• The Gambia fashions itself as a kind of Islamic state

    11/Jan/2016 // 431 Viewers


    ITS arrival was less bloody, its ambitions less grand. But as 2015 drew to a close, and the world’s attention was fixed firmly on Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Gambia announced that it, too, was henceforth an Islamic state. 

    The president of the tiny west African nation, Yahya Jammeh, issued the proclamation, which came with no forewarning and seemingly on a whim, on December 11th, 2015. Mr Jammeh cited the wishes of the people (90% of Gambians are Muslim), and the need to distance the country from its “colonial legacy”. The Gambia now follows Mauritania as Africa’s second “Islamic Republic”, although the country’s secular constitution, ratified in 1996, remains unaltered. 

    On January 4th an executive order, leaked to the press, banned all female civil servants from leaving their hair uncovered during working hours. The national broadcaster has taken to referring to the Gambia as an “Islamic Republic” and the Supreme Islamic Council, a group of scholars, is to go around the country stirring up popular support for the decision. Legislation to enforce it will soon be introduced into parliament and the national flag will be changed to reflect the country’s new status, says the president.

    But key details are still lacking. It is not clear, for instance, whether Mr Jammeh intends to implement fully-fledged sharia (Islamic law), as he was rumoured to be planning in the early 2000s, or whether he plans to put the issue to a referendum. In his original declaration in December he assured non-Muslims that their rights would be protected, and that there would be no mandatory dress codes. Such promises already look thin in light of the January 4th order. 

    Mr Jammeh’s government already has one of the worst human-rights records on the continent. Gay people are persecuted: Mr Jammeh has publicly vowed to slit their throats. Dissidents are brutalised in inventive ways in torture chambers not far from The Gambia’s tourist beaches. On one occasion the security forces rounded up hundreds of villagers suspected of witchcraft after the president’s aunt grew sick. During interrogations, many of the female “witches” were raped, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Now that Mr Jammeh is cloaking his regime in Islam, “the non-Muslim community is beginning to get worried,” says Sidi Sanneh, a former Gambian diplomat and prominent dissident. 

    Mr Jammeh’s motives are difficult to discern. Some regard the announcement as mere grandstanding, in keeping with his habit of erratic policymaking and provocative public statements. In 2007, for example, he announced that he had found a herbal cure for AIDS. And in 2013 he pulled the Gambia out of the Commonwealth, saying it was a “neocolonial institution”.

    “The government doesn’t even have the know-how to make the country into an Islamic state,” says Imam Baba M. Leigh, a Muslim leader in exile. As if to confirm this, Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice-president, urged the Supreme Islamic Council to carry out research into the exact requirements of an Islamic Republic, during a meeting on January 5th. 

    But there is likely more than just caprice behind Mr Jammeh’s decision. The economy is in dire straits, especially in the aftermath of west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, which has crippled the tourist industry. The Treasury is all but empty. Mr Jammeh’s Islamic gestures seem aimed at winning the support of Arab Gulf states, most notably Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, whose cash and investment the president is thought to crave. There is little hope of him getting much support from the West. In December 2014, for example, the EU suspended some €13m ($14.2m) of development aid because of human-rights abuses.

    Domestic politics may have also played a role. Since coming to power in a coup in 1994, Mr Jammeh has sought to legitimise his rule by invoking Islam, says Dr Marloes Janson of the School of Oriental and African Studies. The beginning of 2016 marks the start of a new electoral cycle, though Mr Jammeh faces little risk of being sacked by voters. He has won four elections in the past, with the help of some judicious rigging. The opposition are cowed. The Gambia is less an Islamic Republic than an absolute monarchy.






    The Economist

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  • JAMMEH calls for 'peaceful resolution - BBC reports

    11/Jan/2017 // 3005 Viewers


    PARIS, JANUARY 11, 2016: (DGW) THERE  appears to be a peaceful resolution to the ongoing political impasse in The Gambia as the country's longstanding ruler, President Yahya Jammeh reportedly appointed a mediator general, BBC is reporting.

    This was disclosed in a nationwide address and assured all of a peaceful resolution saying he'd instructed the justice ministry and parliament to come up with an amnesty law to avoid any "witch hunt".

    He called all to forgive each other, especially the political class.

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  • Again, JAMMEH backpedals, vows not to step down till court rules - BBC reports

    11/Jan/2017 // 1711 Viewers


    Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has said he will not step down before a Supreme Court decision on disputed elections, a ruling now not expected until May.

    In a nationwide TV broadcast, the longstanding ruler also reiterated his concern at "foreign interference".

    Regional mediators, led by Nigeria's president, are expected in The Gambia on Friday to urge him to accept defeat following December's election.

    President-elect Adama Barrow says he will be inaugurated next week.
    Mr Jammeh, who initially accepted defeat in the 1 December poll, lodged a case before the Supreme Court after the electoral commission changed some results.

    But the commission insists the outcome was not affected by an initial error and property developer Mr Barrow narrowly won.

    Mr Jammeh seized power in the tiny country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.

    The president made his speech on Tuesday evening after it was announced that the Supreme Court hearing would be delayed until May because of a shortage of judges, who mostly come from neighbouring countries.

    The chief justice suggested mediation would be the best way forward as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and other West African leaders head to the country in another attempt to end the deadlock.

    But Mr Jammeh said his cabinet and the National Assembly would remain in place "to ensure the rule of law is upheld" pending the court's ruling.
    "[Under the constitution], only the Supreme Court can review our challenge and only the Supreme Court can declare anyone president," he said.
    'Smear campaign'

    The president lashed out at the UN, the African Union and the West African regional body Ecowas for their "hasty resolutions" given the peaceful nature of the dispute so far.

    "Our review and investigation have revealed an unprecedented level of foreign interference in our elections and internal affairs. And also, a sustained smear campaign, propaganda and misinformation," he said.
    The Gambia would not allow any organisation, treaty or law to supersede its constitution, he added.

    The 51-year-old leader also appointed a national mediator to meet "all parties to resolve any mistrust and issues" and draft an amnesty bill to ensure there was "no witch-hunt so that we can restore a climate of confidence and security".

    The Gambia, a popular tourist destination, has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

    *Original post appeared first on BBC

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  • GAMBIA: National jubiliation as social life thrives again in post-Jammeh Gambia

    12/Apr/2017 // 1707 Viewers


    PARIS, APRIL 12, 2017: (DGW) Gambia's music and musicians are heaving a sigh of relief following Jammeh's dethronement. 

    Music is one sure way to expose the ills of the day and this is put into use in most advanced societies but the reverse was reportedly the case while exiled Jammeh held sway in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia.

    In this piece below by Ali Hameed, a columnist with Al Jazeera, musicians could now freely express themselves following Jammeh's dethronement and the music industry which almost went into extinction while Jammeh was in power is beginning to thrive again, a survey conducted round the country reveals.

    Happy reading:

    "If you don't stand for anything. You will fall for anything. Anything, anything. Anything, anything," blast the speakers of a yellow and green taxi in the Gambian capital Banjul as cars jostle for space during the afternoon rush hour.

    "Twenty years Yahya done for me anything. Anything, anything. Anything, anything," a rapper shouts angrily as the dreadlocked driver and his passengers rhyme along.

    A short distance away in Kairaba Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare, on a newspaper stand beside the road, the cover of G-life magazine reads ANYTHING. It is a reference to the song that was playing in the taxi.

    Big Faa is the rapper behind it. A 30-year-old father-of-one, he penned the protest song that has grabbed the nation's attention as a way to share his frustrations following more than two decades of rule by The Gambia's former president, Yahya Jammeh.

    Political raps

    "Since I was a child I saw a lot of things but I could not open my mouth," he explains as he prepares for a show in Banjul. "Anyone could report you to Jammeh's people and you might not be seen again."

    "For example, the drug squads who were supposed to stop people from selling drugs were themselves selling weed and other drugs. If you said anything they will arrest you," Big Faa adds.

    Jammeh, who came to power through a military coup in 1994, was forced from power by the regional force ECOWAS in January after refusing to concede defeat in December's election. He went into exile in Equatorial Guinea and many Gambians now say they feel free to express themselves for the first time in decades.

    "My latest song, Anything, is about corruption and how it stops us from moving forward. It also talks about things like prostitution and how when the girls bring the money from prostitution home no one says anything," he says, holding a book in one hand and a mic in the other. 

    'Jammeh feared musicians'

    Unlike neighbouring Senegal, which has a vibrant music scene, the industry in The Gambia has been heavily restricted and underfunded. Many musicians who felt unable to freely express themselves went into exile.

    MC Mbaye is another artist breaking his silence after years of staying out of the limelight in Banjul. He is hoping to capitalise on the country's new-found freedom. In a two-bedroom house outside the city he is writing and recording a mix tape that he hopes will put him at the top of the country's music charts.

    "You could not make money as a musician unless you were singing songs praising Jammeh," he says. "He corrupted some musicians by giving them money and they made songs for him and also performed for him.

    "The whole country has no music school or a good standard studio. Jammeh saw us as a threat and feared we will challenge him," Mbaye adds.''

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  • GAMBIANS, NIGERIANS, SENEGALESE, others sold as slaves in LIBYA - International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports

    12/Apr/2017 // 1668 Viewers


    PARIS, APRIL 12, 2017: (DGW) The United Nations (UN) revealed yesterday that hundreds of migrants from the Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal and other West African countries passing through Libya enroute Europe are being bought and sold in what it described as modern-day slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.

    This is coming less than two weeks after it was announced that about 128 Nigerians were drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

    UN migration agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said West African migrants who survived the barbaric system recounted how they were traded in garages and car parks in the southern city of Sabha, one of Libya’s main people-smuggling hubs.

    The agency stated that those it interviewed disclosed that helpless migrants are purchased for between $200 and $500 and are held on average for two or three months.

    Head of the IOM’s Libya mission, Othman Belbeisi, who spoke in Geneva said migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices.
    “Migrants are being sold in the market as a commodity. Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger and stronger”, Belbeisi noted.

    The refugees and migrants, mostly from Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia, are captured as they head north towards Libya’s mediterranean coast where some try to catch boats for Italy.

    Along the way, they fall prey to an array of armed groups and people-smuggling networks that often try to extort extra money in exchange for allowing them to continue.

    Most of them are used as day labourers in construction or agriculture. Some are paid while others are forced to work without getting any money.
    The UN migration agency said, “Over the past few days, I have discussed these stories with several who told me horrible stories. 

    They all confirmed the risks of been sold as slaves in squares or garages in Sabha, either by their drivers or by locals who recruit the migrants for daily jobs in town, often in construction, and later, instead of paying them, sell their victims to new buyers.

    “Some migrants- mostly Nigerians, Ghanaians and Gambians – are forced to work for the kidnappers/slave traders as guards in the ransom houses or in the ‘market’ itself.”

    The IOM said it had spoken to one Senegalese migrant who was held in a Libyan’s private house in Sabha with about 100 others who were beaten as they called their families to ask for money for their captors. He was then bought by another Libyan, who set a new price for his release.

    Noting that some of those who cannot pay their captors are reportedly killed or left to starve to death, the IOM said when migrants die or are released, others are purchased to replace them.

    Experts said except something very drastic is done, the disturbing trend has by implication re-opened the sad memory of Africa’s horrendous past, where an estimated 18 million, mostly Africans, were transported to Europe and America for slavery and other forms of servitudes, a situation analysts regularly allude to, to explain the retrogressive position African continent found itself today.

    Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the crossing in each of the past three years.

    So far this year, an estimated 26,886 migrants have crossed to Italy, over 7,000 more than during the same period in 2016.

    Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed action ousted the charismatic Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi.

    When contacted yesterday evening, the presidency said that its hands were tight on who to report to in Libya because that country is in chaos.

    Senior special assistant to the president on Diaspora matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said, “Because Libya is itself in chaos, who do you report to? We keep advising our citizens while evacuating those trapped”

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  • Gambians March For Democracy - Leadership Newspapers Editors

    12/Apr/2017 // 780 Viewers


    PARIS, APRIL 12, 2017: (DGW) The Gambians must have put behind them the sad episode created by their former leader, Yahya Jammeh, that almost led to a civil war but for the timely intervention of ECOWAS heads of state. 

    Going to the polls to elect those who will fill the 53-seat National Assembly recently is proof of that. That the election took place in a generally peaceful atmosphere is a resounding salute to the undying spirit of the average Gambian and a plus for the democratic culture that the tiny country is striving to nurture.

    A 20- member ECOWAS Election Observation Mission that visited some 13 polling stations in Central Banjul on the Election Day, expressed its satisfaction with the smooth and peaceful manner the people exercised their franchise which is a demonstration of the commitment of Gambian voters.

    After the Barrow-Jammeh face-off that was checked by leaders from the sub- regional body, it was no surprise that there was low voter turn-out a situation made worse by insufficient sensitisation and voter education on the importance of parliamentary and local government elections.
    The same trend was reported in many parts of the country. 

    However, despite that, a high sense of duty, enthusiasm and commitment was exhibited by some Gambian voters, especially the elderly who did their utmost to show good example to the younger generation. Gambia’s peculiar voting method involves the use of glass marbles as ballot paper and metal drums as ballot boxes. 

    For the parliamentary polls, the ruling coalition of seven political parties presented individual candidates and each party candidate and independent had their pictures on metal drums.

    ECOWAS’ interest in the election is understandable and also justified the Mission it sent to monitor the election. It commended the high degree of professionalism and sense of patriotic duty exhibited by the Independent Electoral Commission and its agents, the Police Service, and political parties/candidates, all through the voting, counting, and results collation processes which it said had played up the commitment of The Gambian people to a functional democracy.

    Now that the election is over, won and lost, it is pertinent to admonish the newly elected lawmakers on the necessity of seeing their election as a unique opportunity and a call to national service for the wellbeing of all Gambians and the progress and development of the new Gambia. It is in that context that they should exhibit restraint as they savour their success at the polls just as it emphasises the relevance of exercising magnanimity in victory.

    Similarly, unsuccessful candidates must have the humility to accept that in any election there must be a winner and a loser. On that basis, patriotism demands that they accept the outcome of the polls as the will of their constituents and, in the event of genuine grievances, to resort exclusively to legal means to seek redress.

    The Gambia, like many West African countries, lack the resources needed to attend to every democratic arrangement prior to the election proper. Such paucity of resources create their own inconveniences such as low voter turnout observed in the electoral process. To turn the situation for the better in future elections, it is strongly recommended that the electoral commission, political parties and other civil society groups put more efforts to educate and sensitise the citizens on the importance of active participation in all national elections.

    Without putting that country down, it is a fact that it has its own challenges when it comes to financing democratic activities to a standard that will make it internationally acceptable. Staggered elections everywhere demand enormous resource input which even the richer countries in the sub region struggle to provide.

    Therefore, it is our opinion that conscious effort must be made to organise cost effective and cost efficient elections realising the fact that there will be life after the polls. 

    Invariably, it is expedient to suggest that in the future, serious consideration must be given to the viability of joint elections for all the offices. Holding both legislative and presidential elections on the same day, in our view, should be one of the ways of achieving the same goal without having to liquidate the treasury. 

    Overall, we commend the Gambian electorate for preferring democracy with all its inadequacies as exemplified by the Jammeh experience. They must accept that it is a learning process and such false steps are inevitable.

    *Credit: The post 'Gambians March For Democracy' appears first on Leadership newspapers

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  • LIBERIA: Letter from the UN Sec-Gen to the President of the Security Council -Sustaining peace and securing development: Liberia peace-building plan

    12/Apr/2017 // 1181 Viewers


    I refer to operative paragraph 13 of Security Council resolution 2333 (2016), in which the Council requested me to prepare, within 90 days from the adoption of the resolution, a report that sets out a well-developed peacebuilding plan to direct the role of the United Nations system and other relevant partners in supporting the transition of Liberia. The Council also emphasized, in this regard, the important convening role of the Peacebuilding Commission in the process of developing the plan.

    I am pleased to share with you herewith the above-mentioned plan, as well as a transmittal letter dated 20 March 2017 from Marjon Vashti Kamara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, and Farid Zarif, my Special Representative for Liberia and Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) (see annex).

    The plan was developed through an intensive consultative process led by UNMIL, in close coordination with the Government of Liberia and international partners, as well as Liberian political parties and civil society organizations. Its broad national ownership will ensure the continued commitment of the stakeholders to the plan following the assumption of authority by a new Government subsequent to the October 2017 general elections.

    The plan is fully aligned with the peacebuilding priorities of Liberia, which are provided in an annex to the plan, as reflected in the Agenda for Transformation, as well as the statement of mutual commitments on peacebuilding in Liberia, concluded on 19 April 2016 by the Government of Liberia and the Peacebuilding Commission, and other similar frameworks.

    The plan provides a timetable for the transition of Liberia. Phase I runs until March 2018 and specifies concrete steps to be taken to ensure successful completion of the mandate of the Mission by that date. During phase II, which begins in April 2018, longer-term peacebuilding priorities will be integrated into development frameworks to support national efforts to mitigate and prevent conflict. The plan was informed by the initial findings of the ongoing capacity-mapping exercise for the United Nations country team, which indicate that the departure of UNMIL will result in a reduced United Nations technical capacity to support peacebuilding and conflict prevention. In this regard, I encourage the Security Council to consider proposals in the peacebuilding plan to help sustain the peace agenda in Liberia.

    The plan was facilitated through tripartite cooperation between the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union, as well as thorough consultations with the Peacebuilding Commission.

    It is important to underline that the plan contains specific provisions related to the support to be provided by the Economic Community of West African States, as well as the World Bank. We also look forward to active engagement by other regional and subregional organizations, including the African Union.

    The plan constitutes another important step in the transition of Liberia, and I congratulate the Government of Liberia, UNMIL and other partners for their impressive efforts. The plan provides for a robust and specific framework of cooperation between the United Nations and the wider international community in support of the Government of Liberia and other national stakeholders. If successfully implemented, this plan could serve as a model in other similar post-conflict situations.

    I would be grateful if you could bring this letter and its annex to the attention of the members of the Security Council.

    (Signed) António Guterres

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  • Okonjo-Iweala gets double national honours from Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia (PHOTOS INCLUDED)

    12/Dec/2016 // 663 Viewers


    DAILY TRUST: A former Nigeria's minister of Finance Mrs Ngozi Okonja-Iweala has been awarded with national honours in Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire.

    According to Ngozi, the honours where conferred on her  for her works on development in supporting the two countries and Africa.
    She was decorated by Côte d'Ivoire's President Alassane Ouattara and Liberia's President Johnson-Sirleaf.
    Ngozi across her social media platforms wrote: "I'm grateful to His Excellency, President Alassane Ouattara, and Her Excellency, President Johnson-Sirleaf, for the National Honors of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia conferred on me for works on development supporting the two countries and Africa."
    Ngozi 1

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  • War criminal Charles Taylor 'making call from UK prison' - BCC reports

    12/Feb/2017 // 2142 Viewers

    Africa Confidential also reported that Taylor had been threatening politicians he opposes in other phone calls.

    Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, jailed for war crimes, is reported to have phoned political allies from inside a UK maximum security prison.

    A recording of the alleged call, in which he reportedly advises his party members on tactics, was obtained by Africa Confidential magazine.

    He is serving a 50-year sentence for supporting rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone.

    The Ministry of Justice said it does not comment on individual cases.

    Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima, an NGO which builds legal cases against alleged Liberian war criminals, said the allegation was "extremely worrying".

    The call, which has been heard by the BBC, is thought to have been made from a landline inside HMP Frankland, near Durham, on 28 January, Taylor's 69th birthday

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  • 'Cheap propaganda' behind Ghana missing cars claim - BBC

    12/Feb/2017 // 274 Viewers

    The NDC says 641 cars were accounted for with the transition team


    The party of Ghana’s former President John Mahama has denied it is responsible for the alleged disappearance of more than 200 cars which the new government has said are missing from the presidency.

    In a statement, the NDC said the allegations were “false, baseless and without merit”.

    The party also accused the new administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo of trying to “demonise members of the previous administration for cheap partisan propaganda purposes”.

    As part of the transition process, both the incoming government’s assets and logistics committees were given a list of all vehicles at the presidency, the NDC statement said.

    A total of 641 vehicles were listed and properly accounted for, it added.

    A list was attached to the NDC statement giving each vehicle’s make, registration number, chassis number and condition.

    Mr Akufo-Addo defeated Mr Mahama in elections held at the beginning of December.


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