Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category


February 4, 2016
Yahya Jammeh when he took power in 1994 and promised accountability, transparency and probity

Yahya Jammeh when he took power in 1994 and promised accountability, transparency and probity

By Concerned Gambian  Atlanta GA

The Gambian people endured horrific, barbaric experiences for two whole decades under an indecent human who projects himself as a God sent messiah, needless to say he is nothing but an ignorant, arrogant, bi-polar low esteem idol worshiper who capitalized on the power of the barrel to force his will on helpless peace loving people. The Gambia has since been fundamentally transformed in all circles; social, economic, politically. Individual freedom and independence has been striped where every word uttered is censored and can have consequences. Where peoples’ loyalty and support are bought with money, power, cheap popularity and most often through coercive means of torture, arrest and fear of massacre.

Against this backdrop coupled with massive economic hardship, one could say Jammeh finally did something good for Gambia; an easy decision making for the Gambian people to vote him out of office especially with several peaceful political changes in the sub-region. We Gambian should ask ourselves, are we better off today than 21 years ago and is this the model society/economic we want to leave for our kids and generations to come. 21 years ago opposition members of our community can freely rally to communicate their policies and compete fairly for the highest office of the land without fear of intimidation or arrest. Spouses and family members can sympathize opposing political views and parties, government employees, community leaders can openly express their views and there was a time when families and communities have strong bonds which are now all broken or extremely fragile because of the hypocritical double standard of the deranged despot. Yaya has abused our women, insult our parents, killed our brother, sisters, fathers, uncles, a number that no single Gambia can keep count of. He has stolen billions if not trillion from this impoverish nation, grabbed all our lands and resources for his personal enrichment.

I say all these to support my claim that decision making for Gambians in the upcoming election should be a no brainer and an easy one, VOTE THE DESPOT OUT OF OFFICE BEFORE HE THROW EVERYONE IN JAIL OR SHIP US OUT OF OUR BELOVED GAMBIA. When Gambians are paying unbearable prices for basic essentials, Jammeh, his family and his inner circle are lavishly spending the nation coffers. The state house is packed with the highest end custom made vehicles which even the world richest people and presidents do not have as part of their fleet. He is insane about grabbing land, real estate properties which I belief he have out listed himself. Entrepreneurship and small businesses are death, since the greedy leader wants all to himself, from sand mining, transportation, bakery, livestock, import & export, basically every business transaction is solely or partly owned by him, which has left our people with nothing to do because you cannot be in competition with him and this has created a vacuum which is filled with the back way syndrome and the highest level of dependency. If not for the remittance from diaspora Gambians, our country would have been in shambles, even though the shameless, selfish, insatiable jammeh failed to acknowledge and respect our contributions both to our families, communities and the national economy as a whole.

It is time for every Gambian to reflect and think about the future of our kids and grand kids and demand change to transform the Gambia into something we can all be proud of not a country that epitomizes economic and human right repressions. Jammeh’s actions and uttered words are so disgraceful to Gambia, a country blessed with talent and wisdom to be ruled by an ignorant fool with no sense of focus and direction but rule by trial and error since he think he is indispensable and above the advice of a professional human on policies and issues. Our worldly leaders can be and should be replaced if they no longer serve our interest. Yaya has not served the interest of Gambians and continues to forcefully cling to power and fueling volatility. I will conclude with some reminders about how jammeh have wrecked our country, drastically heightens the poverty ratio, stagnated remunerations with high cost of living and hopefully that will stimulate some reflections and to see how far worst we have skewed as a nation. The value of the Gambian Dalasi has dwindled so hideously and negatively impact purchasing power, a currency that was one time amongst the strongest in the sub region and in the blocks of developing countries. In 1995, US$1 exchanges for D9.546 and after 20 years of jammeh US$1 exchanges for D39-D42 depending on who you talk to. Let us ask ourselves how much we were paying for these items and services before jammeh and how much we are paying for them today; bag of rice, cup of sugar, kilo of meat, loaf of bread, bonga fish, litre of gasoline, transportation fares, hospital visit, electricity, water, etc etc. Every aspect of living has become unbearably expensive with an economy that is only serving the interest of the jammeh hegemony. Unemployment is up to the roof which is indiscriminately sending our people to their demise via the treacherous back way while jammeh copiously throw sex parties around the clock in Kanilai, gift out millions of dollars to foreign artists and personalities, sponsor his gold-digger wife’s weekly shopping spree in the west and endless acquisition of real estate around the globe all at the detriment of meager Gambia.

Let us joint hands to effect change and get our country back before it’s too late, the dictator tasted power and he is now consumed by it to a point he is blind and totally corrupted and as Lincoln stated about power and a man’s character, every Gambian now know all of jammeh’s character.


January 26, 2016
Author: Pata PJ

Author: Pata PJ

By Pata PJ

I’d written this back in 2014 and with a little tweak to reflect our current situation in the election year, I thought I’d reproduce.I was sitting at home minding my business and thought I would grab my routine dose of Gambian News, so I went on reading the local Newspapers. I started with the Daily Observer and I saw a story about our ‘magnanimous’ president ‘negotiating’ the release from immigration detention and repatriation of Gambian Deportees from Angola. $10,000 USD forked out. As important as that story is, it was not as interesting to me as the next.

A January 16, 2014 Daily Observer headline “Ahead of March polls -Bissau authorities begin registration of 35,000 nationals. As I read on, I got to ‘The process that began earlier this week came against the backdrop of a series of sensitization programs by the Bissau-Guinean authorities in Banjul’ and I was already filled with sadness and anger, out of jealousy. ‘Really? Guinea Bissau!?’ I thought. This is not to be disrespectful to Bissau. I am cognizant of the fact that President Jammeh is not remotely close to anything democratic but in all fairness, we have a fairly stronger democratic establishments and/or ‘potential’ considering how the poor West African nation barely have any breathing space in-between their military coup d’états. Plus as ‘young’ as we consider our State to be, we attained independence almost a decade before Bissau. So that was the premise of my comparison. But let me get off that!

The 2007 Constitution of the Gambia: Chapter V (1)(1) clearly states that

“Every citizen of The Gambia being eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote for the purpose of elections of a President and members of the National Assembly, and shall be entitled to be registered as a voter in a National Assembly constituency for that purpose.”

I do not know what the constitutional stipulation on voter registration was in the first republic to be able to compare with what we have today; therefore, I am not able to have a take on that. What is a known fact though is that, Gambians in the Diaspora have been constitutionally enfranchised but deliberately marginalized on almost everything, by this regime since its inception. I have not seen any serious attempts by the Jammeh Administration to ever engage Gambians outside the country in any meaningful decision making or undertaking – especially politically. Proportionately (in the continent), the Gambia has one of largest per capita of academicians and professionals who studied and/or practiced their expertise outside its borders. And this is in all spheres or disciplines. Then how comes our Government is not keen on tapping in to the abundant resource pool to enrich our workforce or even entice some to come invest in their country of birth? Instead, we often see the leadership launching blanket attacks and threats, branding this particular constituency ‘failures and enemies’ of the Country.

To put the undisputed significance of the Diaspora Gambians in to perspective, I am going to try highlighting one thing here. From economic perspective, the financial prowess of Gambians abroad over the years has been too impacting that it’s felt in all aspects of the Gambian economy. Since many Gambian families depend on relatives outside the country for sustenance and sponsored projects, Gambians remit significant sums that make a substantive mark on the home economy.

In a West Coast radio interview with Director of Research at The Central bank of The Gambia (October 2013), it was revealed that ‘in the Gambia, remittance as a percentage of GDP, have grown significantly over the last decade from a mere 2.5% of GDP in the early 1990s to nearly 10% GDP around 2011’. That was some 3 years ago. In that interview, Gambians were told that the data compiled by the Central Bank had average remittances from Gambians abroad (through exchange bureaus) between 2008 and 2010 at about 54 million dollars. This number had increased to a whooping $85 million dollars in 2012, and a near 20% of our national GDP in 2014.

As significant as this block of Gambians is, the regime in Banjul has calculatedly disenfranchised diaspora Gambians and REFUSED to make any attempts to allow them have a say in any electoral process. The opposition Group of Six (G6) in their list of demands to the IEC, copied to the President, Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly, did include the registration of Gambians outside her borders to participate in the 2016 elections. These demands thus far have fallen on deaf ears. IEC would argue that they could not afford the finances and other logistics to conduct a voter registration of Gambians abroad but we are all aware of the allegations of voter fraud which IEC are an accomplice. Charges of voters transported in to the Gambia from Southern Senegal and have them planted in places recognized as opposition strongholds on election days. I bet the IEC would get funding, if they are keen on registering eligible Gambians in the Diaspora. Senegal, Bissau and many African countries have shown time and time again, the level of political maturity and all inclusiveness in working together as a people and nation in this area. WHY CAN’T GAMBIA? And it’s regrettable and frustrating that the Diaspora hadn’t really picked up this to vigorously incorporate in our local and international advocacy.

President Jammeh has no motivation or the slightest inclination to commit himself to favoring or strengthening democratic ideals that would diminish his status as a tyrant and weaken is powers as a brutish almighty. He’s been very comfortable taking advantage of the level of political and civic education of our illiterate majority and would never willingly allow Gambians who live outside and tasted any semblance of democracy that has been foreign to us for 22 years, be part of any mechanism that could boot him out. Remember the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2012 aka the Internet Laws? Considering the amount of opposition outside the country from Senegal to UK, France to America, any hopes of negotiation to have Gambians abroad participate in the 2016 Presidential Elections is next to nothing. If Bissau-Guinea are able to do this, Gambians must demand their right to vote and choose who represents them. We are a significant constituency and must use our leverage to compel the Jammeh administration recognize and respect us as such. Our pockets are our bargaining chips, so why can’t we use them? This is one of the many reasons that the Diaspora need to put their house in order and graduate from cyber activism and radio fights to claim our rightful position in our politics. We are equal stakeholders and all hands must be on deck


Pata PJ


January 22, 2016

elections-ballots“People get the government they deserve” Alexis de Tocqueville  

Since the restoration of multiparty politics in 1996, elections in The Gambia have been flawed by worryingly low voter turnout, especially among the youth. Although there is no data on the number of young people between the ages of 18-35 that voted or otherwise, one can argue that a great majority of young people in Gambia do not vote despite their demographic advantage. The issue could be linked to a lack of interest or seeming discontent with Gambian politics and as such, resisting the whole political establishment.

The figures in the previous presidential and parliamentary elections vividly describe this phenomenon. Presidential elections usually register higher voter turnout than parliamentary elections. For instance, during the Presidential election of 1996, the voter turnout was 80%. A 9.71% increase (89.71%) was recorded in 2001.

In 2006, this figure declined to 58.58% and in 2011, it rose again to 82.55%. In 2006, a percentage larger than those who voted for the incumbent APRC did not vote. The increased in 2011 elections could be attributed to the intensive nationwide youth voter education campaigns that were carried out by youth groups such as National Youth Parliament.

The parliamentary figures on the other hand are at an all-time low. The 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012 turnouts were 73.2%, 56.38%, 41.70%, and 19.44% respectively.  The primary explanation for the low turnout in 2007 and 2012 could be attributed to electoral boycotts by the United Democratic Party (UDP). In 2011, apart from the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), all other parties boycotted the parliamentary and local government elections.

With yet another electoral cycle in the horizon, will the trend continue or will young people vote for change?

In 2011, I presented a paper Political Apathy Amongst Gambian Youth: Case Study of Youth in Serekunda at the Senior Student Research Colloquium organized by the School of Arts and Sciences, The University of The Gambia. The paper which surveyed a group of 100 youth between 18-35 years, was presented just a day before the 2011 Presidential election. The aim was to search for better answers to identify and understand the problem of youth political apathy in The Gambia and how it affects the country’s democratization process. The idea was informed by the fact that about 65% of The Gambia’s population is made up of young people between 18-35 years of age. Yet, the same group shows all signs of “lack of interest” in their own welfare, or so I thought and concluded.

While doing the research, I was also engaged in youth voter education as part of my American Corner Project (Young Gambian Leadership Program). Within a period of two months, the program, funded by the American Embassy, was able to organize several radio talk shows led by young people targeting their peers. At the same time also, the National Youth Parliament was engaged in an intensive voter education project targeting young people across the country. The outcome of all these efforts resulted in a higher voter turnout than the 2006 Presidential elections.

The outcome of the 2011 Presidential elections, in terms of voter turnout, showed a different picture to what I had observed in my paper that Gambian youth lack interest in politics. Today, I am revisiting the same phenomenon as we approach another election year. This time, with a wider perspective and a more critical outlook on Gambian youth and politics as informed by years of interaction both online and at home. As such, I posited that the low voter turnout is not as a result of lack of interest in politics, rather it is both a conscious and subconscious strategy by young people to protest against the political system in place.

With the current political climate in The Gambia that curtails certain fundamental rights, also forcing many into self-censorship, many young people do not see the need to vote. They do not even believe that their votes count. They are convinced that voting will not change the situation nor will it remove the APRC from power. They fear that Jammeh will not step down even if defeated.

This lack of trust in our political system was not just developed in a day; it grew from perceived irregularities in the entire political machinery from lack of press freedom, APRC usage of state resources, the lack of a solid alternative to Jammeh, a weak and divided opposition, a lack of trust in the Independent Electoral Commission, unlevelled playing field, low civic education, domination of politics by older generation, lack of opportunities for young people within political parties, to the notion of rigging of election results.

However, I am not very convinced that rigging of votes takes place in The Gambia. I observed the last elections and I have seen the way ballot boxes are arranged and votes counted afterwards. Equally, the presence of party representatives makes it less likely for such to happen. Elections in The Gambia are lost and won during the voter registration process. I will discuss this perhaps in my next blog.

Young people are faced with a dilemma of who to vote for. Most of the youth that I interacted with want to see a change of government, bringing in one that protects and respects their basic freedom, one that creates an enabling environment filled with dignified jobs, accessible and affordable tertiary education among many other things.  Above all they want to see a democratic Gambia. However, they are not convinced by all the politicians in place. In fact, none has a tangible plan for all these.  President Jammeh is not good enough but who to replace him with is the predicament.

For the longest, we have focused our attention on President Jammeh and his government, and ignored the opposition. The reason why many young people do not vote is not entirely dependent on Jammeh. See, Jammeh has been in power for about 22 years and all that time, he has the same people to compete against. Ousainou Darboe has been at the helm of United Democratic Party (UDP) for 22 years; likewise, Hamat Bah for National Reconciliation Party (NRP). Although, Halifa Sallah and Sidi Jatta have been “alternating” the leadership of People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) they have been in the game for far too long. Structurally, one can argue that PDOIS differ from all other parties.

However, the point here is that all political leaders have over stayed. Political parties in The Gambia are undemocratic, highly personalized and are properties of the leadership. About 90% of party finances come from party leaders. The one who foots the bill dictates the direction of the party.  Secondly, it seems like opposition parties do not understand what their role in the political process is. They can hardly initiate a program of their own; instead, they heavily depend on the blunders that Jammeh makes to eventually release simple statements of opposition. Some think the whole idea of an opposition is just to oppose anything the government does or says. That is not enough. We deserve more.

I would also like to highlight the failure of the opposition parties to unite and put forward a single candidate. Since 2001, young people both in The Gambia and the diaspora have been calling for such. An attempt was made in 2006, but failed just before nomination. Since then all we see from opposition parties is rhetoric and more of it. If the goal of contesting in election is to remove Jammeh, then a divided opposition will never succeed. I am not saying that any single candidate will remove Jammeh automatically, but I believe it will serve as a motivation factor and make life easier for the undecided youth voters.

All the points mentioned above and many other counts as deterrent factors to youth engagement in partisan politics especially during voting. I have received many questions from young people on why they should get a voters card and even vote. To me these young people do not lack interest. They are just not convinced that their votes will make a difference. I have not formulated a convincing answer yet, but I hope those that are thinking of not voting will reconsider. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “voting is the corner stone for political action.” If one wants a change of government, the only platform provided for you legitimately is election. Make it count.

We have been crying for far too long about the closed political space in The Gambia, the human rights violations, unemployment, illegal migration etc. December 1st  2016 should be decisive moment. It should show our concern as young people, or we can just not vote and allow the system to continue. Here is the catch. In 2006, the number of people that didn’t vote at all was way more than those that voted for Jammeh. Maybe if all the young people had voted, there could have been a change of government. 2006 is gone. 2016 is another opportunity to make changes. Not voting will keep Jammeh in power; voting and not voting for him will remove him.

The choice is yours to make. You may refuse to vote and the system continues, or choose to vote and bring about change. We can blame Jammeh all we want, we can point blame fingers to others for our own predicament. However, our destiny is in our own hands. What we should now know is that change doesn’t come on a silver platter. If we desire it, we must follow the democratic ways by voting, and voting for change. Remember “people get the government they deserve.”

Author: Sait Matty Jaw



January 20, 2016
Under my umbrella

Under my umbrella

By Momodou Ndow

In our daily lives, we use several different objects that perform certain functions to make life easier. We use a vehicle to drive to places, a phone to make calls, and a pen to write. What happens when a phone stops performing the function of making calls? Should we still consider it a phone or something else? What happens when a vehicle is now sitting on blocks in the middle of your compound and kids are using it for driving simulation? Should we still consider it a vehicle or a toy for the kids?

It’s been raining here and I’ve been using my umbrella to protect me from the rain. My umbrella performs the function of keeping me dry to a degree when the rain is pouring. When opened, the umbrella’s metal spokes forms an anchor for the waterproof material attached to them to protect me from the rain. In sum, my umbrella performs the function of protecting me from the rain.

But if the waterproof material is ripped off from my umbrella leaving the handle and frame, should I still call it an umbrella? If I open the spokes, put my umbrella over my head, walk into the rain, I will surely get drenched. Should I continue to call this object that can no longer protect me from the rain an umbrella?

Generally, we all do. We may say that the umbrella is broken, but we will still call it an umbrella even though it’s no longer performing the function of an umbrella. Granted it was once an umbrella, but it has now ceased to function as one. Then what is it now? It’s definitely something.

When Jammeh came to power through a coup in 1994, he claimed to be this “huge umbrella” that can stretch from one end of the sky to the other; promised to protect Gambians from the “rains” of corruption, abuse of power, and everything else that the former government was doing wrong. He called them rats, arrested them, and confiscated their properties. He assured Gambians that he was the “Umbrella” for them and they will never be drenched by corruption again.

But when the storms came, Gambians found themselves drenched in blood from the torture and killings, shaking like a leaf from fear, and getting washed away into the Atlantic Ocean by the flood waters. As it turned out, that “huge umbrella” covering the sky from one end to the other, never had a waterproof material attached to the spokes. It has been just the handle and naked spokes all the while. How come the majority never took a second to look up?

Fast forward to now, that umbrella is being collapsed on Gambians and the spokes are violently poking their skulls. Every aspect of their lives is being altered on a daily basis. Day has become night and right has become wrong. God has become man and religion has become a tool. Fundamentally, things are in reverse order. But it is forbidden to talk about it or attempt to address the issues. A functional umbrella is the doctor’s order, if Gambians want protection.



January 17, 2016
Author: Baba Galleh Jallow

Author: Baba Galleh Jallow

By Baba Galleh Jallow

Back in 2013 when he reduced the work week from five to four days, I wrote a piece in which I argued that contrary to fears in some quarters, imposing Sharia law was not an option for Mr. Jammeh. In the light of recent developments in The Gambia, I wish to share that piece with the public, unedited.

Around the middle of January, 2013, Gambia’s dictator Yahya Jammeh – who insists on being called His Excellency the President Sheikh Professor Alhajj Doctor Yahya AJJJ Jammeh – dropped yet another of his increasingly eccentric bombshells: he decreed – without any known consultation with the cabinet or legislature – that effective February 1, the country’s work week would be reduced from five to four working days. Instead of working Monday to Friday 8:00 – 4:00 pm, Gambians were now ordered to work Monday to Thursday, 8:00am – 6:00pm. Henceforth, Friday was to be reserved for prayer and agricultural work on the farms. A couple of weeks later, Jammeh argued publicly that if Christians had Sunday off for prayer, why should Muslims not have Friday off for prayer? In his usual unthinking totalitarianism, Jammeh did not expect anyone to question the wisdom of his latest imposition on the Gambian people.

Jammeh’s latest act of mindless eccentricity created a loud buzz within the international community. While only sighs of resignation and despair were perhaps mouthed inside the country for fear of arrest, torture or disappearance orchestrated by the ostensibly all-seeing police state, the protests of the Gambian Diaspora community hit listservs and online media with characteristic vehemence. The usual questions were raised about Jammeh’s sanity and just what useful purpose this reduction of the work week served. What were its potential consequences for the Gambian economy? Why does Jammeh turn the country and its people into mere toys to play with according to his fancy? Interestingly, hardly any member of the Gambian Diaspora expressed concern that the erratic dictator was about to turn the country into an Islamic state under sharia law. They knew their man better than that.

The international community, however, was visibly shaken. Many thought that Jammeh, who makes no secret of his hatred of the West and supposedly western concepts such as human rights, the rule of law and democracy, was about to turn the tiny secular country into a theocracy which will then serve as a haven for the dreaded Islamic fundamentalists now prowling the wastelands of Africa and wreaking havoc on already suffering nations and peoples. If Jammeh could claim to have found a cure for HIV/AIDS, if he could claim to have been born three months after independence because he did not want to be born under colonial rule, if he could repeatedly tell the west to go to hell, what would prevent him from doing or saying whatever caught his fancy, like imposing sharia law on the country?

It was with an effort to find out if Jammeh indeed wanted to turn The Gambia into an Islamic theocracy that the BBC called me for an interview on the four day week. When the news anchor asked what I thought might be the reason for Jammeh’s imposition of the four-day work week, she perhaps expected me to confirm what she and many others in the international community suspected: that he was edging towards imposing sharia law on the country. When I gave her my take on the issue – which I share below – her response was whether I did not think that was rather outlandish? Was it not perhaps because Jammeh was thinking of turning The Gambia into an Islamic state? Yes, it was outlandish; but outlandish is precisely one accurate way of describing Yahya Jammeh. And no, I did not think that Jammeh was about to turn The Gambia into an Islamic state. Here’s why.

While about 90 percent of Gambians are Muslims, they are not the type of Muslims that would tolerate being forced to wear the veil, grow a beard, or stop wearing shorts and other clothes of their choice. Jammeh knows that while some Gambian Muslims would perhaps out of fear comply with such an order, the majority would hate the idea of being forced to do so. Trying to impose the veil on Gambian women or banning the wearing of shorts or western clothing in The Gambia could ignite the tinder box that would eventually blow him and his power to pieces. Jammeh knows that only too well.

Moreover, about nine to ten percent of Gambians are either Christians or adherents of traditional religions. There is no way that these Gambians can be made to abide by Islamic sharia law and it would be an unbearable burden on state resources to determine who was Muslim or not Muslim on a daily basis in an attempt to enforce sharia law. If Jammeh attempts to impose sharia law in The Gambia, he would have to deal not only with large numbers of Muslims refusing to abide by the law, but will also have to contend with the sizeable number of Christians and traditional religionists – including many in the security forces – who will never accept sharia law.

I also told the BBC that Jammeh was not about to impose Sharia law in The Gambia because that would prevent him from enjoying some of his favorite pastimes. At his home village of Kanilai, Jammeh maintains an expensive palace where he enjoys watching half-naked female wrestlers juke it out to the accompaniment of much drumming, dancing and clapping that are evidently unIslamic. Another of his favorite pastimes is hosting performances by traditional dance troops, magicians and sorcerers who demonstrate their knowledge of the occult to his ultimate delight. Recently, one magician from Mali claimed to have transformed a young man in the audience into a likeness of the president. In the video footage of the event, Jammeh could be seen raising his hands and bragging “I am Yahya Jammeh!” amidst much clapping, shouting and drumming. If Jammeh imposes sharia law in The Gambia, he could not possibly continue enjoying these totally unIslamic hobbies.

My “outlandish” explanation for Jammeh’s reduction of the work week was that while it was totally impossible to prove the thesis, it was most likely that Jammeh had been warned by one of his sorcerers to avoid going to work on Fridays. It is common knowledge among Gambians that in spite of his pretense to Islamic piety by dressing like an Arab sultan and perpetually clutching a prayer bead and what looks like a copy of the Koran (people speculate that it is not in fact a Koran, but a box of fetishes), he is an ardent believer in the occult. He himself has boasted many a time that he is possessed of knowledge of the occult. So it is very plausible that having being warned by a sorcerer to avoid going to work on Fridays for fear of being ambushed and overthrown, and because he could not possibly stay home every Friday and expect everyone else to go to work as this might raise some unwanted questions, Jammeh decided to make everyone stay at home on Friday. He found a plausible excuse by claiming that Muslims needed a full day of their own for prayer and work on the farms. What discredits this notion is that Fridays were half days anyway in The Gambia. People got off from work at 12:30pm and went home in good time for the Friday prayers at 2:00pm or 3:00pm in some cases. Also, most of those who work on the farms are not salaried workers anyway and reside in the rural areas of the country. Neither office nor farm work had ever prevented those who wanted to attend the Friday prayers to do so.

While Yahya Jammeh habitually wears Muslim clothes and holds Muslim paraphernalia in his hands, many Gambians know that he is far from being a good Muslim or one seriously concerned about the teachings of Islam. His hobbies – outlined above – are patently unIslamic. And while he likes to invoke Allah’s name and swear by the Koran, his use of the religion is at best Machiavellian, at worst, outright hypocritical. His frequent verbal assaults on innocent people, the foul language he habitually uses, his frequent threats to murder his critics, his unceasing boasting and chest-pounding, and his well-known and frequent unjust punishment of innocent people – the arbitrary arrests, detentions, tortures, disappearances and killings of his critics and perceived enemies, including most recently the disappearance of the well-respected Imam Baba Leigh for calling his execution of nine persons by firing squad unIslamic – these are not the marks of a true Muslim. A true Muslim cannot tell a lie as big as that he chose to be born after independence because he did not want to be born under colonial rule or that he had found a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS that was revealed to him by his ancestors . A good Muslim cannot be consumed by the kind of hubris that consumes Yahya Jammeh.

Indeed, nothing in his demeanor suggests that Yahya Jammeh is a true Muslim. Rather, he is a fervent animist who, in pure Machiavellian fashion, has found in Islam a tool for the control, manipulation and subjugation of a largely unsophisticated and increasingly apathetic population.

There might, however, be one other plausible explanation for Jammeh’s decision to cut the work week that again, has nothing to do with Islam: he might be trying to please his patrons in the Arab world. Perhaps by declaring Friday a day of prayer, he hoped to elicit approving nods from some oil rich sultan who would be happy to give him the money he persistently begs for. Since he is getting increasingly isolated by Western donor nations and institutions, sucking up to the Arabs might be a form of guarantee against total bankruptcy for his government. Indeed, barely a week after the beginning of the four-day work week, he made a working visit to the Middle East. But as far as imposing sharia law in The Gambia is concerned, that is just not a feasible option for Mr. Jammeh.


First published in RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 1 (2013), Number 5 (March 2013)


January 14, 2016
Muslim Elders posing with President Jammeh at Statehouse

Muslim elders posing with President Jammeh at Statehouse

By Sait Matty Jaw

The Gambia is slowly drifting from what it used to be – the exemplary state that respects and protects the religious and cultural rights of every citizen.

Apart from the so-called Jihads that were fought in the mid-1800s, I have never heard or seen Gambians fighting over what language one speaks or what religion or method one uses to worship God. Although a majority Muslim country, religion has never played a central part in our politics and I see no reason why it should now. Those that tried to use Islam (Muslim Congress Party) were defeated by the forces of secularism. I M Garba Jahumpa and Sheikh Omar Faye, both Muslims, were defeated in the 1947 Bathurst Council election by Edward Francis Small, a Christian.

One may argue that the reason Jahumpa named his party the Muslim Congress Party was to attract Muslim voters. Our First President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was a Christian once in his life. His conversion back to Islam was seen by many as a political move, but I see it more as a personal choice. In fact, he won elections while still a Christian.

The point I am trying to make here is that our elders were never concerned with what religion one follows. Possibly, they saw both Islam and Christianity as foreign. These may explain the numerous interfaith marriages that existed and continue to exist in The Gambia.

The tradition of celebrating every feast together, be it Muslim or Christian, and the bonds of friendship and kinship that have been built between young Muslims and Christians are evident. I do not need to mention this; we all know what I am talking about.

Recently, What’s On Gambia posted on its Facebook page a picture of the Imam Ratib of Banjul and the Bishop of the Catholic Church shaking hands. The picture, to all Gambians, represents a deep inseparable bond that existed for more than a century.  Now, we will watch and see this immeasurable tradition that united our people and country be washed away by a single individual’s greed for power. One who knows nothing about the religion he claims. It is worrying.

First it was just a simple statement declaring The Gambia an Islamic State, ignoring the stipulations within our sovereign law (the Constitution). He even threatened to change the national flag that existed way before he came to life. Some of us laughed and said this will never happen. Foroyaa came up with all the legalities and the steps needed to effect these changes and concluded that it will never happen and any attempt to implement such a change will be resisted by PDOIS. UDP also made similar observations and comments.

The only reason given by Jammeh, which still seems valid to him, is that such a move will further distance us from our colonial past. The only thing that can separate us from our colonial past is economic growth and youth empowerment, respect for human rights and freedom to worship God in whatever way one chooses.

Treat citizens as what they are: citizens and owners of The Gambia. It is not by removing The Gambia from the Commonwealth; neither is it declaring The Gambia an Islamic State that can distance us from our colonial past. There are certain things in life one cannot change. Ironically, Jammeh still uses the colonial language to make all these declarations. Funny, isn’t it?

Secondly, there is now an Executive Directive forcing all female civil servants to cover their hair at work. During the declaration/pronouncement of The Gambia as an Islamic State, Jammeh clearly stated that he did not appoint anyone to be the police of the Islamic State; that no dress code would be imposed, and that the changes will not affect non-Muslims in The Gambia.

Barely three weeks later, a directive contained in a Memo is being circulated, forcing all female civil servants (non-Muslims included) to cover their hair while at work. What would follow this? All men, to cut their trousers, no more jeans or “changals” for ladies, no boyfriend or girlfriend business, no more parties, no music, no school for girls, no women drivers, no more work for the women (only to stay at home and to be provided for by the men) and every other thing.

In fact add no December party and close the airport for tourism. Forget about the thousands of people employed by the tourism industry. All these might sound funny and utopian, but one thing I have come to realize especially watching ‘The Game of Thrones’ is that no one should take the word of a “Mad King” Lightly.

Presently, we are at a stage where the so-called Muslim elders are rushing to State House to support this illogical move, helping to “legitimise” it. What will follow next? The Council of Chiefs, then Governors, then Alkalos, Yai Compins (maybe not them because they will be at home), Youth Movements, then the security service organize a march pass to support (no music for them because it will be banned already).

With all the wrong things going on in my beloved country, I have never been this frustrated. Not even my arrest, detention and six months of going to court. I always say that all other challenges were just short term challenges that will be overcome in no time. Now, this one sickens me. As a historian, I see all these as a challenge to centuries of deeply entrenched traditions giving way to a new, manipulated system that might break us apart and entrench the small, poor and highly indebted country to abysmal poverty.  I am all for progress and change when necessary, but this is no positive change and it has no place in our progress as a young nation.

The visit by the Muslim elders to State House as reported by Daily Observer has clearly shown that Jammeh and his cabinet have no idea whatsoever of what they are talking about or doing. Interestingly, I was shocked when the Vice President asked the Muslim elders to do more research on what it takes to becoming an Islamic State. Paradoxically, the Supreme Islamic Council Leader said that “the dividing line between an Islamic State and a Non Islamic State is very thin…. If there will be a difference, it will be that an Islamic republic law will strengthen the other existing laws of the country.”

Now, let us assume that Imam Touray is a very learned scholar. Indeed he is. He went to State House to support a declaration and at the same time informed the sycophants that there is no difference in practice between an Islamic State and a Non Islamic State. Perhaps like other delegates, they were fascinated by the possible name change and only that.

Since 1994, the Muslim elders have always legitimized and lent credence to the actions of Jammeh by showing support and pushing them on the wrong side of history. They have ignored all the basic teachings of Islam and sided with Jammeh in every wrong step he takes.

The most recent incident is the 2012 execution of the nine inmates. They have been insulted, threatened and bribed to keep quiet. The reason could be fear or greed. I see more of greed than fear. Those leaders that were brave enough like Baba Leigh and Ba Kawsu were shunned by the same religious scholars before they were arrested and detained. If these very people will be the guardian of the “Islamic State of Gambia”, it is better we sell the country kuneka uti for deka ak lor def.

Generally, I see all this as a wider campaign to entrench Jammeh further into the presidency and serve as a vehicle to becoming a “King” ( See my upcoming blog Jammeh’s Islamic State Declaration: A Pan African Vision or a Step to Monarchism?).

The growing campaign by dissident groups in the diaspora, the continued pressure from the international community, particularly European Union, and major human rights organizations, as well as the recent proactive approach adopted by Gambian opposition parties all threaten Jammeh’s survival directly or indirectly.

Hence, the best possible approach to solidify his position and attract support from Arab donors and Gambian Muslims is by playing the religion card. Will he succeed in transforming the Gambia into an Islamic State or will his move receive the same fate as the Muslim Congress Party? It is a decision to be made by Gambians. I prefer the present condition and will do all I can to resist any change.

Religion is a matter of individual choice. Declaring The Gambia an Islamic State will not develop the country or take Gambians to paradise. A Ticket to paradise depends on the individual and not the State. The sooner Jammeh realizes his role as a mere president and mortal, the better for The Gambia.

A president must be responsible and make responsible statements that will promote unity amidst diversity. Religious leaders must always adhere to the doctrine and not be used by anyone for any purpose, especially on “contradictory issues risky to social order of society.” Young people must continue to educate themselves so as not to be used by any individual for whatever purpose. Undeniably, this whole project is not about Islam; it is about Jammeh. The sooner we realize that as a people, the better for all of us.



January 9, 2016
Author: Lamin J. Darbo

Author: Lamin J. Darbo

By Lamin J. Darbo

Twenty seven years ago on 31 December 1988, the current Legal Practitioners Act (LPA 1988) entered into force. Its “objects and reasons” were stated thus: “An Act to establish a General Legal Council, to make provision for the admission of persons to practice as legal practitioners before the courts of The Gambia, to provide for professional discipline of such legal practitioners, and for connected matters”.

A generation later, the toddlers, and in some cases the unborn, as of 1988, are pursuing legal education at both the academic and professional stages of training right here in the Republic of The Gambia. However viewed, this magnificent achievement is in no small way attributable to the establishment of a law faculty at the University of The Gambia, as well as the Gambia Law School, a separate entity that teaches the practical aspects of the profession. Dreams came through for some, are in the pipeline for others, and in the fullness of time, the spiralling inspiration would one day catapult those yet unborn to pursue legal education within the geographical contours of their native homeland. Even in these relatively early days, there is no question that the establishment and achievements of the University, and the Law School, and the dreams and fulfilments they engendered in the process must be nurtured and protected for all Gambians irrespective of the accidental antecedents of birth.

No matter how packaged, it is crystal clear that the Legal Practitioners Bill 2015 (LPB) – in its current form – is about to kill the dreams of those at the very gates of the profession, and possibly drive others from the pursuit of academic and professional legal education altogether. It is a perplexing bill in that it does nothing other than ring-fenced the profession against wider access. Other than restricting entry for newcomers, it offers no visionary proposals for the development of the profession in the country. I accept that the combined effects of the University, and the Law School, may markedly shrink the market share of those currently practising. Clearly a frightening prospect, it is nevertheless nowhere near compelling enough to construct protectionist barriers against fellow citizens aspiring to join the profession. If only because the LPB is driven by protectionist considerations, I urge the President not to assent to it in its current form and to return it unsigned to the National Assembly for “reconsideration” as permitted under section 100(3) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

The LPB is starved of appropriate consultation and debate, and for a profession that thrives on open debate, that is quite an unfortunate state of affairs. Little wonder then that a profoundly unreasonable bill is inching its way to becoming a law of the land. That disastrous possibility must be averted until such time that those promoting the LPB are willing to engage in wider consultation and open debate within and outside the profession. For its “objects and reasons”, the LPB states, exactly as below: Significant improvement have been made which calls for the repeal of the Legal Practitioners Act of 1988 and the need to enact an Act for the establishment of the General Legal Council, admission to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme of the Gambia and to provide for professional discipline of such legal practitioners.

The Bill seeks to address the issue of pupilage which makes it mandatory for every student who graduates from the Gambia Law School to serve a year in the State Law office, Judiciary or with a legal practitioner of at least ten year standing.

It is hope that when passed into law, the Bill will go a long way to provide for the establishment of the General Legal Council, in addition, supervision, control and discipline of Legal Practitioners

Clearly, there is a General Legal Council under the LPA 1988, and it is performing its functions including that of disciplining members of the profession. There is a regime in place for “admission to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of The Gambia”. Without question, the most contentious issues, the twin-evils, if you like, in the LPB, are the stringent requirements fabricated around the twin controls of “pupilage” and “tenancy”. Indeed the LPB is nothing other than a market control mechanism, a tool to regulate entry into the profession in a manner that does not mutilate the pie too drastically for current practitioners.

As proposed under section 15(2) of the LPB, “The Council may admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner if he or she-

(a) Has attained the age of twenty-one years; (b) Produces testimonials sufficient to satisfy the Council that he or she is a person of good character; (c) Holds a Qualifying Certificate; (d) Is a citizen of The Gambia; and (e) Has completed one year pupilage with – (i) A legal practitioner of at least ten years standing in a common law jurisdiction; (ii) The State Law Office; (iii) The Judiciary.

With the numbers coming out of Law School annually, the State Law Office, and the Judiciary are bereft of capacity to absorb even a third of them. As the years go by, that capacity may well reduce to filling just the natural attritions. In other words, they may have no capacity at all to absorb new entrants other than through normal attrition from resignations, dismissals, deaths, and the like.

As earlier contended, one of the difficult issues is the requisite “one year pupilage with … A legal practitioner of at least ten years standing in a common law jurisdiction”. The LPB has no mechanism to ensure that legal practitioners “of at least ten years standing in a common law jurisdiction” will be prepared to offer pupilage to even a fraction of those leaving Law School. If the door is closed to non-Gambian practitioners, the proper and honest way to phrase section 15(2)(e)(i) of the LPB is a legal practitioner of at least ten years standing at the Gambian Bar.

How is the pupilage system to be set up and monitored? With the LPB utterly silent on whether the one year mandatory period will be paid or unpaid, or on any criteria except the restrictive one of pupilage with a legal practitioner of at least ten years standing, it is understandable that those at the very doorsteps of the profession are fearful for their future. As private businesses, legal practices in The Gambia may not be required to employ anyone unless they wish to do so. In such a set up, they must not be given any public protection against competition in the legal market place.

In England and Wales, the road block of pupilage has transformed the Bar to a profession of exclusivity. Unless cogent reasons are advanced to the contrary, there is every indication that the proposal to repeal LPA 1988 just to insert the backward nuclear weapon-like provisions on “pupilage” and “tenancy” appears to be founded on the same calculation of restricting entry to the profession. I have not seen anything to convince me otherwise. Having closely compared the provisions of LPA 1988, and the LPB, the similarities in the documents are astounding. The promoters of LPB should be courageous enough to propose amendments to LPA 1988 instead of embark on the obfuscation that this is a brave new proposal to cater for the challenges of a changing legal terrain. Nothing can be further from the reality!

As if the issue of “pupilage” is not disturbing enough, the provision on what the LPB termed “tenancy” creates a further layer of restriction to entering the profession as a full-fledged member. At section 19, the bill states: “A legal practitioner shall not open a legal practice of his or her own unless he or she has at least five [amended by the National Assembly to three] years standing at the Bar during which he or she has worked as a legal practitioner-

(i) under a legal practitioner with at least 10 years standing at the Bar; or (ii) at the State Law Office; or (iii) at the Judiciary”.

As with pupilage, the question of tenancy triggers the same issues. Again, the State Law Office, and the Judiciary, can have no combined capacity to consistently absorb even a fraction of the candidate pool that will be created by the Law School. As the years roll on, what initial capacity there was at these government institutions would reach saturation point. Even with the market as it currently is, legal practices may not be that enthusiastic to expand payroll commitments in an environment with uncertain cash inflow issues. There is a glaring possibility that people with the requisite academic and professional qualifications may never be able to penetrate the tightly shut gates of legal practice should the LPB become law.

When considered alongside pupilage and tenancy, the nationality restriction on entry to the profession is arguably driven by the calculus of access control. Under the LPA 1988, “permanent residents” were granted the opportunity to enter the profession as legal practitioners. That will no longer be possible should the LPB become law. Because of its porous definition under LPA 1988, there may be different policy issues around the question of permanent residency but there is no mistaking the overall restrictive tendency of the LPB. Considered in their totality, the only reasonable conclusion is that an entirely protectionist-driven legislation is being recommended to the President on no compelling ground.

In the second paragraph of its “objects and reasons”, it is stated that “the Bill seeks to address the issue of pupilage which makes it mandatory for every student who graduates from the Gambia Law School to serve a year in the State Law office, Judiciary or with a legal practitioner of at least ten year standing”. It is unclear why the pupilage requirement appears to be restricted to “graduates from the Gambia Law School”. Without wider debate, this particular query, of critical import, may remain unanswered.

In its current form, the LPB appears to also leave those Gambians legally educated in other jurisdictions out in the cold. They have a right to know how the LPB affects them in terms of both their academic and professional education and of course their eventual entry to the profession as legal practitioners should they chose to do so. Under its “subsidiary legislation”, LPA 1988 listed the “recognised jurisdictions” whose “qualifying certificates”entitles one to be admitted into practice in the country. If the composition of that list is changing, the LPB must expressly say so.

It is also disturbing that the rank of Senior Legal Practitioner (SLP) is based entirely on longevity. Under section 53 of the LPB: “The Council may confer the rank of Senior Legal Practitioner on any person who –

(a) has at least thirty years’ standing as a legal practitioner; (b) has practise consistently as a legal practitioner for not less than fifteen years; and (c) meets other selection criteria to be prescribed in regulations made by the Council.”

As a learned profession, the rank of SLP should be completely disassociated from mere longevity of “standing as a legal practitioner”. Research and other laudable services to the development of the law must constitute the defining considerations for conferment. It should rightly deserve no respect when longevity is touted as the preeminent consideration for bestowal of the rank. Longevity of service is no longer the sole criteria for recognition in any respectable profession. For the legal profession, it would be utterly scandalous!

Overall, a casual reading of the LPB may suggest it prevents no one from working as a legal practitioner in the country. On deeper reflection, it is impossible to avoid the issue of why the LPB is considered necessary in the first place. In my view, and in the views of all I have consulted with, the LPB is anti-competitive and has the potential to permanently exclude a good many Gambians from entering the profession, and, or setting up their own practices.

Unless these pertinent worries can be laid to rest, the LPB must not become law. And they cannot be laid to rest without wider consultation and debate. Pending that wider debate and consultation with stakeholders including the Law School and its students, and in the interest of the country’s domestic and internationally trained legal professionals, the President should withhold assent and return the LPB to the National Assembly for reconsideration.