Monday, November 29, 2010

The Political Environment Remains Hostile –Darboe

With less than a year to presidential elections, the leader of the main-opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) Ousainou Darboe has said that The Gambia’s political environment remains hostile for the opposition to operate.
The Gambia is gearing up for its 9th presidential elections since attaining independence in 1965 and the 4th under the military-turned civilian regime that came to power in 1994.
The Independent Electoral Commission hinted earlier that the presidential elections will be held in the latter part of 2011.     
Darboe, whose party, UDP, has been the main challenger to the ruling APRC after the lifting of the ban on political parties and activities in 1996, told Kissykissymansa at his office that the hostile  political environment that frustrated their efforts to win previous elections, is still haunting them in the run-up to the 2011 presidential polls. 
“You put up my poster, agents of the ruling APRC will tear it. Some sycophant security officers are acting as campaign agents for the ruling party; intimidating and harassing all opposition elements. Of course the heavy patronage as some companies have been making gratuitous offers to the president and his party because they want to maintain their businesses. Public institutions such as Gamtel and Gambia Ports Authority are using public resources to campaign for Jammeh. These are against us”, he said.
The lawyer cum politician also decried lack of coverage of opposition activities by the state-owned media, which deprived them of the opportunity to sell their agenda to the public.
“When there is a small installation of an insignificant civil servant, the entire government media will cover it. But when the opposition parties discuss serious matters, no government media reports  on them,” he said.

 On kingship
As the country gears-up for the presidential elections, the country is confronted with yet another controversial decision of the ruling APRC as ‘revert thinking’ political authorities are mounting campaigns to install president Jammeh as a king. 
But Darboe said this move is not surprising because president Jammeh who came to power with the promise of being a ‘servant’ of the people, accusing the ousted government of self-perpetuating rule, has departed from this promise to become ‘an absolute despotic  monarch.’
He said: “Because of his [Jammeh’s] intoxication with power, he has been ruling as an absolute despotic monarch. He is not only entrenching himself in power, but trying to create a special ruling class of his descendants and probably change The Gambia into the Kingdom of Kanilai.”
Darboe said, it is rather disappointing that at the time – 21 century – when monarchies are giving way to republics, some retrogressive thinking Gambians want to vest on the president not only ceremonial powers of a monarch, but wide executive powers to perpetuate a rule of oligarchy.
 But the opposition leader vowed to campaign against the move to transform the republic of The Gambia into a monarchy and urged “all Gambians, even ruling party supporters” to denounce it.
“This [the kingship] is not about electing any of the opposition leaders into office. It’s about turning the country into a monarchy,” he said, urging president Jammeh to make an amendment to the constitution to limit the tenure of any president.  “If he did that, he would have done a lot of good for the Gambian people.

 Eyes victory come 2011
Meanwhile Darboe is hopeful that come 2011, his party will be elected into office, saying the ruling party’s image is dented.
“Come 2011 we will make sure Jammeh is not only voted out of office, but it will be difficult for APRC to regroup because when Jammeh is out APRC will fizzle away,” he said. 

Kicked-Out of Their Compounds

Bewildered Mr Saloum Camara and wives stood at the outskirts of their compound wondering where to find an abode as the family has been kicked-out of the compound he acquired and occupied since 1994.

Mr Camara, a carpenter, is neither an ecological nor a war refugee, but woke-up Wednesday morning to the order by a ‘stranger’ backed by the police to remove all his belongings from the house without an option of negotiation.

Kunkujang Keitaya, a village in Kombo North was a scene of astonishment, a situation residents referred to as ‘injustice.’

“I was at work when my wife called to inform me that officers of the Police Intervention Unit  ordered us to remove all our belongings from the compound,” in a somber yet hopeless tone.
And it was the same story narrated by Mr Manneh and Mr Jatta and their families all of whose compounds have been put under lock and key; their belongings thrown outside, courtesy of an aging man called Foday Makasuma who claimed to have owned the said land.

But this was not the first time Foday has been claiming ownership of the said compounds, the residents said. In 2005, he came with the police when he claimed to own 32 compounds, including Wednesday victims.
“We were all ordered by the police to remove our belongings,” a 2005 victim Mr Wandifa Njie an Arabic scholar recalled. “They came with boys who threw-out our belongings from our compounds.

“I was confused, not knowing what to do. Because even a tenant is required to be notified before being sent-off rather than me who legally purchased my land since 1990.
“But since they came with guns, we could not resist. We went to the High Court where we paid D5, 000 to get the services of a lawyer after which we were allowed to return to our compounds the following day.”


Although Mr Njie was spared this time, it was the same story for his neighbours. Their household materials were removed from their compounds.
“The police came around 10 am and ordered us to vacate because the old man [Foday] said he owns the place. We begged to remove the materials ourselves because of the losses we incurred in 2005, but the police refused,” said Ramatoulie Camara.
“Now that we have been evicted, we do not know where to go. It is easier for one or two people to rent, but not a family of 40 people.”

Meanwhile attempts made by journalists to speak to Foday proved futile as the aggrieved residents attempted to fall on him, thanks to the police who came to his rescue and whisked him away.

But how can a private man bag the backing of a truck-full of police personnel over the claim of a land was the question the press posed to residents, but none could give an answer.
The police officers and officers from physical planning present at the scene declined to talk to the press. And the Alkalo too could not be reached.
When contacted, the police spokesperson Sulayman Secka promises to get back to us, but failed until the time of going to press.

Protests Against Jammeh Wearing Emperor Bokasa’s Boots

(pic source: Jollofnews.com)
Revert thinking political authorities are rallying
 support to crown Gambian president Yahya as King

It's a familiar phenomenon in Africa where military messiahs have taken upon themselves the role of  watchdogs, accusing the political class of bad governance; they ride to power on a wave of popular support. No sooner do they settle down in power than they begin to undermine all institutions of democratic governance; ban political parties and roll out decrees to curtail the inalienable rights of the same people they purportedly came in to save.  
And in the struggle for power consolidation in The Gambia, the ‘revert thinking’ political authorities, led by traditional chiefs are rallying support to coronate president Jammeh.   
KissyKissymansa reports on the widening protests that greet these seemingly futile attempts to replicate the story of the self-proclaimed Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic (C.A.R).  

The unpopular campaign being mounted to crown The Gambian president Yahya Jammeh as king provokes growing criticisms both locally and internationally.  

“In this 21st century, I cannot believe that there still exists a group of educated Gambians who because of their selfish desire will want to put our hard fought democracy in the bin and crown Yahya Jammeh as king of the Gambia,” says PK Jarjue, a Gambian  abroad.

Supported by the ruling APRC party stalwarts, the traditional chiefs are rallying in support of transform the republic of The Gambia into a kingdom as they have toured the whole country pushing the agenda, before unveiling their plans earlier this month.

“The constitution is neither the Quran nor the Bible,” says Alhagie Demba Manneh a ruling APRC supporter from rural-Lower River region during a meeting at State House recently. “We want to make president Jammeh a King and we will amend it [the constitution] to suit us.”  
“I said it once and I am repeating it here that election, especially the secret ballot is hypocrisy,” says Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the majority leader and representative of Serrekunda East constituency in the Gambian parliament.
 “Even if it happens that we go to the polls 2011, it might as well be the last election [for The Gambia],” Jatta said.

They said installing President Jammeh as king is to reward him for bringing development, but the leader of the opposition-UDP Ousanou Darboe said president Jammeh’s 16-year-rule brought nothing but hunger and poverty to the people of the Gambia.

 “People are wallowing in abject poverty. Development is measured by the improvements on the people’s living conditions and not by few kilometers of road or ill-equipped hospitals and schools,” he argued. 

An unnamed political analyst said the campaign can further damage the president’s image, which has been dented in recent times, especially after ordering a witch-hunting exercise where elderly people were detained and forced to drink concoctions which hallucinated them.

The analyst also observes that although there has been voter apathy in the previous elections, the campaign can spur action from voters come the 2011 presidential election.

“2011 poll is fundamentally about the next generation – forget the notions of a monarchy,” says Mr Jegan Grey Johnson, a communication specialist cum consultant. “The notion that some people have the temerity to shamelessly engage in an effort to roll back our historical track record as a multiparty democracy sends a signal that our political sanity must be checked.”

A familiar road in Africa
Traditionally, African rulers are reluctant to gracefully leave office, although the continent is being rapidly swept by revolts against self-perpetuating rulers and numerous democratic movements have understandably demanded constraints on presidential powers, including the imposition of term limits.
Presidents who vacate office voluntarily, and who do so basking in national or international prestige - personified by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and now many others - are enabled to pursue a constructive domestic or international role in their retirement.
In contrast, those who have presided over tyrannical regimes, and who were either ejected or toppled from office – personified by Emperor Bokassa, recently Momodou Tanjia of Niger and many others - are likely to be hemmed in politically by formal or informal restrictions.
Unabating protests
Meanwhile, the rally to coronate president Jammeh has triggered an unprecedented condemnation from the public even among the ranks of his loyal supporters.
And as almost all private-independent newspapers join the fray in protest, the state owned-media – both print and broadcast – remain mute over the issue.
But even the Independent Electoral Commission, which has been criticised by the opposition for supporting the ruling party, has expressed outrage at the ongoing campaign describing it as contempt of the constitution.
“The no-election campaign is a non-starter and should be discouraged in all its form,” IEC says, a stance hailed by the opposition leader Ousainou Darboe.  
Human rights lawyer Assan Martins also warned: “If they are doing this campaign at their own will, which does not comply with the law of this country, they should stop it. The idea that there should be a Monarchy is against our Constitution,” adding that “ the issue of crowning Jammeh as King of The Gambia must come through a constitutional change, a referendum. Gambia is a Republic.”
“The campaign to coronate president Jammeh as a King and to transform The Gambia into a monarchy should be nipped in the bud”, Darboe charged.
He promises to campaign hard and if possible once again form alliance with other opposition leaders to oust Jammeh.
“I strongly believe that President Jammeh knows that there’s every likelihood that the opposition will get together and that he will be flushed out of power in 2011, and he thinks that this is a way of keeping himself in power,” Darboe told Daily News.

Attitude determines altitude

President Jammeh came to power through a military coup in 1994 putting an end to the thirty-year-rule of Dawda Kairaba Jawara.
All political parties and political activities were banned during the two year transition period in the run-up to a return to a democratic civilian government.
The presidential elections held in 1996 saw Jammeh winning with 56 percent of the votes and captured the majority of seats in the legislative elections held in 1997.
Although he dropped to 53 of votes in the 2001 presidential elections, he was able to secure a virtual monopoly at the National Assembly after the main-opposition UDP party boycotted the elections amid cries of foul play.
In 2006, president Jammeh won 67 percent of the votes and his party maintained a strong majority in the National Assembly amid phenomenal voter apathy as over 50 percent of registered voters failed to cast their votes.
Although some local and foreign election observers deemed the elections free, fair and transparent, there were reports of unfair play and the opposition maintained that there has never been a level playing ground for free and fair elections. 

Jammeh is really a king!

To some, the president is already enjoying the privileges of a king as he is the “be all and end all” otherwise the “Alpha and Omega” in The Gambia.
"It's image construction," says Abdoulaye Saine, professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio. "He's not a scholar, he's not a doctor, and he’s not a professor. But he covets these titles."
Saine says Jammeh's coronation would give him a new title but would not change anything politically.
"Jammeh is already king," Saine said. "He practically owns the country of Gambia.

A referendum is more likely

But according to Gambian law, any constitutional change in choosing a leader will require the support of 75 percent of votes through a referendum.
And if the kingship campaign gains momentum, a referendum is more likely to take place.
But Darboe says, his party will soon hold a mass political rally to publicly condemn the kingship campaign.
“All well meaning Gambians should support us,” he pleads. “Even those in the ruling party, because this is not about electing an opposition leader into a political office, but a campaign against oligarchy.”

By Saikou Jammeh

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gambia Looses Over $2bn After Iran Fracas

The relationship between the two countries is severed after seizure
 of container loaded with weapons from Iran bound for The Gambia
The Gambia is likely to lose over $2bn of Iranian funded projects after cutting ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, analysts have said.
Efforts to reach Zaed Zare, the Iranian ambassador to The Gambia, proved futile. However, Senior Iranian official Alaeddin Borujerdi told the BBC on Tuesday 23 November that Gambia’s decision to cut diplomatic ties was as a result of pressure from the United States.
The Gambia has announced the cutting off of all ties with Iran on Monday, November 22, 2010 and ordered all Iranian government representatives to leave the country within 48 hours.

But there are no official reasons from authorities in The Gambia advanced for the move.
This cut of ties followed Nigeria’s alleged interception of an illegal arms shipment in Lagos from Iran, destined for The Gambia last month.
The Nigerian authorities said they had discovered the weapons, including rocket launchers and grenades, in containers labeled as building materials.
The France-based shipping company CMA CGM which transported the shipment said attempts were made to send it to The Gambia before the Nigerian police seized it.
Mr Borujerdi, chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s parliament, confirmed that a private Iranian company had sent the arms to The Gambia but said this was “in line with international laws”, reports the official Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna).
Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council. Iran whose nuclear programme is banned from supplying, selling or transferring arms is under UN sanctions.
According to a statement from The Gambian foreign ministry all government of The Gambia projects and programmes, which were [being] implemented in co-operation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, have been cancelled.
Reports have it that the weapons seized by Nigerian security officials in Lagos included rocket launchers and grenades, adding that ties between Tehran and Banjul became closer after Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994.
The Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a guest of honour of the 2006 African Union Summit hosted by The Gambia.
The Gambia has been among those developing nations who have defended what president Jammeh called “Iran’s Peaceful nuclear enrichment” on his last visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

Foroyaa Reporter Laid To Rest

Foroyaa newspaper sports editor late Lamin A Darboe who met his untimely death under controversial circumstances on Saturday 20th November, was gently laid to rest Monday at Old Jeshwang cemetery.

Returning to Kombo from his home village, Bakindik, North Bank region, where he joined his family and friends to celebrate the Tobaski feast, Mr Lamin Darboe fell-off from a Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) Ferry bound for Banjul, with his vehicle into the river. He drowned and the dead body was only recovered the following day – Sunday.
Eye witnesses say Lamin had cried for help as he resurfaced two times after felling-off into the water, but there was no rescue attempt made by authorities to save his life.

However, Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) says the accident might result from a break failure.
But given the controversial circumstances under which Lamin died, family members said they will pursue the matter to ensuring justice is met.
Foroyaa newspaper also urged authorities to make Corona’s Inquest into the cause of Lamin’s death.

Meanwhile the journalist cum teacher has been described as disciplined, righteous, hardworking and generous young-man by family members, colleagues and other relatives.
“He has built an Islalmic School with the aid of philanthropist [in Bakindiki village] where over 300 pupils are attending Quranic lessons,” elders from the village confirmed.
His co-workers at Foroyaa newspaper and colleague journalist from other newspapers also described him as a generous, honest and hardworking mate.
“We have just held our elections and Lamin has been elected our treasure,” Pa Modou Faal, an acting Editor-in-Chief of independent Point Newspaper, also auditor, Sports Journalists Association (SJAG) said.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plans to Crown Jammeh King Unveiled


Plans to make president Jammeh a king has been finally made public after months of underground work by the ruling APRC party stalwarts led by local chiefs.


This was unveiled at statehouse on Friday during a meeting claimed to be summoned by president Jammeh to discuss extending the death sentence – from murder and treason - to offences of drugs and human trafficking.

In attendance at the meeting were ministers, ruling party National Assembly members, local government authorities, local chiefs, , religious leaders and his party bigwigs.  

But the meeting, which was designed to dilate on death sentence in the wake of the rising crime rate, witnessed an obvious shift to unmasking plans to transform The Republic of The Gambia into a Kingdom.  


The agenda was set by Jammeh himself as he expressed outrage at ‘troubles elections created in Africa’.

“We all know the problems elections have created in Africa; the problem in Somalia is caused by elections and in many other countries.  “Nearer [to home] in Guinea, people of different tribes are killing one another because of elections,” he said.

As the country prepares to embark on a circle of elections – presidential, parliamentary and local government in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, Jammeh said people will vote so long as the constitution dictates.

“But it is left to you [Gambians]; whatever you decide is what we will do,” he said of the no election campaign

The campaigns for no elections and to crown president Jammeh as King have been in the rumour mill for some time now.

The local chiefs who are reportedly pushing the agenda forward have recently toured the whole country after president Jammeh donated vehicles to them, sources revealed.

However, the Independent Electoral Commission has condemned the move.

“The campaign for no elections is a non-starter and should be discouraged in all its forms,” IEC said, at the recently concluded outreach for National Assembly members, where it was hinted.

Hon. Fabakary T. Jatta, the majority leader of parliament has been warned of contempt of the constitution for saying that the secret ballot is the highest form of hypocrisy.

Undeterred by this warning, Hon. Jatta said at Saturday’s meeting: “I said it once and I am repeating it here that elections, especially the secret ballot is hypocrisy.”
 “Even if it happens that we go to the polls 2011, it might as well be the last election [for The Gambia]” Jatta said.

The governor of North Bank Region Edwar Seckan said chiefs have approached them to make Jammeh a king and they have agreed.

 “The constitution is neither the Quran nor the Bible,” says Alhagie Demba Manneh from rural-Lower River region. “We want to make president Jammeh a King and we will amend it to suit our needs.”

President Jammeh came to power through a military coup in 1994 putting an end to the thirty-year-rule of Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who was re-elected in office 5 times after Independence in 1965.
All political parties and political activities were banned during the two year transition period in the run-up to a return to a democratic civilian government.
The presidential elections held in 1996 saw Jammeh winning with 56 percent of the votes and captured the majority of seats in the legislative elections held in 1997.
Although he dropped to 53 percent of votes in the 2001 presidential elections, he was able to secure a virtual monopoly at the National Assembly after the main-opposition UDP boycotted the elections amid cries of foul play.

In 2006, president Jammeh won 67 of the votes and his party maintained a strong majority in the National Assembly.

Although some local and foreign election observers deemed the elections free, fair and transparent, there were reports of unfair play and the opposition maintained that there has never been a level playing ground for free and fair elections.  

Meanwhile voter apathy has been phenomenally increasing at a worrying rate as over 50 percent of registered voters failed to cast their votes during the 2006 presidential elections.   

Jammeh Vows to Execute the Death Sentence


Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has vowed to execute the death sentence despite local and international outcry.

“I will not allow few criminals to jeopardize the peace and stability of this country,” Jammeh said, criticizing the West for promoting human rights against the safety of the people.
Jammeh was addressing a meeting at state house comprising cabinet ministers, National Assembly members, and local authorities, religious leaders and the ruling-APRC bigwigs on Friday.

Gambia was among the first African countries to abolish the death penalty – in 1981 – but it was reinstated in 1995 after the coup for murder and treason offences. Now it has been further extended to punish drug and human trafficking offences.


Since its reinstatement in 1995 to date a rough estimation of about 20 people have been sentenced to death, although none has been confirmed to be executed yet.

 The death sentence has provoked an outcry both locally and internationally.
“We need to rehabilitate our criminals” an opposition parliamentarian Hon. Babanding Daffeh said in an interview with Daily News. “If someone has been convicted, but later found innocent while the death penalty has been executed that would be a big blow.”
Also a human rights lawyer Assan Martins expressed fear that the innocent people could be executed for crimes they have not committed.

“The fear is that an innocent person may also suffer or may end up being a victim. We don’t support anything of collective punishment of both the innocent and the guilty,” Martins told The Point newspaper recently.

 But the Gambian president said he will execute the law to the letter. “If I start killing people will start saying I am killing whilst they kill themselves.”

“Human right is subjected to the rights of another person; murder, rape and robbery were infrequent in The Gambia but now these are daily occurrences,” Justice Minister Edu Gomez said

Friday, November 5, 2010

kissykissymansa: Jammeh Relieves Second Speaker in a Row

kissykissymansa: Jammeh Relieves Second Speaker in a Row: "  Like her predecessor the reason for Renner's dismisal is unknown Madam Elizabeth ..."

kissykissymansa: Jammeh Relieves Second Speaker in a Row

kissykissymansa: Jammeh Relieves Second Speaker in a Row: "  Like her predecessor the reason for Renner's dismisal is unknown Madam Elizabeth ..."

Jammeh Relieves Second Speaker in a Row

                                                
Like her predecessor the reason
for Renner's dismisal is unknown
Madam Elizabeth Renner is at the receiving end of president Jammeh’s hiring and firing syndrome. She was removed from office as the Speaker of the National Assembly on Wednesday Nov 03.
             
Renner, a veteran educationist, came into office in June last year following the dismissal of Mrs Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay – 2007-2009.   No reason has been advanced for their dismissals, which has rather become a tradition in present day Gambia.
FJC was also dismissed.

              The Gambia’s National Assembly has 53 members; 48 of whom are elected representatives from constituencies and the remaining 5 are presidential nominations from whom a Speaker and deputy Speaker are to be elected by the elected members.
             And by The Gambian constitution, the President cannot directly dismiss a Speaker of the National Assembly. But when he revokes his nomination, the Speakers automatically loses the crown and by extension ceases to be a National Assembly member.
            Renner was the third Speaker to be dismissed during the 16-year reign of the second republic compared to one, in the 30-year rule of the first republic.
           Infact, throughout the first republic, there were only two speakers; Sir Alieu Sulayman Jack (1965-80s), the first, was dismissed following allegations of trying to induce an opposition parliamentarian to introduce a Bill - not clear - into the parliament. He was succeeded by late Baboucarr Njie alias Njie BP – from 1982 to 1994.
Throughout the 30-year rule of the first republic, The Gambia has had only two Speakers and Njie BP - is the second who served until the coup in 1994 

                                                                          The 16-year-rule of president Jammeh brought in 5 Speakers and the 6th is in the horizon.

Lucky enough to complete a tenure,
 Wadda is the first Speaker of the second republic

Late Wadda was the first and served uninterrupted five-year tenure, but his successor, late Sheriff M. Dibba, a veteran politician was dismissed following allegations of his involvement in the 2006 foiled coup. Late Belinda Bidwell who served as deputy under Dibba was then promoted to the position of Speaker. Fatoumata Jahumpa-Ceesay, who was a nominated member during Bidwell’s term, was made Speaker in 2007. She was dismissed in June 2009. And Renner who succeeded her is now gone too.
Sherrif, Wadda's successor was sacked.

Meanwhile, the deputy Speaker Hon. Abdoulie Bojang would preside over National Assembly sittings pending the nomination and election of another Speaker.



Bidwell, who assumed office as Sherif retired.