Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gambia Opposes Ecowas’ Decision to Oust Gbagbo

The Gambia government yesterday said the sub-regional body, ECOWAS has no legal mandate to interfere in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast. 
ECOWAS has taken a rear tough decision on December 24 in Abuja, threatening to use legitimate force to oust Ivory Coast’s self-perpetuating president Laurent Gbagbo as all diplomatic means proved futile.
Gbagbo refused to cede power to Mr Ouattara despite losing in 28 November presidential elections and has since then faced international condemnation.
But a statement delivered by secretary general to the government of The Gambia and head of civil service Dr Njogu Bah said his government has strong reservations on the decisions made by ECOWAS heads of state. 
Dr Bah said The Gambia does not subscribe to the move because of what he described as adverse consequences, adding that the move amounts interfering in the internal affairs of independent Ivory Coast.
The announcement came as the three West African presidents - Boni Yayi of Benin, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde – announced their safe arrival Abidjan in what was seen as a final chance to persuade Mr Gbagbo to step down peacefully.
BBC quoted the Benin’s President, Boni Yayi, as saying that “all went well”.
The ECOWAS heads of state envoy also held meeting with Mr Ouattara who is in a hotel with his shadow government protected by around 800 UN peacekeepers.
Meanwhile since the election, at least 173 people have died in violence, scores of others tortured and over 15,120 have fled the country, UN says.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Senegal-Gambia Ties Thawing Again

The president of Senegal Wade (L) and The Gambian president Yahya (R) are at it again.

Divided by colonial borders, but bound by common tradition and culture, the sisterly neighboring republics of Senegal and The Gambia are at their long-standing dispute again.

"Since 1994, we [Gambians] have always been working for the socio-economic development of our two people. This is witnessed by contracts my government awarded to Senegalese contractors, waiving [alien] tax on Senegalese residents in the Gambia," said Dr Njogu Bah, The Gambia’s Secretary General and head of civil service on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, this has never been reciprocated by our Senegalese counterparts from [former president] Abdou Joof to [current president] Abdoulie Wade. This is worst under Wade who bears nothing but hostility towards The Gambia."
This latest row came in the wake of a controversial arms shipment intercepted in Nigeria from Iran allegedly bound for The Gambia.

While The Gambia remains mute over the issue, Senegal, who is highly concerned about the unrest in its Gambia-bordered Southern region of Casamance, has been relentlessly pursuing the matter amid allegations that The Gambia is sponsoring the independence seeking Casamance rebels.
"The Gambia does not need such weapons," Wade who has taken-up the matter with Iran, Nigeria and United Nations, was quoted as saying.
And a Senegalese website has published a document it said it acquired from Nigeria linking The Gambia to the arms shipment.

"Those arms intercepted in Nigeria were not bound for The Gambia," Dr Njogu Bah denied. "President Wade jumped to his conclusion because he was blinded by his hatred towards The Gambia by reporting The Gambia to the United Nations.

"The position of The Gambia on Cassamance has been for a peaceful solution, but not war. This did not please [former president] Joof and we were accused of supporting the rebels."
The Gambia accused Wade of sponsoring a faction of the rebels who are inflicting atrocities on unarmed civilians of Casamance perceived to be sympathizing with independence seeking rebels.
"It is an open secret that Abdoulie Wade is giving sanctuary to Gambian dissidents, including rebel leader Kukoi Sanyang and 2006 abortive coup mastermind Col. Ndure Cham," Dr Bah added.

The fracas came as both leaders recently pledged to resolve their decades-long differences and are frantically moving to mend their thawed relations, as witnessed by a series of bilateral engagements in recent times.

Gambia Unmutes Over Controversial Arms Shipment

Under-pressure the Gambia government finally breaks silence as it refutes allegations of its involvement in the controversial arms shipment from UN-sanctioned Iran, which was intercepted in Nigeria on October 25.
"Those arms intercepted were not bound for The Gambia," said Secretary General Njogu Bah on Wednesday as he declares The Gambia’s position on ‘major issues’ on behalf of the Gambia government.
The reaction came in the wake of mounting allegations linking The Gambia to the arms shipment that sent shocking waves across the globe, resulting in the severing of bilateral relations between many countries, The Gambia seemingly included.
The Islamic republic of Tehran is facing United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme. The ban forbids UN member countries from dealing in arms with Iran.
The Gambia, until Wednesday remained mute over the issue even though a senior Iranian official said the 13 shipping containers disguised as "building materials" but carrying assorted calibres of mortars and rocket launchers, as well as shells for a 23 mm anti-aircraft gun, were heading for The Gambia.
Without giving reasons for the sudden move, The Gambia cut smooth ties with Iran by ordering all Iranian representatives including its Ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours.
And the neighboring republic (Senegal) that has been suspicious of The Gambia’s support to the independence rebels in its Southern region of Casamance, which is bordering the Gambia, is relentlessly pursuing the matter.
Iran has since dismissed its foreign minister as he was visiting Dakar to give explanation on the weapons issue following which Senegal also recalled its ambassador to Tehran.
Senegalese media said Nigerian President Good luck Jonathan is visiting Dakar on 22 December, over the issue.
Meanwhile the controversial arms shipment is now a United Nations matter. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set-up a panel of experts to dig into the matter.
The experts are drawn from Great Britain, Japan, United States, Russia, Germany, Nigeria, China and France, who is to serve as the coordinator of the panel of experts.
"The panel is a strong indication that the Iranian controversial shipment to Nigeria is no longer merely an issue between Nigeria and Iran. It is now a Security Council issue," A UN official was quoted as saying.

Gambian Opposition Poised To Disallow Electoral Malpractices

Opposition parties in The Gambia are pulling their forces together to ensure that no electoral malpractices occur come the forthcoming circle of presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
"The process has started," said Omar Jallow alias OJ, the leader of the opposition PPP. "It is normal that in negotiations, statements are not made until when an agreement is reached."
The Gambia’s political temperature is rising slowly, but surely as the country gears for its ninth presidential elections since independence in 1965, which is slated for the later quarter of 2011.
Three presidential elections were conducted under the current military-turned civilian regime – 1996, 2001 and 2006 - which were deemed free and fair, but the opposition disagreed with the judgment in the face of the hostile political climate prevailing since the military took-over in 1994.
"In The Gambia the opposition is termed unpatriotic. We are being arrested. There is so much bias in the use of public media which is being sustained by the people. The suppression and hostile environment for the press is making it difficult for an inclusive multi-party dispensation," O J, whose PPP is still struggling to regroup after the soldiers ended their thirty-year-rule told Daily news in an interview recently.
"Fundamental [electoral] norms must be respected if [presidential] elections are to take place in 2011," he vowed. "There are measures being put in place to ensure that all opposition parties speak with one voice. We are going to involve all major stakeholders," he added.
And when quizzed if their complaints will this time make any difference, he said, "this time if we do it collectively, we will make an impact."
OJ, who returned from Tanzania recently where he participated as commonwealth election observer admitted his impression about the democratic dispensation in that country, which has just held multi-party elections.
"Unlike the hostilities that take place in other African countries, there has been no hostility between the ruling party and the opposition" he said. "The campaigns, voting and counting were done in a free and transparent atmosphere."
He added that it is about time African leaders stop seeing the opposition as unpatriotic, but rather bonafide citizens interested in the development of their respective countries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

UN Probes Alleged Gambia-Bound Arms Shipment Seized in Nigeria

The 13 shipping containers of weapons impounded in Nigeria on Oct 25, allegedly bound for The Gambia from Iran is now a United Nations matter, Daily News reveals. 
News reports from Nigeria say United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has set-up a panel of experts to dig into the matter.
The experts are drawn from Great Britain, Japan, United States, Russia, Germany, Nigeria, China and France, who is to serve as the coordinator of the panel of experts.

“The panel is a strong indication that the Iranian controversial shipment to Nigeria is no longer merely an issue between Nigeria and Iran. It is now a Security Council issue,” A UN official was quoted as saying.
And a Gambian online news agency, Jollofnews yesterday reported that United Nations (UN) delegation is scheduled to arrive in Nigeria, though it did not state when.
The UN team would also meet with Nigeria’s top government officials on the issue that has sent shock waves across the globe.
Four sets of UN sanctions have been slapped on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme including a ban on arms sales or supply directly or indirectly. Other nations are forbidden from obtaining weapons from Iran.
But 13 shipping containers disguised as ``building materials,” include assorted calibres of mortars and rocket launchers, as well as shells for a 23 mm anti-aircraft gun were seized at Nigeria’s Logos sea port.
An Iranian official was quoted as saying that the containers were heading to The Gambia, following which

once allies, the relations between the two countries
was severed following the arms catch
 The Gambia ended its smooth relations with Iran by issuing a 48-hour ultimatum to all Iranian representatives in the country to leave the country. The Gambia did not however explain the reason for its sudden move.
But an Iranian senior MP, Alaeddin Borujerdi, has accused Gambia of bowing to pressure from the United States, threatening that The Gambia will regret its decision.
Meanwhile Iran has earlier dismissed its connection with the weapons, accusing the international shipping company based in France - CMA CGM, but the shipping company said it had picked up the containers in which the weapons were hidden in the Southern Iranian Port of Bandar Abbas.
The shipment had a stop-over in Mumbai, India, before heading to Lagos.
Last Friday, Ajumogobia said Iranian officials had confirmed the consignment originated in their home country.
Also Iran, whose Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said the arms shipment was a “misunderstanding” that had been settled, is being cricitised for failing to elaborate on the nature of the misunderstanding or how it was resolved. And his was said to be the highest-level Iranian comment so far on the case.
Meanwhile four suspects – three Nigerians and an Iranian – are being tried in Nigeria in connection to the case, but they denied the charges.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Clock is Ticking Anti-Clockwise

The Gambia's development clock is
ticking in an abnormal, anticlockwise direction.
Unimpeachable reports have proven contrary to the sing-song that generally, the lot of Gambians has bettered over the years. Infact going by these reports, the beaming smile on the face of the smiling coast has turned wry. KissyKissymansa looks at how The Gambia’s development clock is ticking in an abnormal, anti-clockwise direction.

After the meeting of world leaders in 2000 in New York, USA, where they committed their nations to a series of time-bound pledges, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDs by 2015, the world sprang into action towards fulfilling these promises, dubbed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
              Ten years on now - less than five years to the 2015 deadline - 20 out of 28 developing countries, surveyed in ActionAid’s 2010 HungerFREE report are reported to have no chance to fulfilling the basic of the eight MDGs; to reduce extreme hunger by half by 2015. These include The Gambia, our mother land.
             Although the "impossibility" is common to the 20 developing countries, 17 African, The Gambia is yet among 12 of the 20 developing countries with a peculiar feature of not only being "way off track", but going backwards" in terms of reducing extreme poverty.
         Apparently, well before the coming into being of the millennium development goals, The Gambia recognised the need to address this problem.
        From the colonialist – despite their exploitative tendencies – to the first republic and now the second republic, steps have been taken to enhance the living conditions of Gambians.
      And like its predecessors, the current regime, in its drive to address among others, but primarily hunger and poverty, designed the national development blueprint, Vision 2020, in 1995/1996. It sets targets to reach before 2020.
      As part of the many devises geared towards meeting the goals set-out in Vision 2020, particularly on addressing hunger and poverty, the government under the leadership of president Jammeh, who took over in 1994, developed strategic documents – first Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA) and now Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper (PRSP) – both with the objective to monitoring and assessing the level of impact of the interventions being made to the effects, for effective implementation of the programmes.
    However, the economic conditions of the Gambian populace have been deteriorating for the past two decades with severe food, fuel and cash shortages that define the daily experiences.
From 1990 to 2005, the rate of hunger rose to almost 50 percent according to Action Aid’s report. Today, 63 percent of our households live on less than a dollar a day from previous 59 percent.
Consequently, according to Core welfare Indicator Survey jointly conducted by The Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), National Planning Commission (NPC) and PRO-PAG last year, 27 percent of Gambian children are malnourished.
     "Among the households interviewed 37.2 percent have food security, forty percent sometimes have difficulties in satisfying their food needs with 7.8 percent always has it and 23 percent seldom have such difficulty" the report states.
                                              Doomed to fail
Agree with Kissykissymansa or not, a country whose economy is singlehandedly micro-managed by one unaccountable individual is doomed to fail. Moreover, a government that is bent on suppressing the free flow of information, a government that compromises judicial and parliamentary independence is as well destined to doom.
      As manifested in Action aid’s report, Africa’s three top achievers - Ghana, Malawi and Mozambique - have already slashed the rate of poverty more than required and are punching their way above their weight demonstrating just what is possible with strong and sustained political will coupled with strong democratic institutions and frameworks, despite limited resources.
     In The Gambia’s case, agriculture, which is the mainstay of our economy, employing 65 percent of the population, providing for 70-80 percent of the country’s workforce and contributing to 29 percent of the country’s GDP, has been grossly neglected.
    Forget for now, the deafening so-called "back-to-the-land" calls instigated by the president and being echoed in all corners, because it does not translate to the reality on the ground.
    "Nowhere is it truer than in farming, where smallholder farmers tend to face numerous challenges to organisation, such as conflict, lack of funds, and age and gender discrimination," the reports states.
True to The Gambia, poverty is predominantly rural, and for far too many years, the rural poor have been ignored by the governments.
    Many of the poorest farmers are unable to access services adequately and are not organised in farmer groups. The cooperatives and producer organisation that used to give small farmers some organised voice in policy-making no longer exists. Women farmers continue to struggle to access and own productive assets such as land, despite being the major producers thanks to our bias traditional land tenure system. The short and erratic nature of our rainfall patterns have not been supported by introducing irrigation systems for farmers to be engaged year-round.
   More disappointing, the report highlighted, is that The Gambia reduced it budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector by 3.4 percent this year.
   If the reports in Farmers’ Eye, a column in Foroyaa newspaper are anything to go by, Gambian farmers are bracing up for another yearly ordeal of marketing their crops.
   From agriculture to trade, Gambia fell 5 points down in a latest global assessment report of ease of doing business, according to a recently published World Bank report. It ranks 146 out of 183 economies.
   For example, while it cost D200 ($7) and takes 1 to 3 months for the successful completion of an application for Ministerial Consent to transfer leasehold property in Gambia, a similar transaction in neighbouring Senegal is done at no cost and takes just 50 days.
   Going further, tourism, which is the country’s second largest revenue base, has witnessed diminishing returns for the past few years.
    For instance, the total number of tourist arrivals into the country dropped from 18, 597 in 2008 to 17, and 474 in 2009.
   With the ‘re-branding’ of the tourism sector, authorities are upbeat about improving on past years’ failures, yet there are expressions of fear as Britain, whose citizens accounts for about 50 percent of the total tourist arrivals, has taken severe austerity measures; cutting social benefits. This arouses suggestions of reduction in tourist arrivals from that destination.
    Going back to Action Aid’s report, the Gambia lacks strong social protection measures. Pension allowance for pensioners is far below their need.
   In the face of these bleak realities, the finance minister Monday presented the 2011 budget at the parliament amid souring domestic debt stock amounting to D7.8 billion from D6.9 billion a year earlier and a budget deficit of D733.6 million at end September 2010.