Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category


November 25, 2015
Kartong' Youth during previous mining protests

Kartong’ Youth during previous mining protests

Gambia Youth for Unity (GYU) is deeply concerned and condemns the arrest of over forty youths from Kartong, West Coast Region including women and children. “We condemn unethical mining taking place in Kartong and we call on the Gambian authorities to halt mining operations and release the detained youths whose action shows that they were merely protecting their lands from illegal mining,” said Omar Bah, GYU Chair.

 On November 20th, a Gambian local newspaper Foroyaa issued a story headlined “Kartong Community questions the benefit of heavy metal mining”. The aggrieved youths from Kartong visited Foroyaa to lodge a complaint, questioning the benefit of mineral mining in their community. According to one of the complainant, it’s alleged that the mining activities have resulted to the death of a 12 year old boy. “A 12 year boy in grade 6, drowned in one of the pits on the day after the Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’.” Mineral mining has not only resulted in loss of life but is also threatening agricultural production and the pits have cultivated an infestation of mosquitoes in the community.

 According to media reports, the youths of Kartong have been protesting against mineral mining for the past three weeks. On November 22nd, reports indicated that a large gathering of villagers came out to protest against mineral miners. Kartong is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is famous for its tourism, fishing and rich ecosystems. Mineral mining has threatened the livelihood of the villagers and their community by increasing the rate of soil erosion and sea encroachment. Several metric tons are mined from the village each week over the past six to seven years.

 The events of November 22nd resulted in a standoff between youths of Kartong and security forces. This ultimately saw scores of youths arrested for exercising their fundamental rights. GYU therefore calls for calm and specifically to Gambian security forces to release all youths arrested for merely exercising their constitutional right, by protesting against mineral mining. As a youth movement we feel compelled to stand up and condemn the unconstitutional arrest of such environmentally responsible youths who should not be subject to illegal arrest and abuse from security forces sworn to protect them.


November 24, 2015


By Sarjo Bayang

Going by marital vows of loyal spouses you keep going until you can no longer go on. Gambia as a nation is not marital partner of presidents, their deputies, or chief clerks. Constitution of Gambia provides clear guidelines about what needs doing in the event a sitting president is corrupt, sick (mental and physical) or falls dead. “In sickness, in plenty or poverty, in joy and times pain, until death doth us part” Gambia as a nation is certainly not married to any president.

Is the Gambia National Assembly not violating constitutional provisions as the nation’s president though still alive but known to be seriously corrupt, very sick, and in routine misconduct by gross abuse of public office? To avoid speculations and denial, see what the constitution says and whether or not you think the national assembly is preserving what the book of rules contains in letter and spirit.

Gambian Constitution at a Glance:

Section 66: Removal of President on grounds of Mental or physical Incapacity. Subsection (1): Where the Speaker receives a notice in writing signed by not less than one half of all the members of the National assembly alleging that the President is, by reason of infirmly of mind or body, incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office, and giving particulars of the alleged incapacity, the Speaker shall request the Chief Justice to constitute, on the recommendation of the head of the medical services of The Gambia, a Medical Board comprising at least five independent medical practitioners of appropriate standing.

Subsection (2): The Board shall enquire into the matter and make a report to the Chief Justice stating the opinion of the Board whether or not the President is, by reason of infirmity of mind or body incapable of discharging the functions of the office of President. The President, and if he or she so wishes, his or her one medical adviser may appear, and shall have the right to be heard, before the board.

Subsection (3): Where the Board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office by reason of infirmity of mind or body, the Chief Justice shall submit the report to the Speaker, who shall, if the National Assembly is not sitting, summon the National assembly to meet within seven days. Subsection (4) The members of the National Assembly shall deliberate on the report and vote on it and the President shall only be removed where two thirds of the members present and voting, vote for his removal. Subsection (5) The report of the Board shall be Final and conclusive and shall not be enquired into by any court.

Section 67: Misconduct

Subsection (1) The President may be removed from office in accordance with this section on any of the following grounds: (a) abuse of office, wilful violation of the oath of allegiance or the President’s oath of office, or wilful violation of any provision of this Consultation, or (b) Misconduct in that- (i) He or she has conducted himself in a manner which brings or is likely to bring the office of President into contempt or disrepute; or (ii) He or she has dishonestly done any act which is prejudicial or inimical to the economy of The Gambia or dishonestly omitted to act with similar consequences.

(4) The President shall not- (a) While he or she continues in office as President, hold any other office of profit or emolument whether public or private, occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services, or directly or indirectly carry on any trade, business or other undertaking;

Provided that the President may undertake and carry on any agricultural business including farming, horticulture, livestock rearing and artisanal fishing, he she shall not;

(b) Undertake any activity inconsistent with his or her official position or expose himself or herself to any situation which carries with it the risk of a conflict developing between his or her official concerns and his or her private interests; (c) Use his or her position as such or use information entrusted received by him or her in an official position directly or indirectly to enrich himself or herself or any other person.

Section 65: Vacancy When a President is sick or Dead

(1) The office of President shall become vacant during the term Office of president of a Presidency: (a) On the death or resignation of President or (b) On the President ceasing to hold office under section 63, 66 or section 67.

Regulating the Regulator

Serious case of violation is clearly seen from above provisions of Gambian Constitution on part of the President and by equal scale of culpability wilful inaction of the National Assembly. Everyone in Gambia and beyond following developments knows full enough that the current president is sick, excessively corrupt, and routinely in abuse of public office for his personal economic interest. The constitution provides for removal of a sitting president on grounds that the current occupier undoubtedly qualifies.

Considering that the Gambia National Assembly is not acting in accordance with constitutional provisions, they will be seen stooping lowest in betrayal of people that voted them as representatives. There is serious constitutional crisis in a situation like this where everyone is awareness of what needs doing but nobody takes responsibility.

By failing to be just and safe guardians of the nation’s big book of rules under their trusted custody, Gambia National Assembly is due for unseating through collective negligence of duty. The public has all rights to sanction their national assembly representatives. Moment of right action now arises when the regulator has to be regulated upon proper scrutiny.

If this situation slips through without public demand for accountability in bringing national assembly members to book, it may render constitutional crisis leading to ungovernable state of affairs.

Sick President cannot recover a sinking economy and melting finances

Without needing efforts explaining to anyone, it is clear by all indicators that Gambia economy is dead with melting financial temperatures at the peak. During his active life the current president has been so busy building his personal fortune from abuse of public resources. He was not anticipating sickness, whereby his personal health recovery becomes higher priority now than recovery of the national economy and financial order.

It is already too late for any quick fix. What is making matters more serious and worse is failure by the National Assembly to take responsibility in discharging a sick president from public duties.

Everyone fears that talking about unseating the president will bring them trouble in the event of his recovery to take revenge on those calling for his unseating. Not taking the right action at most appropriate time will bear heavily on everyone and those National Assembly members will not escape hardship born of their gross negligence.

“A stitch in time saves nine”, but will Gambia National Assembly Members act swift enough to rescue this sinking nation from the iron fist grabbing hands of a sick president who refuses to let go?


November 24, 2015
A mining site- photo courtesy of foroyaa

A mining site- photo courtesy of foroyaa

The youth of kartong in the begining this month gathered at the youth premises to protest against illegal sand mining. Sand mining is not a new thing in kartong, it has been occurring since in the 90s but its benefit to the natives is virtually nothing. The concerned youths show this as something very much destructive to their community. The youth in their numbers turned out when the news broke out that there are people who are about to restart the heinous act of mining again. It could be recalled that a grade 6 student drowned in that quarry on the second day of Tobaski this year, an incident that left many kartongkas regretful of not taking necessary measures to stop mining in their beloved community.

During the Friday night gathering, discussion were mainly focused on how to solve this mining issue peacefully. The meeting was successful and steps were taking to end this mining. We lost all our beautiful vegetation, lamented an environmentalist Mr sulayman Manneh. Our father’s fought hard to safe our surrounding he further reminded the people to be responsible of their actions.

Mr Modou lamin Manneh who also expressed his dissatisfaction on the sand mining said, Sand mining brought no benefits to us. The miners never fulfilled their promise with the community. They also failed to honour the agreement which states that they should mine only one meter deep and they must replace the sand mine after the end of the contract. But sadly all this promise were not fulfilled he further commented. Habibu Touray who was among the front liners of this youth protest also lamented on the destructions and effects of these sand mining to the people of kartong. Kartong never experience mosquitoes after the raining season but now after the mining the mosquitoes are always around.

Ousman Jabang, Musa Cham, Bambo Touray and Amadou Jarju all expressed similar sentiments. Petition was signed by the youths against the mining. The youths posted the banners on their taxes to express their anger. We have all the rights to protect our environment and we will defend it peacefully to the core . We cannot tolerate any more untimely deaths of our children caused by the destructive mining.



November 8, 2015
Jammeh has a Malicious Intention - Ebou Gaye

Jammeh has a Malicious Intention – (Ebou Gaye)

By Ebou Gaye

What a malicious intention!
The remarks you made at a rally in Brikama contained in a video aired recently on Fatu Radio are a cause for great concern
They strongly suggest that you have a malicious intention vis-à-vis the opposition,
And have proven your bigotry, intolerance, folly and wickedness beyond any shadow of doubt
You caricatured and satirized the members of the opposition,
Describing them as skinny people with bony cheeks,
Saying that they are tired and fagged out
You went further and stated in plain language that some of them have died,
And that some will not live to witness the next elections,
As they will die like their colleagues who have already died
Your remarks run counter to common sense and the Islamic principle of qutwa hasana according to which a leader is supposed to serve as a role model by leading by example
If your loyalists and Islamic scholars are honest and sincere as they want to make us believe, they should do a favour to you and your compatriots by pointing out to you this fact and the dangers associated with your reckless remarks
What a malicious intention!
Your description of the opposition members doesn’t tell well of you
It is childish, infantile, immature and ironic
It has amply demonstrated your scorn and contempt of your compatriots,
And jogged people’s memories to your appearance when you just came to power
As your chief spin doctor has portrayed you in his book Coup d’Etat by the Gambia National Army,
You were not the least presentable at the time
You looked rough and malnourished,
As evidenced by your dry, cracked lips and dehydrated cheeks
It is disgusting, nauseating, heart-breaking, outrageous and vexatious that you look down on and mock your compatriots,
Putting them in the situation in which you were as a destitute, impecunious soldier- as poor as a church mouse,
After you have fattened your flattened lips and cheeks with ill-gotten wealth from state coffers and dirty deals,
And become so pompous, conceited, cheeky, insolent and mischievous
What a malicious intention!
Your death threats are very revealing and provocative
They shouldn’t be taken lightly,
Given the numerous unresolved cases of mysterious, suspicious accident, death and disappearance of some of your opponents and perceived enemies
They have rendered irrefutable the allegation that you have hands in such cases
Your threats should be taken as a statement of intent
My interpretation is that you are ready to liquidate some opposition members before the elections,
And that you don’t care about the security of your compatriots and the oath you have taken to serve their interest without ill-will
Only a cruel, crooked and misguided person like you has the audacity to defend or play down your threats, or try to give them a positive interpretation  
I defy your blind, brainwashed apologists and your chief spin doctor to interpret your threats for the public if they have an interpretation different from mine
Killing people is not pride,
Nor is it fun as you consider it to be  
Life is precious and hence should be protected rather than being cut short deliberately and unjustifiably
Only a short-sighted, narrow-minded person brags of having licence or powers to kill people and get away with it
You can’t escape death, no matter how many people you kill  
Like all your compatriots, you have dead relatives and loved ones that you can’t reincarnate or bring back to life,
 And you will certainly die one day and join them on the land of see-me-no-more,
After incurring the wrath of God the Omnipotent as a result of your brutality
It is therefore irresponsible, irrational and silly for you to issue death threats or kill people for worldly desires
What a malicious intention!
You have once again manifested your egocentricity, selfishness and insatiable appetite for power,
And your undemocratic, unpatriotic tendencies
You and your hypnotized supporters always denounce attempts to change your regime through violent means,
Contending that those who want to replace you should try to do so through the ballot box,
Despite the fact that you came to power through violent means by staging a coup and deposing a democratically elected president
You are now telling us that you are willing to use violence to suppress or eliminate those who want to replace you through peaceful means,
As you can’t accept smooth change of power and can’t imagine anybody occupying the seat of power while are still alive and kicking,
And hence want to see your country set ablaze and burn to ashes in case of regime change
What a wicked wish!
You are clearly and indisputably inciting and instigating violence by refusing and ruling out peaceful change of government in your country,
As it is said that if you make peaceful change impossible, you make violent change inevitable
 Only a gullible person and a credulous fool can be convinced with your claim that you love your country and wish your people well
What a malicious intention!
You behave as if you are an indispensible leader,
 And that your departure from power will spell doom for your country and compatriots
That is insulting to the intelligence of Allah the Almighty and that of your compatriots
Allah is All-knowing, All-wise
He wouldn’t endow only one person in a whole country with leadership qualities or capabilities,
 As no one is immortal and can lead forever
  After all, you are not a special breed
Your track record before you mounted power and your tenure of office as a head of state has shown clearly that you are not more capable of leading than your compatriots
In fact, you can be counted among those with the least capabilities to lead
You were notorious for indiscipline and bullying of innocent people as a gendarme officer and a soldier,
As substantiated by the testimonies of your former Senegalese gendarme boss in his book Pour l’Honneur de la Gendarmerie Sénégalaise (volume 1) and your former colleagues in the Gambia Gendarmerie
Besides, you have proven to be a menace and a nuisance as a leader
Before you came to power, you never achieved anything extraordinary in terms of studies and work that your compatriots couldn’t achieve,
And your ascension to power has greatly increased your indiscipline and your love of bullying people which you have taken as a hobby
You seize the God-given rights of your compatriots,
 And deprive them of their basic needs,
Thereby transforming them into paupers and beggars who work for you like slaves and sing your praises for the crumbs you throw them and the privileges you give them
You always threaten, victimize, terrorize, traumatize and brutalize your compatriots,
Inflict excruciating, unendurable torment and sufferings on them,
And add insult to injury by plundering and squandering their meagre resources
Hence, the vast majority of your compatriots will breathe a sigh of relief when your eventual departure is announced,
 And shout “Good riddance!” at the top of their voices


November 4, 2015
Author: Ebou Gaye

Author: Ebou Gaye

By Ebou Gaye

As media practitioners and their sympathizers observe International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, I would like to comment on the subject with a view to defending the rights of journalists and advancing the cause of press freedom.

Journalists suffer miserably in many parts of the world, Africa in particular. They are subjected to persecution in the form of banishment, harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention, incarceration, torture and murder by tyrannical, oppressive regimes and bigoted, unscrupulous individuals with the complicity of opportunists who behave like zombies and always manipulate the law or endorse proposed draconian laws obstructing media practitioners, or carry out irrational instructions to victimize, brutalize or liquidate members of the press. What a pity! It is either the case that those who wage war against journalists are oblivious to the importance of the fourth estate, or that they are fully cognizant of its importance in society but have chosen to hamper journalists or violate their rights for egocentric or selfish motives. The latter case is more likely, given the fact that those who persecute or kill journalists want their good deeds to be publicized and, at the same time, want to see the bad deeds of their opponents exposed.

The point is buttressed by the fact that dictatorial regimes befriend and sponsor praise-singing or pro-government media houses and journalists by giving them privileges, while discriminating against independent journalists whom they brand detractors, saboteurs and unpatriotic citizens who deserve severe punishment or death. This is exemplified by the behaviour of the Gambian leader, Yahya Jammeh, towards the press. Two journalists have been murdered under his watch, many tortured severely and one abducted without trace for too long a time, with all the cases remaining unresolved as though the victims have no right to protection and justice. That Jammeh always gets angry and fumes when such horrendous, atrocious crimes are mentioned lends credence to the widely held belief that he has hands in them. Besides, Jammeh has monopolized the state media, the Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS) and the pro-government newspaper, the Daily Observer, which he patronizes and uses as his mouthpieces and propaganda machines. Jammeh is on record for having publicly called journalists illegitimate sons of Africa and threatening to take drastic measures against journalists who offend him. Private media houses have been set on fire, with the culprits going scot-free in all cases. That a sizeable number of Gambian journalists currently live in exile further demonstrates Jammeh’s hostile attitude towards journalists and his abhorrence of the concept of press freedom.

The importance of the press cannot be over-emphasized. It informs, educates, enlightens and entertains besides serving as a watchdog. I would not hesitate to state that the press is indispensable with regard to the promotion of justice, democracy and respect for human rights, in the absence of which there cannot be meaningful, veritable and durable peace and development. It is a well known fact that those who bear malice against journalists and combat them do at times need their services and turn to them. Hence, the press should be viewed as a development partner, not an enemy. Suppressing press freedom means keeping people in the dark, which gives rise to rumour mongering whose accompaniments are undesirable and could be enormously detrimental.

It is worthy to note that any attempt made to muzzle the press arouses suspicion and attracts negative interpretations. Hatred or fear of journalists and the desire to silence, harm or eliminate them can be interpreted as fear of being exposed and an attempt to conceal or cover one’s misdeeds. If one is sure of having a clean record or having no skeleton in his cupboard, as journalists would put, there is no need for him to try to gag the press. As the saying goes, it is he who has hidden something up that has a problem with people looking up and thus tries to prevent them from doing so. In other words, one would not care whether people look up or not if he has not hidden anything up which he wants to keep out of sight. Likewise, one would not mind journalists reporting his deeds or acts if he has not done anything wrong whose exposure can discredit him or cause embarrassment for him. People in positions of responsibility should bear in mind that their comportment and acts are of public interest and thus attract the attention of the press. They better dismount their posts or pack up and leave if they cannot behave ethically and rationally or conduct affairs as expected of them and feel that the press should spare or ignore them. My message to the enemies of the press is that attempting to silence journalists is an unattainable goal and that those who try to achieve it are comparable to an elephant struggling to pass through the eye of a needle.

It is utterly illogical and unjustifiable to make attempts to muzzle the press. Media practitioners err sometimes but that should not prompt aggrieved parties to try to gag the press or harm its members. People of other occupations commit blunders without being subjected to persecution or attempts being made to impose a blanket ban on their activities. There is no career or profession in which practitioners are immune from mistakes. It is common knowledge that many people who reprimand or castigate journalists labelling them as criminals for making mistakes are more reproachable or blameworthy than the latter in that they make much more serious mistakes. If mistakes are to be used as the sole excuse for clamping down on the activities of media practitioners, those press-phobic people and press-haters should quit their jobs first on account of their goofs or wrongdoings. Like people of other professions, media practitioners have formed organizations serving to bind them together, and laid down codes of conduct which guide them in their work. Hence, journalists should be allowed to practise their profession unhindered if members of other professions are allowed to execute their duties without obstruction.

Journalists have an inalienable right to practise their profession freely by virtue of the fact that they are members of society and have a stake in the running of the affairs of their countries like other citizens. Where journalists are deemed not qualified enough to practise, efforts should be made to help them to develop themselves or ameliorate their skills through training. Governments, institutions and individuals can simply counter the words of journalists with words to set records straight or prove their innocence when they are falsely accused or portrayed in a negative light. Alternatively, they can seek redress at the courts rather than resorting to violent or criminal acts when they feel offended by the press. This is much more rational and civilized than persecution and killing. Those who commit crimes against journalists should not be allowed to go unpunished. They should be tracked down and brought to book like other criminals. Earnest efforts should be made to expose or hold accountable tyrants who sponsor criminals to persecute or kill journalists. They are big cowards. They and their accomplices should bear in mind that their heinous crimes haunt them till doomsday. They will never enjoy peace of mind. No amount of cover-up or camouflage can help to free their minds. They always live in hiding, and their hearts jump to their filthy mouths when their crimes are mentioned.

However, I would like to note in haste that journalists should endeavour to dig out correct information, report with utmost objectivity and criticize constructively when things go wrong, bearing in mind that freedom of expression does not mean freedom of oppression or encroachment. Put in simple terms, they should try as much as possible to abide by their codes of conduct and adhere to the ethics of their profession. This can, to somehow, facilitate their work and minimize the dangers associated with it.


October 18, 2015
Chongan'S Book CoverThe Price Of Duty: An Interesting Book
By Ebou Gaye
The above-named book, The Price of Duty, is a memoir authored by Ebrima Ismaila Chongan. The book is informative, educative, enlightening and inspiring, as it is thrilling, engrossing, gripping and captivating. Among the contents of the book are photographs serving as illustration. These include a photo of the author with Yahya Jammeh and other people. Jammeh’s image in that photo looks very much like his image in the photo published recently by the Freedom Newspaper, in which he and his colleagues are brewing ataya (Chinese Green Tea). The book also contains a prison diary and an annex/appendix in the form of reports cataloguing important happenings and human rights violations, as well as newspaper articles. It is easy to read and understand, as it is written in simple English. The author has used humour in his narrative, which gives the book the power to attract and hold the attention of readers. You will not be able to help laughing out loud occasionally, but you may need a tissue paper or a handkerchief to wipe tears off your cheeks while reading the book.    
About the Author
Ebrima Ismaila Chongan is a former Deputy Inspector General of Police and officer of the defunct Gambia Gendarmerie. According to him, his inspiration sprang from former detainees whose books he read while in detention. Chief among them is the Guinean Alpha Abdoulaye Diallo who was incarcerated for ages by President Ahmed Sékou Touré of blessed memory.     
Chongan is widely hailed as a hero for his attempt to foil the July 1994 coup d’état which, unfortunately and regrettably, catapulted Yahya Jammeh to the position of Head of State of The Gambia. On that fateful day (22 July 1994), Mr Chongan put his life on the line- to borrow Jammeh’s famous expression- to defend the constitution of his country by trying his utmost best to foil the coup. His determination and audacity amazed many, including Sheriff Samsudeen Sarr, the newly hired spin doctor of Yahya Jammeh. Sarr could hardly believe his eyes. As he has indicated in his writings, he thought Chongan was committing suicide.
Chongan did all he could to stop the advancing rebels but to no avail. His men, the “loyalists”, swiftly switched side to save their souls. He was forced to flee for his life when bullets started raining from the rebels. As he has put, he and the few men left on his side “went on their four”- their palms and knees- and crawled a long distance in the mangrove swamp near Bond Road in the outskirts of Banjul to avoid the bullets. They then got up and ran fast to the police headquarters in Banjul. He later went into hiding, and subsequently arrested and detained at Mile Two Central Prison under extremely difficult, terrible conditions for over two years. He was tortured ferociously and brutally by the junta members, which left him with serious bruises and severe pain all over his body.
Surprisingly, his former colleagues tried by all means to help the junta to hold him in detention. They pressed flimsy charges of stealing against him and arraigned him, with the court dragging for quite a long time. However, nothing daunting! He remained imperturbable, steadfast and determined to clear his name before leaving The Gambia. The junta later dropped the charges and released him. Unlike his former colleagues who wasted no time in joining the junta, he flatly refused to climb aboard its bandwagon. Without his knowledge, some of them initiated a process to bring reconciliation between him and Jammeh so that he could be employed by the junta. He thanked them for their efforts but told them that he could not work with Jammeh. According to him, they had good intentions and wanted to help him to secure a job from Jammeh, but his conscience would not allow him to serve under him.
It is also worthy to mention that Chongan played a very important role in defusing tension during the 1987 Armitage High School student riot and the Brikama water crisis. As narrated in the book, the students were protesting over poor conditions at the school. They wanted to barricade the road leading to George Town so as to prevent former the president, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and his convoy from entering the town while he was on a nationwide tour. Chongan sought permission from him to negotiate with the students. He went to the students unarmed with some of his gendarme colleagues under his command and asked them to select representatives to go and have a discussion with the president. The students wholeheartedly accepted his proposal and hence selected their delegates. Sir Dawda ordered a secretary to take notes as the student representatives voiced their grievances. Thus, a violent confrontation was averted. This narrative was corroborated by statements made recently on Gambian online radio programmes by the renowned politician and indefatigable freedom fighter, Honourable Omar Adamou Jallow (OJ). Can we expect this humble, modest and conscientious act of Sir Dawda from his successor, Yahya Jammeh? Certainly not! Judging by Jammeh’s arrogance and the butchering of students by his security forces in April 2000- allegedly and believably under his command- what would we expect Jammeh to do if he was in Sir Dawda’s position? Your guess is as good as mine.
In a like manner, Chongan was able to placate, pacify and disperse the angry crowd that wanted to storm the Brikama police station during the water crisis. He tactfully convinced them to send representatives to negotiate with the police commissioner and his team, which they willingly did. Once the representatives entered the station, the other members of the crowd started melting into thin air, with the commotion abating. Hence, the impending, looming catastrophe was avoided. I therefore crown Chongan security genius and peace-maker, just as Samsudeen Sarr has recently done to his master Yahya Jammeh.
Prison Conditions
The prison conditions were torturous, precarious, tormenting, agonizing, distressful, pitiable and deplorable, to say the least. The security detainees, including Chongan, were kept in solitary confinement for over 23 hours a day at the beginning. Each had in his cell a plank of wood serving as a bed, a small tin to use as a pit latrine, and a small bottle of water. They were not supplied with blankets or mosquito-nets despite their endless demands and the numerous mosquitoes feasting on their bodies. They found it extremely difficult to have sound sleep, and sometimes wouldn’t sleep a wink. The quality of their food was far below standard, and they had to fight with rats that were equally hungry and wanted to have their share of the poorly prepared, unpalatable food. As they couldn’t wash their hands, the hungry rats used to gnaw them when they slept.  They were not given proper medical treatment, even after they sustained torture wounds.
The prison “doctor” used to apply on their wounds what the author has referred to as “GV paint”- a name the detainees later called the doctor humorously. Some security detainees were even denied the chance of hospitalization at the main referral hospital in Banjul (Royal Victoria Hospital) in spite of the gravity of their illness. Initially, the junta didn’t allow their family members to visit them or send them anything. This later changed to 30-minute visits once in a blue moon. During such visits, they were not allowed to have private discussions with their loved ones; they had to have conversations with their visitors in the presence of prison officers. Items sent to them were normally intercepted and tampered with or taken away by unscrupulous prison officers. However, some kind, compassionate prison officers later pitied them and became helpful to them. The detainees seldom received visitors from international organizations.
The International Red Cross visited them twice but couldn’t get the true picture of the prison conditions, as the prison offers did all they could to camouflage the situation. They once received Bishop Michael Cleary. He prayed for them and gave them reading materials which they direly needed at the time. According to Chongan, his visit proved to be consoling to them. However, Chongan has lamented over the fact that the venerable Bishop Cleary was the only religious leader who visited them and that the Islamic religious leaders were nowhere to be seen despite the fact the vast majority of Gambians are Muslims.  I say “No wonder!” as this is the norm, not the exception. When Imam Baba Leigh was abducted by Jammeh and his gang of scoundrels, the Islamic religious leaders distanced themselves in order to avoid Jammeh’s wrath. On the contrary, the Christian community expressed their solidarity, continuously supporting his family in cash and kind. This is what is expected of religious leaders. Not undue, misleading praises motivated by fear or material gain!
Family Support
It is gratifying to note that Chongan’s family, particularly his dear wife Awa Jobarteh, stood firmly by him. They concurred with him that he should clear his name and refuse any job offer from the junta. Awa used to send him things he might need, though some of them failed to reach him. Awa courageously confronted the uncompromising, cruel junta when they denied her visit to her husband. As Chongan has explained, her bravery was derived from her long stay with soldiers and gendarme officers at Fajara Barracks.
I commend Chongan’s wife for her co-operation and support to him during those trying moments.  She has really proven the saying “Behind every successful man is a woman.”  She is the type of wife every man is looking for. Bravo Awa! May Allah reward you abundantly! Amen!
November 11 Coup Plot
Chongan’s account of the November 11 incident- based on what he had heard from alleged participants who were detained- is very revealing. It was a coup plot, not an attempt as alleged by the junta. On receiving information on the coup plot, the junta members- with exception of Yahya Jammeh- went to Yundum Barracks to negotiate with soldiers. They appealed to them not to cause trouble, assuring them that they were willing to co-operate with them. Sometime later, they abruptly rounded up and arrested their unsuspecting suspects. They took some them to Mile Two, detaining some, executing many others. They then went to Fajara Barracks and fired heavy weapons in the air to simulate a shout-out/crossfire. Afterwards, the junta announced that some soldiers attempted to overthrow them and that resulted in a crossfire during which some of them died. Chongan’s version is validated by the case of Lieutenant Gibril Seye (May his soul rest in peace!). As his father had told The Point newspaper- according to Chongan- Gibril Seye visited his family after the purported shoot-out. He later reported to work and was never seen again, only to be counted among those who died in the “crossfire” reported by the junta. Concerned about Seye’s failure to contact his family, his father approached the junta and enquired about his whereabouts. The junta got very angry with the old man and thus threatened him, insisting that his son died in the “shoot-out”. What a fat lie! What a pity!  
Yahya Jammeh
As he has narrated, Chongan crossed paths with Yaha Jammeh: as students at Gambia High School and officers in the Gambia Gendarmerie. Chongan did a lot of favour for Jammeh as his neighbour at Fajara Barracks and his boss in the service. He used to give him money and food cooked by his wife- the very lady he (Jammeh) denied access to her husband after detaining him; the very lady that Jammeh refused to face and hence dodged when they accidentally met at Royal Victoria Hospital during her husband’s detention. Besides, Chongan saved Jammeh from dismissal for misconduct as the then Commander of the Gambia Gendarmerie, General Paté Seck of Senegal intended. While escorting President Jawara during a tour of the country, Jammeh fought and seriously wounded a person at a nightclub in Basse. Chongan recommended delaying Jammeh’s promotion rather than sacking him straightaway. He insisted and saw to it that his recommendation was implemented.
This Basse incident narrated by Chongan has been substantiated by the account of Jammeh’s former gendarme colleague Musa Mboob on Freedom Radio Gambia online. According Musa, they were cautioned against misbehaving prior to their departure from Banjul and told categorically that any evidence of misconduct could hamper or delay their promotion which was due. Mboob further explained that he and his other colleagues advised Jammeh not to go to nightclub and reminded him of the nullifying effect his misbehaviour could have on his promotion but he didn’t pay heed. However, Jammeh cried foul regarding the delay in his promotion when he came to power, accusing his superiors of discrimination. He was economical with the truth, as he is gravely deficient in honesty and sincerity.
Jammeh should note that he cannot rewrite history, no matter how much he endeavours to distort or alter facts. Chongan’s narration has exposed Jammeh more as an ungrateful, undisciplined person- a brutal betrayer and a bully. What moral authority does Jammeh have to castigate our elders, telling them that they have failed to inculcate discipline in our youths? None! Baffled by Jammeh’s frequent mention of Chongan’s name, Pa Nderry Mbai once asked a pertinent question on Freedom Radio: Why is Jammeh so obsessed with Chongan? I think Chongan’s account of events in his book has satisfactorily answered Mr Mbai’s question. The fact of the matter is that Jammeh doesn’t want to see anybody other than himself regarded as a hero or a brave person. Besides, he is not comfortable living on earth with those who helped him when he was in need. He is under the influence of inferiority complex. What a strange character!
Sheriff Samsudeen Sarr
In his book, Chongan has described Sheriff Samsudeed Sarr as a good person and a great writer. As he has put it, Sarr was of immense help to them during their time in detention. Sarr was among the first detainees to acquire a radio set. He used to give them national and international news. Additionally, Sarr anonymously wrote letters to the BBC Focus on Africa programme highlighting the bad conditions of the prison and their detention.  According to Chongan, Sarr used what they called the three Fs to lecture them on how to deal with the Jammeh regime: Fight it, flee it or flow with it.  As Chongan has narrated, Sarr was so frightened and terrified after he (Chongan) had his torture session with junta to the extent that he (Sarr) started behaving strangely, leading them to believe that he had gone mad. However, Sarr has tried to dispel- in his writings- the widely held believe that he had lost his marbles in prison. He has claimed that he was feigning madness to earn clemency and escape torture.
Using his full name and based on the aforementioned three Fs, I have come up with a formula to illustrate some aspects of Sarr’s character, just as I have done with his master Jammeh in one of my write-ups: F3= S3. This formula explains Sarr’s behaviour pattern. I call it Sarr’s Philosophy of Dealing with Dictatorial Regimes (SPDDR). Sarr flowed with the junta regime by hurriedly defecting and joining its bandwagon on the day of the July 1994 coup. Shortly afterwards, he was unceremoniously given the sack, arrested and detained. He fought the Jammeh regime by exposing it to the entire world in his letters to the BBC- a media house owned by the Whites he now accuses of fighting Jammeh out of hatred and racism. Soon after his release, he flowed with the Jammeh regime by joining it for the second time. However, he fled the Jammeh regime and sought refuge in the US- a country he now censures scathingly on human rights issues with a view to pleasing his master Jammeh. Sarr resumed his fight by launching blistering criticism against Jammeh and his regime upon his arrival in the US. He remained in his posture until recently when he flowed with the Jammeh regine again by joining it for the third time. Whether Chongan knows it or not, Sarr is applying his philosophy, as can be seen in the foregoing exposé. Evidently, Sarr’s behaviour is dishonourable and discreditable.
Although I wouldn’t conclude that Sarr is mad, I will treat his claim of shamming madness with caution. As far as I know, madness takes various forms, and no madman accepts his madness. Whether he was faking madness as he has claimed or not, Sarr’s behaviour has all the hallmarks of madness. Brusquely put, his behaviour strongly suggests that he is mentally retarded. This is the guy who, in his defence of Jammeh, claimed that Jammeh’s counterparts in the ECOWAS are not fair with him as they are dictated by the West like puppets to fight him. Shortly after that, Sarr brandished reports written by experts from the same ECOWAS and the UN and used them as evidence to defend Jammeh again. If Sarr doesn’t trust the leaders of the ECOWAS, how come he uses a report from their organization to back his arguments in defence of his master Jammeh? Is this rational, my dear readers? As pointed out earlier, Sarr reported Jammeh’s human rights violations to the world using a medium owned by the Whites when he was in detention.
Now that he is out enjoying his freedom in America and working with Jammeh, he is blaming the same Whites for criticizing Jammeh on human rights issues. Is this logical? To me, Sarr is telling us that whatever favours him and Jammeh is right and everything else is wrong. Talking about these reports which Sarr has used in his vain attempt to convince the world that Jammeh never killed Ghanaians as reported widely by the international media, I would like to remind him that Jammeh never co-operates with investigators as expected of him. If Sarr can recall, Jammeh denied UN investigators access to the security wing of Mile Two in 2014 after promising to co-operate with them. As reported by the BBC on 7 November 2014, the two investigators were supposed to present their findings to the UN Human Rights Council in early 2015.  One of them, Christof Heyns, told the BBC that the Jammeh regime had something to hide. Hence, it is extremely difficult, or impossible for any investigator to get to the bottom of a matter as desired by relying on Jammeh’s co-operation.
Thus, I would say without an iota of fear that the reports Sarr has brandished as evidence in favour of Jammeh are not as reliable as he wants to make us believe, though I wouldn’t accuse the ECOWAS/UN experts of bias in favour of Jammeh. If Sarr trusts the ECOWAS experts who wrote one of the reports, he should also trust the ECOWAS court. Therefore, I expect Sarr to advise Jammeh to comply fully with the ruling of the ECOWAS court according to which the Jammeh government has been found guilty in the cases of the Gambian journalists Chief Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan and required to compensate them. Manneh disappeared without trace after his abduction by Jammeh’s thugs in 2006, and Saidykhan suffered severe torture at the hands of Jammeh’s rogues. The verdict of the court is very reliable because the court heard from eyewitnesses who are still alive. Jammeh treated the court with utter disrespect and contempt, blatantly refusing to comply.
In his recent article, Sarr has contemptuously, disdainfully and vaingloriously described unnamed Imams as “half-baked” and lambasted them for failing to obey Jammeh’s orders regarding Muslim Eid prayers, ardently defending his stance on the issue. I abhor and denounce the disunity of the Muslim community. I hope and pray for their unity. However, it should be noted that Jammeh’s interference in Islamic religious matters is politically motivated and does more harm than good, if at all there is any good associated with it. His meddling is unwarranted, as it aggravates the situation rather than remedying it. His approach is totally wrong. He shouldn’t try to impose his will on Muslims by decreeing for them when to observe Eid and bullying those who defy him. What level of Islamic and Western education has Jammeh attained? What about Sarr? What knowledge do they have? If those Imams are half-baked, one can say that Jammeh and Sarr are unbaked or raw, and that they are about to get rotten like bad potatoes.     
Chongan is entitled to his views on Sarr and shouldn’t be reproached or blamed for having written his positive feelings about him. However, I hasten to add that he should rethink if he still perceives Sarr to be a good person. I can tell him with certainty that the Sarr he knew in The Gambia is quite different from Sarr the sycophant, apologist, obscurantist, prevaricator and spin doctor.


October 16, 2015

Photo-courtesy-of-bargaintravel4uIt is extremely sad but this morning I experienced what can be described as time based apartheid or worse, in the Gambia, my place of birth. I drove to the beach around 8:00 am. While exercising, an army officer came to me, told me, ‘We don’t allow [black] people on the beach at this time, come after 5 pm’. Seeing whites were allowed, I told him in the days of apartheid, there was at least some space dedicated to blacks, is there a part of the beach I can go and exercise? He insisted I must leave, he is just following orders. I even told him that I am a partial tourist, because I left Canada, partly, for the beautiful sunlight and awesome beaches of Africa. I couldn’t convince him like I convinced another officer less than a year ago. On my way out of the beach, I approached his fellow army officer… After angry explanations, the second officer authorized me to go back, exercise, and enjoy. I vowed that I must try to confront this discrimination beyond self-exception, to fight for the decent Gambians and other Africans who may not have the intelligence or courage to resist a slightly flawed law and deeply flawed enforcement.

The whole purpose of this slightly flawed law is to “protect” tourism but it lacks sensible system based enforcement. Many people cannot differentiate a system based approach versus person based approach. So my opponent, Jola Obama, was partially right and may not have been understood when he said, ‘Africa needs strong institutions, not strong leaders.’ We actually need smart and strong leaders to build those strong institutions to thrive with or without very strong leaders. It is our collective responsibilities to protect tourists from harassment, not just for economic reasons. However, we must not abuse others’ rights while trying to protect some people, primarily for money. We need a system that will punish only the guilty, those who harass tourists. The beach business owners can have their private security cameras or the Government can equip some people with body cameras, arrest the culprits, fine them, and ban them from the beach for a year, two, or something reasonable. I don’t beg or harass white people in the western world, why would I do so in the Gambia? Again, I am not looking for personal exception, but a system change – a smart system establishment and sensible enforcement.

Get enough cameras on the beach, train the personnel, monitor even the security personnel, ask for ID cards, check on your laptop or smart phone for banned list names, etc. The government is directly collecting enough from the tourists to fund the equipment; the beach business owners can contribute or be specially taxed for it. I don’t even mind paying for a beach access card if security cameras will be bought to minimize unnecessary stopping and questioning. The racial profiling I suffered in the west is sadly repeating in Africa in a worse manner. I think the authorities in both worlds must be pressured to embrace cameras. I spent about three hundred dollars on my security cameras and was covering almost half the block, in Canada – So I know few thousands of dollars can cover a big percentage of the beach area. We either fear the cameras or do not know their importance. Or they can contract me to fix the issue. Cameras don’t lie, but can be misinterpreted by a Jola. The Tourists who like interactions must be informed the need to initiate conversation, before they think Gambians are super means.

It is about time for Africa to look for more than white tourism. Once we start treating each other with respect, we will see more Africans traveling within Africa as Europeans travel within Europe as tourists. There are many African countries I will love to visit, but I am scared of how I may be treated on the borders and beyond. Bissau city does not have the nice sandy beaches we have in the Gambia, but how embarrassing it would have been if I was with friends from Bissau? The Ignorant Gambian may claim ‘they don’t have money’, but you will amazed how some people spent money in Bissau. Beside the neighboring countries, we cannot dismiss every Gambian.

I put fuel in the vehicle, bought some things along the way, bought fresh juice on the beach, sometimes bought other things there… The juice vendor said I was his only customer up until ten thirty a.m, claims he has about one customer a day due to minimal tourists due to Ebola, timing, or other reasons. If you continue to disrespect people like me, I will imprecate for the Lord to curse your tourism industries lot more until you start to respect us as human beings, worthy of every respect you give to the whites for money. I deserve access to that beach like or more than the tourist, so I will say may the Lord curse every indifferent contributor to my access denial because am not white or do not have lot of money yet? The law makers, the law enforcement officers, the business owners lobbyists, the tourists, must all learn to negotiate reasonable terms with me and other ordinary Africans.

I am calling on the Gambian president or someone to fix the flaw in the law and enforcement system. I am equally calling on the media, the international community, and every concern person to note that this terrible discrimination occurred in the Gambia during Jawara’s regime, stepped up during Jammeh’s regime, ignored by how many opposition leaders and media professionals… Most importantly, how many people and time will it take before we see a change on this simple issue? I would also like to see investigation beyond the Gambia, let the history books note the difference between the apartheid in South Africa, U.S, and other countries like the time based beach apartheid in the Gambia. May the Intelligent, truthful, and Kind Lord bless us and Showlove Trinity: Let’s learn, let’s work, let’s have fun.

Jarga A.K Gigo

An African Activist and Transformer

Culled from