Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category


July 25, 2014
Reads :1353


West Africans may turn to the miracle cure of Dr Jammeh

West Africans may turn to the miracle cure of Dr Jammeh

Cost of burden in keeping Yaya Jammeh as president for 20 years

Critical assessment of damage incurred by Yaya Jammeh since 1994 reveals true life loss in thousands. This evidence is clear to see without complicated mathematics required. Gambia has a population pegged at 2 million. Everyone lost 20 years of life time in waste moments. By proper accounting of real time values, the figure is even higher. Take 2 million as the compromised basis of counting. Total loss of time incurred means everyone having equal share of potentially productive time lost while one person makes use of everyone’s time, money, and material resources to build his personal wealth. That person Yaya Jammeh allocated himself what belongs to everyone. Multiply 2 million (Gambia’s population) by 20 years and what you have is a staggering 20,000,000 years. That is how deep Yaya Jammeh has buried generations of Gambians in his 20 years mishandling of national possessions. His killings transcend physical life. On the death list includes truth, decency, family life, honesty, intellect, productivity, social capital, finance, economy, systematic administration, good governance, freedom, happiness, skills, professionalism.  

Time deaths and life loss accounted for

If you worry about amount of people that Yaya Jammeh killed in his 20 years of misrule, there is more shocking information adding to that. Going by head count of those killed by wilful act or through negligence it is phenomenal.

Life loss refers to real human deaths in the period under scrutiny. That includes enforced disappearance without trace, extra judicial killings, accidental death through reckless driving by the presidential motorcades, and torture-to-death carried under command of Yaya Jammeh as in what is called executive orders.

Time death is the overall loss to whole Gambian population in terms of potentially useful social time shared proportionately. While one person is stopping everyone from embarking on productive efforts this has bearing on potential gains in terms of collective optimal output. That means every passing moment is cost to whole society.

Jammeh’s iron fist control over people and resources is costing each person so much. Adding that up the picture becomes clearer. In that regard one minute amounts to 2 million minutes. That translates into 33,333 hours taking full account of Gambia’s population pegged at 2 million. When you divide this further it turns as 1,388 days. Therefore every minute wasted by Jammeh stopping people from productivity is time death of 1,388 days in proportion to Gambia’s current population. Any increase in population will correspondingly trigger the reading upwards.

People killed wilfully are withdrawn from productive life cycle. Theirs is loss of both life and time death. Such is the situation Gambia is faced with in the course of 20 years dictatorship by whims and caprices of Yaya Jamus Jammeh. You can carry out rest of the calculations to get the bigger picture.

Misplaced priorities

National priorities are placed on the lowest scale. Everything is done to satisfy Yaya Jammeh’s personal desires. There is no serious planning as people in responsible public position play the tune that pleases their master.

So long the master feels good, nothing else matters. It is hard for people in certain organised settings to imagine that entire government and public resources can be abused by one man for so long.

Opportunity cost

Gambians are not only running out of time, money and material. Lost opportunity is even greater. Decision making is not shared responsibility. What satisfies personal desire of Yaya Jammeh as someone in high post of president does not translate to real needs.

In seeking to please Jammeh because he is president and commander of everything other custodians of national resources with responsibility for hard decisions end up choosing alternatives on the lowest priority ranking by which process resulting to very high opportunity cost. That leads to a situation of colossal loss in potential gains.

Resource risk

When Yaya Jammeh seized power to take control of public resources, his net worth was below a Dollar. He was poor in the real sense of spiritual, money, and material poverty.

Loading on the Gambian economy and financial resources the magnitude of poverty experienced by Jammeh could not go without pains. To lift him from the lower depths of poverty using government platform remains the biggest resource risk. Rising from his level of poverty induced destitution, to become richest on that part of this planet is what keeps Gambia sinking deeper. Jammeh getting richer, Gambian people and nation getting poorer is enough hardship to serve as warning. There are good and decent people in very low income brackets like Jammeh was before seizing power by force. They will respect decency and not take the line that Yaya chose doing.

Placing in the hands of one person what belongs to everyone is very high resource risk. This becomes more serious when someone like Yaya Jammeh who equates being president to mean getting rich. He does not respect boundaries. National resources are grossly exploited to build his personal wealth. Yet he will stand before the whole population to condemn corruption and promise setting up anti-corruption commissions of enquiry to curb this human vice.

Although there are some competent persons in government who know the truth, they fear to scrutinize, challenge, or even mention about this serious menace. Here is another good example of how public resources are going down drain for no collective benefit. People are hired to oversee ghost positions.

If Yaya was reasonable and just enough, he would have permitted reason to prevail and draw thick line of demarcation between his personal and public resources. With his notion that everything for government and people of Gambia belongs to him, public resources are put at highest risk. Jammeh as chief custodian and key decision maker is himself real resource risk.  Cost and maintenance of Yaya Jammeh in power for 20 years puts this resource risk even higher.

Collateral damage

One serious danger that Gambian people ought to have recognised from Day 1 is the fact that Jammeh had and still has nothing on the table as bargaining strength in power negotiations. He came to power with no particular set of skills and expertise to warrant being handed full national authority as president. That was, and still remains crucial piece of evidence, resource risk and worse collateral damage suffered by Gambians.

Anybody to serve as president is normal. The problem is when that person refuses to observe regulations while also too hungry for power and public resources including an insatiable desire to get rich by all means, is totally out of place.

Yaya Jammeh is not qualified to keep the position of Gambian leader not only by demerits of his other defects but the fact that he had nothing to bargain. He had all the doors opened to form a political party as decent entrance point. He chose the most barbaric method of usurping power and still refuses to take stock all these long painful years feeding on Gambians by force of gun power.

Social capital loss

Apart from rampant hiring and firing of people in public office a good stock Gambia’s social capital is lost to 20 yeas maltreatment thanks to heavy hands of Yaya Jammeh. This generation is robbed off vital human capital by a scale never in history of a nation needing so much social capital.

Public office holders have been molested and experienced the most degrading treatment by whims and caprices of a single person. Unless Gambians get rid of Yaya Jammeh from meddling with public office the loss of social capital and other vital resources will continue rising while output declines to counterproductive proportion.

As result of harmful encounters that some public office holders suffered, many died prematurely. Others have fallen ill and not likely to recover. Bread winners are made hopeless beggars adding to their despair. Youths have resorted to taking risky ventures of travel abroad by open boats in the wild ocean and some ending their lives before reaching desired destinations consumed by deep sea blue waters. Number counts are not known. Now even female youth have joined the risky voyage by dangerous sea waters at very high perilous consequences.


Lot of deaths in Gambia are not related to human life only but beyond. People get killed. Systems and due process of orderly dispensation also die down through negligence or by dictates of force.  Time is killed too in counterproductive ways.

Apart from loss of life by direct harmful encounters with Yaya Jammeh and his military they bear direct responsibility for tearing the country down in vast ways. It is a case of total loss with casualties including time, life, personal freedom, truth, decency,  property, social capital, peace, public resources, governance, to name only few. Translated in realistic terms, every person has a share in the amount of wilful damage incurred by Yaya Jammeh. He is eating up time as self-perpetuating scheme of entrenchment. After failing woefully on deceiving Gambians about development into world class superpower by this year 2014, he is now advancing another plot of deception pegging 2024 as time line. When will Gambians recognise truth from lies?

Even if he was given half of the world’s resources, the mind set of selfishness and greed sitting inside Yaya Jammeh will not permit him distribute one bit of that for best shared good of every person in Gambia. Stakes are too high to permit one person continue exploiting the good nature of Gambians. It has to stop. Gambians have to stop Yaya Jammeh before he stops the nation and people living the good life everyone deserves.

In passing, shall we add that lot of things and whole system of orderly dispensation died under the cruel grips of Yaya Jammeh’s lethal hands and through dictates of his inhuman mind?  Now one more thing needs to die so that Gambia returns to normal life. Gambians have to kill fear and that is enough to bring other dead matters alive. Leaving fear alive, more people and good life will continue to die by worry and harmful encounters. Before another venture into the fantasised Vision 2020 now rebranded Vision 2024 let Gambians take the country back. Kill fear and keep Yaya Jammeh alive for him to give account what happened in his 20 years forced rule.


July 24, 2014
Reads :1564


On July 22nd 1994 (20 years ago) Yahya with fellow junior soldiers of The Gambia National Army overthrew Jawara and his seemingly indispensable People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government out of Banjul.  This was after almost 30 years in the dugout in Banjul but not without warning that people don’t want perpetual stay in power in the form of Kukoi Samba Sanyang’s 1981 coup. Jawara return on the back of Senegal through some dust-up treaty they (Jawara and Abdou Joof) activated.

Shortly thereafter the hastily cobbled up Senegambia Confederation began fall apart; Jawara formed a National Army that eventually produced Yahya Jammeh. Was it formed to protect him against Senegal and/or was it to protect the sovereign integrity of The Gambia? Both are not reasonable. The Gambia National Army even after 30 years can’t stand up to Senegalese army. More importantly there is no historical territorial dispute between our two nations. If Gambia can’t foresee going to war with Senegal that sits on all sides except the 48km span on the West Coast of The Atlantic Ocean – then every other justification for an army is simply bogus. More over the taxes of the poor are investigated to house, feed, clothe and equip these bunches for no reasonable return. I can see employment as a good return but not at that cost. The same amount of money or even less could engage that much of our population in other productive sectors.

Our past (meaning years before Yahya in Banjul) was bad. Recently I have heard people dismissing those wrongs. Some downplayed and/or minimized them. Others even argued that belongs to history and has no relevance to today’s Gambia. Whatever obtains today has its roots in our past. The only difference is magnitude.

Nonetheless Yahya is here – for 20 years and counting. He promised heaven on earth and delivered hell. During this period our people suffered tremendously while few enjoyed temporary and erratic sense of belonging. The social structure has changed unimaginably and cultures/traditions obliterated. Among the first victims were Sadibou Hydara and Sana Sabally, both members of the gang that overthrew PPP, with the former paying the ultimate price in prison. That has been the story – besides few nicely painted buildings, few street lights, 100s of kilometers of road length asphalted, bunch of school buildings, flamboyant presidential vehicle fleet and so-called hospitals every Gambian has his/her share of the despair. It’s so bad that the whole nation is at the service of one person, neighbors can’t freely opine on national matters without risk being picked up by the secret service agents while families are broken either by denying national jobs, killings, disappearances and/or exile. The civil services constantly recycled for no apparent reason. Socio-economic conditions deteriorated and overall poverty compounded. Petty crimes increased, looting of public coffers an open secret, sex trade/prosecution a livelihood and our ports turned to narcotic hub nation for global distributions.

Where’re we and what have we done as citizens? This question can also be flipped to what we haven’t done? Back home all hopes are placed on political parties to effect the desired changes.  This hope has number of problems. First it assumes we’re democratic so the normal electioneering will remove Yahya.   Second we hope any such eventual winner will serve our interest (democracy) – if Jawara and Yahya are any example there is not much to be hopeful. The third is that many assume is someone’s problem (usually the opposition) hence out sourcing the solution. The Gambia is not a functioning democracy; elections were/are controlled by another contestant and any winner under such conditions will be another dictator with a different name – tribe, religion, education, village/town/cities, etc.

The diaspora on the other hand has one thing to celebrate – the advent of activist online media houses/journalists. These are both individual entrepreneurial talents and as well enormous contribution to the national enlightenment efforts. Bravo girls/guys!  Unfortunately the full potential of these efforts are yet realized because of the disjoint of home and abroad efforts of our struggle. Besides many efforts were made in the name of unity.  The unanswered question is a call to unity to do what and/or to unite on what? To have one opposition candidate has not and will not work. To removing Yahya has not and will not work! To bring back Jawara’s Gambia or something like it hasn’t and will not work.  Years of inter/intra group fighting have become commonplace at our various forums. Yet a clearly articulated vision backed with well-set program of action pretty much none exists.  The common outlet for skeptics…”Yahya will not agree or allow this or that”. My position our legitimate fight is not about what Yahya and/or any other person sanctioned or otherwise.

This produced a more powerful Yahya and a weaker/non-existent struggle. Recently I learnt his agents’ denied the return of late Buba Baldeh’s remains for burial at his hometown. This is very sad but is not as bad as many emotionally charged made it to be. For instance you and me are in exile – besides we’re living for now what’s the difference? We can’t fight this battle on emotions but one reason. Over the last 20 years here are few remarkable incidences – Ousman Koro Ceesay’s reported accidental death is unresolved, Foday Makalo remained mysteriously missing, Deyda Hydara killings unresolved, 14-unarmed students killed unresolved, unknown mass graves of alleged attempted copyists still a mystery, Ebrima Manneh and Kanyiba Kanyi dead/alive is anybody’s guess, Daba Marenah dead/alive a mystery and so on and so forth.  An untold number of citizens physically abused for no crime. Many others denied access to their livelihoods and others were forcefully evicted from their real estate.

To believe that one such emotional event will/might eventually produce the almighty trigger is a folly. Our triggers came and gone and nothing happened. In fact we do not need a trigger. We need is a deliberate action of citizens for our sovereignty. That has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong, instead it’s a given that we’re denied since 1965. Let reclaim it now!

How can/do we reclaim our sovereignty as citizens of a Republic? Last year I posted an article titled – “The Hard Way The Only Way”. A disclaimer – “The Hard Way The Only Way” is a title of a movie I watched years ago. I’m not even sure if I have the wording arranged in the right order.  The movie was about taking out a drug cartel in a South American jungle with the only possible plan that is very risky and dangerous to execute.

That was a warning that we do not have the luxury of many approaches to solve our problem.  Certainly we neither have luxury to continue to argue who is the candidate of next election nor who’re the executives of one group or another.  Let everyone who so wishes be a candidate in an election and let anyone have organization based on his or her interest. Ours is a national problem requiring a national solution. That solution should be all-inclusive except those who choose to stay away at any given time. The diaspora should recognize her strategic role but not over play their importance’s that disincentives the participation of the home-based crowd. Although unorganized, resource less and weak, the home-based crowd are indispensable – some critical roles of the diaspora is to facilitation, influencing and advocacies.

Hereunder is the 10-phased plan I said is the only way but a hard way: To appreciate these steps you have to understand the assumption as to what’s the problem.

1)     Define ‘The Problem’

2)     Develop ‘A National Democracy Vision’

3)     Negotiate ‘A National Face’

4)     Take Our Case To The International Community – Moral & Financial Support

5)     Engage Government of The Gambia – democratic overhauls

6)     Engage Foreign Missions, NGOs, CSOs – begin to nationalize democracy campaign

7)     Going To The People – enlightenment, organize and mobilize citizens

8)     Reporting and Assessment of Progress

9)     Reviews, repositioning and re-strategizing

10) Repeating 4 -9 over and over until we achieve the ultimate vision – A Functioning Institutional Democracy

11) Phase-out mode – turned into several Civil Rights/Liberties Watch Groups to keep the citizens watching and timely acting to safe guard the gains

This approach could be twig by interchanging the order of the phases and/or even formulate different implementation organizational arrangements but the core principles can’t be avoided. Until we come to these basic fundamentals our efforts will be largely noisy than truly result orientation.

For The Gambia Ever True!

Burama FL Jammeh

Founder/General Secretary

The People’s Movement For Democratic Gambia

810 844 6040


July 24, 2014
Reads :2062




Reading the Daily Observer Wednesday 23 July 2014 editorial captioned “Still moving on” left me emotionally deflated and wondering what happens to the moral conscience of the editor-in-chief of the paper. On a second note, I concluded perhaps he is coerced to dress the Revolution that is “a misdirected course of history”, to sponge his words, in borrowed rob. Whatever his reasons may be I am convinced that in his quiet moments, he will beat himself for going down in the history of the Gambia as a journalist who not only misinformed his fellow citizens but attempted to distort reality. For example, he has this to say, “A new wave of consciousness and awareness among the masses was evidently conspicuous in the political and socio-cultural terrain of the country”. I wonder what exactly he meant by this. For I believe a conscious and aware masses will not compromise their freedom.  How many Gambians are persecuted just because they said “the country is hard”? An informed citizenry will not be afraid of its government. They will compel their elected representatives to deliver what they tasked them to do. Is that the case in the Gambian? Is the Jammeh regime accountable? Oh, hell no!

The July 22nd Revolution has only succeeded in systematically suppressing Gambians with tear-jerking impunity for the past twenty years instead of empowering them.  Of course any revolution ushers in change; either for the better or worse. And the Jammeh led 22nd July 1994 Revolution has robbed Gambia of its sovereignty and dignity. Politically, the Gambia is potentially more catastrophic under Jammeh’s watch as opposed to Sir Dawda’s.  The unprecedented record of human rights abuses, killings, tortures, enforced disappearances and banished have never been a Gambian phenomenon prior to the advent of Jammeh into the presidency.  Former civil servants are immediately arrested and slammed with laughable doctored charges and incarcerated for no other reason than expressing a different view to Jammeh’s. That is the type of revolution Jammeh dished out to Gambians. A revolution devoid of any significant and meaningful change.

What is development without the freedom of expression? Can development be sustainable in a volatile and insecure atmosphere? Politically, the Gambia is unstable. Jammeh has carved so many enemies for himself such that the Gambian political environment is likened to a ticking bomb which can trigger off any second. Certainly that is not what development entails. On another hand, has the living standard of Gambians improved or worsen?  Twenty years ago, five dalasi could avail one a lot of things in the Gambia like a loaf of bread, sugar and a tin of milk and still have some change. Can five dalasi afford you the same in the Gambia today under Jammeh?  Needless to say the value of the dalasi has so much depreciated that what one dalasi used to purchase twenty years ago a hundred dalasi cannot get today. Well, a development is meant to augment one’s life but not to retrogress it. Therefore, I can opined that the Jammeh led Revolution is a complete failure.  The reasons for my assertion are written on every aspect of Gambian life.  Majority of Gambians are more impoverished today than before July 22nd 1994. Electricity and water supplies are still inaccessible and unaffordable by majority of Gambians.

The so-called hospitals that Jammeh often brags about are white elephants.  You pay D25 for consultation fee only to be told to go and buy your prescribed medicine.  The wards are dirty and lack privacy. Beds are deplorable and medical care is the worst you can get anywhere in the world. Both nurses and doctors are arrogant and uncaring where you find them.  At least there were only two hospitals during the PPP regime but they were never short of medication or doctors. So what development has the revolution brought for Gambians? Education is now exam oriented rather than equipping the student for life time challenges and productiveness.

Now you portray Jammeh as being humble, compassionate, truthful and faithful. Will a compassionate person kill 9 people just to prove a point? A compassionate person forgives those who err against him but not retaliate. He cares and values human life. How many people have Jammeh ordered to be killed, tortured, incarcerated with impunity or banished? That is a man you call compassionate? A compassionate man does not violate a woman. And Jammeh is a perv. He is far from being humble. Because a humble person does not ride on the backs of his fellows like Yahya does unabated. Jammeh carries himself as the only human in the Gambia and everyone else is a beast of burden. Surely such a person cannot be said to be humble and compassionate.  Furthermore, he is neither truthful nor faithful. He persistently lies through his teeth.  Thus, Jammeh is an embodiment of evil, hence a monster who derives insatiable pleasure in the sufferings of others.

The Gambian economy is saddled with high deficit and mounting debt rates. Foreign investment has become rare gold dust for the government as potential investors are shying away for the volatile political environment. What has the tourist industry turned into? Beaches filled with armed uniformed men and women like a war zone. That is definitely not the revolution Jammeh led junta promised Gambians twenty years ago.

Babucarr Darboe, Chelmsford, UK


July 23, 2014
Reads :1035



By Sarata Jabbbi

The UK government in partnership with UNICEF have on Thursday July 22nd, hosted the world first Girl Summit at the Walworth academy in south London. The aim of the conference was to mobilise domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.

Speaking at the Girl Summit– the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the cross-party unit would help protect thousands of girls across the country. The unit, which could operate in a similar way to the government’s forced marriage unit, has been a key demand of campaigners against FGM. “These measures will ensure that we can maintain the momentum on stamping out these harmful practices,” May said.Home Secretary May added that the government would also strengthen laws around FGM, by holding parents responsible if their child was a victim of the practice. May, however, went further to announce a consultation into making it mandatory for professionals to report FGM and said victims going through court cases would be given lifelong anonymity.

As part of a £1.4m prevention programme, charities will receive funding to create community “champions” with the “cultural knowledge and the connections necessary to challenge beliefs and behaviours”. “We are making progress. Today we are taking one more step on the road towards giving women a voice and eradicating these harmful practices,” concluded May.

FGM has been illegal in the UK for three decades, but the first prosecution was only made in March and is currently going through the courts. As part of a £1.4m prevention programme, charities will receive funding to create community “champions” with the “cultural knowledge and the connections necessary to challenge beliefs and behaviours”.

For his part the Prime Minister David Cameron saidthe government is to legally oblige doctors, social workers and teachers to report FGM if they see it. “What we are trying to achieve is such a simple and noble and good ambition, which is to outlaw the practices of female genital mutilation and early child forced marriage,” he said.

Cameron highlighted the equality between boys and girls by saying, “for me the context is very simple. The context is about equality. I am a dad with three children, two girls and a boy. And I want my girls to grow up with every opportunity my son have, and that is what this is about – equality.”

Many speakers including FGM survivors, gender activist and girls’ education campaigners expresses their concerns over harmful traditional practices, among them was Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani education advocator said people to abandon traditions that are harmful to human beings.

She added that Islam did not condone FGM and early forced marriage, and challenged those who used religion as an excuse to subjugate girls. “There are people who need to read the Qur’an again and do a little bit more study,” she said. Around 600 people from England and the rest of the countries in the world attended summit.








July 23, 2014
Reads :3693
Gambia's most expensive first family for its taxpayers

Gambia’s most expensive first family for its taxpayers

22nd July 2014 is another year which retells the accounts of Gambia’s nightmarish and tear-jerking political and economic squashing for the past twenty years by a one-man absolute government. Today, the Gambia commemorates another year of repression, insecurity and a glossy totalitarianism.  Little did Gambians know on that fateful Friday afternoon of 1994 when the Jammeh led junta announced that they have taken over affairs of the country’s governance from the PPP regime. A euphoria of hope descended on the Gambia as many rode smoothly with the hopeful promises of the young junta dubbed as “soldiers with a difference”. Yes, indeed, what “soldiers with a difference” they really turned out to be.

Shockingly, apart from failing to deliver their maiden promises to the Gambian people who looked up to them, at the time, to transform the tiny West African state into an African Singapore, they robbed us off our freedom as a people and held the country’s economy and politics to ransom. Albeit, the takeover was said to be bloodless, its aftermath was an orchestra of chilling and degrading forms of killings, tortures, solitary incarcerations and enforced disappearances. Jammeh’s supporters will always contend that he brought development to the doorsteps of Gambians. For them development is nothing but the building of Hospitals, a television station, Five Star hotels, roads and Schools. Certainly it can be perceived as development provided it punctuates its functions to the letter. For instance, let us unveil the mask behind the hospitals and look at the reality from within. In any of those hospitals he had built, how many qualified doctors, surgeons and consultants work in each? How many cases are referred for outside treatment because of lack of facilities, medication and medical care? Are there enough medicines in the pharmacies? How often are patients referred to buy their own medication at these hospitals? Suffice it to say a hospital that fails short in measuring up to standards and requirements that qualifies it to be a hospital is nothing but a mere building.  The same can be said of the schools and hotels. What is even more depressing is how these people reluctantly fail to accept the sufferings of the rest of Gambians. For them, Jammeh’s cosmetic development is all they care for and see. What a pity?

Agriculture is Gambia’s economic spine but what has Jammeh done to it? Again some will excuse him for being a farmer and calling for “back to the land”. Funny isn’t it? Agriculture in the Gambia under President Jammeh is synonymous to Jammeh’s farms. We have seen a selected few of the department arrested and still languishing in detention awaiting doctored charges from the state persecutors. He made Gambians believed these gentlemen are solely responsible for the decadence of the Agric department. It is no secret that a bag of fertilizer equates the price of a bag of rice. How the Jammeh regime does expect a poor farmer in Sare Gai who cannot afford three daily meals for his family buy a bag of fertilizer and/or seeds to burst his yield? Let us agree for argument sake that the government has an allocated budget to lend money to farmers to buy fertilizer. If each farmer is lent one thousand dalasi for a period of six month with and APR of 40%, is that farmer being help to improve high living standard or to further impoverish himself. When was the last time that farmers were paid cash for their groundnuts on the spot at seccos? Most of them resorted to taking their produce to Senegal or market it elsewhere. How many factories are there in the Gambia today that can produce tomato paste? Please don’t tell me Mr President that you are not aware of the amount of tomatoes that perished every day in the Gambia due to lack of buyers, storage and manufacturing facilities. What about availing the farmers with the right machinery for their farms? Most Gambian farmers are still tilling their farms with traditional tools. Is that how you expect a national Agriculture to flourish? As if you have not impoverished Gambians enough, you now resort to enslaving them in your farms. If truly you love the Gambia, why not nationalize your farms? How many fishing trawlers do the government has? You see next time you want to open your alligator mouth, think first.

You so much want to keep Gambians uninformed that you clamped on the press like a tick on flesh sucking life out of it.  You and I know that an informed citizen is a sovereign people who will not allow their elected representatives ride on their backs. Consequently, no other news that put you and your corrupt and repressive regime on the spotlight is featured on it. No wonder most Gambians now watch Nigerian movies and foreign channels instead of GRTS. I guess you know why Mr President. Yes, the Gambia has a University and you have built more schools. But you even admitted on your GRTS that the products of your schools cannot be compared with the products of yester years. If I remembered well you gave a comparison that if you ask a Grade 12 student the name of one of the state ministers he or she won’t be able to tell but ask them about the Hollywood stars or rappers; they know all of them like the back of their hands. Isn’t that spilling the beans for you oaf?

What do you have to celebrate on 22nd July  Mr President?  A worrisome mounting youth unemployment? Certainly not. Every young Gambian now prefers to risk his or her life by taking the perilous back way to Europe in search of a better life than remain in the Gambia under your leadership. For those who are lucky to find employment, do their salaries sustain them? Let us move on to electricity and water supplies. I knew it; this one will dent your bloated ego. Their supplies are unaffordable and inaccessible. To make matters worse, they are rationed: persistent and unreasonable cuts.

Gambians have for long forgotten what freedom is under your twenty years of oppressive rule. People are so much afraid that pseudo names are used in public to refer to you. Anyone who opposes your view is either killed or incarcerated without trial. That is not worthy of celebration mop head. Insecurity is the order of the day. No brother is now the other’s keeper all thanks to you. Your human rights records are chillingly appalling. Innocent Gambians are harassed, tortured, maimed, banished and killing daily under your watch and command. Mr President that is not worthy of celebrating.

Is the judiciary independent in the Gambia today as your celebrate July 22nd Yahya AJJ Jammeh?

Sulayman Jeng, Birmingham, UK


July 22, 2014
Reads :3608

struggleRecently, the president of Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), Alhaji Momodou Lamin Touray said that no Muslim should dislike Yaya Jammeh because of what he’s done to spread Islam in the country. Now, one would think that the online community’s vitriolic reaction to this statement was to be expected given that it is quite illogical to make the claim that presidents should be judged solely on their religious record –   and most importantly, because this pronouncement was just one of a series of shameful positions associated with the GSIC.

The GSIC is the same body that endorsed the sudden execution of the Mile 2 nine, the same body that kept mute when Imam Bah Kawsu Fofana and Imam Baba Leigh’s human rights were trampled upon by the regime’s agents. Both men were tortured and the latter detained for long periods without the right to a trial or representation.  It is the same body that kept quiet when the Imam of State House mosque, Imam Abdoulie Fatty, endorsed female genital mutilation as a practice sanctioned by the Quran, the same group that time after time turned a blind eye to the many human rights abuses meted out to Gambian citizens. The unpleasant truth is the GSIC has shown an exhaustive record of simply being an instrument that only serves to endorse many of the president’s whims. Clearly one can understand why the latest statement from the president of the GSIC would invoke a lot of ire from Gambians who have followed that record. Right? No, think again.

Amran Gaye, one of many young Gambians with immense potential as writers and contemporary thinkers on Gambian affairs, took this opportunity to launch an attack on the online movements against the Yaya Jammeh regime or ‘the struggle’ as it has become known lately. In his article, he effectively uses a broad brush to paint these movements – mostly composed of highly principled and conscientious objectors to the excesses of the current regime – as a bunch of misguided and vitriolic rabble rousers. Supposedly, this latest volley of insults on the GSIC president had assaulted his senses to the point where he wrote the piece he titled: “The Gambian Dark Ages: How the “Struggle” Has Pulled Us Down and Further Entrenched the Current Government.”

The piece is undoubtedly a compelling story, characterized by the writing style and flowery language that can captivate and convince a reader. However, when one takes the time to carefully un-package this well-written story, one finds out the actual contents of the package don’t quite measure up to the wrapping paper it was delivered with. It is characterized by wild generalizations and a misunderstanding of the evolution of the online opposition in the diaspora and the significant achievements it has gained.  Perhaps an understanding of the history of the online opposition would have avoided the wild and what same may even term as a mischievous mischaracterization of the online struggle that is endemic in his article. The rest of this piece will attempt to do what the article failed to do: Attempt to show the online-led movement’s significant contributions to Gambia and the movement against Yaya Jammeh.

There is little doubt that online listservs such as the Gambia-L and Gambia-Post contributed in no small measure to the growth and expansion of opposition efforts in the diaspora. Before Facebook brought Web 2.0 to the mainstream, allowing users to interact real-time via the previously static Web browser pages, the aforementioned listservs allowed Gambians to discuss all types of issues about the country. The near simultaneous emergence of the APRC regime and these listservs kindled the embers of the discussion about the regime into a burning flame that is yet to be extinguished or dampened.

The listservs were the outlet for these discussions which were sometimes vitriolic as much as they were brilliant and measured. Alas, reading him rail on the online Opposition members as a bunch of uncouth and foul mouthed individuals who cannot tolerate dissent, one would think all political discussions should be measured affairs full of decorum and logical thinking. But the reality is this is a utopian ideal that in fact does not exist when it comes to political discussions talk less of one that involves a country struggling to free itself from the chokehold of a dictator. For a quick reality check, he should spend some time following the current political discourse in the USA, a country which does not have to deal with the corruption and human rights abuses endemic in Gambia for the past two decades, to see how nasty these types of discussions can become.

The truth is these listservs were a reflection of the typical Gambian Bantaaba. It took all sorts of people to make a vigorous debate. They attracted Gambian students as well as professionals from all over the globe, such as the crème de la crème of Gambian academics who represented all sides of the political debate as well as others who simply wanted to learn and contribute to the conversation. As is to be expected of conscientious intellectuals, their general abhorrence of human rights abuses meant there were far more people who were against the APRC regime than for it. And as a result, the two listservs came to be seen as more sympathetic to the Opposition. Another point that must be made is because of the lack of Internet penetration in Gambia at the time, most of the contributors to this conversation were based in the diaspora. Only a few Gambians who accessed the Internet via governmental and non-governmental facilities were able to read and sometimes contribute to the discourse. Thus this online movement true pure dint of circumstance came to be seen as one fuelled by the diaspora.

The beautiful consequence of the conversations that took place on these listservs was the quality of ideas and endeavours that they produced. They included countless fund raising drives for worthy causes, letter writing campaigns that addressed blatant injustices, political action committees, planning and laying the ground work for demonstrations and other worthy causes. Want specifics? The first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that committed political parties to form a united front against the APRC regime came about as a result of the work of the Save the Gambia Democracy Project (STGDP) – a group formed after much brainstorming on these listservs – with the political parties on the ground. Another example of effective action and collaboration from online movements was when one particular member of the online community who moved by what she read about the plight of the students who were severely injured during the April 14 student massacre, personally collaborated with the American embassy to help several of the injured school children relocate to the United States. In fact, most of the organizations opposed to the situation in The Gambia, from DUGA to CORDEG, came about directly or indirectly as a result of the marketplace of ideas the listservs provided.

The plight of Omar Barrow, a budding journalist who was killed on the fateful day, so moved many of the online community that funds were raised for his family. Other funding drives included raising one to help pay Fatou Jaw Manneh’s 12,000 dollar fine that was levied on her for criticizing the president, and one for Imam Baba Leigh’s family during his unjust abduction by agents of the state, and one for the missing Chief Ebrima Manneh’s family. Lately thanks to sites like GoFundMe.Com which allows contributors to give their contributions online, fundraising activities via the online movement have mushroomed. Drives have become more well-planned and sophisticated and can raise thousands of dollars very quickly. To commemorate the anniversary of the April student massacre, a successful drive was conducted using various online technologies to raise thousands of dollars for the families of some of the victims of the shootings who are in the worst condition.

Let’s be clear that the online movement was not only about politics. It was about obituaries, news, education, history and the whole gamut of other topics. One of the biggest gifts the online movement has given us is a treasure trove of information online on all manner of topics about The Gambia. For the first time in the history of the country, many of the opinions, research, revelations, and random thoughts and so on about the country are accessible online via simple Google searches. The thousands of brilliant write-ups by Gambians are available for anyone to peruse. It is true that the history of our country has been written in the past by heavyweights such as Florence Mahoney and Professor David Gamble but for the first time in our history, Gambians have collectively contributed to writing that history real-time and written it from so many different perspectives. Our colonial legacy has taught us that national pride and sense of worth is enhanced when nations write their own history. The online movements have helped us move towards this noble ideal, and this has been largely due to the online activists he derides as comprised of a majority of cursing rabble rousers.

The polemics and ideas started by the online community also gave rise to the powerhouse online newspapers today such as The Freedom Newspaper, Gainako, and Maafanta. These online newspapers must be given a lot of credit for the strides they’ve made towards educating Gambian people and getting the message out there. The Freedom Newspaper is so feared by the current regime they’ve fruitlessly tried to block the IP addresses it is accessible from. The individuals that run these newspapers are remarkable Gambians not only because of their talents but because of their determination to spread the news and get it from as many sources as possible. They all run these efforts using their own money and time.

The online movement has been so effective that Yaya Jammeh himself has launched a PR campaign to discredit it. He has appeared on national television to curse and threaten members of this movement. If, and as he alleges, the online movements were not effective, there would not have been a law – rubber stamped by parliament as usual – that made it a crime to criticize the president online. Nor would political parties from The Gambia fly out to attend meetings conceptualized online by the various online interest groups. And it certainly wouldn’t result in the European Union, as a result of pressure from the various online groups, delivering an ultimatum to the government to improve its human rights situation.

Today, the Gambian listservs’ strength has waned. Technologies such as Web 2.0 have meant other mediums have become more effective ways to communicate and get the message out. Online groups can fundraise in hours, or easily brainstorm over Facebook. You have groups like Gambia Youth and Women’s Forum which have a much wider reach than any medium used before. The political action groups such as CORDEG and others are far more effective and wiser than the likes of the STGDP of the past. Contrary to his broad mischaracterization of the struggle, it has become more diverse and far more resilient than ever before. His sneering at the many disparate groups is actually misplaced. The struggle has morphed into the equivalent of the Greek mythical hydra with multiple heads. All of this started off because of the efforts of a few dozen dedicated people online who knew that what was happening in Gambia was wrong.

As opposed to his conclusion, it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to the struggle. The positives the online movement can point to makes miniscule the bad language and lack of tolerance exhibited by some. His characterization of our country as a bus being driven to the edge of precipice by the ruling party and the online opposition is what logicians call a false equivalence. Given all the positive things that have emerged from the two decades of an active online movement, one has to wonder what prompted him to try to make the dishonest equivocation between a government that has mismanaged the country so badly; and the online movement.

But as the saying goes, never let a crisis – a mini one in this case – go to waste. The online movements have to ask themselves how it has come to this, where a young Gambian with so much potential has mischaracterized the online movement so badly. My view is that the various movements have not told their story properly.  Young Gambians such as Mr Gaye were probably in their formative years during much of the evolution of the movement. But as was the case in the 1990s and the emergence of the Internet and the listservs, technology has given us another opportunity. Internet penetration and the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and others have given us access to thousands of young Gambians. It is my view that the next challenge for the online movements is to leverage this massive penetration to tell their wonderful story, understand what the youths want and collaborate with interested groups to implement endeavours target the Gambian youth positively. After all, the struggle does need youths like Amran Gaye.


July 21, 2014
Reads :2909




Dear Mr. Baba Hydara,

Although I am a keen follower of your paper, and radio shows, as I do all the others that are online, I was unlucky, or should I instead say lucky to miss the inflammatory statements you have been making about me on your radio. A close friend drew my attention to it with a query over what kind of difference exists between us. Apparently, I couldn’t give him any because as much as I have been hearing your voice over the radio and probably read one or two things concerning you, I had to admit knowing nothing about who you are. And, I also was convinced that you equally didn’t know much about me either.

However, if you were not “Baba Hydara”, but another familiar Gambian character who in the past got angry over our disagreement on personal opinions, and essentially compelling them into accusing me of being the torturer and ultimate killer of Yaya Drammeh, I would have simply dismissed everything as the fabrication I had always treated it to be. Yes, the unfortunate fabrication that I killed Yaya Drammeh, after being captured in The Gambia in 1996 in an organized armed attack at Farafenni Army Barracks, has always been a contention peddled around by my adversaries for lack of credible arguable points.  Comparatively, however, you have been somewhat more economical in the number of ridiculous stories usually stacked against me by these dishonest folks. You probably didn’t hear that I stole money from the army budgeted for purchasing communication gears resulting in my dismissal from the job? Or that I shot myself on the foot in 1988 because I was afraid to go to Liberia in 1990? Or the good one that I am actually a recovering crazy man whose sickness started at Mile Two Prison? The list goes on and on although they all seem to believe that the most effective one is this case accusing me of murdering Yaya Drammeh. Nevertheless, I had at one point thought that the clowns had exhausted its potency out of its over use, especially when the purpose to merely hurt my feelings always fell short of their expectations.

But hearing the same accusation from a Senegalese national whose knowledge of the incident appears to be limited to the garbage he is fed by these pitiful Gambians, I found it the golden opportunity to at last share with you and the whole world the facts surrounding the controversy of the late Yaya Drammeh. In the end, it will be left to you to decide what to believe but you are also tasked to find me answers on the questions that follow in my conclusion.

It was on the 8th of November 1996 at about 4:30 am when Yaya Drammeh, Mballow Kanteh, Sulayman Sarr, John Dampha, Essa Baldeh, Famara Gibba and Ablie Sonko launched a surprise armed attack at Farafenni Military Barracks in an effort to overthrow the Gambia government. The soldiers still in bed suspecting no imminent threat woke up to the alarming gun shots which before realizing what was going on eight of their colleagues were already slaughtered while trying to take cover or run out of the camp. Mark you, none of the soldiers were armed leaving them no option other than to run for cover or vacate the killing field.  While the majority escaped, Sergeant Jatta, Corporal Kuyateh, Private Saidy and five more young men lost their lives within 30 minutes of the cowardly assault. And as if that was not enough havoc, they captured the camp commander Captain Biran Saine, seized all the weapons in the armoury and tried to recruit the youth in the town to join them for a national armed rebellion. That was how the Liberian civil war was waged. To cut a long story short, the Gambia National Army, on that very morning, using its Quick Reaction Force (QRF) went into a counter offensive capturing some of the bandits and chasing the others back across the border to where they had planned and launched the attack from, “Senegal”. Kanteh and Sarr suffered friendly fire injuries from their first shots. Yaya Drammeh got captured by some Gambian villagers who found him almost passed out from severe fatigue. John Dampha and Essa Baldeh managed to reach Dakar, Senegal but were captured there and extradited to The Gambia within 48 hours. Only Ablie Sonko, their newly chosen leader together with Famara Gibba, escaped back to Liberia. Sonko was however later captured after the expulsion of Charles Taylor from Liberia in 2003 and is still at Mile Two Central Prison with the rest of his gang members.

I was indeed the deputy commander of the Army at the time and as my obligation in that capacity had to thoroughly investigate the baffling crime. I must however say that the hardest part was going to the morgue to identify every one of those fine young men whose ages had ranged from twenty to twenty seven years and then finally releasing their corpses to their family members for burials of their choice. It was heart wrenching beyond imagination to witness eight lives-some with wives and children- wasted for nothing.

After the investigation, I don’t know where you were Mr. Hydara but I gave a comprehensive press conference at the army headquarters in Banjul featured live on the Gambia Radio and Television Station (GRTS). The evidence founded was outrageous. Except for Essa Baldeh who was a Senegalese national, the entire group was made up of Gambians who for years after being trained in Libya on guerrilla warfare were contracted in 1989 by Charles Taylor to fight for his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in that civil war that had claimed over 160,000 human lives. Yaya Drammeh was a top general in Taylor’s army who had commanded a battalion of rebels composed mainly of child soldiers who in most cases were drugged, and killed more for the fun of wasting lives than for any plausible course. Sulayman Sarr commonly called striker was another monster whose early injury during the attack helped tremendously in sabotaging the operation sooner. John Dampha was the rebels’ trainer who had confessed to coordinating numerous attacks on innocent villagers in Liberia to feed on the organs of the dead for lack of food. Essa Baldeh, the Senegalese national who was according to their cabinet appointments was to assume the position of Minister of Finance of the Gambia was the funny-looking one who was equally as vicious as the others. And last but not the least, there was Mballow Kanteh the smallest, weirdest and who by every indication the shrewdest; he also suffered an early injury at the initial stage of the camp assault.  All of them are still in jail except of course for Yaya Drammeh who died there from a sickness that by prison rules and regulations was confidential to the facility’s authorities. I can definitively tell you that Yaya Drammeh’s death had nothing to do with me or anyone torturing him to death but more to do with just a convicted killer getting sick and dying in jail. If we were that blood thirsty, what on earth could have prevented us from going the whole nine yards of eliminating all those murderers? In other words, why Yaya Drammeh and not Dampha, Kanteh, Baldeh, Sarr or all of them for that matter? They were found guilty in the Gambia’s civil court system, but were they executed? Not at all.  I was without doubt angry enough to wish all of them dead and to rot in hell and therefore was never bothered or felt any guilt he died; after all, I believe he died doing what he had loved to do best-KILLING PEOPLE INNOCENT OR GUILTY. So to me I believe it was good riddance.

What I really think was the most shocking aspect of the fiasco was the dubious part played by the Senegalese government of Abdou Diouf. It started with Retired General Wane, the then chief of staff of President Abdou Diouf who acting on what was dubbed a secret mission to help the late Kukoi Samba Sanyang, end his indefinite fugitive life style funded him to leave Liberia in early 1996 and came to Senegal as the first step to get him back home to the Gambia. Kukoi in turn, paid for all those rebels to move with him to Senegal. By Mid-June, the Senegalese government had received all of them as state guests. According to the version of the captured fighters or mercenaries, Kukoi who was the leader of their organization had before their departure from Liberia strongly promised them that the Senegalese intended to assist them attack the Gambia and overthrow the AFPRC government. They were not just fed and sheltered at different places in the country but also enjoyed steady flow of financial assistance from Rtd. General Wane’s office.  By the end of October, frustrated by the ambiguous waiting without a date or timeline or logistical support for arm campaign, they concluded that Senegal was not necessarily going to take an active part in the operation. But they also felt that their invitation there was an indirect way of the Senegalese providing them with the terrain and perfect opportunity to attack Gambia on their own. What else could it be? They just couldn’t tell.  They coerced Kukoi to do something about getting them weapons. He finally left for Liberia assuring them that Charles Taylor had told him in a phone conversation that he had found them the ideal arsenals for the job ready for collection. From that day on, they lost total contact with Kukoi.  Ablie Sonko was eventually voted to replace Kukoi with Mballow Kanteh coming up with the means of funding the necessary logistics. They left their residences in the town of Sokone on November 7th and assaulted the camp the following dawn.

We were not just dumbfounded by the treachery but more than anything else by what the Senegalese authorities were up to for fraternizing with Kukoi who was their archenemy since his abortive coup’ d tat attempt of the PPP government of ex-President Jawara in 1981. It was no secret then that Senegal had to intervene on behalf of Jawara and crushed the armed rebellion led by Kukoi with thousands of people in the Gambia killed including civilians and uncountable number of Senegalese soldiers. So until his men attacked Farafenni, most people including me thought that the Senegalese government was still hunting for Kukoi in order to prosecute him for crimes committed against the Senegalese Army and the Sene-Gambian people. But to hear that troublesome Kukoi and his gang of mercenaries were sponsored by the Senegalese government to leave Liberia and come to Senegal for any reason still puzzles me.  Senegal never made an attempt to explain its position about the matter or at least apologize to the families of the soldiers killed in the event.

I am not necessarily saying that Senegal deliberately orchestrated the attack that killed eight of our soldiers, but considering their involvement with Kukoi, a pariah in Senegal at the time and their inability with all their sophistication to prevent the attack from happening, suspecting them of complicity was and is still a justifiable conviction.

Please Mr. Hydara being the high profile Senegalese journalist you often claim to be with access to top ranking officials of the current Senegalese government, why not if you don’t already know about the details of that incident, help us to understand why Kukoi Samba Sanyang and his mercenaries were allowed to attack the Gambia from Senegal in 1996? I guess if you can arrange with President Macky Sall, as you recently said you could if allowed, to organize an all Gambian-opposition-party meeting in Dakar for reconciliation and more effective campaign against President Jammeh, digging out the secrets behind that attack that also culminated in the death of your hero Yaya Drammeh shouldn’t be a problem. But whether or not you wish to take the task, I will from now on expect you to refrain from just saying that I killed Yaya Drammeh without telling my side of the story in which I think your government Senegal was more culpable in that deadly rampage than poor Samsudeen Sarr.

Anyway, in another related incident that added more trauma to an already traumatic situation, on July 21st 1997, eight months after the Farafenni attack, the late former-Lieutenant L.F. Jammeh, the late former- Lieutenant Jarju and the Late former-Lieutenant Alieu Bah together with Sergeant Joof crossed the Senegalese border again this time from Cassamance and attacked our Kartong Military camp in another attempt to overthrow the Gambia government. They were former GNA officers who escaped capture in November 1994 in an alleged coup’d tat attempt against the government. In Senegal, the government had offered them political asylum with a tough defiance to extradite them back to the Gambia. As a matter of fact to give them the maximum protection the government provided them comfortable living conditions in a Senegalese military camp in Cassamance. It was from there that they planned the attack in which two young soldiers were killed in cold blood before we captured them.

With that incident as well, the Senegalese government acted as if they didn’t have a clue about what happened.  Again Mr. Hydara, the event was explained at the army headquarters in Banjul in a press conference by the command. I was at the time the commander of the army. And just for the records, wouldn’t it be fair to point a finger to Senegal in that reckless operation that in the end cost all of them their lives except for Sergeant Joof who escaped captivity? The attacks from Senegal and the senseless killings had at one time become a constant source of trauma that really haunted us especially at night. Up to the day I left the country in 1999, I would every night before going to bed pray and hope that I wouldn’t be awoken at the next dawn for another familiar bad news of rebellious Gambians sheltered in Senegal coming to kill more of our soldiers in the name of trying to take out President Jammeh. And since I left the Gambia, fifteen years ago, I can with absolute certainty say that the treacherous occurrences still exist. I mean Senegalese governments are still encouraging the naïve Gambian dissidents into moving over there to plan on their own to destabilize the Gambia government while acting as unaware. What is also clear is that many have tried and failed with some paying with their lives simply because the Gambian security forces are now fully cognizant of the potential danger and now apply proactive deterrent strategies. They understand that every time they cross the border they target the military camps and just butcher the soldiers. They have refused to be sitting ducks anymore and instead go on the offensive by striking first before they do. Going to Senegal or Gambia as an active Gambian dissident unwilling to negotiate and ready to hurt the regime could now be translated into a death wish. The Senegalese government may turn a blind eye to your activities but be also rest assured that the Gambian security forces are no longer as vulnerable to those cheap attacks and will not hesitate to get you first before you get them.

In hindsight, looking at the whole nonsense in its entirety, I bet we probably should have sued the Senegalese government through ECOWAS or other International courts for being somehow culpable in the never ending attacks and killings of the GNA soldiers by undesirable elements encouraged from their territory. But until then, I strongly believe that the Senegalese government will continue to embolden the conspirators or as I mentioned above keep turning a blind eye to their suicidal activities. And please let us stop the hypocrisy of cheering the adventurists to go for the kill and when killed in the process we cry foul.

On a final note Mr. Hydara, I want to let you know that my position on what happened to Yaya Drammeh remains the same. I did not torture or kill him and I believe he died of natural causes in jail. But that being said I would not have hesitated if I could stop those lunatics in any way possible even if it had meant pumping bullets in each of their heads before attacking. I saw the dead soldiers. They were all brutally killed.

Oh, one more thing, Ansumana Jammeh’s wife is a niece to my wife and not her sister. They are wonderful people and we love them dearly. I don’t know what they have to do with me killing Yaya Drammeh but I thought you need to better understand what to say about that family and our relationship.

If you want us to continue this discussion over your radio, I will be most willing to schedule a convenient date and time with you for one. We can do it in Wolof and if possible open the lines to Senegalese listeners as well.


Samsudeen Sarr.