Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

A GRADE 5 GIRL SEXUALLY VIOLATED IN BASSE

October 30, 2014
Reads :108

STOP RAPING OUR DAUGHTERS

STOP RAPING OUR DAUGHTERS

IGP SONKO

IGP SONKO

Recently, the Upper River Region administrative area has been inundated with graphic rape cases of under aged girls as young as 10. Basse which was known for its hospitality, amazing landscape and cosy night clubs has meandered into a sinister dwelling for the Basse girl child. The outrageous rape on Sunday of a grade five pupil in the Upper River Region (URR) calls for concerted efforts to curb this increasing menace in it bud once and for all by all and sundry in the region particularly its authorities.

Kibaaro News informant disclosed that the unremorseful felon, Mr S.C, had been molesting the 10 year old girl, whose name has been withheld for legal reasons, for day after severing her tender and fragile virginity on Thursday before his luck extinguished. The 35 year old divorcee is currently helping the Basse Police in their investigation over the alleged rape case. The police remained tied lip by refraining from shedding any light on the case.

Unlike the police, the Regional Education Director for Region 6, Claudine Cole did not hesitate in registering her profound displeasure of the inhumane molestation of her pupil. Speaking to the press, she rebukes: “Such kinds of incidents are so sad and I am deeply frustrated to hear the raping of school children in the region”.  She went further to inform the press that her office is doing all it takes to ensure that students are protected from all forms of sexual abuses as her department continues its immense sensitisation campaign.

The educationist implored parents to be more vigilant and take proper care of their children particularly by monitoring their movements after school hours.  “We have a radio programme every week in Basse during which we talk to parents about the reoccurrence of rape cases and early marriage among others in the region,” she concluded.

Also reacting to this latest series of unsettling rapes cases in the region was Mr Kebba Susso, chairperson of the region’s Parent Teacher Association. Mr Susso urges the security and social services to wake up from their slumbers and tackle this monstrous crime head on. “Concerted efforts are urgently required from all stakeholders in the region to put their hands on deck in ushering out this scandalous crime from our midst. Parents must equally step up and execute their fundamental obligations and duties”, charged Mr Susso. He pressures severe action to be taken against the perpetrators to deter others from venturing into the despicable felony. “We are working very closely with the Police, Education and Social Welfare departments to foster awareness on the consequences of rape on both victims and perpetrators and its health implications”, he assured the press.

Basse is a closely-knitted society and its sons and daughters should not stand by and watch it fall in disarray. The youth force should start policing its community by reporting any suspected felon to the alkalo, chief and police. Basse belongs to us all and only us can develop and protect it.

“GAMBIA HAS NO HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS”, JUSTICE MINISTER MAHONEY TELLS UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

October 28, 2014
Reads :931
MINISTER MAHONEY

MINISTER MAHONEY

WHAT HAPPENED O FREEDOM AND JUSTICE?

WHAT HAPPENED O FREEDOM AND JUSTICE?

In traditional Africa, children are taught at an early age not to point at their father’s village with a left hand, despite all its underdevelopment and worrisome social cohesion. Perhaps that is what Minister Mahoney sets out to do as he stood at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva defending Gambia’s indefensible human rights records under President Jammeh’s watch. It is not only off-putting but also inexcusable for Minister Mahoney to unashamedly endeavour to white-wash Gambia’s human rights records which are an open secret for all and sundry.

“There is no detention without trial in the Gambia. Prisoners’ rights are well protected. Furthermore, Gambia supports the 72 hour law of detention and where it exceeds, people go to court and file habeas corpus”, Justice Minister Mahoney told the bemused UNHRC today.

Who is Basiru Mahoney trying to fool and/or achieve by coming up with such preposterous assertion? Certainly, not even China. Pa Samba Jow reminds Minister Mahoney, “If china is concerned about your human rights record, then you damn well know that you have a seriously rotten human rights record”.

Dr Amadou S Janneh who is one of the survivors of Gambia’s appalling human rights records forewarns, “Minister Mahoney will someday regret this: says government totally adheres to constitutional provision requiring detainees to be charged within 72 hours. Some of his predecessors and former colleagues (in jail) will disagree”.

Gambia’s prisoners are the most malnourished in the whole world, with no rights whatsoever, yet Justice Minister Mahoney has the audacity to tell the world that Mile II has been recently given a facelift and prisoners receive quality food. In support of his government’s muzzling of freedom of expression, he opined criminal laws are necessary in the Gambia to curb false information which devastates small Gambia. On the death penalty, Minister Mahoney said the moratorium was only lifted in 2012 due to the spate of crime.

The world is neither asleep nor ignorant of what goes in the Gambia. This was punctuated in Ambassador Harper of the USA statement in response to Justice Minister Mahoney’s dismissible report, “The United State is deeply dismayed by the human rights situation in The Gambia. Among other things, we are concerned by government interference with the electoral process; and government harassment and abuse of critics, including restrictions of freedom of the press and speech of Gambian citizens and journalists, and reports of torture, arrest, detention, and sometimes enforced disappearances of citizens for exercising their human rights. We are also concerned about discrimination against Gambian citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity, trafficking in persons, forced child marriage, child prostitution, and exploitative child labour.”

Pata PJ surmised, “Does look like every country rep out there have a chance to whip poor little Gambia. I’m sure they’re ‘deeply concerned’ for Gambians but quite aware that the country has a moron for a president and none of these concerns would mean anything to him. It’s best they start reconsidering their relationship with him to genuinely push the agenda for respecting rights. Yaya is mentally handicapped to comprehend all these”.

THE UGLY BENEATH BEAUTY

October 25, 2014
Reads :614

BABUCARR DARBOE

BABUCARR DARBOE

“I don’t pay attention to politics…” some Gambians would excuse their irresponsibility but it”…is one of the most ignorant statements a person can make. If you allow people in your government to commit crimes in your name without questioning their actions you are just as guilty as they are,” a maxim cautions. Moreover, if you don’t take interest in politics, politics always takes interest in you. Politicians use you as their beast of burden just as President Jammeh is doing to Gambians now. For instance, when he enters into and signs loans agreement in the name of the Gambia, Gambian taxpayers pay for those loans not Jammeh. When he drags the name of the Gambia in the mud, it is Gambians who wallow in shame not only Jammeh. Concisely, the human being is a political being, love it or hate it.

Gambians are known to be a peace loving people; however, there any father who rejoices in watching a neighbour walks into his own compound and starts molesting his children and/or wife? Certainly not. Consequently, why do we opt to standby as spectators watching Jammeh continues to unleash mayhem on innocent and vulnerable citizens while we take cover under a flimsy excuse that “I am not interested in politics”. When prices of basic commodities continue to skyrocket due to high deficit and poor economic policies, will there be specific prices for the Fula or Wolof and/or the Jola? How do we ensure that there is affordable and uninterrupted supply of electricity and water for all Gambians? Don’t we want to have a say on the type and quality of education our children receive at school? Well, we cannot certainly get these by not being interested in politics.

Perhaps what those who claim not to be interested in politics think is taking an interest in politics means being anti-establishment. Being interested in politics means wanting to know how the tax you are paying is spent and on what and how and who governs you. On the contrary, it is blasphemy in the Gambia to query a government official. What is the crime doctored for such a noble stance? “Giving false information to a public official”, they would say is the felony. Very preposterous, isn’t it? Jammeh has prostituted democracy so much in the Gambia; it has evolved into two appalling cousins: “sembocracy” and “deremocracy”. Anyone who manifests the slightest sign of decency is accused of being anti-establishment. Others would argue, “You so-called activists are only talking because you are in the diaspora”. What a laughable excuse. The Halifa Sallahs are talking and directing challenging the dictatorship in the Gambia. Are they in the diaspora? I don’t think so.

The Gambia needs us to rescue her from the dictatorship. But until we are ready to take up our responsibilities and put the national interest above our individual interests the ugly will continue take refuge beneath the beauty of Gambia.

Babucarr Darboe

Chelmsford, UK

Policy Failure is Largely Responsible for Collapse of Gambia Government under Jammeh

October 25, 2014
Reads :310
SARJO BAYANG

SARJO BAYANG

*Sarjo Bayang seeks to raise the bar higher

Where systematic dispensation is lacking there human capital capability, efficiency and effectiveness can be seriously undermined. Optimal utilisation of policy instruments and good governance are key requirements for sustainable organisational development and institution building. Efficiency and effectiveness cannot be properly determined without having systems and performance measuring instruments in place to ensure maintenance of orderly dispensation. 

Dismantling the structures and abolishing systematic dispensation is the most visible evidence of failure when assessing proper governance for organisations, institutions, and businesses. This relates to the situation of governance in Gambia. The same instruments become useful in measuring upkeep of standards or extent of deviation by a company’s board and also for any sitting government that has responsibility over key decision making duties. Close examination of these conditions as obtains under Yaya Jammeh’s 20 years military dictatorship in Gambia focuses on critical elements that may stimulate topical public interest for further scrutiny.  

Setting performance and operational standards

Institutions and organisations preferring optimal gainful results cannot achieve their goals by leaving that to chances. It takes careful planning and serious commitment to produce best desired results. Any deviation from set standards invariably paves the way for poor performance and failing results. All operations require to be carried out by measured compliance to guidelines in accordance with standard of best practice. Deviation from standard best practice or total absence of operational instruments will always render failing outcomes.

Those standards and guidelines are to be agreed then put to practice. Followed properly without deviation from set standards, quality dispensation is thus maintained. One thing to remember is that quality is not always about best of anything. Quality maintenance is all about keeping to agreed standards. That can be low, high, or medium scale. An example is when manufacturers produce goods of similar nature with variation in quality for diverse user brackets. All of it depends on standard of consumers targeted for particular products and services. Compliance with set standards produces measurable anticipated results. Deviation from standards also produces undesired results.

Organisational development and institution building is no different ball game when it comes to maintenance of standards. That goes for businesses and other forms of organisations. Political establishments are meant to operate by strict upkeep of standard delivery according to agreed terms and conditions.

Holders of public office like the president and state ministers are subjected to scrutiny for ensuring they observe rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are properly documented as guidelines. Orderly dispensation of rules and regulations become known as policy and procedures. Compliance to guidelines and procedures in the way of conduct for those in public office is another way of keeping to protocol.

 In Gambia most people associate observation of protocol to designated personnel at offices of President and Vice President. The truth is that everyone in public office is bound to ensure that all protocols are observed. When protocol is flawed, it can lead to crisis in governance. Again, governance is not only about how a country is run by political parties in power. The running of organisations and institutions also has to follow general policy and procedures of governance in accordance with protocol.

These and other rules of conduct are not meant to be flawed by anyone in public office. It is wrong for someone like a country’s president talking and acting as though a wealthy person in private capacity. Even for very rich persons who established their business with other functional roles in place they let things follow standard of policy and procedures in line with best practice. Lack of observing protocol is deviation from standard of best practice on account of leading an institution. It also amounts to serious contempt by a sitting president as in the case of Yaya Jammeh while claiming to be leader of Gambian nation.

Rules and Regulations

All types of establishments where people agree to stay together require rules and regulations. Some rules are written while others may not be but still followed. Marriage is perhaps one of the oldest human establishments that does not always have written rules but still regulated by convention and traditional wisdom.

Marriages are agreed by affected parties and witnessed thereby. In some traditions agreed terms are written as documentary evidence of the union. Others simply pronounce it by word of mouth. The point needing to take home is that civilised society for the longest time recognised rules and regulations in dealing with each other. Those who fall outside of stipulated rules get punished in various ways.

In the political arena, dispensation of governance is bound to follow rules and regulations. These are found in the nation’s big book of rules and regulations better known as the Constitution or some specified documentation. Political parties in power are mere custodians of the constitution having no power of making changes without consulting key stakeholders; the citizenry. When representatives of a ruling party including their leader do anything that violates the constitution, the action is punishable. That party leader is subjected to impeachment for violation of the nation’s rules and regulations.

Any time citizens feel that rules are violated by those keeping temporal custody as in the case of ruling political parties, there is lawful occasion to regulate the regulator. Remember that sitting governments don’t own the country but simply serving as temporal custodians of laws and other instruments of governance. When small, medium or large organisations get registered as legal entity those responsible for executing various roles are subjected to similar scrutiny. Organisations and institutions can sue and be sued.

Institution Building and Organisational Development

Organisations and institutions are seen to be operating properly by complying with rules and regulations agreed at time of their formation. Governments are organisations established with various institutions performing separate functions. Their operations are regulated and further developed into what becomes policy. Observance and upkeep of policy is where procedures become handy.

This online media platform is no lesser example of an organisation with all the hallmarks of an institution. On that account, rules, regulations, policy and procedures must be upheld by providers of online media services if any of them is to be taken serious. Those who choose to operate without policy, procedures, rules and regulations have all rights to do so. The good thing about rules and regulations is that those that make them are themselves subjected to scrutiny. In others words, the regulator must be regulated just as president of a country and all law makers are bound to obey the same law for everyone else.

Policy and Procedures

Once rules and regulations are agreed, the next thing to look at is how policies are formulated and procedures put in place for due process of orderly dispensation.

Policy formulation requires the placement of operational instruments for their judicious utilisation. It also entails providing guidelines for those designated to implement those policies. On their own, policy instruments are not useful enough if they don’t fulfil the purpose of keeping the organisation,   or institution properly functioning establishment.

In practice, policy and procedures are put in place to guide the conduct of designated persons on their specified roles. Taking the example of ruling political parties, rules regulations, policy, and procedures are expected at the party level as a functioning organisation, to start with.

Members of the public deserve to know the policy of a political party especially at the time of voting. Political parties without good policy while outside government will invariably not do any good when they take custodianship of entire nation including all public resources and instruments of governance.

Curious observation of how the military government of Yaya Jammeh came to power and the way everything revolves around one man reveals serious flaws suggesting the party does not go by rules and regulations. In that same manner, total absence of policy and procedures implies lawlessness is prevalent especially at level of the ruling party leadership.

It may be acceptable to party members of the ruling junta AFPRC that their leader is excused for noncompliance to rules, regulations, policy, and procedures. However, when the party assumes custodianship of Gambian constitution, rules, regulations, policy and procedures cannot be compromised without being challenged for disorderly conduct.

As matters stand, 20 years of junta party leader Yaya Jammeh misruling Gambia provides all evidence that Yaya as person in that capacity grossly abuses the seat of political power by default or by design. It was wrong in first place for the military to delete term limit of a sitting president without due consultation of key stakeholders; the citizenry. That is the roadmap to lawless Gambia by dictates of Yaya Jammeh as military ruler grossly violating the country’s laws willy-nilly.

In passing, it has now become clear that military rule in Gambia does not respect rules, regulations, policy and procedures. There are very competent persons serving under the junta regime who know more than what this article seeks to convey. They have to be fair enough by refusing to be misled any further. One way to go about it is by vote of no confidence for those parliamentary representatives. In the case of ministers and the administration, having to resign will be decent enough. Surely, for those who wish to keep quiet till the full weight of lawlessness, arbitrary rule and all that goes in the absence of rules, regulations, policy and procedures falls on them, they have choice for now. When it gets too late nobody can help.

 Office of the President Policy Analysis Unit is Without Policy

Under office of the president there exists what is called Policy Analysis Unit. In principle, every sector of the nation is required to have policy guidelines for execution. Many Gambians will be shocked to know that the government agency (Policy Analysis Unit) located at Office of Gambian president has no policy environment, nor the instruments for judicious implementation. Surely the unit has no policy on regulated conduct of the president. Even where any policy instruments are kept for sake of formality (which is highly doubtful) Gambia’s sitting military ruler now seeking to be crowned as king is behaving about all regulation, rules, and laws.

Some of the officials of the policy Analysis Unit past and present will tell you they have no idea about any policies regarding their own operations. They also confirmed keeping a whole office in the name of policy analysis with no policy in their cupboards and nothing to analyse.

Quizzed about the largely informal conducts of current president Yaya Jammeh, nobody in the Policy Analysis Unit is able to trace any policy instruments on governance and nothing about how the president is regulated to live by the codes of conduct as policy and protocol dictate. It emerged that as the president has no instruments to rely, any occupier of the post is free to act however unlawful that may be since there are no rules, regulations, policy and procedures to refrain the occupier. In the case of Yaya Jammeh he may be in flagrant violation of rules or taking undue advantage where such rules are totally absent. Otherwise, it may be that Gambia’s good legal hands decided keeping mute about such a serious gap in governance. Is that negligence, by design or some default?

This drives further enquiry regarding how the nation’s sitting president flatly disrespects protocol so much that he claims Gambia is his personal property. In that frame of mind it is the current occupier (Yaya Jammeh) who gives vehicles to government institutions, chooses to be minister responsible for agriculture, energy sector, dictates cash flow, hiring and firing public sector employees, tells the Speaker of National Assembly he will be jailed for not keeping the House of Parliament clean, deciding who gets arrested, taken to court or detained without trial. The list goes.

Where the position of presidency is not subjected to rules, regulations, policy and procedures, nothing goes right in Gambia. It is at this moment that every Gambian is required to challenge occupiers of the nation’s public offices and demand that proper policies are formulated for judicious execution of government deliverables.

In the past there has been something on 10 Year Educational Plan as recalled by officials of Education Department. There is no clear detail on time frames and policy formulation as in that case of Education Department. From a discussion with those close to the Education Department what came up has more to do with educational planning over number of years as opposed to education policy for various stages. Planning can only be effective when it relies on clearly formulated policies. Policies and plans may relate but one is not same as the other. Further scrutiny of the various sectors will help anyone to get better clarity about policy, procedures, rules and regulations for all arms of government along their designated departments.

Policy as Instrument of Governance

Every government institution is bound to produce detailed policy instruments regarding their operations and how each relates to other institutions or end users. Possibly some outdated material is collecting dust in some’s cupboards.

Clearly, a nation is not sustained in the absence of policy, procedures, rules and regulations. If that is how things are done in Gambia, it tells so much about why many organisations keep failing. It is generally the case that Gambians are quick at forming groups but not so good at establishing into viable functioning organisation or institutions.

Absence of robust organisational culture and institutional orientation is largely to blame for Gambians forming groups but unable to rise to the challenges of advancing beyond formative stages.

Operating without being established is recipe for organisational failure and institutional break down that continues to plague Gambian formations; from briefcase one man NGOs to groups.

Institution building and organisational development cannot be sustained by word of mouth. The regulators have to be regulated. Rules must be rules, meant to be obeyed. Without policy and procedures being preserved for better use, systematic dispensation is at risk of flaws.

Organisations and institutions for them to be functionally viable require policy instruments put to effective use in line with best practice standards of excellence.

Quite often, organisations compose elaborate statements called memorandum of association just to meet legal requirements for registration purpose. After getting permission to carry on, they never bother reviewing those documents. In fact, many organisations don’t operate according what they promise in the beautifully worded documentation to get registered.

President’s Disregard for Instruments of Governance, Policy and Procedures

A sitting president feeling above the law can be dangerous for the citizenry. Such is the unfortunate situation that Gambians are faced under 20 years forced military rule of Yaya Jammeh. Matters got to very serious problem situation when Yaya said over national radio and television that he owns Gambia. This goes to show how noncompliant such a person is that he will not observe any protocol, not to mention upkeep of rules, regulations, policy and procedures required for due process in governance.

By his refusal to respect Gambian laws Yaya Jammeh is seen to be most contemptuous. What makes it more serious is the fact that even the good custodians of legal instruments shy away from letting rules prevail. Court cases are determined by the extent that the president is interested. How does a president pose as example of a good farmer when the same president insists he will jail competent officials of the Agricultural Department in the frivolous claims of economic crime? What policy and procedures are being flawed by these officials more damaging than how Yaya Jammeh as president is breaking all aspects of Gambian laws (if there ever existed)? How is Jammeh richer than Gambia government and still not ripe as economic criminal? What policies are in place to permit a sitting president go into full scale commercial business? How does a sitting president claim he can cure HIV /AIDS, Ebola and other chronic health conditions; being allowed to operate private clinic for that purpose? What policies are there that the president is so bold to do all that everyone else knows as improper conduct on the nation’s highest political seat?

When Imam Karamo Touray (of blessed memory) was dragged to court just for not paying open allegiance to the junta regime of Yaya Jammeh, justice was required to set him and all the rest free. The Presiding Magistrate then Lamin J Darbo ruled that Imam Touray be freed. He remained free to continue serving people of Brikama as respectable community leader and upright Imam.

What is stopping majority of Gambia’s legal fraternity from emulating the good work of magistrates like Lamin J Darbo by tearing down all bad laws to let justice prevail? If one person (Yaya Jammeh) refuses to respect Gambian laws and the rest of Gambians insist laws must be preserved and obeyed to the letter, he alone could not pull that heavy load of lawlessness. Those who enable Jammeh will not stay on enjoying that now or in the long run.

What is Governance all about?

Beyond the operations of political parties as keepers of regulations in ruling a nation, governance extends even further. Take any small formation as example and see how good governance fits in the equation of day to day running or beyond.

Quite often, governance is associated with political management of a state. From small, medium, and large organisations, a robust governance environment makes such difference to loose hand unstructured informal mode of operating without being established. It does not matter how long an operation spans in time stretch, without properly placed instruments of good governance, there is long way to go before being established as viably functioning entity. That goes for the many Gambian groups formed and still struggling to leap ahead. It is also the situation of many online platforms created and not getting any better established as properly constituted media service enterprise outlets.

In the case of Gambia, lack of policy, procedures, total disregards for rules and regulations especially at level of the presidency makes governance more improbable also largely malfunctioning. Visible appearance of office buildings, tables, chairs, cars, and people moving in and out is not enough.

Policy, procedures, rules and regulations are intangible instruments of governance. Their absence can be felt by misconduct of those who are responsible for proper upkeep as custodian of the rules everyone must obey.

To repair so much damage caused by Yaya Jammeh and his cohorts over 20 years forced rule will first require first setting the environment where these missing instruments will be housed. Then more serious work begins in having to develop the instruments of governance.

*Reactions to article can reach the author by email: sbayang@hotmail.com

A SPARK FOR THE REVOLUTION

October 25, 2014
Reads :400

 

  A      POEM     FOR      CHRISTIANA      JATTA

OUSAINOU MBENGA

OUSAINOU MBENGA

                                                      By: Ousainou Mbenga

             A SPARK FOR THE REVOLUTION

With a spark of youthful arrogance, audacity, courage

Atop a defying confidence; you jolted GRTS into disbelieve

Mouths dropped, eyes popped and hearts raced

In awe to your fed – up bravery with calculated temerity

 

For once, GRTS ceased to be the idiot’s box of vanity

Reason begins to challenge willful ignorance

 

You rekindled the forgotten cry of past generations, that

Students are the spark of the revolution!

Your courage was contagious

Not a contagion to spread disease

Rather to spread revolutionary resistance.

 

From the opposite pole of stupidity

The dishonorable guest of tyranny

Blared his trumpet of chauvinism

“I don’t debate with women”

”You have a sickness”

 

In steadfast defiance, you giggled at the put – down

Intimidation is a test for cowards and traitors

You harbor no cowardice to betray the gospel truth

Unlike the traitorous treachery of pseudo scholars

Desperate to sanitize tyrant presidents in the name of Allah

 

Unmoved by his taunts, you sparkled the sanctum of religious deceit

Even the Hijab –donned youngsters were reluctant to interrupt you

They admired your audacity to challenge opiated ideas of blind religiosity

We hope the spirit to question dogmatic ideas rubbed off on them

 

 

Never surrender your brain to religious zealots

It benefits them to let religion remain the “opium of the masses”

 

Indeed, you were a rare moment on the idiot’s box

 

Reduced to disrepute, the hustler scholar resorts to comedy

You illuminated the writing on the wall that time is up!

This monster must leave our lives of religious coexistence

No gangster – Imams or false “prophets” can snuff this SPARK

 

The unity of the SPARK and the powder keg is inevitable!

So, will all the brave women like Christiana Jatta please stand up!

 

Fatou Jaw Manneh Speaks at Oslo Freedom Forum

October 24, 2014
Reads :1553
OsloFF3

Fatou Jaw Manneh with GRACE Management Group Vice President @OsloFF

Fatou Jaw Manneh, journalist and activist was invited to  Oslo Freedom Forum 2014. The forum on defeating dictators lasted for 2 days, from  21st – 22nd October. The founder and  editor of maafanta online newspaper gave an oustanding speech on  Gambia’s Silenced Dissent in which she exposed numerous human rights violations in The Gambia. She also expounded on her arrest and long trial in 2007 by dictator Jammeh.  Below we reproduce the full speech of the journalist cum activist at Oslo Freedom Forum.

I am a refugee, currently living in Arizona, USA. I have lived in America for more than 10 years. Earlier in my life, I was a reporter in my country Gambia, once called the “smiling coast of Africa.”

In 1994, my peaceful country descended into a brutal dictatorship when Yahya Jammeh seized power through a military coup.

For 20 long years, Gambia has been defined by fear and violence. Before Jammeh, tourists would come from all over Europe to enjoy our sun, our beaches, and the welcoming smiles from Gambian citizens. But that Gambia is no more.

Now, Jammeh uses brother against uncle, mother against aunt, soldier against neighbor, community against community. He arrests, jails, tortures, and kills those who stand in his way. Today in our cities, soldiers with machine guns guard check points to instill fear, where only police used to stand to help guide traffic.

Gambian courts are filled daily by helpless families as the President brings lawsuits against them on bogus charges. Many journalists are accused of “writing false information and sedition.”Like many other exiled dissidents, I have had to risk my life to see my family. In 2007, I decided to go back to Gambia to attend my father’s funeral. I knew my dad’s passing and my possible incarceration would be more than my mother could bear. So before leaving for Gambia, I promised to visit her and my two sons in London after the funeral. But it was a year and a half before I was finally able to leave.

When I arrived in Gambia, I was greeted by some plain clothes secret service personnel at the airport. “You are Fatou Jaw Manneh??” they asked. “Yes,” I answered. “Come with us,” they said.My brother was there to pick me up. “Where are you taking her??” he asked. “We cannot tell you.” Seeing my brother agitated, I begged him to go home I really knew they had me. I was ready for the showdown. Die or live.

In my own country, here I was crammed into a white pickup truck and driving into the darkness. No one would have known that our car of plain-looking Gambian citizens was actually a team of people whose job it was to make my countrymen disappear.

On and on we drove, and then I knew – we were heading to the capital Banjul, Residence of the president.

Suddenly, we made a swift turn down a road to a secret detention center. It was enclosed by tall dusty walls and edged just along the Atlantic Ocean. I shivered as I realized that they could easily just throw me into the sea.

The young secret service agents did as they were told, keeping me up until 2 am, and ransacking my suitcases. The interrogation rooms were huge, dusty and old. They left me, in a room. I looked around and saw a broken couch and, a window with torn mosquito nets.

I heard many stories of people disappeared by way of the deadly intelligence officers, but this time it was happening to me. It was terrifying.

The thought of my mum and my sons was unbearable.I prayed inwardly and asked God to give them the strength to move on should anything happen to me. I swore to myself that I would not shed a tear for the punk president Jammeh.When death comes it comes.

I could not sleep. Mosquitos came buzzing in. To eat, I was given a half loaf of bread with boiled egg on a torn cement bag paper. I kept a pen hidden in my bra; I also had a small disposable camera tucked in the sleeves of my blouse.

I could not sleep, so I told the guards that I wanted to use the bathroom

And then…it happened.

Coming out of a very filthy scary bathroom, a guard came to me and touched me lightly on my chest. I stood there. I thought I was going to be raped. But then he called my name: Jaw. Only someone who knows me in person or is from my neighborhood would call me that name, as it is the last name of the woman I am named after! I answered. He told me he was the night guard. “I knew you very well in the village,” he said, “but you will not remember me. I went to the same primary school I know your mum; she is like an aunt to me.”

I don’t know if he is still in the country or not. So I cannot discuss what we said that first night…but this was a sign.

“God is with you,” I thought.

The fear of not seeing my sons again was toughest — but I discovered that we can surprise ourselves with what we are capable of under duress. I prayed for the best. I sensed it was going to be a very long journey, if I was ever going to see my children again.

When the morning sun came out the next day, I was happy that I was alive, not raped, not shot.

On the plane to Gambia, I had met a few people I knew, and they witnessed my arrest, so they must have gone to the media. That morning, when I was summoned into an office, someone walked in with the Foroyaa Newspaper and I saw on the front page:

“Where is Fatou Jaw Manneh?”

There it was! A headline — the voice of the voiceless.

The interrogations soon began. I was always under surveillance. They deprived me of sleep and interrogated me several times per day. They kept telling me that my writings were destroying the country. They searched my articles on the Internet and found the interview I had given to a newspaper that was fire bombed after it took my story to print. Then, they put me on trial and charged me with sedition and false information.

I was told I was a threat to national security, that the articles I wrote about the government would drive investors away. False witnesses were lined up against me. The trial continued for almost two years.

My case was so outrageous that Amnesty international, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and major press houses and human rights offices around the world came to my assistance to expose my ordeal. Foreign ambassadors kept an eye on me. And U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice even sent out a letter on my behalf.

Now I knew I would not disappear that easily! The international community was watching.

One day, finally, the verdict was read. I was convicted of sedition and writing false information against the government. I was fined 12,000 dollars – to be produced in two hours, or else I had to go to jail for four years with hard labor. I was shocked at the cruelty of it all, all for the crime of journalism.

My lawyer pleaded that I had two sons, that I had yet to finish my Master’s program in the U.S., and should be pardoned as a first- time offender. The judge refused to hear it.

Leaving the courtroom I saw a police van parked outside, and an officer approached with handcuffs. I prayed and told my lawyer I was not paying a dime. I did not have the money, and the sentence was unjust.

What I didn’t know was every family member and friend that was in that court house that day came with money. They scrambled to pay for the amount. Even the Gambia Press Union came up with 2,000 dollars. FINALLY, there was enough money – I was set free! The next day my friend’s husband whisked me off to Senegal, where I stayed for six months to get my travel papers in order. Most Gambians, after they are set free, get quickly re-arrested, and taken back to jail with no trial. I was very, very fortunate I flew to London to see my family – I will never forget the relief I saw in my sons’ eyes meeting them. From there I went back to the U.S., with the help of the Human Rights Defense Fund.

My lawyer, Lamin Jobarteh, who later became his Justice Minister is now serving a 2 years jail sentence for giving false information to government.I was lucky.

Not so lucky was journalist Deyda Hydara, who we lost to a dictator’s bullet. Chief Manneh has disappeared. The Publisher of my newspaper then the Observer, a Liberian refugee, was bundled up and sent back to Liberian warlords. Finance Minister Koro Ceesay burned down to ashes in his car. Killed 43 Ghanains, arrested almost 1000 old folks around the country, made them all to drink concoctions, it became fatal for most of them, the effect and the humiliation, killed many of them. In 2009 he executed 9 prison inmates, his Presidential convoys kill more children in the poor country than all the road accidents that happen in the country.

In December, 2004, the Jammeh government passed two new media laws. One imposed prison terms for sedition and defamation. The other made it a requirement for newspaper owners to buy expensive operating licenses, registering their homes as collateral. Complete overhaul Actually now The adjusted Information and Communication Act 2009 which was passed by the National Assembly in Banjul on July 3 – allows for a fine of D3 million (about USD$100,000) or imprisonment for fifteen years or to both fine and imprisonment – to anyone convicted of using the internet to spread false news about the Government or public officials- according to Front Page International. Deyda, a champion of the press, announced his intent to challenge these laws. Two days later, he was assassinated by an unknown gunman. Today, there are hundreds of Gambians who have been Flee, killed or disappeared. Here is a list of their names:

Defeating dictators is an arduous task. They have entire countries and billions of dollars at their disposal. They control the military and unleash it on civilians. Killings are like sport to them.

Dictators are like natural disasters to world citizens. Gambia and its citizens suffer more from our President Yahya Jammeh than we ever will suffer from fire, flood, famine, drought, or disease. So how do we defeat tyranny? First; by looking at dictators squarely in the face and exposing them. They are all bullies and cowards at heart. They fear the truth. They fear the fearless. That is why I thank all the other participants here… We all share the same story.

Many of us were persecuted for telling the truth. We all have faith and maintain courage, or we would not be here. Many others could not make it in this world. They have disappeared and or have been killed. We are the lucky ones — and now must be their voice.

We are here to speak the unspeakable, so the world will listen. All of you are super heroes. You have a good heart. You are kind people and you the best for your communities. Everyone in this room has something to offer this world. Call me anywhere, China, New Zealand, you will have my support but I also need your support and attention to this very beautiful country destroyed by a brutal dictator.

My deepest thanks to The Human Rights Foundation. The journey continues.

And Inshallah – may GOOD prevail. Thank you

Youtube Link to Fatou Jaw Manneh’s Speech :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7sPSi58ko8

“WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH ALSO GETS GOING!” SAYS SADDAM

October 20, 2014
Reads :565
LAMIN SADDAM SANYANG

LAMIN SADDAM SANYANG

To give up is acknowledging self-defeat. Furthermore, a maxim has it that a person who tries and fails is far more progressive than the one who would not try for fear of failure. Therefore, folks, I call on you to remain steadfast and never give up the struggle/resistance against the dictatorship and tyranny we are combating.  There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel besides; we are already on a winning side. The days of President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh are numbered; let no one fool you about it. He knows that we all know that he knows his days are just for a matter of time. Precisely, why he is now doing and saying things without giving them a second thought. He has lost it, period.

He keeps embarrassing himself and Gambians anytime he opens his crocodile mouth and gaffe about his ability to cure all ailments on national television and other public gatherings. To add insult to injury. He asked Dr Zakir Naik whether it is Islamic to marry a disvirgin. If he had sense, the scholar’s response punctuates him as an idiotic leader and Muslim who does not know much about Islam. Equally embarrassing is his constant bashing the British for not doing this or that for 400 years in the Gambia. Two fundamental things stand out prominently in his lashing out at the British: his lack of knowledge about global history and complete hatred for the British. Mr President, in case you do not know, the British had their own parliament house in England and their parliamentarians were all living in England at the time of colonialism. Consequently, for whom were they going to build a parliament house? Certainly not for the people they colonised, that makes no sense Mr. President. Perhaps your argument would have been valid if you said instead of  building a parliament house for a country you are colonising, give them their independent and they will develop themselves. Similarly, if you have not lost your senses Mr. President, you will not meddle your blood soiled hands in religious matters by forcing people to worship or pray whenever you want.

President Jammeh is losing his popularity very rapidly. Let me give you some classical examples why I am saying that his days are numbered:

(1)  During his 20th celebration of 22nd July anniversary 2014, the stadium was almost empty. More that the half of the people who normally attend it were not there. Gambians loses their hope on him that is why they decided to spent their time on something else important rather than go to the stadium to look at his ugly face.

(2)  Everywhere in the world he went, Gambian are running after him and shaming him and his delegation, insulting him and his delegation.

(3)  His victims who are normally terrified to the extent that they would not dare talk to their family, relatives and friend about their experiences with Mr. President are now daring the devil washing all his dirty linens in public through the online Medias in the diaspora.

(4)  The people he once trusted with his life as his right hand people are also feeding the online media houses with very detailed information about the Dictator’s dirty and shady deals.

(5)  The Jungulars who take direct orders from nobody else but Mr. President for all their brutal killings, torturing, robberies and etc are also talking and revealing his chilling atrocities.

(6)  Mr President is now aware he has no secret anymore, because anything he plans or discusses in the morning reaches us here in the afternoon. These are the things that is driving him crazy and of cause the crazy stuffs he is using.

Brothers and sisters all the hair-splitting threats he is dishing out should not move you anywhere. He is scared and desperate which explains why he is acting like that. I will finally conclude with a mandinka maxim, “ning baa dewunta aka kindirolekeh”.

By Lamin Saddam Sanyang,

The Netherland.