Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gambia Approves Law to Promote Renewable Energy



Minister Jaiteh on the move for renewable energy


Gambia’s legislators on Friday December 13, 2013, unanimously approved a law – Renewable Energy Bill - which seeks to “establish the legal, economic and institutional basis to promote the use of renewable energy resources”.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More to an Imam than Leading Prayer Congregations


Imam Baba Leigh
When Imam Baba Leigh was declared winner of the first-ever pan-African human rights defenders award, broad smiles and loud cries of joy simultaneously filled Kairaba hotel’s giant Jaama Hall peopled by hundreds of human rights defenders from across Africa and beyond.
The atmosphere was emotionally charged, especially for rights activist Dr Isatou Touray who, like Baba Leigh, has had her share of the repression in Gambia, a country once known to be a model of democracy in Africa.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fatou Camara Charged to Court



The embattled former press and public relations director at State House has been finally charged to court by Gambian state authorities.
Ms. Fatou Carama fell out with President Yahya Jammeh in August this year and has since been under siege.  Her prolonged detention runs counter to the Gambian constitution, which allows detention period of 72 hours.
But the Gambia government has ignored previous calls by rights groups and kept the former popular state TV broadcaster at the closely-guarded, highly inaccessible spy agency, National Intelligence Agnecy,  for 23 days.

Opposition Leader: Gambia’s Commonwealth Withdrawal Reckless


UDP standard bearer Ousainou Darboe (source AFP)
 
The leader of Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party, UDP, says Gambia’s withdrawal from the commonwealth was the most reckless foreign policy decision made by President Yahya Jammeh’s government. 

 The West African’s country’s controversial leader has again shocked the world when on Friday Oct.4 he announced Gambia’s withdrawal from the commonwealth.  

Tourism Falls for Smiling Coast’s Broadened Smile

Mr & Mrs Gridley having a tropical tan beside

a swimming pool at their regular, Kairaba Beach Hotel.

“We were going somewhere warm,” Mrs Gridley, a tourist, told me. “When we got here, we realised that here’s got everything we wanted for a good holiday.”

Mrs Gridley and her husband, Mr Gridley, were among a sea of tourists having a tropical tan beside a swimming pool at their regular, Kairaba Beach Hotel.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

NAWEC’s Failure Should Be A Shared Blame




The Point, privately owned Gambian newspaper on Monday reported that the managing director of The Gambia National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) has been fired.
As characteristic of our current administration, no reason has been advanced for the abrupt dismissal of the NAWEC boss, Mr Momodou Jallow, who was first appointed in 2006, but dismissed later on, before he was re-appointed. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cleric Was Neither on a Vigil, After All




Imam Leigh freed at last

The ‘disappeared’ Gambian Islamic scholar, who had been wildly speculated dead, has finally appeared, alive and ticking. But, after all, the astute cleric had neither been on a vigil. In fact, the past five months that he’d been away, whether he was regularly saying his prayers, is a question that awaits his confirmation.

Imam Baba Leigh was kept against his will, arbitrarily, in a secretly-shrouded place where not even his wife could access to him. The Gambian state authorities, who had all along been telling the public, unfaithfully, that the imam was not in their custody, are the culprit here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hobnobbing with MFDC Rebels



Rebels untying the hostages
Several hours after they were unshackled and ferried away from hell of a bush in Casamance to a safe-haven in Gambia, and hosted and freshened-up and quenched and fed in one of Gambia’s finest luxurious five-star hotels, the freed Senegalese hostages, which included six soldiers, could not wear a descent smile. But this forest of frowned faces on display has a distinguished dissimilarity with the rather bluffing grim-faced red-eyed men of boot camp.  

Matter-of-factly, the year-long captivity in the hands of the rebels in the bush, away from women and weapons, has apparently stripped the men in arm and uniform off any aura or pride that accompanies their professional or social standing. The soldiers, to say the least, as well as the gendarmerie and the fire fighter, were uncharacteristically cool and collected despite the pleasant twist of fate that should normally be greeted with bang.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gambia’s Destroys US$1 Billion Worth of Cocaine


The Gambia’s anti-narcotics agency today destroyed the 2 tonnes of cocaine impounded in the West African country back in 2010. The whereabouts of the illicit drugs bound for Europe had been a subject of speculation for the past two years.
But the officials of the country’s anti-narcotics agency say the destruction was delayed due to a lack of equipment.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The EU-Jammeh Conundrum - This is About Presidential Pride, Not Patriotism

With President Yahya Jammeh’s denunciation of the EU, thousands of Gambians, save not even National Assembly members, collapsed into a froth of blind nationalist frenzy. Obligingly, the protesters took to the streets in what was widely seen as stage-managed demonstrations.
Like President Jammeh had earlier done at State House, the activists led by senior government officials, whose ranks were swelled by rank-and-files, condemned the EU for 'busy bodying in the internal affairs of sovereign Gambia’.
From Banjul, the protests spilled over to all the local administrative regions. They marched in solidarity with the Gambia leader's defense of tiny, monetarily-poor Gambia's sovereignty against the mighty EU’s intrusion.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ACE - Will the Broadband Bring Bread to Africa’s Poor?


VP Njie-Saidy at the launch of ACE

In a popular cyber café at the heart of the Gambia’s business hub, Serrekunda, Mafuji Ceesay was staring at the computer screen as if reading an important mail. In reality, the 29-year-old Gambian was waiting for the hour-glass dancing before his eyes to stop. With a tinge of hopelessness, he right-clicked on the mouse for options and refreshed the system, hoping to make a breakthrough. No improvement.
    “As you can see for yourself, I have been here for the past eight minutes unable to view my email inbox. The whole of yesterday I could not access my email because the network was down,” he decried.  

Youth Minister Tells Young People: ‘Be Patient With Us’


Minister Jammeh being interviewed
 After much hullabaloo, the NaYCONF 2012 is now history. On Wednesday January 9, the biennial youth gathering came to a close in the Central River Region town of Bansang, the host for this year's rotational event.
The high point of the weeklong conference and festival characteristically marked the presentation of NaYCONF 2012 Resolution to the Gambia's minister for Youth and Sports, Alieu K. Jammeh.
This year’s Resolution, signed by head of delegation of all the seven regions and the NYC executive secretary, dished out a handsome slice of responsibility to a wide range of stakeholders in the development of the country's young people.

Journalist John Heaves a Sigh of Relief, But...


Journalist John recovers his laptop from NIA
Press freedom continues to elude journalists in Gambia. Currently under fire is Mr Abdoulie John, a stringer with the US-based Associated Press (AP) news agency. More than one month today, John who doubles as an editor of a Gambian online news agency, JollofNews, is still battling for his freedom.
From Dec.9, 2012 to date, the journalist had been arrested and detained on two separate occasions by the country's intelligence agency, NIA. Interestingly, all this while, he is yet to know his crime, if any.
“I did nothing wrong," he says with a unique emphasis. "It is sad to know that such things are happening in a country that is supposed to operate democratically. This is part of harassment and intimidation by the state to deny independent journalists to operate freely."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gambia to Host Green Africa Conference

Bianca Griffith
Gambia will play host to an international conference on environment dubbed Green Africa Sustainability Conference slated for April 12-15 at Nemasu eco-lodge.
Green Africa brings together sustainable development practitioners and visionary funders with government leaders and pragmatic industry leaders.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the event, Bianca Griffith, the brainchild behind the conference said there exists a vast number of international conferences dedicated to policy debates on climate change, renewable energy and sustainable development policy.
“Green Africa Sustainability Conference is not one of them,” she said.
She said over the course of the gathering, ripe opportunities to ignite a fresh business framework built for maximum sustainability stakeholder benefit will be developed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jammeh Slams US, UK's 'gay rights or no aid’ campaign as ‘new wave of evil’

US and UK’s recent threat to cut aid to anti-gay governments in Africa is greeted met with growing resistance from African governments.
The Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh, who had previously threatened to behead gays and lesbians in the country on Tuesday joined the list of African leaders, which include Uganda and Ghana in condemning the conditions president Obama and prime minister David Cameroon attached to their countries’ aid to developing countries.
“It’s not in the Bible or Qur’an.  It’s an abomination. I am telling you this because the new wave of evil that they want to impose on us will not be accepted in this country,” he said, renewing his seeming uncompromising stance against homosexuality.
“As long as I am the president, I am not going to accept it in my government and in this country. We know what human rights are. Human beings of the same sex cannot marry or date – we are not from evolution but we are from creation and we know the beginning of creation – that was Adam and Eve.

“Did God make mistake? No! If you think it is human right to destroy our culture, you are making a mistake because if you are in Gambia, you are in the wrong place. Discipline based on our tradition will be enforced to the letter.”
President Jammeh’s remarks came few months after president Barack Obama of US had reportedly instructed US officials to consider how countries treat their gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid.
UK prime minister David Cameroon had also threatened to withhold UK aid from governments that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.
However, Uganda’s presidential adviser, John Nagenda, in response had accused Mr Cameron of showing an "ex-colonial mentality" and of treating Ugandans "like children" when he told them to criminalise anti-gay laws. "Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures by people," he’d said. "If they must take their money, so be it."
Also in response to Mr Cameroon’s threat, Ghana’s president, Atta Mills vowed never to capitulate to the demands by UK and US to respect the rights of gays and lesbians.
"No one can deny Prime Minister Cameron his right to make policies, take initiatives or make statements that reflect his societal norms and ideals, but he does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those which exist in Prime Minister's society," Mills was quoted as saying.

Ghanaian Faces Extradition to Gambia for Drugs Worth $400 m

Ghanaian authorities are set to extradite a suspected Ghanaian drug baron to The Gambia to face trial for drug trafficking, Ghana’s Daily Graphic newspaper has reported.

In June 2010, Robert Yaw Danquah, 54, has allegedly managed to import more than two tones of cocaine estimated at $400 million from Columbia for re-export to The Gambia on a boat, but was intercepted by Gambian security agencies.

He’d reportedly escaped arrest in The Gambia and had since been on the run until he was arrested on Monday 6 February 2012 at his residence in Accra by Ghana’s security agencies.
 An investigation in his saga was conducted after The Gambia’s National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) wrote to Interpol Ghana and Ghana’s anti-drug agency to assist in his arrest.

The Ghanaian’s three accomplices, Robert Roselhamid Gazi, a Dutch, and George Sanchez and Juan Carlos Sanchez, both Columbians, are said to be currently serving a 50-year jail term each in The Gambia.

According to the deputy director of Ghana’s anti-drug agency, Nii Blankson, Mr Danquah made his appearance at the Accra High Court on Friday, February 10, 2012.

He is being remanded in Ghana, awaiting the outcome of the application of a bench warrant made to the magistrates’ court in Banjul by the NDEA, Daily Graphic newspaper quoted Ghana’s top anti-drug official as saying.

Meanwhile, efforts were made for NDEA officials to shed light on the facts attributed to the agency, but as at neither press time, its spokesperson Abdoulie Ceesay nor the executive director   Ben Jammeh could be reach for comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Yousou N’Dour Dances, But to the Tune of ‘Dirty’ Politics

For the past 25- plus solid years,  the undisputed king of Mbalax has been signing songs that appeal to the world. That was thought to be his destiny.  He even refused his father’s wish to pursue a university degree.  Today, he is one of world greatest singers. He earns support beyond his country of birth. But in a rather shock move, he changed his gears, plunging into domestic politics. He’d accused President Wade of ‘hearing only in mono, not stereo’, but little did he realise that the instruments that produce appealing tunes in politics are different from the ones he was used to. Now that he is disqualified to run for the presidency, Kissy Kissy Mansa writes that the super star is, but dancing to the songs of other authors…


When Mbalax super star Yousou N’Dour puts his successful music career on hold in response to what he calls a “supreme patriotic duty,” at first, it all sounded like a ‘big joke’.
For Yousou N’Dour had always maintained: “I want to use my music to deliver a political message… but I don’t want to be a politician.”
On January 3, Senegal’s most known person sent shock waves when he declared that he wants to become a force for change rather than just a voice of change.
Certainly, the pull factor was too heavy for him to resist. He entered. His justification: “For a long time, men and women have demonstrated their optimism, dreaming of a new Senegal.
“They have in various ways called for my candidacy in the February presidential race. I listened. I heard. And I responded favorably.”
Even after that declaration, there were misgivings. But those who think that the musician had no political ambition are not better informed. N’Dour was very much involved in politics. He’d campaigned for the release of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and performed at concerts for Amnesty International. In 2006, he was the only black actor in Amazing Grace, Michael Apted’s film about slavery. As a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, he has focused on African issues such as the Darfur crisis, broadening internet access and the famine in Somalia. That is political.
And those who think that Yousou N’Dour’s plunge into electoral politics is an unusual move for an African entertainment celebrity, are equally not well informed. Infact, since the end of European colonialism, musicians have often served as voices of conscience and protest in independent African nations, criticising corruption and dictatorship.
The best-known example was Fela Kuti of Nigeria, the main creator of the Afropop style in the 1970s and a ferocious opponent of military rule in his country. Like Yousou, Fela announced planned to seek Nigeria’s top position in 1979 and 1983, but was disqualified both times.
In some other developing countries, especially those in Latin America and the Caribbean, that kind of crossover is more common and accepted, however.
The current president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, was a singer. He was elected last year in a race in which the rapper Wyclef Jean, a friend to Yousou, also threw his hat in the ring, only to be disqualified because he did not meet presidency requirements.
But Africa is a different continent. N’Dour is the undisputed king of Senegalese music, and arguably the most important figure in world music.
He is famous for much more than being famous: the embodiment of the self-made man, he is feted at home as an entrepreneur and job-creator, owning two recording studios, a micro-finance company and a stake in a leading nightclub. He is a media mogul with television and radio stations and the widely read L’Observateur newspaper.
That aside, N’Dour is a member of that country’s most powerful Sufi brotherhood, which would boost his election chances.
But the hurly-burly of domestic politics, is something else. Liberia’s super star George Weah, the former world footballer of the year tried in 2005 to translate fame into votes, but failed.
“But I’m not George Weah…” alerted Yousou N’Dure responded to that comparison. He’d hoped his celebrity brings greater success than it did for George Weah and Fela Kuti.
But the spine-tingling singer, composer, occasional actor, entrepreneur, and political activist could not have realised that he needed more than fame and money.
For the past 25 years, this undisputed king of Mbalax has been signing songs that appeal to the world. Music was thought to be his destiny. Born in Medina in Dakar, Senegal to a car mechanic, Youssou even refused his father’s wish to pursue a degree in law or medicine.
Today, he is one of world greatest singers. He is feted home, earns support beyond his country of birth, Senegal.
However, in a rather shock move, especially to the music world, he changed his gears, plunging into domestic politics.
He’d accused president Wade of ‘hearing only in mono, not stereo’ but little did he realise that the instruments that produce appealing songs in politics are different from musical instruments – the ones he was used to.
He needed political knowledge beyond understanding the requirement of standing as a candidate, but N’Dour does not even have a school certificate. And he does not have a political organisation. He may be a giant in music, but compared to his opponents in the political race, he is a dwarf. Yet, he is determined.
“It’s true that I haven’t pursued higher education,” he had admitted in reaction to his critics. “I have proved my competence, commitment, rigour and efficiency time and time again. I have studied at the school of the world.”
Perhaps Yousou never thought that his innocent intension of emerging as the savior for his chaos stricken Senegal would be crushed the way the Constitutional Council did it on Friday January 26.
Shocked to his throat, he helplessly stared at President Wade appointed strange-looking five people who were to decide on his eligibility. Disqualified, he was declared. Qualified was the man the entire nation did not want. And shattered were Yousou’s dreams.
“I am a candidate and I will remain a candidate,” Ndour however said after the Constitutional Council’s decision.
“Abdoulaye Wade should not even have presented his candidacy as the basic law says he does not have the right to do so.”
He continued: “This is going to create tension. The opposition in its great majority does not support any fiddling with the constitution.”
“We have exposed ourselves to tensions, to electoral problems from the beginning. The die has been cast. From now on, we don’t control anything.”

Victory against the ‘Four Fold Damocles'

Perhaps because it involves a former speaker of parliament or maybe it involves a government-aligned newspaper. Or maybe because the claimant is an opposition sympathiser. Whatever is certain, the outcome of Mariama Denton Vs. FJC and Daily Observer is a victory for freedom of expression in a country where journalists have no confidence in the courts in the face of restrictive media laws, which late Edward Francis Small, father of Gambian journalism and trade unionism told British colonialists are ‘four fold Damocles intended to kill the media. Kissy-kissy Mansa writes




“If I have to hang somebody, I will hang him and go to sleep using the laws.”
These were the words of Gambian president Yahya Jammeh in a state broadcast in 2006.
Jammeh, who was making reference to the murder of a prominent Gambian journalist, Deyda Hyadara added:
“I don’t believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life.”
If, as said to be true to his character that, he lives by his words is anything to go by, then President Jammeh did not fail this time round.
 From 2006 to date, about 11 Gambian journalists came under criminal prosecutions for their newspaper articles. 9 of them were nailed-down, convicted and sentenced.
In the case of the remaining two that escaped conviction, it is not because they were not found guilty. Rather, as in the case of the co-publisher of The Point newspaper, Mr Pap Saine, the case was withdrawn whilst Abubacarr Saidykhan, a reporter with Foroyaa newspaper was wrongly charged.
Of course, some 15 years ago (1997) when the constitution of the Second Republic came into being, entrenching the civil liberties including Freedom of Expression and clearly defining the role of mass media, reporters and editors predictably celebrated, and pointed regally to Section 25 (1), assured of being provided with an iron clad protection.
Section 25 (1) reads that every person shall have the right to freedom of speech which shall include freedom of the press and other media.
The Gambia media is more especially called upon to maintain the principles of free discussion. Hence Section 207 reads: “the Press and other Media shall at all times be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of the responsibility and accountability of government to the people of The Gambia.”
Thus looking at these expectations, one can observe that the clear-worded constitution embraces democratic principles by recognizing the important role that the PRESS, acknowledged as the FOURTH ESTATE, plays in building awareness and ensuring accountability of public trustees.
However, these constitutional guarantees have been negated by other statutes that take away the very freedoms given by the supreme law of the land.
These essentially include the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005 - in it the sedition and criminal defamation, the Public Order Act, Official Secret Act and False News publication.
With the co-existence of these inconsistent binding legal forces, which rendered a mockery to freedom of expression in The Gambia, the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of expression are not as protective as the media had thought.
Consequently, the courts have repeatedly held that section 25 is not absolute. Thus they are constantly called upon to decide whether actions taken by the PRESS are legally permissible.
But throughout the cases involving, for instance sedition, emphasis was laid on test of criminality and not who is the judge of criminality of the utterances.
This leads to a direction of the law of sedition that makes the test-blame of the government and its officials because it brings into disrepute and tendency to ‘overthrow’ the government.
This is confirmed in the case of ‘The Six Journalists’ when Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle of High Court in Banjul describes seditious publications to mean ‘a crime against society; that it disturbs tranquility and steer up opposition against the Government and bring Government into hatred and disaffection.’
Justice Fagbenle even weighted-down Mr. Sam Sarr and Pap Saine’s view of publishing divergent views of an international standard and in accordance with good governance to favor the decision held in State Vs Lamin Waa Juwara that freedom of expression is not absolute; that it could be restricted for ‘national interest, public safety and national security’.
But common law depends a lot on precedence, and judges and magistrates’ have been relying on earlier bondable decisions. Gambian journalists will now have a decision to rely on. A High Court decision for that.
On Thursday January 12, Justice Mama Singhateh of High Court in Banjul cleared of former speaker of National Assembly cum ruling APRC bigwig, Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay and Daily Observer newspaper of defamation charges levied by Mariama Denton, a lawyer and an opposition sympathiser.
The civil suit came when the former Speaker, in reaction to a comment about the claimant in May 2001 published on Daily Observer newspaper said: “Those UDP women who he [Juwara] praised were the opportunists he was referring to that they are following the UDP because their brothers, uncles and husbands were corrupt and were implicated by the Alghali Commission and other commissions…”
These words, the plaintiff averred were meant to  damage her credit reputation. They did damage her reputation, she told the court.
But here, the nitty-gritty of the saga is not that relevant. What we are concerned here is what Justice Singhateh said as she struck out the case:
“If the alleged defamation involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove both the statement’s falsity and the defendant’s fault.”

Maybe because it involves a former Speaker who still has the power to gather all evidences against the allegations. Perhaps because it involves a government aligned newspaper who can equally put up a robust defence. Or maybe it involves an opposition sympathiser, who will find it hard, if not impossible, as it infact turned out, to provide an alibi.
Whatever is certain, the outcome of Mariama Denton Vs FJC and Daily Observer is a victory for freedom of expression in The Gambia.
There is freedom of speech, but the reality is what Galsworthy has to say of press freedom in communist Russia after the second revolution:
“The other day in Russia, an Englishman came to the street meeting shortly after the first revolution had begun. An extremist was addressing the gathering and telling them they were fools to go to war and so forth. The crowed grew angry and soldiers were making a rush at him. But the chair, a big burly peasant stopped them with the words: brothers, you know that our country is now a country of freedom of speech. We must listen to this man, we must let him say anything we will. But brothers when he finished, we will bash his head-in.”
This means the government did not censure speech or word, but punishes as it deems fit after publication. But it may not be all that easy now…

2011: The Year of Living Very Dangerously


In 2011, Gbargbo falls, Ben Ali flees, stretcher-bound Mubarak docked, Ghadafi killed, Blaise temporarily vacates palace, Senegal, Greece, UK and US protest, earth quake strikes Japan and tornado hits US.  With the exception of the royal wedding that serves as a pleasant distraction of the news of unpleasant happenings that apparently make Gambian authorities jittery, 2011 has been an year of living very dangerously. Kissy Kissy Mansa writes…

But that was how Laurent Gbargbo himself came to power. Matter-of-fact, as a then-opposition figurehead, he directed Ivorians to take to the streets. Well, this was after military ruler General Robert Guei proclaimed himself winner of the 2000 presidential polls.
Remember how soldiers loyal to Gen Guei fired shots, but the unarmed demonstrators were defiant, swarmed through the streets of Abidjan and screamed for the General’s resignation.

Of course lives were lost, but eventually, Gen Guei fled for Cotonou, Benin. And Gbargbo was introduced as president. Don’t forget, he built a political capital from opposing Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s French-petted founding head of state.

History indeed repeats itself here, isn’t it? As the country where the ‘Millennium Coup’ occurred – Guei’s coup in Dec.1999 – Ivory Coast bade farewell to the first decade of the 21st century with deadly unrests.
The 2010 November presidential election, which was hoped to restore stability in this deeply divided brought about renewed clashes as Gbargbo, a former professor in History, as veteran Gambian journalist Baa Trawally puts it, ‘refused to learn from his own history.’ His failure to accept defeat to former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara thrust Ivory Coast back into the eye of the storm. Diplomatic talks failed. Brutality followed. In the end, like Guei, Gbargbo became the casualty.
He embarrassingly surfaced from his hideout in a Bunka and surrendered to an advancing militia. He was taken hostage to the republic of Rixo Hotel where Ouattara was condemned during the protracted political unrest. Ouattara was introduced as president. Gbargbo now faces trial at the Hague based International Criminal Court for the lost of thousands of innocent lives.
But Gambia government condemns …? Gambia did what! Damn it! Who cares…? After all, Ivory Coast is not Cuba or Taiwan! 
Undoubtedly, the dramatic political unrest that gripped that hitherto economic powerhouse and beacon of political stability in West Africa sets the stage for what would become a dramatic, eventful, but also an year of living very dangerously.
Infact, Tunisians did not wait for the unrest in Ivory Coast to die down to mount a spontaneous uprising that was not sparked by any political leader or movement nor was it an uprising influenced by external forces.

Ultimately, when 26-year-old venerable Mohamed Bouazizi, Tunisia’s modern day martyr sets himself on fire on Dec17, when officials prevented from selling vegetables – his only means of survival – his action prompted nationwide protests, unmasking a deep-seated widespread discontent that has been for far too long masked by Tunisia’s ‘Economic Miracle’.

Similar protests soon erupted in a fellow Arab and North African country, Egypt where political oppression and widespread unemployment was alive and well with the people was it was with Tunisians.

Like Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak’s regime was brought down to its painful end. He sneaked out of the office he had been majestically stepping in and out for 32-years. The former Egyptian strongman is now stretcher-bound. But no amount of pain he endures would make Egyptians forgive him. He is facing criminal charges for the murder of the peaceful protesters and diverting of tax payers money. His sons are not spared. All in 2011? What an year!!! 

Even before Mubarak fled, the oligarchic regimes of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan all in the middle east face the greatest test on their long comfortably-held crowns. They are bound to fall.

The Arab Spring, as the mass revolution became popularly named, spread to Ghadafi’s oil rich Libya, which unfailingly turned out to be the most controversial.

As expected, Ghadafi would not fall easily like his comrades Ben Ali and Mubarak. This was a man who had not only ruled Libya for a life-time 42 years, but had a firm grip on affairs. He enforced his doctrines, and crushed those who challenged his political beliefs.

Unlike Ben Ali and Mubarak, Ghadafi greeted the peaceful protests that demand political reforms with brute. He branded the protesters rats. When he no longer had the loyalty he sought from his military, he resorted to using mercenaries.

But the wind of change that was blowing was much more powerful. AU moribund, but NATO intervened, controlling the air space and the invincible leader was eventually conquered. He was captured in his home town of Sirte while on the run and died in the hands of a mob. For many, that was less than the justice he deserved.
 
The Sub-Saharan Spring

With the mal-governance tendencies that inspired the Arab Spring more serious in sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries witnessed protests in 2011, though the effects fell short of the Arab Spring.

In Senegal, efforts by defiant Senegalese president to force his son on Senegalese was greeted with widespread protests. Wade survives, so far, but its not all over.

Elsewhere, Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore, who has been in power since a 1987 military coup had slipped out of Ouagadougou in the middle of night for his hometown Ziniare as presidential guard members took to the streets, firing into the air in protest against the non-payment of promised housing subsidies.
This was shortly after the 60-year-old leader was re-elected in the first round of an election in November with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Infact, Compaore has faced a series of protests since February 2011, staged first by students, then by the National Coalition against the High Cost of Living (CCVC), an alliance of trade unions, consumer organizations, rights groups and small businesses, and finally by soldiers.

                                                        Europe and US

Europe was not spared by the spate of mass protests as people took to the streets in England, Germany and Greece, over among others, economic hardships. The latter was the hardest hit as its government got cash-strapped, sending the people of this once comfortable nation into scavenging for food.

But who is Europe to expect less, when the world’s economic superpower, who bailed it out through the Marshal Plan after it was devastated by Second World war, was itself feeling the pinches.

Infact, the dramatic events that grab headlines on United States in 2011 were not only the Occupy Wall Street protests, but also a record breaking number of weather disasters.

There was walls of fire burn, Texan farmers lost livelihoods to a record-breaking one-year drought, tornado tore apart towns and massive flooding.

But there have been weather & climate tragedies elsewhere: East African drought has caused the first UN announced famine in Africa in 30 years and heavy floods in Thailand have caused politicians there to suggest moving the capital.

Perhaps worst weather disaster in 2011 occurred in Japan where a 8.9-magnitude earthquake -- the world’s fifth-largest since 1900 and the biggest in Japan in 140 years – struck, triggering a tsunami that is believe to have threatened much of the pacific
The DSK conundrum

But 2011 was not marred by revolutions and weather disasters alone. It witnessed a high profile case of Dominic Strauss-Khan, a former chief of IMF, who was accused of sexually assaulting a Guinean, Nafisatou Barry. The former IMF boss was freed and the table was turned on the Guinean. Also, the embattled Italian prime minister, Silvia Berlusconi, also resigned over sex scandal.

Moreover, fortunately or unfortunately – depending on one’s political belief – 2011 witnessed the creation of the world’s newest country.
Pan Africans would argue that the bisection of Africa’s largest country is unfortunate as came at a time when Africa, more than before needs to fulfill the dreams of Nkrumah and his likes to unite.

Nonetheless, almost a 100 percent of eligible South Sudanese voted for independence. Crowds cheered as Sudan’s national flag was lowered and the new flag of South Sudan was raised.

Furthermore, other dramatic events that caught the attention of the world was the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the pulling out of American forces in Iraq.

Perhaps the only event that serves as a pleasant distraction in the international news media coverage of unpleasant events was the Royal Wedding. Monarchy is no longer famous, but the wedding of Prince William and Catherine was. May be because it was in 2011.
Sweet motherland

Back to sweet motherland, one the of most significant events in  the country’s 2011 calendar was the Nov. 24 presidential elections.
After months of kingship campaign led by chiefs, the Independent Electoral Commission sometime in mid-2011, broke silence, allayed fears, and released the electoral calendar.
 There was a nationwide voter registration exercise using digitalised system. The opposition parties engaged in talks for a united front to create chances of unseating incumbent Yahya Jammeh in a system of first-part-the-post, but failed once more.
Then, there was campaign. Proud president Jammeh made a u-turn, toured the country under the guise of fulfilling his mother’s wish.
On Nov.24, 83 percent of registered Gambian cast their votes. Jammeh was re-elected in a landslide victory of 72 percent. But main opposition-UDP-led alliance dismissed as results as bogus and fraudulent. Independent candidate backed by a coalition of four parties also says the polls were unfair. These was after ECOWAS boycotted the polls on grounds that there was no level playing field.
Yet, president Jammeh was declared winner by IEC. At the time of going to press, preparations are in high gear for his inauguration for the 4th mandate on January 19.
Other dramatic events that caught the attention of the national media was the arrest and detention of a former High Court judge Moses Richards. He would be convicted and sentenced. The Bar would protest. But the former no nonsense judge would be released only after he dissociated himself from the protest and fell on his knees, seeking for mercy from president Jammeh. All in 2011? What an year!
Furthermore, a ban was lifted on a controversial Gambian Islamic scholar Gambian president Yahya Jammeh once slammed: “Even the shoe I wear is closer to Allah [God] than you are.”
 Imam Ba-Kawsu was banned from preaching on the state radio last year following his sharp criticisms of The Gambia Supreme Islamic Council over its decision for The Gambia to observe Muslim feasts of ‘Tobaski’ and ‘Ramadan’ on the same day with Mecca.
The protracted controversy had led to temporal closure of Imam Fofana’s Islamic school that enrolled over 500 students.
  Gambia’s only neighbor, Senegal has also shut doors at it as Senegalese transporters restricted Gambian vehicles entry into Senegal. Then there was the crisis at GNOC over the presidential seat. The saga would be protracted. Sports authorities would intervene, but they would be reprimanded by the parliament. However, parliament would ended up apologising to Gambian president Yahya Jammeh for it. All in 2011? What an year.
The Gambia Court of Appeal has dismissed former Chief of Defence Staff, Lang Tombong Tamba and co appeal against their death sentence in by the High Court in Banjul for treason. In a similar vein, Gen. Tamba and former navy chief, Sarjo Fofana, were convicted of treason. Also, former Gambian information minister Amadou Scattred Janneh, 48, was arrested and is currently facing charges of treason. He denied wrong-doing. The judgement is due this month.

But none of the above mentioned events appeared to be more shocking than the death of president Yahya Jammeh’s former ally. Baba Jobe, a former majority leader of the national assembly and head of state-backed youth movement called Green Youth died when he was due for an early release from Mile Two where he was condemned for economic crimes after he split with his master Yahya Jammeh in what many saw as a betrayal to the ‘Jarra Mansa’.
The man who helped strenthegend APRC has died after days in hospital. The circumstances surrounding the death are still controversial especially with the lack of a post-mortem.
Gambian Spring?

The Arab Spring has spill over effects, not only in the Arab world, but also in black Africa. Truth to tell, one of the black African countries commentators believed would experience a Spring, if there was to be a Black African Spring, was sweet motherland, The Gambia. Infact, this prediction appeared even more looming after the protests in neighbouring  Senegal.
Talk to anyone and he or she will tell you: ‘ah Senegal has done it deh, when are we having our own Spring? This was not an issue of mistaken identity nor a misplaced prediction. That seemed to be the reality on the ground. For the situations that forced the people of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia to rise up against their leaders are alive and well in The Gambia.
That is, high unemployment rate, rising costs of living while income levels remain unacceptably low, rising hunger and poverty, restrictions on the fundamental rights of citizens, seeming self perpetuating rule and corruption.
Infact, keen followers of events in and outside the country would attest that, at the time, especially during the unrest in Libya, hardly the government would convene a meeting without mentioning the protests.
Imams mentioned it in their sermons and asked their followers to join them in prayers. Those helped by government to escape the wrath of both Ghadafi’s and rebels’ forces have been cautioned against any similar movement.
Whether advertently or inadvertently, president Jammeh himself could not avoid making references to it and threatening to crush it. When he invited the country’s independent journalists for a meeting, for the first time ever in his 17 year-rule, he said: do you think I am moved by what’s going on … This was despite the fact that no one at the meeting made reference to what was going on…
Besides, there were moves made by individual Gambians to stage protests here in The Gambia. The ‘Balangbaa Day, - day of resistance - as they called it was well published in Gambian online newspapers.
Prior to this publication, sites such as Jollofnews and Gambia Eco were accessed, but cyber walls have been put up against them since then.
More revealing evidence was how president Jammeh conducted himself throughout the electoral campaign period. Instead of threatening voters, as typical of him, he preached peace, tolerance and forgiveness. Many wondered whether it was the same president Jammeh. But Jammeh was concerned about the votes. What kept him awake all-night was what elections could bring about. He even threatened that anyone who attempted a protest will never witness it. In fact, according to him, some people have been saying that what happened in Ivory Coast would happen in The Gambia during elections.

The future

2011 has been a king-destroyer year, but whether or not 2012 will be equally brutal on despots will depend a lot on the attitude of governments towards the masses as well as the environment.
Less than mid-way into the first month of 2012, protests have began to grip nations. Senegal for instance have been protesting against Wade and Nigerians seem that have changed their campaign tone from “no to fuel subsidy removal’  to that of ‘Jonathan step down.’
 Whether or not Wade and Jonathan will survive the protests is a matter of time. Surely, time will tell. But if the words of infallible analysts are anything to go by, this is the new world order – a real democracy – a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
The doctrine is a simple one: “Do as we wish or face our wrath. There shall be jobs for us and our rights must be respected.”
With this new world order, heads of state and governments are trapped between a deep blue sea (the public) and devil (military). For the latter was used to suppress the former. Now, leaders have to satisfy both.
But that’s not all, its also: “Leave office like Nelson Mandela and his many likes or Ben Ali and his many likes.” A fair choice for leaders, isn’t it? Yea, civilians too can kick you out for real!  

The Bitter Pill


Two years after the state-backed witch–hunting exercise, the survivors are battling against failing health status to re-build their shattered lives. If president Jammeh believes the science of witchcraft is metaphysical, the method he used to rid the country of evil spells could be criminal. But in a zoo without a ‘Jata-muta-jata’ who will tell the lion his breath stinks? Kissy-Kissy Mansa writes…

Without bidding farewell to her garden, 82-year-old Satou Badjie rushed home, leaving behind an unfinished job of quenching the thirst of her vegetable crops. But she did not know she was not coming back; that her crops would never smile at her. Not in this world.
Like most women in her native Makumbaya village in the West Coast region of The Gambia, the octogenarian set out on her routine economic activity when the last star were still visible on Wednesday morning of 25 February 2009. She paved her way through narrow, shadowy paths to the horticultural garden.
Alongside other women gardeners, she however urgently returned to the village after information reached her that Gambian president Yahya Jammeh had sent an envoy to deliver important information to the villagers. Every elder was to be present.
On arrival, she found a gathering of some armed men believed to be from The Gambia Armed Forces, four so-called witch doctors, government sponsored youth group called the Green Youth and some villagers, at the village square.
Put at gun point, she was ordered to embark a waiting bus; that she possessed some evil spirits. She was to be treated.
To the shock of the villagers, Satou Badjie and other abductees were then piled in a bus and whisked away to a compound believed to belong to late Mr Baba Jobe, a former parliamentarian and ally to President Jammeh.
There, some slippery liquid was poured over their bodies with their clothes on. That was the preliminary ritual. The old woman and other abductees were forced to drink hallucinogenic concoctions. She went unconscious.
“After regaining my consciousness a day after I drank the concoction, I became ill and they returned me to the village,” Foroyaa newspaper quoted her as saying in its 17 April, 2009 edition.
When the old woman was released on February 27, she was immediately hospitalised. She died on March 2 at Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, the country’s main referral hospital in Banjul, the capital.
Virtually non existence, abduction is illegal in The Gambia. There are no available data on it, though sporadic reports emerge in the newspapers.
As in murder, every abductor has a motive. Late Satou Badjie was abducted in a three-month-long apparent state-backed witch-hunting exercise in which an estimated one thousand elderly Gambians, 65 to 70 percent women, were taken away from their families, against their will on suspicion of possessing evil spells.
The belief in witchcraft is widespread in The Gambia. For those who believe in it, all witchcraft is evil and typically female, ranging for extraordinary beautiful women to old, haggard women.
In Gambian tradition, ‘buwa’ or ‘doma’  is a vampire-like mythological creature that inhabits the bodies of ordinary people.
However, it is believed that, over the years, the inroads of both Islam and Christian influences in the country have helped push the witchcraft ideology into the back ground.
Besides, the 1997 Gambian constitution entitles every person with the right to enjoy and practice one’s belief.
Section 32 of Gambian constitution says: “Every person shall be entitled to enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture language, tradition or religion …”
Yet this constitutional provision could not protect hundreds of Gambians from being forcefully taken away by people who claimed have been on a mission to rid the country of evil spells.
The witch doctors, four of them clothed in mysteriously red garments, with charms all over their bodies, droved into Gambian villages, accompanied by Gambian security forces and government sponsored youth movement, Green Youth.
In respect of Gambian tradition, they would consult the village headman, who would deliver his people to them, according to Foroyaa, the only local news media outlet that dared cover the exercise.
Elderly women were dumped in a room without sleeping facilities. Undressed half-naked, they claim, they slept on bare floor.
As if that is not enough, some were reportedly beaten and forced to drink herbal potions, which made them unconscious. They crawled and rolled over and urinated on themselves. They were forced to confess being witches.
As if the vicious cycle of inhumane and degrading treatment and general exposure to harzardous health conditions were not enough, some abductees claimed that they raped.
“I personally saw 3 women who were undressed by the witch hunters and raped by them at a time when they were unconscious,” an abductee from Makumbaya village told Foroyaa
A 35-year-old market vendor from the same village said, she was raped during the second day of abduction by a very young man.
“While I was in detention, this young man who was so rude asked me to take a bath and while I was taking the bath, he stood and watched me.
“When I went to the toilet, he would insist that he would accompany me. One of these times, he wrestled me to the ground and raped me, with force,” Foroyaa quoted her as saying in its March 20, 2009 publication.
Three of those subjected to such degrading treatment died shortly after their abduction while the survivors are baffling with failing health status to rebuild their lives ravaged by the exercise.
One such person is visibly weak and frail Manjiki Cham, a 70-year-old woman in an-out-the-way village of Jambur in West Coast region of The Gambia.
Conventionally unlettered and without any formal business skills, the old woman was also a farmer in a country that is agrarian.
“I was a good farmer,” she boasted during a recent visit at her home in Jambur village.
However, ever since she was released after spending a night in the hands of her abductors, the strength in her that kept her socially and economically active has waned.
“I haven’t been to my farm for two years,” she says. “And our farms are what we depend on for survival.”
Matter-of-fact, in a typical Gambian household, the three square meal a day is a non-negotiable right. Manjiki Cham however does not have two good ones after the incident.
Aside from the earnings from the farm she is deprived of as a result of the incident, she is as well unhealthy.
“I cannot even eat up half a loaf at breakfast now,” she explains. “I developed constipation and I routinely visit the health facility, yet my health status has not improved.”
The 70-year-old woman is not alone in this predicament. Many other victims interviewed are in a similar state.
A human rights activist, who prefers anonymity, says unless justice is done; unless compensation is made to victims and unless a deterrent effect is put in place, the state-backed mission of ridding the Gambia from evil spells will remain a bitter pill for Gambians to swallow.
He adds:“If it is true, as it has been reliably reported that the so-called witch doctors are citizens of Guinea, they could not have had the audacity to abduct Gambian women in broad day light?”
However, there are overwhelming evidences linking Gambian president Yahya Jammeh to the act.
When Halifa Sallah, an opposition politician visited the affected villages, he was arrested, and tried for among others, sedition. Those charges were dropped to be replaced a new set of charges, which indicated that the ‘screening of witches’ was a government policy. These charges were never filed and Halifa was freed in the ‘interest of peace’.
Besides, President Yahya Jammeh on May 2009 told a gathering in Foni that he sent the witch doctors to cleanse them because they were responsible for the lack of development in the region.
According to an unnamed Gambian human rights lawyer, if Gambian president Yahya Jammeh believes that the science of witchcraft is metaphysical, the method he used to kill evil spells could be criminal.
But in a zoo without a ‘wanjanlanko’ (the real king of the jungle) who will tell the lion his breath stinks?