Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi classified as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S.

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi at the Commission of Inquiry
This week, the United States Treasury Department announced that Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizbullah's representative in Iran, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din have been designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13334 which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

Also designated as SDGT are five companies located in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East for being owned or controlled by Mohammad Bazzi and another SDGT.  These companies are the Belgium-based Global Trading Group NV, the Gambian-based petroleum and petroleum-based products company,  Euro African Group Ltd., a Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore and Car Escort Services S.A.L. an import/export company based in Lebanon.

Prior to his new elevated designation as SDGT, Mr. Bazzi was named a financier of terrorism a few years ago.  As a result of being designated Specially Designated Global Terrorists, all properties and interest in properties of Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Abdallah Safi-Al-Din that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

According to the U.S. Treasury,  Mr. Bazzi is accused of providing millions of dollars to Hizbullah, he is a close associate of Gambia's former dictator who ordered targeted assassinations, plundered the state treasury for his personal gain. 

In addition, the United States authorities accuse Mr. Bazzi of having business ties to Ayman Joumma Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization.  As Hizbullah's chief benefactor, "Iran is", according to the U.S., "complicit in the despicable behavior of Bazzi."

Abdallah Safi-Al-Din who is Hezbollah's representative to Iran, who is cousin to Hezbollah's Secretary General, worked with Bazzi to reestablish a political relationship between Gambia and Iran. 

The burning question of the day that demands urgent response is whether Mohamed Bazzi and Fadi Mazeggi are still operating their business enterprises in The Gambia and if the answer is in the affirmative, why?  The stability of the country is on the line if these characters are free to operate freely and unfettered, the "despicable behavior of Bazzi" notwithstanding. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Senegalese military incursion into Gambian territory in hot pursuit of timber traffickers is apparently legal

Barrow and Sall (January 2017) 
Few days ago, Gambians greeted the sight of the incursion of fully armed Senegalese troops, deep inside Gambian territory, with anger, consternation and great degree of skepticism.

The military action, in hot pursuit of timber traffickers from Senegal into Gambian territory signals the first time a little known protocol, as part of a broader Agreement between Senegal and The Gambia, initialled by the two presidents at the first Presidential Council Meeting held last March in Banjul.

The idea of a Presidential Council, according to our sources, was endorsed by President Barrow during his first official visit to Dakar from 2 - 4 March 2017 as President of the Coalition government in Banjul.

Is this new organ separate and distinct from Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat or is the Secretariat a subsidiary organ of the Presidential Council?  We hope these, and related questions, will be urgently answered by the two respective governments.

Senegalese forest agents and heavily armed soldiers entered Gambian territory near Bureng in Jarra as a result of an agreement between President Sall and Barrow at the last Presidential Council meeting which gives Senegalese troops the right of hot pursuit of traffickers across boundaries, according to a BBC Africa news report carried by an online Senegalese news outlet.

According to the agreement between the two countries, a reciprocal action could be taken by The Gambia to which an astute observer of Senegalo-Gambian affairs retorted with a question: how equipped and audacious is the Gambian military to stage a similar incursion deep into Senegalese territory without military reaction from our neighbor.

A policy of hot pursuit into the boundary of another country foreign poses a potential flash point with the capacity to deteriorate into armed conflict.  This, in our view, is a dangerous and unwarranted policy that requires careful reconsideration by the Coalition government of Adama Barrow.

During the incursion into Jarra Bureng, a Senegalese soldier was quoted by the same BBC Africa report saying "we will hunt down the child killers", a clear reference to the 13 young men killed in the Borofaye forest (district of Niaguis, Ziguinchor) last January, 10 of whom were killed by gunshot, two by machete and one burned to death.  These macaber acts were attributed to gangs associated with the illicit timber trade in the Casamance region.

It was this massacre in the forests around Ziguinchor  that triggered the need for Senegal to push for an agreement that will granted the Senegalese military the right of hot pursuit of traffickers into Gamban territory (in Jarra Bureng) where they seized trunks claimed to have been illegally harvested in Casamance and stored in warehouses.  Senegalese soldiers were confronted by an irate group of youths in the area who resisted orders to return the timber to Senegal.

To reiterate Senegal's position, the Senegalese President said at the last Presidential Council meeting that "illicit traffic is not only a formal violation of the law, it is also, and above all, a source of instability for society and the state, and we must make every effort to fight against it.  This scourge is a top priority, particularly in the framework of the Agreement on the Management Transboundary Resources in the Field of Forestry."

Following the three-day meeting of the Presidential Council last March, a total of six agreements were signed by the two Heads of State in the areas of security, trade, free movement of people (but not goods?), removal of unnecessary custom rules at the border, road projects, health and animal production, education including higher education. 

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gambia: Ex-President Jammeh tied to 2005 murders of Ghanaian and Nigerian migrants




                                 For Immediate Release  -  HRW and TRIAL release

                               Ghanaian Groups Urge Prosecution of Yahya Jammeh

(Accra, May 16, 2018) – A paramilitary unit controlled by then-Gambian president Yahya Jammeh summarily executed more than 50 Ghanaian, Nigerian, and other West African migrants in July 2005, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International said today.

Interviews with 30 former Gambian officials, including 11 officers directly involved in the incident,
reveal that the migrants, who were bound for Europe but were suspected of being mercenaries intent on overthrowing Jammeh, were murdered after having been detained by Jammeh’s closest deputies in the army, navy, and police forces. The witnesses identified the “Junglers,” a notorious unit that took its orders directly from Jammeh, as those who carried out the killings.

“The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.”

Martin Kyere, the sole known Ghanaian survivor; the families of the disappeared; the family of
Saul N’dow, another Ghanaian killed under Jammeh; and Ghanaian human rights organizations on May 16, 2018, called on the Ghanaian government to investigate the new evidence and potentially seek Jammeh’s extradition and prosecution in Ghana.

Jammeh’s 22-year rule was marked by widespread abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention. He sought exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after losing the December 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow.

The insiders interviewed by TRIAL
International and Human Rights Watch include some of the highest-ranking security commanders in the Gambian government at the time, as well as several officials present at the arrest, detention, and transfer of the migrants, a Jungler who witnessed the killings, and two who participated in a subsequent cover-up. Another Jungler who witnessed the killings was interviewed on the radio.

They said that the migrants – including some 44 Ghanaians and several Nigerians – were arrested in July 2005 at a beach where they had landed, then transferred to the Gambian Naval Headquarters in Banjul, the capital. They were detained there in the presence of the inspector general of police, the director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the chief of the defense staff, and the commander of the National Guards. At least two of them were in telephone contact with Jammeh during the operation. The head and several members of the paramilitary Junglers were also there.

The officials divided the migrants into groups and then turned them over to the Junglers. Over one week, the Junglers summarily executed them near Banjul and along the Senegal-Gambia border near Jammeh’s hometown of Kanilai.

Kyere was detained in a Banjul police station, then driven into the forest. In February 2018, he explained to Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International how he escaped, just before other migrants were apparently killed.

“We were in the back of a pickup truck,” he said. “One man complained that the wires binding us were too tight and a soldier with a cutlass sliced him on the shoulder, cutting his arm, which bled profusely. It was then that I thought, ‘We’re going to die.’ But as the truck went deeper into the forest, I was able to get my hands free. I jumped out from the pickup and started to run into the forest. The soldiers shot toward me but I was able to hide. I then heard shots from the pickup and the cry, in Twi [Ghanaian language], ‘God save us!’”

Kyere helped the Ghanaian authorities identify many of the dead and travelled around Ghana to locate their families and promote efforts to seek justice.

Despite measures in ensuing years by Ghana as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations (UN) to investigate the case, no arrests have ever been made.

The Bulletin of the UN Department of Public Affairs said that an ECOWAS/UN report, never made public, concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the deaths and disappearances but rather that “rogue elements” in Gambia’s security services “acting on their own” were probably responsible.

The new evidence makes clear, however, that those responsible for the killings were the Junglers, who were not rogue elements, but a disciplined unit operating under Jammeh.

In October 2017, Gambian and international rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, and TRIAL International, launched the “
Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice” (#Jammeh2Justice), which calls for prosecuting Jammeh and others who bear the greatest responsibility for his government’s crimes under international fair trial standards.

President Barrow of The Gambia has suggested that he would seek Jammeh’s extradition from Equatorial Guinea if his prosecution was recommended by the country’s Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, which is expected to begin work in the next few months with an initial two-year mandate. The government and international activists and academics have said that the political, institutional and security conditions do not yet exist in The Gambia for a fair trial of Yahya Jammeh which would contribute to Gambia’s stability.

President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea said in January that he would “analyze [any extradition request] with [his] lawyers.” A week later, however, he saidwe have to protect him [Jammeh], we have to respect him as a former African head of state, because that is what is going to ensure that the other heads of state of Africa who have to leave power do not fear for subsequent harassment.”

Ghanaian groups noted that the UN Convention against Torture, which Equatorial Guinea has ratified, requires a country in whose territory a torture suspect is found to refer the case for investigation or extradite that person.

“Our investigation has enabled us to get closer to the truth about this horrible massacre,” said Benedict De Moerloose, head of Criminal Law and Investigations for TRIAL International. “The time has now come to deliver justice for the victims and their families.”

For information about the Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice, please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/Jammeh2Justice/

For details about the killings and the accounts of those interviewed, please see below.

For more information, please contact:
In Accra for Human Rights Watch, Reed Brody (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese): +1-917-388-6745; or +233 54 902 2806; or brodyr@hrw.org. Twitter: @reedbrody
In Accra for TRIAL International, Bénédict De Moerloose (English, French, Spanish): +41 79 192 37 44; or
b.demoerloose@trialinternational.org; or media@trialinternational.org
In Banjul, for the Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice, Marion Volkmann (English, French, German): +220 212 4243 or marionvolkmann@gmail.com

The July 2005 killings

On July 22, 2005, Gambian police forces arrested approximately 50-56 foreigners in Barra, a town facing Banjul on the opposite shore of the River Gambia. It is difficult to determine the numbers with certainty but it appears the group included about 44 Ghanaians, as many as ten Nigerians, two or three Ivoirians, two Senegalese, and one Togolese. The detained men and women, as well as one additional Gambian who was later arrested, were believed to have been killed in the ensuing week and buried near Banjul and Kanilai. The disfigured bodies of eight of the migrants were found in Brufut, on the outskirts of Banjul, on July 23, the day after their capture. No other bodies have been recovered.

Between March 2017 and May 2018, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International interviewed 30 former Gambian security officials both inside and outside of Gambia, including 11 officers directly involved in the incident, as well as Kyere, the survivor, another Ghanaian who left the group shortly before the original arrest, the families of 15 of the Ghanaian victims, and two of the Ghanaian investigators. The organizations also translated a
long radio interview with a former Jungler, Bai Lowe.

The migrants – including two women – had set off from a beach in Saly Mbour in Senegal in a hired motorized canoe hoping to meet up with a boat that would take them to Europe. They were unable to make contact with the boat, however, and landed in Barra, where they were arrested on July 22 – “Revolution Day” celebrating Jammeh’s 1994 coup. “They lined us up, pointing guns at us, and marched us to the Barra police,” Kyere said.

Several officials interviewed said that Gambian intelligence had previously received information regarding a planned coup by mercenaries and may have mistaken the migrants for these mercenaries.

Jammeh and his ministers, the chiefs of Gambia’s security forces, and civilian dignitaries were attending a festival at the July 22 Square in Banjul. Several witnesses said that inspector general of police, Ousman Sonko who is currently detained in Switzerland on charges of crimes against humanity was at the ceremony and received a phone call that foreigners had been apprehended. Officers who were there said that Jammeh was informed and he got up and left with his security detail for his nearby compound.

Witnesses said that Sonko asked the Navy to transfer the group by boat from Barra to the Naval Headquarters in Banjul. The naval boat Fatima I had to make two trips. Kyere, who was on the second crossing, observed when they were reunited at headquarters that most of those on the first trip had been beaten and stripped of their possessions. One commander said that at least two of the high-ranking officials at the headquarters, Sonko and the National Intelligence Agency director, Daba Marenah, called Jammeh from the Naval Headquarters.

The head and several members of the Junglers, an unofficial paramilitary unit of about 12 to 25 soldiers drawn from the State Guard, were also at the Naval Headquarters. The Junglers took their name from the fact that some members had received jungle survivor training. They were also known as the “Patrol Team” because their original duties included patrolling the Gambia-Senegal border around the presidential residence in Kanilai. The State Guards from which the Junglers were drawn played a key role in protecting Jammeh, and they received frequent and intense training, from Iran, Libya and Taiwan, among others. From their creation in 2003-2004 until Jammeh’s fall in 2017, the Junglers were implicated in serious human rights violations, including torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and killings.

Throughout the Junglers’ existence, Jammeh was in regular communication, often daily, with its leader, who at the time of the migrant killings was Tumbul Tamba.
One former Jungler said Tamba received direct operational orders from Jammeh and would then convene the Junglers to brief them on the operation and to communicate Jammeh’s orders. “The big man said to ‘finish them,’” was how Tamba would convey orders to kill, said the former Jungler. “Tamba reported after every mission to the president.”

On July 23, the migrants were divided into groups and taken by buses to several locations around Banjul, including the Junglers’ unofficial headquarters, and several police stations and army barracks. Kyere said he was held at the Bundung Police Station. The police also arrested Lamin Tunkara, a Gambian who was working with the captain of the vessel which was to transport the migrants to Europe. Tunkara was later taken in the same pickup truck from which Kyere escaped into the forest. His family has never seen Tunkara again.

A first group of migrants was taken on July 23 from the Kanifing police station in two vehicles to Brufut, on the outskirts of Banjul. A former Jungler said that eight migrants were then executed by seven Junglers, assisted by several regular soldiers, with machetes, axes, knives, and sticks and left in the bushes near “Ghanatown” in Brufut.  


The migrants were handcuffed while they were slaughtered.  A former police commissioner who arrived on the scene confirmed that the bodies had been badly beaten. “One had had his head smashed with something heavy…another had his face broken completely… [a third] had blood coming out of his ears, nose, eyes.” Two former Junglers said that the migrants were killed this way following a Jammeh directive issued after the 2004 murder of a journalist, Deyda Hydara, not to use guns in killings in Gambia. The discovery of eight dead bodies with cuts and trauma wounds was reported in the Gambian press.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

It is time to govern; going it alone however is unwise

Barrow, Bojang and Darboe
The United Democratic Party (UDP) has swept the municipal elections after a short but gruelling and divisive campaign, peppered with tribal altercations that was on full display across various social media platforms.

The win allows the UDP to control all but one of the seven municipal governments across the country in its quest to consolidate its political power. 

The party now controls the presidency (executive) and the National Assembly.  As sweeping as UDP's political victories appear, on paper the arithmetic, on aggregate, is not spectacular to write home about because of the under of political parties and independent candidates who contested the parliamentary and municipal elections. 

A cursory glance at the results reveal as much as they mask which will, most certainly, occupy the attention of analysts into the foreseeable future       

Regarding the third branch, although the process of identifying and, subsequently, appointing the Chief Justice, Supreme Court judges and the staffing of subordinate Courts is controlled by the Executive, it is expected that the judiciary will be free from political interference. 

Recent government decision not to renew the contracts of some foreign judges is an encouraging development that suggests the passage of an era in our history when the judiciary was weaponized by the dictatorship, using foreign judges and magistrates to punish political enemies, real and imagined.  The decision also signals government commitment to Gambianizing the judiciary.

We join others in congratulating the entire UDP membership and urge the leadership, and particularly he rank and file, to be magnanimous in victory.  And to the vanquished, we say be gracious in defeat.  Violence has never been a proper response to losing an election and neither is using the law to coerce political opponents after winning a very good idea. 

The country is in a state of trauma, characterized by anemic economy, coupled with extremely weak and ineffectual institutions, rendering it ill-prepared to respond to emergencies of any kind.  What is needed now, more than ever, is a calm, peaceful and reconciliatory environment to help dampen an emotionally-and politically-charged post-electoral atmosphere that must start with the leadership of all political parties and independent candidates. 

When all the campaign paraphernalia have been discarded and reconciliation engagements done with, it will be the moment to pull ourselves together, as a country and not a supporter of a political party, to commence addressing the numerous and now all-too-familiar problems facing us as a country; such as constitutional and electoral law reviews, a properly constituted economic management team, restructuring of the civil service as well as the security services etc. etc.  UDP alone cannot do it and neither can any single party.  It is time for all parties to pull together - as the only governing option likely to succeed.  Going it alone is unwise. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

GCCI President Farewell Speech during the Annual Business Award Dinner

Muhammad M. Jagana, Outgoing President of GCCI 
As the President of The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you all for joining us today as we celebrate some of the key players of the private sector, excellence and the key role of business in our economy.

Today we will recognize the importance of women in the Gambian business community and our economy at large, we will recognize those supporting SMEs that account for over 90% of businesses in the Gambia. We will also recognize the leading businesses in our economy and acknowledge the individuals who create such a positive contribution in the private sector of The Gambia.

Your Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen 

As both the President of GCCI and an entrepreneur, it has indeed been a great honour and privilege serving the GCCI, the business community, and people of the Gambia, by not only helping and creating employment but also adding to the country’s tax base.

I have been President for the last five years and served this wonderful institution in various capacities for some 16 years, during this time I have seen my passion for private sector led growth strengthened. My time with the GCCI has provided me with the tools to steer my drive to bring about positive and instrumental change in The Gambia.
This will be my last Business Awards Dinner as GCCI President. The first quarter of 2019 sees my term expire, but before I bid farewell I would like to touch on a few key points.

Throughout my time serving the Chamber, I have had the chance to meet with key players in both the private and public sectors; I have met international partners in the Gambia and abroad; all sharing the same desire to provide support to the private sector and promote Gambia as an investment destination.

During this time under my leadership as the Chairman of the Trade Fair Committee, together with the late Zackariah Sillah and MasterPlan, we have transformed the design of the trade fair stalls. They are now re-usable, thus saving the TFGI millions of dalasi over the years.  

With the unwavering support of the Board and Staff of GCCI, we have directed this institution with the best governance and management practices, which is reflected in annual increase of our turnover from GMD8.7M in 2013 to GMD19.4M for the financial year ending 31st December 2017.
The GCCI has vastly expanded our MSME, Youth, Women and introduced Startup membership over the past five years. This has been clearly demonstrated during the last TFGI in April, with a dedicated Youth Pavilion.

The GCCI under my tenure as President adopted technology in communicating with our members, general business community, partners and the world at large. Today the President, CEO and Kerr Jula have a dedicated Twitter handle, Kerr Jula is very vibrant and active on FB, Youtube, and our web portal is used for communication and dissemination of information.

Kerr Jula also has an APP that can be downloaded from both Google and Apple stores.
As part of the drive to achieving efficiency in our service delivery the Chamber has started digitalizing some of our services.  

Currently all Certificates of Origins are generated Digitally, our Accounting system is totally integrated into online systems that allows management to have an eagle eye’s view. This is done through a platform call CATENA and MMS. Both systems are accessible by management from any location across the global (of course with a functioning internet).

Your Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen, it is evident that the Gambia has a lot of potential especially with such a large young population with innovative ideas, our great Gambian daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and grandmothers who work tirelessly to support their families and engage in businesses. I believe that with the right environment, the Gambian private sector is ripe for development and ready for significant economic growth.

I am grateful to you all for having given me this opportunity to be of service. My time in GCCI has been an instructive journey which has compelled me to think beyond the present and understand the larger picture, this lesson I will carry with me.

During the launching of the NBC, I urged the Government to take up the issue of Local Content Advocacy and put in the required legislation and regulations to make it happen.

It is important that Gambian Entrepreneurs, Women and Youth businesses are encouraged to participate in key sectors of our economy if we want to develop our country into a successful and inclusive nation, we know it can be.
It has been a very important objective of mine to expand GCCI beyond the greater Banjul area during my tenure as President, and it with great enthusiasm that I announce that GCCI plans to open an office in Basse, URR one of the key regions to better serve our Gambian population outside of the Greater Banjul Area. I do hope as President this would be concluded before I leave office.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my fellow board members, over the years we have built trust and established a strong rapport. We have come a long way, the Secretariat is now a close-knit team, full of enthusiasm and zeal. I thank the entire GCCI Staff for working so hard and diligently to push forward the private sector agenda, and finally our members that have been the backbone of GCCI, we thank you and we will continue to be the strong voice of business.

I would like to borrow a quote from President Obama in his farewell speech - “Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic oppourtunity’.

In the same vein 

“The Gambian economy won’t work without a sense that everyone has an oppourtunity to participate in it”

On that note, I bid you farewell.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

We welcome the government's decision to save what's left of Monkey Park (Bijilo Forest Park)

IMG 33
We welcome the decision of government to spare what's left of the Bijilo Forest Park and Trail, otherwise known locally as Monkey Park, the home of the rare and nearly extinct red colobus monkey.  The green velvet monkey also calls Monkey Park home.

In making the announcement, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Natural Resources blamed the previous government for redesignating this nature reserve as the site for yet another international conference center and a hotel. 

Since the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh neither tolerated differing viewpoints nor dissent, the National Environment Agency "had to accept it unwillingly", according to the head of the environment ministry responsible for protection of the environment against an increasingly aggressive land grabbers and speculators.  It is now generally accepted that Jammeh was the foremost land grabber and a prolific speculator who did a lot of damage to the environment as well our land tenure system.  Monkey Park is only one of his many victims of his ill-conceived projects that has littered pristine landscapes across the country.

The other victim of Jammeh's ill-appraised projects is the International Trypanotolerant Center which has been embedded in the Bijilo Forest Park and Trail since it was founded in 1982 as a research center of the indigenous Ndama cattle that is resistant to the tsetse fly.  Donors have invested heavily in the project that has made significant stride in researching the Ndama cattle, to improve its milk-producing capacity.  It was Jammeh's anti-Western tirades and his constant harassment of the multi-nation team of researchers that led to the gradual withdrawal of our partners (both multi-lateral and bi-lateral) from the ITC. 

It is our view that ITC can be revived under the new government of Adama Barrow by first saving what's left of it, together with the rest of Monkey Park, so that the important international research activities can resume, preferably under the initial concept of the ITC and new the new entity.

We have recently appealed, and in person, to Sir Dawda Jawara for his intervention with the government to stop further encroachment to what forestry experts and environmentalists consider to be a delicate ecosystem.  The former president was the main driver of the ITC project that succeeded in putting together a donor list that included AfDB, EU, FAO, Ford Foundation, Belgium, Germany and many others, in a consortium that exemplified the true meaning of international cooperation.

We hope, all planned construction, except the main conference center, will cease, and all land allocations rescinded and nullified.  It may be possible that the rest of the Bijilo Park will survive the development around it even at this late stage.   

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to The Gambia

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to The Gambia

May 9, 2018
End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board. This mission will not result in a Board discussion.
  • Debt vulnerabilities remain high. Ensuring debt sustainability will require firm fiscal discipline, the mobilization of sizable and sustained external grant support, and strictly limiting reliance on external borrowing, even on concessional terms.
  • The private sector is key to achieving sustained growth and job creation. Efforts are needed to leverage the restoration of investor confidence and pave the way for enhanced private sector participation, including by improving the business regulatory environment.
  • Strengthening the rule of law, governance and anti-corruption efforts are central for the success of The Gambia’s economic transformation. This will require enhanced transparency, including through improved data quality and timeliness.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team, led by Jaroslaw Wieczorek, visited Banjul from May 3–9, 2018. The team assessed implementation of The Gambia’s Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) [1] with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from end-September 2017 to end-March 2018. Forward-looking discussions focused on economic and financial policy commitments for the remainder of the SMP, which was extended through September 2018 to enable the completion of the program reform agenda.
At the end of the visit, Mr. Wieczorek issued the following statement:
“Emerging from over two decades of autocratic rule, The Gambia remains a fragile state with significant developmental and infrastructure gaps. It was ranked 173 out of 187 countries in the UNDP’s 2016 Human Development Index, and, at 48.6 percent, poverty remains pervasive and has remained relatively stagnant.
“Gambia’s economic recovery is gaining traction. Economic growth rebounded to 3.5 percent in 2017, from just 2.2 percent a year earlier, owing to a stronger agricultural season and a pickup in tourism, trade and transportation. Headline inflation declined from a peak of 8.8 percent in January 2017 to 6.5 percent in March 2018, reflecting the stabilization of the dalasi and a rebound in food supply. Significant external financial support boosted international reserves and allowed the government to reduce its reliance on domestic borrowing, leading to a sharp fall in T-Bill yields.
“In 2018, GDP growth is expected to rise to 5–5½ percent, inflation is projected to drop to about 5¼ percent close to the Central Bank of the Gambia’s target of 5 percent, and the international reserves to strengthen to 3.4 months of next year’s imports of goods and services.
“Performance to date under the Staff Monitored Program has been broadly satisfactory, with all quantitative targets at end-December 2017 and end-March 2018 being met, although the implementation of the structural reform agenda encountered some delays. The team reached understandings on a timetable for the completion of the program reform agenda and fiscal measures needed to ensure consistency of budget implementation with the SMP.
“The Gambia’s debt stock has risen further to about 130 percent of GDP at end-2017 (of which more than half is owed to external creditors) mainly due to legacy issues, including faster disbursements of previously contracted loans and the recognition of external arrears incurred by the former administration, and government’s assumption of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) liabilities. Maintaining debt sustainability will necessitate refraining from contracting new government debt or contingent liabilities before additional fiscal and borrowing space has been achieved, and leveraging more private investment. In addition, strengthened fiscal discipline and domestic revenue mobilization are needed to reduce debt vulnerabilities.
“Reform of SOEs remains critical. Efforts are needed to strengthen the financial oversight of SOEs, including through the conduct of special multiyear audits, and enforcement of SOE compliance with monthly, quarterly and annual reporting requirements.
“The Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) should maintain its flexible exchange rate policy and take concrete steps to strengthen the monetary policy framework to help ensure price stability. Looking forward, the establishment of an interest rate corridor for the policy rate will help to ensure that monetary conditions are consistent with the objective of keeping inflation at or below 5 percent.
“The team met with Finance Minister Sanneh, Central Bank Governor Jammeh, other senior government and public enterprise officials, representatives of the private sector, banks, civil society, and development partners (including visiting World Bank Executive Directors).
“The team thanks the authorities for their openness and excellent cooperation, and fruitful discussions, and looks forward to continued close cooperation in the period ahead.”


[1] An SMP is an informal agreement between country authorities and Fund staff, whereby the latter agree to monitor the implementation of the authorities’ economic program. SMPs do not entail financial assistance or endorsement by the IMF Executive Board.
IMF Communications Department
MEDIA RELATIONS

Senegal officially closed its border to the cashew export trade through Gambia

Senegal's Commerce Minister, Alioune Sarr
The Senegalese government of Macky Sall has decided on Tuesday to close its border to the cashew export trade that has been going on for over a decade.

A Senegalese delegation from Dakar headed by the Senegalese Commerce Minister, Alioune Sarr, convened a meeting in Ziguinchor with local authorities, customs officials, transport unionists and stakeholders to discuss the  new government policy.

Henceforth, cashew from the southern Senegalese region of Casamance will not be allowed to be transported to the port facilities in Banjul for export purposes.  Speaking to the officials and stakeholders in the southern Senegal capital of Ziguinchor in Wolof, the Minister assured exporters full government support, including bank financing of their operations, to win their cooperation.

The port of Banjul, despite its less than ideal conditions during the Jammeh era, is still a relatively attractive alternative to the Dakar Port both in terms of distance from source and turnaround time.  The operators, exporters and transporters favor Banjul to Dakar port for these reasons.
Port of Banjul 

As expected, the Senegalese transport union is reportedly opposing the new policy which is seen as interfering in the basic tenets of the ECOWAS Protocol of free movement of goods and people. 

Our sources are reporting that the transport union has refused to transport the cashew to Dakar because it is not profitable for them.  They have also refused to transport the cashew crop from the bush if they the destination is Dakar and not Banjul.

Thus the Commerce Minister's suggestion that the commercial banks will provide financial facilities for the operations is to make the new policy profitable for the transporters and exporters, according to sources.  Time is neither on the side of the Senegalese nor on the Gambian governments because the cashew season commences next week. 

The Gambian government is yet to make a pronouncement on what clearly is an attempt by Senegal to contravene ECOWAS Protocols on the movement of goods and people across Member State. 

This development is one more reason for the Barrow government to move judiciously and with patriotic fervor to put Gambia's interest ahead of personal or partisan interest first.  We are to protect the family jewels from all being sold.
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Saturday, April 21, 2018

This is Chinese provocation; Gambia must vehemently condemn the flag-raising incident

Chinese citizens plant their national flag on Gambian soil 
Gambia is the smallest country on continental Africa.  It is also the most accommodating to foreigners. 

We have played a gracious host to Chinese since 1965 without any significant hitch because the national identity or sovereignty of the Gambia was never questioned by Mao's China.

We welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with China in 2016.  We are proud to have played an important role that led to the breaking up of relations with Taiwan. 

The diplomatic relations with Taiwan was a marriage of convenience that benefited Taiwan in the form of Gambia's automatic vote at the United Nations in exchange for cash that went into the former dictator's pocket.  The Gambian people were the losers in this symbiotic relations.

It was a result of our experience with Taiwan that influenced our decision to warn in a recent editorial the government of Adama Barrow that The Gambia is not for sale.  It appears that our warnings are not being heeded.

To avoid being misconstrued, and our views deliberately skewed to serve the selfish interest of some politicians, civil servants and partisan sycophants, we will reiterate our earlier statement regarding foreign direct investments.

We issued the following statement earlier in our Facebook :  "Gambia desires foreign investment, and encourages foreign investors to invest in our country, but not at any price." And then added that "We must never compromise our personal integrity nor the integrity of our delicate environment."

The fish feed plant at Gunjur has been a sore point between the Chinese company and the communities around the coastal town because of the raw toxic waste from the plant is polluting the steams, small waterways and the ocean which is threatening both the livelihood and a way of life of a people.  The very existence of the people living in the area is threatened. 

By planting the flag of China, singly and on the coastal zone of The Gambia is not only an affront to the territorial integrity of our country but it is thumbing China's nose at us, as a country and as a people.

We are therefore calling on the Government of The Gambia to convey to the Chinese Government our country's absolute and total condemnation of the illegal act by a handful of recalcitrant Chinese businessmen who are presumably the proprietors of Golden Leaf fish meal factory.  The act is an illegal attack on the sovereignty of The Gambia. 

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

MGI Gateway contract promises to be another SEMLEX saga, if improperly handled


The government of Adama Barrow notified Gambians and the world last July that it has taken direct control of the country's sole international voice gateway from Multimedia Gateway International (MGI) - a Swiss-based company - which has been managing the gateway operations on behalf of The Gambia for a number of years.

The decision to reverse a lopsided business arrangement that personally benefited the former Gambian dictator and MGI at the expense of the Gambian people was one of the new government's most consequential decision in its brief tenure.  The decision reverses the revenue generated by the termination fees away from the MGI and Yaya Jammeh back towards the Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL) and the public treasury. 

The move also enabled GAMTEL to directly collect 100% of international call termination fees from other operators thus giving the government direct control of its telecommunication facilities and the revenue stream. 

The decision also returned the line ministry function from the Office of the President to the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI) under current minister D. A. Jawo who also informed us that it was "the task force that recommended that GAMTEL be assigned the management of the gateway for a period of six months pending the...liberalization of the voice gateway." 

The World Bank had recommended the opening up (liberalization) of the gateway to the different GSM/ISP operators.   
 
However before the liberalization exercise is complete - the Public Utilities and Regulatory Agency (PURA) - is in the process of procuring the necessary equipment that will allow it to monitor a liberalized gateway, the Office of the President proceeded by deciding to restore management of the gateway to MGI.

Why would such a decision be taken, apparently unilaterally, by President Adama Barrow against the advice of a task force set up by his office, and at a time when the Commission of Inquiry into the finances of Yaya Jammeh has revealed some criminality and highly irregular use of the revenue generated by the gateway.  The decision was ultimately rescinded. 

The move to rescind the decision came at the heels of public outcry but, in the view of the Information minister, the realization that "going ahead with restoring the gateway management to MGI would tantamount to executive interference with the work of the Commission." According to the Information minister, "the position [of the government] now is that Gamtel will continue to manage the gateway pending the completion of the process to liberalize it."

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of GAMTEL has been sent on leave pending an inquiry as to why GAMTEL has not performed as expected in the management of the gateway since his agency took charge last July. 

While we continue to monitor the situation as we try to understand the dynamics and special interests at play in yet another procurement saga, we must also keep in mind that release from the Information ministry taking over the management of the gateway also announced an 18% reduction in the international call termination rate, as well as promising that government "will continue to work with Gamtel and operators to further reduce the cost of communication" to the general public.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

President Barrow at Chatham House: "Shaping The Gambia's future: How to build a path to sustainable progress."



Mr Chairman,
Your Excellencies
Honourable Ministers
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Fellow Gambians
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is both a pleasure and honour for me to be invited by Chatham House, an internationally renowned institution, to speak on the topic “Shaping The Gambia’s future: how to build a path to sustainable progress”.

Mr Chairman, the socio-economic and political context of The Gambia has been characterised by over two decades of dictatorship.  The country lost its friends and status in the community of nations and respect as home of human rights in Africa. 

The peace and stability it nurtured since it attained independence in 1965 eroded in the 22 years of dictatorship. This affected the economy, and disintegrated the social fabric of the society.  Many of the youth left in search of a better life; in most cases through dangerous means, to reach Europe and other parts of the world.  The political environment was dangerous for freedom of expression and respect for human rights.  Thus, a serious brain drain followed.  

The business environment was risky, because the rule of law was not respected. The institutions have been destroyed, systems and procedures were not respected; thus instilling care-free attitude in the public service.

This unfortunate scenario forced Gambians to take a decision to define their destiny.  In 2016, eight stakeholders in the political arena came together to form a coalition and, on the 1st December 2016 Presidential election, Gambians went to the polls and voted me as President.

Immediately after the Coalition government came to office our first priority was to re-open The Gambia to the world, promote human rights and restore freedom of expression.  We had to build confidence amongst our partners and prepare a strategy to put The Gambia on the path of sustainable development.  In short, we had to right the wrongs in our institutions, systems and procedures.  We had to engage in institutional and legal reforms to ensure efficiency in the public service, good governance and progress in national development.  My Government’s strategy is now clearly outlined in the National Development Plan 2018-2021.

One of the first steps undertaken was to establish the rule of law by releasing all political prisoners, set up a review panel on wrongful dismissals and de-congest the Office of the President.  All the portfolios were decentralised to their line ministries.   This was to allow the experts and technicians to deal with issues in a professional manner and provide technical advice to the Office of the President. 

In the meantime, my Government continues to build on its diplomacy to return The Gambia into its rightful place in the community of nations and organisations.  One of these is the Commonwealth and we are delighted by the re-admission of The Gambia into the Commonwealth of Nations. 

Building the path of sustainable progress in The Gambia cannot be isolated from the global trend of events.  It calls for working towards a “Common future”, the theme for this year’s Commonwealth meeting.  The spirit of togetherness is key for effective change.

This has been demonstrated when Gambians came together to change a dictatorship, which for two decades, rubbed the country’s resources.  My Government inherited just over one month of import cover, thus its dependence on international support to revitalise its economy.  Therefore, developed countries should provide improved access to their markets; introduce and promote measures to liberalise trade, particularly in processed agricultural and manufactured goods. 

The reality of climate change has subjected our people to abject poverty and driven our youth to illegal migration.   To address this unfortunate situation, youth employment is a key priority of my Government.  Particularly important is their participation in socio-economic activities, training and entrepreneurship. 

My government is working to introduce and implement action-oriented measures designed to fight poverty.   These measures include effective promotion trade and investment, given their importance and potential in generating employment for the youth and economic growth.  Modernised agri-business, processing and packaging of products for the export market will all open The Gambia to regional and global markets.  It has the land, water and human resource to curb hunger and ensure food security.

When we came to office, we instantly faced formidable challenges because of domestic and foreign debt and widespread economic mismanagement. Therefore, my government has embarked on the effective implementation of macroeconomic policies that are supportive of the sustainable development goals. 

Priority will be given to decentralise economic activities throughout the country.  The rational use and allocation of resources have so far been employed without sacrificing the quality and standards of services.  Conscious efforts have also been made to strengthen and improve institutional, technical and managerial capabilities of public sector agencies, and the institutional framework for macroeconomic planning and development is fully operational.  Sector programmes and projects have been aligned to the National Development Plan 2018 – 2021. 

Special focus is also being given to improving the economic and social status of women. Policy decisions and projects are designed to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. 

Efforts are being made towards diversifying The Gambia’s economy, through agriculture, tourism and fisheries. 

This requires knowledge transfer and skills development for the youth and to improve the livelihood of rural families. All these are meant to put Gambia on a sure path to sustainable progress.

As part of the effort to promote trade and enhance private sector initiatives designed to increase employment and promote the diversification of the Gambian economy, special focus is put on accelerating the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises.  The enabling environment has been created to attract both domestic and foreign direct investment. 

The initiatives include the improvement of the institutional credit support system for small and medium enterprises, as well as improving the regulatory environment for business. 
Mr. Chairman, my government’s strategy on education focuses on providing quality of basic education, improving the qualification and quality of teachers, strengthening science and technology in higher education and developing coherent and sustainable systems for technological skills acquisition and development.
 
Also, improving women’s level of education and literacy is part of gender responsive development.    Where necessary new schools will be built and existing ones upgraded.   

Given the importance of ensuring quality health services, due emphasis is put one stablishing an integrated primary health care system, reducing mortality rates, ascertaining  food security and the provision of safe drinking water.  Other activities promote reproductive health rights and environmental sanitation.  My government will also improve the efficiency of hospitals and other health facilities.  

Mr Chairman, to be successful in all our endeavours, The Gambia would certainly need the continued good will and special assistance of developed countries.  In the same vein, I recommend that the International Financial Institutions recognise the special circumstances of The Gambia and significantly increase the amount of concessionary loans provided to the country. 

Mr Chairman, now that The Gambia has been re-admitted into the Commonwealth of Nations, we can look forward to a strong diversified support from the Commonwealth. 

The Gambia cannot build the right path to sustainable progress without ensuring that there is peace, stability and justice.  In this regard, my Government has embarked on transitional justice for legal and constitutional reforms to entrench human rights, peace, justice, freedom of expression and the rule of law. 

The political will is to ensure that democracy thrives and citizens effectively take ownership of the development process.


In conclusion, the NEW GAMBIA is determined to overcome obstacles along the way in building a path for sustainable progress.   As President, I feel humbled the delivering of good governance and accountability, social cohesion, and a revitalised economy for the wellbeing of all Gambians, as stated in our National Development Plan 2018-2021.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

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