Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

“JAMMEH DIDN’T CREATE DUGA; JAMMEH CANNOT DESTROY DUGA”, OUSAINOU MBENGA TELLS FREEDOM NEWSPAPER

September 2, 2015
Reads :3330
OUSAINOU MBENGA AND AMBASSADOR FAYE

OUSAINOU MBENGA AND AMBASSADOR FAYE

Based on a picture taken of me and Omar Faye, the ambassador of the Republic of the Gambia at the commemoration of Father Anthony Gabisi’s 30 years of service to the Catholic Church in the Gambia, the Freedom online newspaper posted an editorial titled: “DUGA, what’s the difference between Omar Faye and Yahya Jammeh”? Well, I will leave that to Freedom’s editorial board to answer. But I will pose my own question: what’s the difference between the Freedom Newspaper editorial and me?

Let me reaffirm my position once more. I am a revolutionary. I am not a “head hunter”.

I am in this fight for the long haul to ultimately transform our beloved Gambia in particular and Africa in general into a new society with revolutionary insights and foresight.

We have come a long way to allow a mere picture to take us off our path of resistance against tyranny and our “eyes off the prize”. I honestly don’t need to defend myself or DUGA but rather drive home the necessity of attaining political maturity in this period and into subsequent generations. In order to build a proud future Gambia, we need a highly sophisticated citizenry capable of exhibiting political maturity. The picture can only sway the politically naïve and those who choose to remain willfully ignorant.

I have always abhorred injustice and repression, wherever it raises its ugly head. My abhorrence spans the African world, from the Gambia to Washington DC and beyond. That invitation was an honour by the Gambian Christian Association, which I gladly attended. The picture is just a picture, nothing more.

Putting the Omar Faye issue aside; was it not my own flesh and blood that served as the first Minister of Agriculture in the Jammeh regime? Didn’t my niece serve in the Jammeh regime? Didn’t a comrade of mine join the Jammeh regime? In all these instances, did I give up the fight against the neo-colonial Jammeh regime? Absolutely not! I have maintained my unwavering stance against the Jammeh regime since their “lift onto the saddles of power”.

The fight against Jammeh’s tyranny to me has nothing to do with family, friends and neighbours (Waa Banjul). But also, Jammeh cannot in any way destroy my principled relationship with family, friends and neighbours.

It reminds me of when comrade Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton crossed paths in the corridors of the United Nations and shook hands. The incident achieved “breaking news” status and got highly debated in the US media for days on end. Many willfully ignorant republican and democratic leaders chastised Clinton for shaking hands with their “enemy” and a “dictator”. Fidel exhibited absolute political maturity and shook Clinton’s extended hand.

We are in this fight to win on our own terms; not Jammeh’s. Therefore, we will not leave any arena or terrain the APRC operates within goes uncontested, even within his support base. The Jammeh regime is standing on a “two legged stool”, we have broken two legs of the stool, which explains the balancing acts to keep steady from falling, such as the “massive prisoner pardon”, the subtle signs of “meaningless reconciliation” and “meaningless peace”. Even though the regime is dying but not yet dead, we will continue to fight for a politically conscious proud- future Gambia as oppose to a country of “blind patriots” at the service of one tyrant, Jammeh. We must win the vast majority of the people to eradicate the social backwardness that came with the AFPRC – APRC regime. Most of his support base knows the end is near; you have nothing to lose but Jammeh and your chains. Discard him into the dustbin of history and redeem yourselves.

I want to thank all the sons and daughters of our beloved Gambia who refused to be swayed from reality and keep their “eyes on the prize”, particularly my comrades Pa samba Jow and Ngange Demba Njie, likewise the Gambian Outsider, who weighed in on the matter. We must cultivate the terrain for political maturity and social responsibility. A proud – future Gambia is on the horizon, let’s build it from the bottom – up. Gambia cannot coexist with Jammeh.

WE WILL WIN! JAMMEH MUST GO! JAMMEH IS GOING!

Editor’s note: Thanks Mr Mbega for the rejoinder. Like you have denied being a head hunter, the Freedom Editorial too is after the facts and nothing, but the facts. We are not head hunters either. We are only after the facts!

If expressing one’s editorial opinion means being a head hunter to you, then so be it. That statement of yours is indeed troubling.

That said, we also don’t see the connections between your story and that of President Clinton. Ours was not to soil your reputation in any way. We respect you as an honest activist. That will never change brother Mbenga. It is healthy to agree and disagree. Thanks for your attention.

Courtesy of Freedom Newspaper

IN MEMORY OF MY GREAT TEACHER – A.K. SAVAGE

September 1, 2015
Reads :1870
The late  Abdou Karim Savage former Chief Justice of The Gambia

The late Abdou Karim Savage(R.I.P) former Chief Justice of The Gambia

In hypothesizing what really exemplifies the consummate educator, the revered Twentieth Century American inspirational writer, poet and educator, William Arthur Ward (1921-1994), postulates: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

On learning of the sad and devastating death of my former high school English Literature teacher, Mr. Abdou Karim Savage (affectionately called A.K.Savage), who later trained as a lawyer, rising to the pinnacle of the Gambian judiciary as Honorable Chief Justice A.K.Savage, I see resonances of William Ward’s proposition about the consummate educator seamlessly choreographed in this phenomenal Gambian educator—never tired, always courageous! As a teacher, the late A.K.Savage diligently exudes these rare virtues—“good, superior (and) great” teaching qualities with a beaming face that endeared him to both students and colleagues alike.

It was during my formative years at the Nusrat High School, three decades ago, that I fortunately encountered this phenomenon of an unusual educator, a teacher by all standards an exceptionally mellow gentleman, by every standard a genius, and by most standards an excellent social mixer who mastered the intricate nuances of teacher education with a penchant for high academic discourse and an unflinching commitment to scholarly excellence. An orator per excellence, this rara avis educator (rare breed), brought to bear all of the traits in Ward’s hypothesis—ably explaining complex literary terminologies, skilfully demonstrating and ultimately inspiring almost all his knowledge-thirsty students with his radiating face that almost always kept us spellbound, creating a feeling of “mutuality and general camaraderie” to borrow his own words.

During Nusrat’s daily assemblies, after we stood to attention, recited Quranic verses and sang The Gambia National Anthem, he would begin his speech with his Latin mantra: “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body) and often reminded us students, “we as your teachers are supposed to stand towards our students in-loco-parentis” and he was truly a teacher-cum-parent in every sense of the phrase. Having spent most of his life in education, he had criss-crossed the entire length and breadth of The Gambia and could therefore, identify with most of his students’ situations. He would spend a great deal of time telling us gripping stories about his provincial experiences and encounters particularly in Bansang where for years, he served as Principal of the Bansang Secondary Technical School, leaving behind as customary, a trail of impressive scholarly success stories.

A voracious reader of every facet of human knowledge and a great lover of jaw-breaking words, a passionate speaker of flawless Latin and an Anglo-maniac whose love for everything English made him a specialist and proud practitioner; in fact, an impressive and competent teacher of the English Language and its literature with a fertile mind that memorized all context passages in Shakespeare, Dickens, Shaw, Yeats, Chaucer and Tennyson to name only a few of the English literati, for the list is long and the man’s curiosity defies limitations or narrow academic speciality; far from today’s lazy scholars or specialists often bogged down in minutia. Meet him anywhere; either along the academic corridors of Nusrat or under the shades of its sweet smelling bougainvillea flowers or even on the streets and just begin quoting a passage from any Shakespeare text, he quickly completes the quote and tells you the page and character uttering the message. Witness the scene in class when discussing, for example: Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when an irritated Tybalt notices Romeo’s appearance at his family feast and asks his Page (servant) to hand him a sword so he could kill the intruder calling him a “Montague” (i.e. enemy) and how Teacher Savage dramatically and nimbly captivates his attentive students, impressively demonstrating Capulet’s moving admonition thus:

Content thee, gentle coz. Let him alone.

He bears him like a portly gentleman,

And, to say truth, Verona brags of him

To be a virtuous and well-governed youth.

I would not for the wealth of all the town

Here in my house do him disparagement.

Therefore be patient. Take no note of him.

It is my will, the which if thou respect,

Show a fair presence and put off these frowns,

An ill-beseeming semblance for a feast.

That was characteristically A.K.Savage, pure and simple! And three decades hence, my classmates, schoolmates and I, among them my beloved Nusratarian wife, Binta G. Sankareh, who is equally distraught at The Gambia’s great loss, still retain indelible memories of a great teacher, a phenomenal inspiration, a kind and humble servant who like all mortals, was love and hated, yet admired by all those who encountered him. That was the Savage magic—full of life and wisdom, humour and charisma, love and appreciation for all mankind.

A memorable encounter with Teacher Savage!

I still vividly remember my first term in his Literature class, with his peculiar use of long words and the old English texts from Shakespeare. I was curious about my exam grade and so I decided to pass by the teachers’ staffroom. About 10 meters from his post, he yelled my last name. I ran helter-skelter towards him and even before I could say a word, he shook my hand and said: “Sankareh, I am flabbergasted!” and melted away. Confused and nervous, totally clueless what the strange word meant, I ran to the Nusrat economist who completed a London law degree while still a classroom teacher, Eliman Njie, and told him to check with Mr. Savage about what went wrong with my Literature exams. When Eliman Njie (R.I.P) enquired, Mr. Savage followed him to the corridor and repeated the same word at least thrice –“flabbergasted!, flabbergasted!, flabbergasted!” with all the energy he could. He then paused, looked at me with his signature smile and added, “young man, my name is A.K. Savage, 1st. Class Hons., and I like to use hifalutin words, don’t worry, you have an impressive pass.” Eliman who we all revered as a radical teacher, admonished me not to be intimidated, that Mr. Savage enjoys complex words and could use them anyhow. He told me it was always a fun to have him around and I will enjoy him as a great teacher. After that unnerving encounter, I became so consumed in his class that I never wanted it to end and luckily, once he realized my insatiable passion, he arranged for me to go to his Perseverance St. residence in Banjul every Friday (Nusrat had no Friday classes) where I would ritualistically speaking, follow my master to study and appreciate English Literature. In a sense therefore, he stood towards me in in-loco-parentis for which I remain eternally gracious and the rest as is often said, is history.

A graduate of Banjul’s prestigious St. Augustine’s High School, A.K.Savage trained as a teacher at Yundum Teachers’ College in the 1960s and taught for several years at Armitage High School as a Qualified Teacher. He would later leave for the “Athens of West Africa”, as Sierra Leone was called, due to its reputable educational system, matriculating at its noted Milton Margai Teachers’ College, University of Sierra Leone, where he graduated with Distinction in English. His contemporaries were the late, famous Geography lecturer, Lamin Ceesay (a.k.a Ceesay Geography) and the famed Sierra Leonean BBC broadcaster, Hilton Fyle. Returning to The Gambia, A.K. resumed teaching, later becoming senior teacher and Headmaster but was still determined to acquire the “Golden Fleece” to borrow his grandiose metaphor. He returned to the University of Sierra Leone this time at Fourah Bay College, graduating with a First Class Hons degree in English that launched him both literarily and figuratively as a serious scholar. For many years, he was an English Language and Literature examiner for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and taught in both secondary and high schools in both The Gambia and Sierra Leone later rising to the coveted position of Head of the Department of Languages and Literature at Nusrat High School where he really blossomed into the phenomenon I now remember with great nostalgia and admiration as I join the many Gambians and non-Gambians alike who pay tribute to a true icon, a patriot and a crusader for quality education in Gambian schools.

Predictably, when he announced his retirement from Nusrat High School to return to Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone for a Law degree, most of his students were devastated just as they were on learning of his passing away Thursday. However, as if by divine intervention, as he was poised to leave Nusrat, his former Armitage High school student, Badara Alieu Joof had just completed a Master’s degree in English Literature from London University to take the baton from his master. While studying law at his Alma Mater, he also taught English and Literature in the English Department. After completing his law studies he proceeded to Nigeria where he was called to the Bar and finally returned home, called to the Gambian Bar in 1991 rising to the pinnacle as Hon. Chief Justice; a legal luminary in every sense of the word.

As a teacher, A.K.Savage taught many a student- both boys and girls, men and women, mothers and fathers and touched many lives. His students are vast, his accomplishments plenty and his admirers, legion. There is a famous Chinese proverb that: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people” and conscious of all the students whose lives Mr. Savage touched, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he had definitely planned for a life time because he has educated many Gambian citizens who are playing prominent roles across the spectrum, the world over. Among his legion of students at Nusrat High were former Gambian Army Chief, General Lang Tombong Tamba, Cambridge trained economist, Lamin Leigh, Gambian barrister, Borry S. Touray, Lawyer Lamin S. Camara, East Carolina University sociologist, Dr. Mamadi Corra and many, many more.

Ergo, in appreciation of Mr. A.K. Savage’s great accomplishments and invaluable contributions to Gambian education as well as his role in the Gambian judiciary which I am not qualified to dwell on, I pray that God grant his soul eternal mercy and ask that institutions like Nusrat High School keep his legacy alive for he deserves nothing less. Teacher Savage was simply a teacher, not attracted to riches or flamboyance. He had the chances to be rich but chose the high road, to fulfil a lifelong dream. His mission was primarily to educate Gambians and touch the future, and there is evidence aplenty to corroborate that. Therefore, as a passionate speaker of Latin, and a man whose entire life was dedicated to improving the lot of his people, it constitutes a fitting tribute to A.K. Savage to paraphrase the Florentines who carved on Niccolo Machiavelli’s plaque these immortal lines: “Tanto Nomini Nullum par Elogium”(for so great a name no praise is sufficient). Finally, to my humble teacher, I say adieu until we see again in the gates of heaven! – Amen! And to his distraught family, we ask for your calm and thank you for sharing this rare treasure with the world-many, many thanks.

Written by Ebrima G. Sankareh    

Ebrima G. Sankareh is Editor-in-Chief of the USA-based online journal, The Gambia Echo Newspaper and a Ph.D. Candidate at The College of Arts & Law, The University of Birmingham, UK.

YAYA JAMMEH IN GROSS ABUSE OF PRESIDENCY TAKES EVERY GAMBIAN BIG FOOL

September 1, 2015
Reads :1585
SARJO BAYANG-A SOCIAL THINKER

SARJO BAYANG-A SOCIAL THINKER

JAMMEH, THE  UNRELENTING TYRANT

JAMMEH, THE UNRELENTING TYRANT

                                                                                                                                                        

Unveiling thick layers of deception and failed promises as presidents loots the nation

BY SARJO BAYANG

Over 20 years failed promises and still making compact majority of Gambians believe that heaven on earth comes the kingdom, it is now time to take stock. Gambia sinking as the president builds his personal fortune means something is missing. We now examine all cupboards where skeletons of truth may he found by curious scrutiny. It all starts by close look at factors that may be responsible for rise of a president from rags to riches in 20 years while the nation sinks deeper at sea bottom.

Political demagogue

Even those pretending as die hard supporters of Yaya Jammeh already know he is fooling them along everyone else. Talking about a complete novice who in his life has not managed the smallest establishment, the risk of letting him take possession over entire national economy, finance, and all public resources is fatal.

Yaya Jammeh is using Gambia as experimental platform to test his crooked notion that once a president all public funds and resources belongs to that person.

No wonder Yaya makes promises about transforming Gambia into superpower nation of first class economic standard knowing fully that is impossible. He makes such promises because there is no accountability about resources being grossly abused for his personal grab.

In more than 20 years Yaya Jammeh made lot of statements aimed at fooling Gambians the way the biggest of political demagogues will dare not. While he is busy getting rich quick by diverting public funds and national resources for his selfish use it is clear that Jammeh takes every Gambian real big fool for longest time. Take a look at some of the promises and void hopes that Jammeh raised while looting public resources to build his massive personal fortune around the globe including purchase of high value properties in America at places reserved locations for filthy rich home owners. Jammeh’s property fleet and material possession transcends geographical boundaries in diverse locations at home and abroad.

Suppressing Gambians politically and exploiting the nation by milking away entire public finances, Yaya Jammeh still expects unsuspecting followers to believe about bringing world class development for a nation relying on peanuts as main cash crop with chicken change from tourism part of the year.

Empty promises and deception

Jammeh’s loud pronouncement that Gambia will become envy of the world is red nose dive with closed eyes. Over national radio and television Jammeh raised empty floppy disk while telling Gambians about oil discovery that was meant to bring unseen developments. According to Jammeh oil reserves of Gambia is more than what the nation requires.

Demonstrating without blinking his eyes for one moment, Jammeh told Gambians that the floppy disk he held at hand contained details of oil discovery and how the proceeds will be used in bringing unheard developments. It is more than 10 years when Jammeh promised such developments as though about to happen less than 2 years.

Rather than apologise to Gambians for his many failed promises Jammeh who is busy more about increasing his personal fortune through open corruption still comes with more amazing tales about making Gambia heaven on earth as people experience hell in silence.

He promised the superpower development would have materialised 20 years after his military invasion by staging a coup in July 1994. According to him, he had a vision of transforming Gambia into world class economic superpower, technology giant, and tourist paradise sustained by an enterprising population. He called that Vision 2020.

Having failed to deliver his fantasised wild dream of Vision 2020 making Gambia world class superpower nation, Jammeh turned coat and came up with another promise. This time he is talking about not just feeding a nation that due to his mismanaging public resources battles with starvation. He promised that by next year (2016) Gambia will become food basket of the world that will feed other nations. With the clock ticking and time speeding to 2016, it is now clear that Jammeh’s Vision 2016 of feeding the nation and beyond is just another empty talk; pure hoax just to keep fooling everyone. All Gambian experts put at Jammeh’s disposal are not capable of raising the skeletons of economically dead nation making his wild dream come true, with due regards to every hard working Gambian out there.

Unstructured, Unsystematic, Arbitrary rule in Gambia

In the absence of structures and proper systems a nation does not develop on lip service. Since coming to power by that 22 July 1994 military invasion and dislodging an elected government with guns, Jammeh in the process dismantled all structures of systematic governance. He relies on crude power and arbitrary rule in mismanaging public resources; causing so much fear that nobody dares talking about that.

Even a small one person enterprise requires systematic management to thrive on. It is therefore not feasible that a nation can develop without structured administration in dispensing public services and managing the economy or financial systems.

Jammeh is largely confused about use of public funds or rather indulged misusing resources for selfish greed.

Given another 20 or more years all indicators are that Jammeh wants building his personal finance and material empire at expense of the Gambian nation.

What he takes for his personal use is never returned to the public. In that process, Gambian economy and finance dives deeper at sea bottom while Jammeh raises his financial profile as richest president on earth in custody of the poorest nation around that part of the world.

Taking public resources as personal belonging is where everything is going so bad for Gambia as Jammeh shows no signs he will relinquish political power while that remains his sources of economic and financial power. All these are possible because there are no structures or systems in place to scrutinise and sanction a sitting president equating the presidency to amassing private wealth.

Corruption of public officials and senior citizens

Diverting public funds and shared resources for his personal misuse is possible by engaging other crooked hands of public officials that are ready to do the dirty job of corruption.

Some senior citizens and those in public office are willing partners in milking public funds to keep Yaya Jammeh richer than the nation.

There is no magic or devil play in this whole affair. Everything is done by crooked hands of public servants who pay allegiance to Yaya Jammeh and not Gambian people or state. They are made to believe that by aiding a sitting president loot public resources will keep them on payroll as matter of job security.

By twist of irony, lot of people who participated in looting the nation to keep Yaya Jammeh rich ended in bad experience of being fired, arrested, jailed, and others may have died as a result of possible torture.

If that is not enough warning for those still lined up to carry on destroying the nation in satisfying a corrupt president and his sinking regime, time will tell.

Financial mismanagement and inevitable economic collapse

Considering the level of corruption especially by presidency since Yaya Jammeh invaded Gambia with guns to dislodge an elected sitting government all indicators are that Gambia is sinking deeper beyond rescue.

All financial wells are getting dry as cash cows die off unable to sustain excessive milking. Cooking figures to impress donors and development partners could not balance the books in long run.

At this crucial stage of Gambia’s economic collapse and financial meltdown, Jammeh will be seen doing most prudent by surrendering with little dignity rather falling apart in pieces beyond repair.

Every Gambian is taken for big fool by Yaya Jammeh

Viewed from all angles by realistic assessment the bottom line reading shows that every Gambian is taken as big fool by a president who was sworn in to secure everyone and all public resources but chooses diverting everything for his personal misuse.

Those who could have done something to correct the situation have taken to their heels by physically running away and leaving the situation to decay. That count of runaway Gambians include highly trained experts in various disciplines now serving abroad for personal economic security. Also included are entrepreneurs, engineers and other competent Gambians chased out of the country. The other runaways are increasing numbers forming part of Gambia’s share for migration crisis Europe cries about.

In short, for one person to take possession of collectively shared resources and getting richer than the state, that person is really taking everyone else big fool.

 

Recovery of Gambia is only possible when Yaya Jammeh is unseated

Talks are fuming up about recovery of Gambia in the event Yaya Jammeh is unseated. Opinion is divided about immediate redemption soon after undoing 20 years Jammeh in abuse of power. Hopes are dashed off by fears that pockets of dangerous elements cultivated by 20 years police state will unleash terror once their master is unseated.

There are people out there who are capable and willing to take the driving seat once their safety is assured in the event of unseating Jammeh.

The investment climate at this moment is dangerous and unsuitable. Some people are willing to encourage others in ploughing back huge reserve of Gambian expertise, material, finance and human capital to rebuild from 20 years of ruin. To the very capable that is no impossible mission over reasonable time span.

For now, every concerned Gambian including those forming the crowd around Jammeh wants to see a better nation. They hope and pray that dictatorship and abuse of political power for selfish economic motive will end forever. Time remains best healer.

Will the whole nation accept being fooled any longer after more than 20 years failed promises by a president getting richer as Gambia sinks deeper at sea bottom? What is your take ?

THE GAMBIA: WHAT THE US AND EU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YAHYA JAMMEH’S PRISONER RELEASES

August 20, 2015
Reads :6240
Author: Mathew K. Jallow

Author: Mathew K. Jallow

EU and US should not trust this man! Even the Chinese don't trust this man!

EU and US should not trust this man! Even the Chinese don’t trust him!

By Mathew K Jallow

A Diasporium Newspaper article, which extensively quotes former dissident movement member, Samsudeen Sarr’s rambling denial of National Security Adviser, Susan Rice’s statement on the terrible human rights violations in the Gambia, blew my mind with its irrational analogies, disputations and fabrications. It is hopeless, even needless, to argue with someone whose mind is bent towards denying reality, in order to embrace the fiction, on the human rights conditions in Gambia, peddled by irrational supporters of the military regime. Yahya Jammeh has for twenty years lied about the human rights situation in Gambia, which the rest of the world finds appalling and reprehensible. But in between the hundreds, perhaps thousands killed and disappeared in the Gambia by the regime, over the past two decades, are many of the landmark cases heard around the world; cases whose reptilian gruesomeness left the world baffled and seeking answers.

 

i. The November 1995 summary execution of ten military officers ii. The assassination, by burning alive, of the former civilian Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay

iii. The 2000 massacre of twenty demonstrating high school students

iv. The ambush assassination of Deida Hydara, head of the Gambia Press Union v. Disappearances of journalist Ebrima Chief Manneh and Red Cross Worker Kanyiba Kanyi

vi. The fake accident killing of nearly thirty children in human sacrifice rituals

vii. The witch-hunting exercise that resulted in dozen dead seniors and hospitalization of dozens more

viii. The broad daylight public execution of Sgt Dumbuya in the crowded Royal Albert Market

ix. The forced disappearances of nearly fifty Gambians, some since 2005 and earlier

x. The 2006 execution of seven more military officers xi. The burning down and closure of several media houses, and the home of one journalist

xii. The execution of between nine and twenty-six Mile 2 Prison inmates

xiii. The execution of two elderly brothers who opposed the slave labor on Yahya Jammeh’s farms

xiv. The abduction and disappearance of two Gambian dissidents from Dakar, Senegal

xv. The kidnapping in Banjul and disappearance of two US nationals of Gambian origin

xvi. The forced fleeing of thousands of Gambians to countries near and far

xvii. The mass incarceration of Gambians in prisons and detention centers around the country

xviii. The deaths of nearly five hundred Gambians while in unlawful custody or prisons

xix The massacre of forty-four Ghanaian immigrants to Las Palmas, Spain

 

In between these cases, are hundreds of individuals that the regime ordered killed in fake vehicle accidents, neck breaking, asphyxiations, dropping alive in deep dry wells, poisoning and a host of other killing methods. These listed incidents buttress the case made by the Gambia’s dissident movement for severe human rights abuses in Gambia, thus rejecting the denials of the regime’s mouthpieces as riddled with outright lies, inaccuracies and blinding insensitivity to Gambia’s carnage, under Yahya Jammeh. In addition to providing a few examples of the known human rights debacle in the Gambia, it is necessary to throw some light on the recent prisoner releases.

 

The recent prisoner release, as demanded by the US, the EU and other international organizations, is driving the pace of political change in the Gambia, particularly as it relates the recent prisoner releases, but as usual, Yahya Jammeh has found a way to circumvent the demand for prisoner release made by the US, EU and other international organizations. Beneath the hysteria and burst of excitement surrounding the prisoner releases, the regime’s undeniable charade represents an attempt to deceive Gambians and the international community into falling for the prisoner release subterfuge. A closer look reveals that Yahya Jammeh has primarily released former regime officials, most of who were arrested, accused, tried and incarcerated for various economic crimes. The prisoners released include a long list of former military and security officers accused of complicity in the attempts to overthrow the regime. Inversely, the vast majority of prisoners who have demonstrated real political opposition to the regime have not been released. The United States, the European Union and international organizations and the Gambian people are, therefore, being deceived by the Gambia’s military regime in their demand for the release of all political prisoners. Contrary to what the regime told international diplomats, Gambia’s real political prisoners still remain locked up in that gulag of death called; Mile 2 Prison.

 

Businessman Saul Ndow and politician Mahawa Cham, abducted together in Dakar, Senegal, about three years ago, are still being held by the regime, as are Alhaji Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, two US citizens also held incommunicado for three years, without any charges ever brought against them. Amadou Sanneh, a senior member of the main opposition political party, the United Democratic Party, journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and Red Cross employee, Kangiba Kanyi, still remain incarcerated, and have not been seen since 2000. But in addition, former Security Chief, Daba Marena and many more military and security officers as well as civilians, arrested or abducted, some over ten years ago, have also never been accounted for, some, in over a decade. The regime has released many of its former officials or incarcerated members of Jola tribe, most of who were accused and tried for a variety of economic crimes, but the real political prisoners still languish in Mile 2 Prison; perhaps the worst in Africa. The Gambian diaspora, the US, the EU and international organizations must continue to demand the release of all political prisoner from Gambia’s den of death; Mile 2 Prison.

 

The struggle for political change in Gambia, has, in recent weeks, been tested by defections to the dark-side, of which Samsudeen Sarr is one, but these defections are not out of the ordinary; in fact, they are the norm in situations, which challenge the consciences and moral fortitudes of individuals in the struggle. These defections are less of a reflection on the struggle, than on the moral weaknesses of individual Gambians in the struggle with motivation other than the desire for political freedom of all Gambians. While discussions of the issues around the defections have often been adversarial, and sometimes confrontational, most Gambians realize that none of the recent defections register on the dissident movement’s richer scale of importance. The defections are hardly felt by the dissident movement as the new defectors are not that important in the perennial struggle for freedom.

 

The recent prisoner releases from illegal and unconstitutional detentions, also offered amnesty to Gambia’s dissidents and lifted the threats the new defectors to the regime would otherwise face in the Gambia, should they go there. Clearly, the releases and amnesty offer has made few headlines, but most Gambians are unimpressed, and view the regime’s release and amnesty move as too little, too late. After twenty years of tyranny in which hundreds of lives have been lost to a brutal regime, Gambians want and need a change of regime. Nothing else matters. International pressure and an African continent and a world have turned their backs on Africa’s medieval regimes and apocalyptic governing systems, and demonstrate a compelling need to change the antiquated ‘non-interference’ policy in favor of the UN’s ‘responsibility-to-protect.” In countries where regimes are dug in, some for many decades, committing horrendous human rights violations, as in the Gambia, the international community must act to protect the people. In Gambia, a country surrounded by Senegal, Gambians dissidents are willing, but unable to force a change of regime in their country, primarily, because Senegal will not permit the use of its territory as a launching pad to force regime change in Gambia and the freeing of Gambians from twenty years brutal tyranny.

“IT IS NOW TIME FOR US TO WAKE UP AFTER A LONG SLEEP”, SAYS LAMIN SADDAM SANYANG

August 19, 2015
Reads :2360
LAMIN SADDAM SANYANG

LAMIN SADDAM SANYANG

On the 22nd of July 1994, our beloved country the Gambia faced what was the most remarkable in the political history of our nation. Our fundamental human right to decide and chose the leader of our nation was seized and condemned with impunity. We compromised our responsibility and national duties as fathers and mothers and sons and daughters of the nation respectively, we surrendered and sacrifice the lives of our precious children and our dear land to group of people we never know and never questioned. Was it out of compassion, resilience and did we give them more faith than they deserved? Or was it because of they took advantage on the word corruption and they disguised themselves in the face of social and political revolution? Or was it because they had guns they could fire?

The need for change in a political system, must be felt and asked for by those affected, changes must not be dictated on the people if a sustainable change is to be realized. It’s the will of the common majority that matters most not the high understanding of the few elites. Jammeh never respected human rights, this is a man who smokes ganja and pick gun and decide a choice for over a million people, without asking them but forcing them and this is how he could manage to dominate the state house and Jammeh nice the national assembly for 21 good years. He did do this alone, he work with people. We should blame the household for hosting a thief not only blaming the thief for stealing when we know he is hungry. Absence of good governance in Gambia. Courses IMPOSSITION OF LEADERSHIP connection between nation and state, lack of representation clash with control. Results domination, distraction and control.

Brothers and sisters, enough is enough, it is now the right time for us to wake up from our sleeping slumber and take our country back from this lunatic. He worked hard for 21 good years by enforcing his brutal, cruel and barbaric styles of ruling upon us. \But now his days are definitely numbered and he and his bunch of criminals will receive their payment for their deeds like employees gets their wages and salaries at the end of each pay-period. We shouldn’t create any space for compromise, negotiate or to reconcile with him. He has to go BY ANY MEANS NECCESSARY

 

THE PRISONER PARDONS, DIASPORA-DISSIDENT AMNESTY, AND CLUELESS TALK OF RECONCILIATION

August 11, 2015
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Marching from Prison to Politicians

Marching from prison to politicians

It was sudden and shocking! Like a thunderbolt, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya A J J Jammeh Babili Mansa (the Professor) stunned universal Gambia when he announced prisoner pardons on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of his ascent to power. Reactions were clearly mixed! Direct family and friends remain unquestioningly pleased. And quite understandably so!

For ordinary card carrying supporters, this awesome demonstration of magnanimity accentuates the refrain about of the Professor’s exemplary leadership credentials. For Government officialdom generally, the picture is more complicated. Whatever questions may be gnawing at the entrails, the official line must be accorded primacy as far as public expressions on the prisoner pardons are concerned.

As for the opposition, at home, and in the Diaspora, the reaction is more nuanced due to the politically complicated nature of the transaction. Consequent upon the deliberate cruelty woven into its management architecture, Mile 2 Central Prisons is a major propaganda tool on the persistent and legitimate allegation of public lawlessness in The Gambia. To suddenly release some two hundred of its inhabitants appear to have pulled the rug from under the feet of the collective opposition notwithstanding general perception that some of those pardoned never belonged at Mile 2 in the first place. This frustration with the manner of the pardons may be responsible for the covert and overt attacks on some pardoned prisoners singing the praises of the Professor. And marching for him in “solidarity” with his magnanimity!

Are they trapped, or is that a silly excuse?

Whatever perception of a setback regarding the pardons, it is clearly of a temporary nature in light of the unquestionable fact that the fundamental character of Gambian public space has not altered in any meaningful manner. It has arguably not altered at all! Before haranguing those professing permanent loyalty to the Professor after a stint, undeserved in some cases, at Mile 2, think about Diaspora-based Gambians, some of them prominent members of the dissident community, and apparently living independent and dignified lives in their adopted homelands, expressing interest in partaking of the Professor’s “forgiveness” for engaging in legally protected conduct!

As they prepare to consult travel agents for air tickets, they must be in no doubt they are headed for disappointment and political oblivion. As they say their goodbyes, they must remember Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, Managing Director of Teranga FM, refused bail, and in detention as he fights sedition charges at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court. As they head for international airports for flights to Banjul, they must recognise the heavily constricted public place they are flying into considering the recently enacted amendments to the Elections Act. As they fantasise over their special skills in selling the merits of pluralism within the rule of law to the Professor, they should spare a thought for the recently dismissed Justices of the Supreme Court of The Gambia. As they land at Banjul International, they must accept they are on soil where a lot of prisoners of conscience are languishing in prison and secret detention centres across the country.

What was their fight for over the years?

I know what my fight was over the past three decades plus!

Welcoming the profound events that culminated in the forceful change of government in 1994, I here reproduce some abiding philosophical perspectives addressed to the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council on my ideal Gambia:

“As an international media blitz focused world attention on the tragedy of a million Rwandan refugees in camps in Zaire over the weekend of July 22, Gambians at home and abroad were captivated by the unfolding of the most profound event in our national affairs: the declaration of a military takeover July 23. Even for those Gambians who foresaw military government in our public life, the crisis that started Friday and culminated in a takeover Saturday may have come as a surprise. As the sketchy details of conditions in The Gambia were taking shape in the media, some of us took informal polls of Gambians in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, eliciting their views on the overthrow of the fraudulent “democratic” tyranny of Dawda Jawara. I even made a few calls to The Gambia for the domestic perspective. To a person, the verdict was unanimous: we are happy and grateful, but???

Without doubt, you are the men of the hour, symbols of heroism to at least 90 percent of all Gambians. The question mark is over the future. And the future is what we must address because therein lies our collective destiny. In light of the track record of military regimes in other African countries, the near unanimous but qualified support is understandable. We would hate to see our parents, families, friends, and any Gambians for that matter flee the country in fear for their lives. Death would be preferable to countenancing such a spectacle. To solidify your position and keep the country together, you must avoid the adoption of the modus operandi of military governments in Africa. More fundamentally, you cannot afford to create martyrs. And vindictiveness must not be a part of the new order of national affairs. Memories last forever, and if bitter, they become a factor in the calculus of daily events, escalating the potential for tragedy on a constant basis. Ordinary Gambians, especially the unlettered bulk whose support for Jawara’s government had no rational basis, must be left alone. Only those public servants whose conduct clearly triggers the response of our laws may be fair targets for investigation.

Dawda Jawara was a captain who lost his bearings, and the ship of state he disastrously piloted was destined to run aground. He finally arrived at the ultimate destiny of his nepotic, corrupt, and incompetent administration: the trash-hip of history. Dawda Jawara’s absolute control over the reins of power made him more feared than respected. You have the right to expect loyalty from your closest advisers, but they must not be fearful to the extent of endorsing all your policies regardless of their merits. You must be open-minded and receptive to ideas different from yours. We are not nostalgic for an era and a government that visited executive vandalism on the Gambian people. But we also refuse to be sentimental and complacent about the present. Your place in history will entirely depend on how you utilise the awe-inspiring instruments of government at your disposal. After a fraud lasting three decades, the populace may be prone to the syndrome of unrealistic expectations that are almost always integral to forceful government transitions in Africa. Your task is to communicate in effective but realistic terms, and to refuse to feed the frenzy of utopian sentimentalism during your honeymoon with the Gambian people. This, however, is not to suggest that you shy away from engaging the practical challenge of nation building. And nation building necessarily involves national reconciliation.

In light of the manner you ascended power, certain constituencies may feel alienated. Your task is to reassure everyone, and not make anyone desperate through fear for personal safety. And even if private property is seized pending further investigation, I strongly recommend that a final determination of forfeiture be adjudicated before the tribunals of justice in The Gambia. In similar vein, and notwithstanding the suspension of the Constitution, the Cabinet members of the overthrown government must be accorded due process commensurate with the basic tenets of justice. The families of those former cabinet members, whether among the Jawara asylum party in Senegal, or other parts of the world, must not be used as bargaining chips. They are not even vicariously responsible for the untoward conduct of their spouses and/or parents. Although our first successful national encounter with a forceful displacement of government, the experience of other countries should provide cogent instruction in our attempt to fashion a strategy of national unity in the aftermath of such an earthshaking event. The overthrow of the Jawara government was bloodless and we challenge you to keep your administration bloodless. This means no hostages, no summary trials, and absolutely no executions.

Excuse my concern but my civic duties dictate that I express my thoughts on a condition of first impression in my country. The stakes are too high, and sink or swim, we are in it together as Gambians. For 17 years, I have followed every major political event in Africa and the world. I have seen governments, civilian and military, engineer and nurture atrocities of mind-boggling dimensions on the people whose welfare they are supposed to protect. I have also seen the silent killers, the governmental equivalents of high blood pressure, arrest the hopes, and drown the dreams, of generations of their youthful citizens. Jawara belongs in the latter. Governmental crime has different formulations, but after the enervating trials of the Jawara fraud, Gambians may have no patience left to tolerate an assault on their material and spiritual heritage”.

Twenty one years later, I stand firm by the general principles herein enunciated, and live or perish, they remain inviolable. When juxtaposed against that of larger Gambia, my fleeting life is of secondary importance.

Of critical import is whether the Professor exercises absolute control over the public space. Are Gambian’s fleeing the land of their birth for lack of personal security? Is the Professor’s government embarked on verifiable national reconciliation with the likes of UDP’s Amadou Sanneh behind bars? Is there procedural due process in prosecuting alleged political offenders? Are there extra-judicial takings of private property? Is the Professor’s government bloodless, free of hostages, and extra-judicial executions? For an independent minded citizen, these must remain the benchmark issues for support of, or dissent against any government!

But it appears as though some Gambians prefer personal rule to a transparent public space moored in independent institutions underpinned by the rule of law. For any people, that mindset must constitute a tragedy of the first order!

In Julius Caesar, one of Britain’s abiding contributions to human thought and civilization spoke thus of the tragic hero: “But yesterday the word of Caesar might have stood against the world: now lies he there, and none so poor to do him reverence”.

Different context, same eternal and fundamental lesson about the absolute transiency of life, and of course the bard’s exquisite counsel for restraint in all matters human! My thoughts are the same today as they were 21 years ago and I remain permanently wedded to the idea of a public space anchored in law and independent institutions. However dissected, and from whatever trajectory, the Professor is unwaveringly committed to personal rule and this creates an irreconcilable conflict with all who are independent minded. In that climate, talk of reconciliation is utterly clueless. There is no nicer way to articulate this!

How must one negotiate the cul de sac that characterizes transient humanity?

For those lucky, or unlucky, as the case may be, to occupy the preeminent position in the governance of any community, a nation state no less, the word is legacy, legacy that offers a fighting chance of inhabiting the same abode with that of the timeless sages, humanity’s conduits of wisdom and knowledge across the ages. It means recognizing ones ultimate subjection to the same vulnerabilities as everyone else, no matter the positioning of fate and circumstance in our transient home that is earthly life.

And so it never ceases to amaze how a person, or persons, possessed of public power, either by force, or via communal consensus, can act as though they inhabit a firmament of their own, complete with eternal life and privileges. Why are the teachings of human transiency, ancient and modern, of no consequence in the misguided calculations of lawless rulers, and some of their herd-like citizens!

The same teachings are recommended to Diaspora Gambians who are preparing to embrace futility and nothingness. Unless you can point to verifiable fundamental changes in the architecture of our public space, the pardons mean nothing for the fight you claim to be engaged with over the years. It was for drug dealers and other criminals, and former operators at the councils of state who were sent to our gulags to be thought lessons for whatever reason.

If you remain a dissident, it is not for you. In the looming showdown over the 2016-17 political season, the prisons will quickly repopulate and even you may end up as one of the new inmates for engaging in harmless, if unflattering political gossip. With a bottomless supply pool, the Professor quickly tires of sycophants.

If of course you lived a lie all these years, please pardon me. Or should that be “forgive” me!

Lamin J Darbo

THE HISSENE HABRE CASE – A SIGNIFICANT STEP IN THE FIGHT AGAINST IMPUNITY FOR AFRICAN LEADERS

August 7, 2015
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Bad man Habre in his hay days of carelessness!

Habre in his hay days of committing crimes against his people!

Habre cries for help!

Now in court for the same crimes against his people!

By Gibril Balde

For years, people have wondered if Hissène Habré would ever be brought to justice. Therefore, the start of his trial in Dakar, Senegal on 20 July 2015 by the Extraordinary African Chambers marks an important turning point in the fight against impunity on the African continent. Hissène Habré has been indicted for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture committed between 1982 and 1990 following 19 months of investigation. This is the first time a former African head of state is being tried by the courts of another African country.

Upon the request of the African Union, Senegal has complied with its obligations, both under its own laws and international conventions that it has ratified, by developing a universal jurisdiction law that provides the framework for prosecuting Hissène Habré. Extraordinary African Chambers were installed and inaugurated in February 2013.

This trial is a historic event and a victory not only for the victims who fought for over 15 years, but also for the human rights organisations that have accompanied them. This trial is a solemn warning to other African leaders and heads of state, telling them to respect human rights and human dignity and to avoid committing mass atrocities in their efforts to access or remain in power at any cost. It is important to capitalise on this victory in order to build momentum in the fight against impunity on the continent.

So how did this trial come about? In January 2000, seven Chadians filed a complaint against Hissène Habré in Dakar. In February, a Senegalese judge charged him with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. But in March 2001, the Court of Cassation decided that Senegalese courts did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed outside the national territory. This started a long struggle to ensure that the cases were heard, including the filing of charges again Habre in Belgium, extradition hearings and finally a request from the AU to Senegal to try Habre “on behalf of Africa”.

Today this trial constitutes a major challenge for the Extraordinary African Chambers and Senegal to guarantee a fair and a just trial, in which the rights of the defense will be respected. It will also be a challenge to ensure that victims can be present at the trial and can testify without any pressure. Approximately 4,445 victims have petitioned to participate in the case as parties civiles, represented by a group of lawyers under the leadership of a Chadian.

It has been unfortunate – if not surprising – to hear Hissène Habré saying that he does not acknowledge the judges and Extraordinary African Chambers, that he considers them to be illegitimate and illegal, and has decided to adopt a strategy of non-cooperation with the court. He has asked his lawyers not to come to defend him in court. Worse, in the courtroom he said: “Down with the traitors of Africa! Down with imperialism! It’s neo-colonialism, it’s a game of rotten Senegalese politicians.”

In a press interview, the Senegalese minister of justice defended Senegal’s actions: “the trial of Hissène Habré has marked an important turning point in the judicial history of the continent. And it is Africa that asked Senegal to organise the trial.” This sentiment was echoed by a Chadian activist with whom I spoke: “it is an event that the victims have been waiting for a long time and this is a crucial step towards justice in favor of victims of atrocity committed under Hissène Habré’s regime. Hissène Habré has to face 100 victims who will testify before the judges.” His trial is also part of a larger effort to seek justice. Last March, seven accomplices of Hissène Habré were sentenced to life imprisonment, including Saleh Yunus, the first director of the Directorate of Documentation and Security (DSS), the political police of Hissène Habré.

The attorneys appointed by the court have now requested 45 days to study the case in order to prepare Habre’s defense. The request was granted by the judge who postponed the case until 7 September 2015. However, if Habré believes that he is innocent, he must prove his innocence by confronting victims and allowing his lawyers to present a defense on his behalf. Many observers believe that Habré does not want to face his accusers and his victims. But he must do so, and the court must ensure a fair and impartial hearing of both sides.

If, at the end of the trial, it is proven that Habré is guilty, urgent measures should be taken on behalf of his victims, who have the right to compensation under international human rights and humanitarian law.

As another Chadian exile said “the silence of Habré at the court is a guilty silence, because he knows that, what they accuse him of is fact. He knows that he was in the center of all the decisions that were taken and was aware of everything that was happening in Chad during his reign. He oppressed his people for no reason and nothing can justify the abuses of Hissène Habré. Therefore, he must face his accusers and defend himself. ”

This case offers hope for the first time in a long time to African victims that African justice mechanisms can provide solutions. But their hopes constitute a heavy burden for the Extraordinary African Chambers. The Senegalese government and the international community must support this mechanism to ensure that it has the tools that it needs to succeed. And activists and governments must build on this success to further narrow the spaces for impunity in Africa