rights of all populations of The Gambia are respected, irrespective of ethnicity or political affiliation."

We hope Yaya Jammeh takes heed.

Lawyer Antouman Gaye exposes a corrupt and dysfunctional judiciary

Senior legal defense team leader - Antouman Gaye 
When the senior and lead defense lawyer in the Ousainou Darboe and co case decided, as the old policeman he is, to march his entire defense team out of the courtroom of the Nigerian mercenary judge E. O. Dada, the move threatened to expose how rigged, convoluted and rotten the judiciary has become under the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh.

The dramatic walk-out was triggered by armed soldiers and prison wardens who were insisting on being resent while the defense team is consulting with its clients which proved to be the final straw.

Prior to the incident, E. O. Dada displayed a brazenly sulky and unprofessional behavior towards the defense team, all of whom are senior members of the Gambian Bar with decades of standing.  Despicable behavior aside, E. O .Dada persistently denied the defense several routine motions, culminating in her refusal to stay the proceedings until such time that the Supreme Court rule on a constitutional issue relevant to the case.   Her behavior did not come as a surprise because, like the rest of the Nigerian mercenary contingent that has infested the judiciary, she takes her orders from the Gambian dictator through another Nigerian mercenary named S. K. Barkum who doubles as prosecutor and the Gambian Minister of Justice in the name of Mama Fatima Singhateh.

E. O. Dada's instructions were to proceed with the case even when the defendants are left without legal defense.  And as the UDP briefs regarding the case suggest,  Jammeh is determine to railroad Darboe, his entire party executive and supporters "through a corrupt and subverted judicial process." Jammeh intends to neutralize the opposition before the presidential elections, even if it means using insidious methods, regardless of how blatantly crude the methods might appear to be.

Jammeh's decision to chose Ousainou Darboe to set an example in the run up to the scheduled presidential elections next December may prove to be a poor and risky choice.  He heads the single largest opposition party and the second or third most senior active member of the Gambian Bar.  He has over four decades of courtroom experience and that experience is already beginning to show as he exposes Dada's lack of judicial experience.

In the absence of legal representation, the defendants will remain silent.  In the words of Ousainou Darboe, he is not going to help the regime convict him.  Yaya Jammeh will have to do it all by himself with the aid of his team of "mercenary judges, unethical prosecutors, lying and conniving security personnel" while the international community has its eyes firmly fixed on The Gambia.  We are not an isolated speck or a slither of a country on the West African coast anymore.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

U.S. Embassy in Banjul closed following unexpected withdrawal of police protection by Jammeh

U.S. Embassy , Banjul, The Gambia 
The American Embassy in Banjul is closed today, Thursday, June 9th to non-essential services as a result of the unexpected withdrawal of police protection by the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

As usual practice of the regime of Jammeh in anything it does, the withdrawal of police protection of the embassy came without notice or explanation thus contravening a basic diplomatic protocol by a host country that's obligated to provide the police protection service.  It is the Government of The Gambia's obligation under the Geneva Convention.

The dictatorship has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks following the violent use of force to crack down on the opposition parties protesting for electoral reforms and subsequently against the death in custody of a youth leader of the United Democratic Party who was arrested for leading the initial demonstrations.

The Jammeh regime's has become increasingly isolated internationally because of its poor human rights record and high level of corruption which led to the suspension of development aid by the European Union, the single biggest donor of such aid to The Gambia.

The latest behavior of the idiosyncratic leader of one of Africa's most brutal, corrupt and incompetent regime is one more proof that the Obama Administration of playing softy with Jammeh is not bearing the desired effect of getting the regime to respect international conventions and protocols expected of all respectable members of the Community of Nations.

Jammeh has proven, once again, the erratic nature of his personality that makes him the unreliable development and security partner he has proven to be over the years.    

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Yaya Jammeh : The dictator and the control freak

History has taught us that dictators are dictators because they are control freaks.  They need to know everything going on around them as well as having the desire to control events and outcomes, however ridiculously impossible it might be at times.

The walk-out by Ousainou Darboe's defense team from the court room today was a direct result of Jammeh, according to sources close to the dictator.  We are being told that the reason the armed soldiers are insistently interrupting by invading the private space of the defense team during consultations with the defendants in contravention of laywer-client confidentiality is because they are directly ordered to do so by Jammeh.

The armed soldiers have been instructed to interrupt the consultations and occupy the space so that information about the prison conditions and the treatment of the defendants is not leaked through the defense team to the outside world.

Since the demonstrations started in April, Jammeh and his regime have suffered from bad international press that led to a series of condemnations, culminating in the European Parliament's resolution recommending sanctions by individual member states of the EU, including travel ban on senior officials of his embattled regime.

Jammeh seem to have had enough for now and thus is trying to prevent more bad news coming out of the defendants which can only add to his current woes which has resulted in the bizarre and usual behavior of the armed soldiers leading to the current crisis.   Instead of the defendants being on trial, it is Jammeh and his corrupt and unjust judiciary that is on trial in full view of the international community.

Jammeh's army readying for elections?

One of the numerous personal guards of the Gambian dictator seen here controlling the crowd as they get close to Jammeh during his most recent political tour of the provinces.   This is preview of what Gambians are likely to see as the scheduled presidential elections draw closer, the campaign heats up and the rhetoric gets more tribal and bellicose.  Those opposition parties determined to take part in a process that is already rigged will have to withstand the intimidation that is certain to be an integral part of Jammeh strategy.

The defense team in the Darboe and co case walks out

Nigerian Mercenary Judges including Justice  Dada  
To watch Justice E. O. Dada, a member of the Nigerian mercenary contingent recently recruited by Mr. S.H. Barkum, Director of Public Prosecution who is also a Nigerian, behave in such unprofessional and insolent towards the defense team brings shame to both the legal profession and to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the case of Ousainou Darboe and co.

Mr. Darboe is the Opposition leader who is a defendant in the case is part of the defense led by Antouman Gaye, a legal luminary of nearly half a century of practicing law.  There is over a century of legal practice between the two legal luminaries - not counting the half a dozen others representing the full defense team.

Justice E.O. Dada displayed her lack of legal knowledge and judicial temperament by her continuous denial of defense's motions and an insatiable appetite for rudeness towards the defendants.  The motion to drop four of the seven charges and to retain the three original charges was denied.

This was just the beginning of, what amounted to intransigence that suggests that Judge Dada was following the regime's playbook of frustrating the defense by denying every motion.  When the defense team asked to consult  with its clients in private, a room was provided only to have it invaded by gun-totting soldiers who insisted to listening in, thus contravening the right of the defendants to privacy and a breach of the attorney/client privileged.

When the defense appealed to Judge Dada to intervene on their behalf, she said she cannot prevent the military from listening in.  As a result the defense team walked out of the court room, led by Mr. Antouman Gaye and they have vowed not to return until the attorney/client confidentiality is respected by Judge Dada.  The defendants, through Mr. Ousainou Darboe, have also vowed not to take part in any court proceedings without the right to consult with their lawyers in total and absolute privacy.  No military personnel will be allowed to listen in  during consultations with their lawyers.

We have also learned that the Director of Public Prosecution, S. H. Barkum met Chief Justice Fagbenle who was fired three weeks ago and has been 'temporarily reinstated' to work on the strategy the regime will take given recent developments that may affect the desired outcome.  The Chief Justice who initial firing was as a result of the advise he gave the regime that all of the defendants should discharged because there was no case must be ensuring that he does not get himself into more trouble with the Gambian dictator.

What the world is witnessing is a kangaroo court on steroids.  What a shame that the Gambian judiciary would end up in this circus atmosphere. Thanks to Yaya Jammeh, a collections of judges- and prosecutors-for-hire and a group of malfeasance ready to do the bidding for a brutal, corrupt and incompetent regime.

Why Gambians are poorer and hungrier under Yaya Jammeh

Yaya Jammeh's $ 3.4 million Potomac Mansion 
The fact that the Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with a world ranking of 175 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Development Program's 2015 Human Development Index with nearly half the population living in absolute poverty is not sufficient deterrence for the Gambian dictator to exert financial discipline and curb corruption in absolute defiance of the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union's Ambassador to The Gambia reminded the regime that the failure to diversify the economy is one reasons why half of Gambians live below the poverty line, and many of them - about 60% -  live in a rural setting. 600,000 Gambians are food  insecure, meaning that they cannot afford three square meals a day. And when agriculture is neglected, despite the noise generated by the Jammeh machine about "growing with you eat and eating what you grow", rural poverty to aggravated levels with longer and than severe ever hungry seasons.  No wonder, acute hunger and malnutrition is prevalent in areas around the central, northern and the most eastern parts of the country.
Zainab Jammeh in Malaysia 

The numbers are very depressing as they are but when they are juxtaposed with the luxurious lifestyles of Yaya Jammeh and his wife, the contrast is repulsive and unconscionable.  For those who knew him as an ordinary military police, they will tell you that Jammeh was poorer than a church mouse when he seized power in 1994.  To be worth hundreds of million to a billions of dollars - depending on the source - a couple of decades later, from his job as President of one of the world's poorest country on earth, is reason enough to start questioning the sources of such illicit wealth.

Jammeh's interference in every sector and aspect of the economy is a primary source of frustration for foreign investors and local operators, most of whom had to relocate in more business friendly environment in the region with Senegal and Guinea-Bissau being two of the biggest regional winners. Instead if being the best president that he could be, Jammeh spent the last 22 years building a business empire, using state resources, refusing to pay taxes and undercutting the competition in the process.  The result is many businesses, both locally and foreign owned were bankrupted while he painstakingly protected a select few businesses who support his politics and help supplement financially his expensive lifestyle as a price of doing business in The Gambia.

Meanwhile, Jammeh continues to amass wealth with a mansion valued at $3.5 million near Washington DC, despite his anti-American, anti-Western rhetoric, and numerous businesses reportedly owned by his wife in Morocco and Guinea. "Rampant corruption" was the reason Jammeh advanced in seizing power in 1994. Gambia is a more corrupt country today than in 1994 according to Transparency International.  This is one more reason why Yaya Jammeh must vacate the State House at the end of his current term.  The consensus now is that 22 years of high level corruption coupled with a high degree of incompetence displayed by Jammeh and his team is enough. #JammehMustGo    

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Gambia's Interior Minister Sonko seeking to defect

Ousman Sonko, Jammeh's Interior Minister 
You know the regime is in deep trouble when the de facto Number Two man in the murderous regime of Yaya Jammeh is seeking to defect, according to a source close to Senegalese intelligence.

Ousman Sonko is known to be one of Yaya Jammeh's closest confidante and a prolific torturer who oversaw hundreds of torture sessions during his lengthy career under the dictatorship.

The other prolific torturer is Yankuba Badjie, Director General of the notorious National Intelligence Agency whose recent trip to Dakar that resulted in the assassination attempt of Musa Sarr, a former commando in Jammeh's army and who was allegedly took part in the December 30, 2014 attempt to unseat Jammeh.  More on this story in subsequent blog posts.

Ousman Sonko was named and identified by the driver of one of the vehicles involved in the assassination of Deyda Hydara as the person in charge of tracking the Gambian journalist's car that fateful December night in 2004 as the journalist made his way home with two of his staff who were hitching a ride home

 According to sources, Ousman Sonko mooted the idea of seeking to flee The Gambia to someone with the hope of securing asylum status.  The reason he advanced, according to the source, is that he(Sonko) is convinced that the Gambian dictator has gone over his head with the killings of Gambians which, according to the source, has become uncontrollable and out of hand.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh has come under tremendous pressure lately from the international community and human rights organizations world-wide, and an increasing and loud demands from the United Nations Office of Human Rights and Amnesty International who are demanding an expedited and independent investigations into the death of Solo Sandeng. The European Parliament in turn passed a resolution that condemned "the forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and other human rights violations..." The resolution also recommends implementing travel bans of senior Jammeh officials.

Senegal would be a logical destination for many of Jammeh's killers since they will not be received in Europe or America, given recent developments.  As we reported recently, some of these senior officials have already started sending their children and family members to the United States, as in the case of the Inspector General of Police and the Interior Minister Ousman Sonko.  They have concluded that for them to be granted asylum in the United States and Western Europe would be difficult, of not impossible. Senegal, meanwhile, is extremely cautious, according to a source, especially after Senegal's borders and sovereignty were violated by assassins sent by Jammeh to kill his opponents.

Watch this space for an evolving story ...    

The continued madness of Yaya Jammeh

Jammeh and ADC
Yaya Jammeh was a "no-show" again at the ECOWAS Summit that convened in Dakar this past weekend under the chairmanship of President Macky Sall of Senegal.

As doyen of the ECOWAS Heads of State of 22 years standing, Jammeh status within the regional body defies rationality.

Despite his longevity as dictator of The Gambia and a member of the ECOWAS since he seized power in 1994, he is still the outsider, looking in, as he is bypassed for the chairmanship for twenty one consecutive years which is a record in itself.

His contempt for his colleagues as a result has grown with time as he isolates himself progressively from both ECOWAS and the world.  Of course, his international isolation has been mostly of his own doing as he insults and sulks his way to the dog house of the international community.  The process started with his pull out from the Commonwealth that, to Jammeh, is a neocolonialist institution to his decision a month later to server diplomatic ties with his most benevolent and dependable friend - Taiwan - over his persistent demand for financial assistance that he diverts for his personal use.

Regionally, Jammeh has been an equally disruptive force and a thorn in the flesh of many of his neighbors, especially those in his immediate vicinity. Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.  For example in mid-February this year, Jammeh decided to increase the TransGambia highway tariff by 10,000% without notice, in contravention of existing bilateral and regional protocols which led to the border between Gambia and Senegal being closed for more than three months.

To open the border, Senegal extracted from a clueless regime as much as eleven concessions, ranging from reaffirming its commitment to building the bridge to extraditing a Senegalese common criminal who escaped prison and was being harbored by Jammeh.  Needless to say that the closure caused economic disruptions and revenue shortfalls in both countries but Gambia is likely to be impacted more when final assessments are done.  

Sooner than the borders were opened than Jammeh found more reasons to cause more rancor with Senegal and with the international community, all in one interview with Jeune Afrique.  First, he threatened to attack Senegal and then said that both Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General and Amnesty International can go to hell.  Why?  Because both demanded full and impartial investigations into the death in custody of Ebrima Solo Sandeng - opposition youth leader - and others who were arrested last moth during protest demonstrations demanding electoral reforms.

Jammeh could not understand why all the fuss about the opposition party your leader's death in custody when he told Jeune Afrique that "people die in detention or during interrogation; it's common."  One person died, so what, Jammeh seems to be saying to the interviewer before definitively concluding that he was not going to investigate.

Whether, Jammeh realized that he had admitted what many had reported and denied by the regime that, indeed, Ebrima Solo Sandeng was tortured to death by his (Jammeh's) own security agents at the notorious National Intelligence Agency torture chambers is unclear.