• Again, JAMMEH reappears, spits fire, says ECOWAS declaration of war an insults, vows to stay on, disgrace BUHARI, others

    02/Jan/2017 // 3085 Viewers

     

    Gambian leader, Yahya Jammeh, has accused West African regional body, ECOWAS, of declaring war against his country for refusal to step down at the end of his mandate this month.

    Jammeh, who accused ECOWAS of putting forces on alert in case he refused to step down, has vowed to stay in power despite losing a Dec. 1 election to rival Adama Barrow.

    He also promised to defend Gambia against any outside aggression, in a New Year speech broadcast on state TV.

    The veteran leader initially conceded defeat in the vote, then changed his mind days later – raising fears that regional powers might have to intervene to oust him. His mandate runs out on Jan. 19.

    Marcel de Souza, commission president for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said last week that the body had put standby forces on alert.
     
    In his speech, Jammeh decried “the resolution of ECOWAS on the current situation to implement the results of Dec 1, 2016 presidential election by whatever means possible”.

    He apparently acknowledged again that the poll did not go in his favour.

    “It is in effect a declaration of war and an insult to our constitution.

    “Let me make it very clear that we are ready to defend this country against any aggression.

    “My government will never opt for such confrontation but defending our sovereignty is a sacred duty for all patriotic Gambians,” he said.

    Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to concede after 22 years in power was initially seen as a moment of hope on a continent where autocratic leaders are becoming more entrenched.

    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped in as an ECOWAS mediator to offer Jammeh an “honorable exit”, but Jammeh said the bloc could no longer fulfill that role.

     


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  • Gambia: Crackdown and brutal repression in run up to elections

    02/Jun/2016 // 910 Viewers

     

    Authorities in Gambia must free dozens of political prisoners and end the brutal crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ahead of elections later this year or face suspension from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    Dangerous to Dissent: human rights under threat in Gambia, launched two days before ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government meet in Dakar and six months before Gambia’s presidential elections, outlines the brutal repression of opposition demonstrations in April and May 2016. Dozens of peaceful protesters and bystanders were beaten by police and arrested and 51 people, including the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and several members of the executive, are awaiting trial. At least 36 more people remain detained without charge and one man Solo Sandeng, the UDP National Organising Secretary, died in custody after having been tortured.

    “Gambia’s elections are just six months away and yet opposition members are arrested and beaten, journalists are muzzled, and civil society muted,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa

    “Gambia has a long and brutal history of repression of critical voices, and demonstrators such as Solo Sandeng have paid a high price for peaceful protest.”

    Nogoi Njie, a businesswoman arrested on 14 April and currently detained, described in an affidavit filed at the High Court how she herself was tortured at the NIA. She explained how she was beaten with hose pipes and batons by men clothed in black hoods and black gloves while water was poured over her. No thorough, impartial, independent and transparent investigation into Sandeng’s death has taken place, despite appeals by the United Nations, ECOWAS, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, European Union and United States. On 29 May President Jammeh told magazine Jeune Afrique that “People die in custody or during interrogations, it’s really common. This time, there is only one dead and they want investigations? No one can tell me what to do in my country.”

    Other recent cases highlighted in the report include the death in custody in February 2016 of union leader Sheriff Dibba, the arrest in October 2015 and enforced disappearance of Imam Sawaneh after he submitted a petition to the President, and the arrest and trial of independent journalist Alhagie Ceesay in July 2015 for sharing a photo on Whatsapp. 

    The report outlines patterns of violations since the last Presidential elections in November 2011, which ECOWAS refused to monitor due to “intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power, the lack of neutrality of state and para-statal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.” Since that time new laws have been introduced to further restrict the right to freedom of expression, such as laws repressing online dissent, and three media outlets have been closed on five different occasions. Dozens of journalists have fled the country because of persecution.

    Gambian authorities have long used the Public Order Act to prohibit gatherings of opposition parties, although a period of relaxation between April 2015 and April 2016 was observed before the most recent crackdown. Political opponents have also been arrested and tortured, including three members of the UDP imprisoned since 2013. 

    Civil society organizations, human rights defenders and even government officials who are perceived to dissent have been arbitrarily arrested and harassed, while the widespread practice and perception of surveillance adds to a climate of fear in which the majority of people dare not openly speak out against the government. 

    A civil society activist told Amnesty International: 

    “You don’t feel safe anywhere, even in your home. You don’t trust even your maids or drivers. You can pay someone $10 and they will give information. In public spaces you don’t speak about sensitive things or in public transport. You are trying to protect yourself and your family and want to keep safe.”

    The report documents how Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) regularly prints out telephone records of people without any judicial authorisation or oversight, and maintains a system of informants, to report on the activities of those under surveillance. 

    A journalist in exile told Amnesty International: “You don’t know who is going to report you. You don’t know who is behind you. You don’t know who is paid by the NIA to be an informant.” - Vanguard


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  • 'Undesirable' Liberians deported from US - BBC reports

    02/Nov/2016 // 2342 Viewers

     

    The US government has begun deporting scores of Liberians deemed "undesirable" because they have committed various crimes or offences. 

    The first batch of around 20 were flown into Monrovia, Liberia's capital, today.

    Liberia's ambassador to the US, Jeremiah Solunteh, told state radio that 53 of those to be deported have already "been processed" and are awaiting deportation. In the end between 100 and 200 will be deported.

    The Liberians are coming home just as tens of thousands of others rush to meet the 7 November deadline for playing the annual US government's diversity visa lotto. 

    It gives non-Americans an opportunity to live and work in the US. 

    Liberia was founded in the 19th Century by freed black slaves repatriated from the US following the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

    There are thousands of Liberians currently living in the US under the government's so-called Temporary Protection Status as a consequence of the civil war that ended 13 years ago.


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  • W’Africa suffering from Nigeria’s economic downturn - Patrice Talon, Beninoise President

    03/Aug/2016 // 769 Viewers

     

    (PUNCH) - The President of Benin Republic, Mr. Patrice Talon, has said all countries in the West African sub-region are suffering the negative effects of Nigeria’s economic downturn.

    Talon, who was on a one-day visit to Nigeria, spoke through an interpreter with State House correspondents shortly after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

    The visiting President observed that although Nigeria was blessed with enormous potential, the country had relied on oil for too long.
     
    He described Nigeria as the engine room of the sub region, warning that the engine should not be allowed to run down.

    Talon said it was time for Nigeria to go back to the basics and re-energise its economy.

    He said, “Nigeria has great resources and potential but unfortunately, it has relied on oil for long. Nigeria has not been able to explore all the potential. Other countries in the sub-region are suffering from this. This is the time to go back to our internal resources and draw from our potential.

    “The crisis hitting Nigeria is also hitting us. It is time to go back to the basics and develop our resources, energise our economy and move forward.

    “Nigeria is the engine room of our sub-region and this crisis should not be allowed to run down the engine.”

    He said during the meeting he had with Buhari, he enumerated some issues of common interest that included security and energy.

    On energy, he said while it was true that both countries were facing energy problem, Benin Republic needed Nigeria to address its own challenges.

    He said his country would also serve as a pleasure place for Nigeria because his government would invest in tourism and target Nigeria, which he noted, had a lot of middle class citizens.

    The visiting President also said Benin Republic would be made a centre of learning and his government would like to see students coming from Nigeria.

    “When you have a big metropolis like Nigeria, people will need a serene place for learning and Benin will provide that,” he said.

    Buhari said as part of moves to help Benin Republic address its energy problem, the two countries would make sure that the West African Gas Pipeline was made more efficient.

    He said, “This government is making all the efforts to stabilise the situation because the resources are there. The world knows that Nigeria has plenty of gas reserves, what we need to do is to stabilise the environment, so that the gas can be regularly pumped to the sub-region, through the infrastructure already in place.”


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  • World leaders in shock as JAMMEH remains adamant, resumes reign of terror

    03/Jan/2017 // 2939 Viewers

     

    Security forces in The Gambia have shut down two private radio stations, the main press union has said, amid a crisis over President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down.

    Head of The Gambia Press Union Emil Touray yesterday described the closure of Teranga FM and Hilltop Radio as a “slap in the face” for democracy.

    This is the first sign of a crackdown on the media since Mr Jammeh refused to accept defeat in the December 1 poll.
    He first took power in a coup in 1994.

    The Gambian strongman initially conceded to property developer Adama Barrow, but then launched court action to annul the result, saying the poll was marred by irregularities.

    The electoral commission said the poll was free and fair.
    Both radio stations were closed on Sunday.

    “People will not have access to information in this critical period of our history,” Mr Touray is quoted by Reuters as saying.
    Four National Intelligence Agency operatives and a police officer visited the offices of Teranga FM to demand its closure, a staff member told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    There has been no official comment from the government.

    Teranga FM manager Alagie Ceesay was arrested in July 2015 on charges of sedition and “publication of false news” – allegations he denied.
    The Gambia ranked 145 out of 180 countries in media campaign group Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

    It said there was “a climate of terror around anything remotely to do with journalism”.

    The UN and West African regional body Ecowas have urged Mr Jammeh to respect the will of the people and step down when his term ends on 19 January.

    Ecowas officials say that neighbouring Senegal’s troops are ready to intervene if Mr Jammeh refuses to hand power to Mr Barrow.
    Mr Jammeh said that any deployment would be an “act of war”.

    Mr Barrow caused a major upset by defeating Mr Jammeh by 43.3% to 39.6%.
    The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

    It is a popular tourist destination because of its beaches.


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  • Tension rises in West African sub-region as President Buhari begins actualization of ECOWAS mandate on GAMBIA

    03/Jan/2017 // 11108 Viewers

     

    PARIS, JANUARY 3, 2016: (DGW) Nigeria's leader and ECOWAS mediator for the Islamic Republic of The Gambia, President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly begun the process of the execution of his task as he discharges his mandate as the Economic Community of West African States, Press Agency has reported.

    This is coming on the heels of the just-concluded ECOWAS Summit held at the tail end of last year, on December 17, 2016, to be precise in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja.

    Press Agency further reports that the direction of the President, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, is leading a Mediation Support Team (MST), working with the team of the Co-Mediator, President Mahama.

    The committee has begun immediate consultations with leaders in the sub-region as well as with international partners.

    On the direction of the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, is leading a Mediation Support Team (MST), working with the team of the Co-Mediator, President Mahama. The committee has begun immediate consultations with leaders in the sub-region as well as with international partners.

    The main task of the Mediation Support Team is to undertake the first phase of the preparatory and support work that would lead to a high level meeting of the Mediator (President Buhari) and the stakeholders.

    Buhari remains optimistic that a peaceful resolution in line with the laws and constitution of the Gambia is possible before January 19.

    However, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh recently said the Economic Community of West African States’s decision to send troops into The Gambia to force him to accept defeat in last month’s presidential election, is “a declaration of war”.

    ECOWAS had said it would stage a military intervention, led by neighbouring Senegal, if Jammeh failed to step down and set a deadline of January 19, the day of Barrow’s planned inauguration.

    *Press Agency contributed to this news report

     


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  • Gambia's election chief slips into exile following death threats

    03/Jan/2017 // 2803 Viewers

     

    The man who oversaw the last presidential elections in the Gambia has reportedly fled the country following death threats on his life. Local media portals say his family confirmed that he was no longer in the Gambia but would also not disclose his location.

     
    Alieu Momar Njai, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had earlier vowed to defend the validity of the results he declared on December 2 last year. He was forced out of his office by security officials on December 13.
     
    Momar Njai has previously been defiant after President Yahya Jammeh’s questioned the validity of the election result, which he lost to opposition coalition candidate, Adama Barrow. Njai said the ruling party was likely to lose any poll petition arising from the elections.
     
    “If it goes to court, we can prove every vote cast. The election results were correct, nothing will change that,” he told Reuters weeks back.
     
    Jammeh’s refusal of the results largely rests on the IEC’s amendment of declared results five days after Barrow had been announced as president-elect. Of the two sets of results, the earlier one announced 24 hours after the polls showed a wide gap between Jammeh and Barrow. An amended one however showed a closer margin between the two.
     
    The original results were as follows:
     
    Adama Barrow won 263,515 votes (45.5%) 
    President Jammeh took 212,099 (36.7%)
    A third party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 102,969 (17.8%)
     
    The amended results published after the correction:
     
    Adama Barrow won 222,708 votes (43.3%)
    President Jammeh took 208,487 (39.6%)
    Mama Kandeh, won 89,768 (17.1%)
     
    The electoral offices were seized on the day that Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation was meeting with Jammeh and Barrow in Banjul. No reasons were given at the time.
     
    The premises was however vacated by the security recently with the government ordering employees of the IEC to go back to work. They cited an imminent plot to burn down the building as reason for the ‘occupation.’
     
    Meanwhile, the country’s Chief Justice has slated December 10 for the first hearing of an election petition filed by Jammeh’s party. This was after judges were imported in order to constitute a court panel. The hearing is nine days away from the investiture of Barrow – an event ECOWAS leaders have promised to honor. - africanews


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  • Nigerian Govt divided as Nigeria's Deputy Senate President foresees bloodshed, warns against military action in The Gambia

    03/Jan/2017 // 12146 Viewers

     Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

    Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has warned against military action in the Gambia following that country’s presidential election, saying such action could threaten the security of the entire sub-region.
    The warning is in a statement issued by the Senate deputy president’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr Uche Anichukwu on Tuesday in Abuja. Ekweremadu said such action could plunge the country into bloodletting and threaten the peace of the sub-region.

    The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh lost to Mr Adama Barrow in the Dec. 1, 2016 presidential election but insisted that he would not handover power on Jan. 18.

    Nigeria’s deputy president of the Senate then urged the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, as well as the international community to explore dialogue and to allow Gambian laws to prevail as a sovereign nation.

    Ekweremadu, who is a former Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Parliament), also called for sanctions, in line with the traditions and relevant Protocols of ECOWAS.

    According to him, sanctions should be considered in the event that dialogue and judicial options fail.

    He added that “from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire, among others, West Africa has seen so much bloodletting and political instability.

    “Heavy destruction of lives and property has been visited on the sub-region by insurgency and terrorism, which remain present danger to the peace and security of West Africa.

    “Instructively, what normally started like child’s play often resulted in protracted, but avoidable political upheavals and fratricidal wars.”

    The deputy president of the senate urged major stakeholders, particularly the ECOWAS of Heads of State and Government, to tread with caution.

    He called for respect of the laws of the country, which allowed for judicial intervention in electoral disputes.

    “We must all acknowledge the fact that Gambia is a sovereign state.

    “If her Constitution and electoral laws allow for judicial role in resolving electoral disputes, then the Gambian constitutional courts must be allowed to count in resolving the political impasse.

    “If the Gambian laws are preempted and her sovereignty breached, it could set a bad and crisis-triggering precedence.

    “The sub-region must uphold the rule of law for the sake of the peace, stability and prosperity of Gambia.

    “We must take all necessary steps as a sub-region to steer the West African nation and indeed the entire community away from any looming bloodshed and monumental destruction,’’ he said.

    However, Ekweremadu commended ECOWAS Heads of State and Government for the concern and commitment toward resolving the political situation in Gambia.

    He further commended the efforts made by President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the political situation in the country.

    He urged Gambian authorities to ensure the protection of the fundamental and political rights of all Gambians and the opposition, to avoid escalation of the crisis.


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  • Liberia opposition leader no longer wanted - Police

    03/Jun/2016 // 511 Viewers

     

    Police in Liberia announced Wednesday they are no longer seeking an opposition leader who went into hiding after alleging the existence of a government blacklist of opponents.

    Simeon Freeman, leader of the opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), spoke out in February after the mysterious death of leading government critic Harry Greaves.

    Police asked for Freeman to surrender himself for questioning after he said critics of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had been listed for “elimination” and alleged Greaves, the former head of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company, had enemies within government.

    In a statement, the National Police said it had been instructed “to drop all perceived claims and charges… and declare that Mr. Freeman is no longer wanted for questioning on concerns growing out of his utterances that the government of the Republic of Liberia had a list of politicians to eliminate.”

    MPC Chairman John Ballon told Anadolu Agency: “The only thing the government of Liberia needed to do was to come out with their charges and see if Simeon Freeman could not defend himself but they did not do that.”

    Credit: - Turkish Weekly


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  • Gambia must end brutal crackdown - Rights Group turn to ECOWAS leaders for help

    03/Jun/2016 // 680 Viewers

    Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria. Gambian activists and politicians have called on West Africa's economic body to take actions against Gambia for its brutal crackdown on rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the run-up to elections later in the year. The calls come as Amnesty International released a report Thursday, June 2, 2016, that says amid opposition protests, peaceful demonstrators and bystanders were beaten and arrested in April and May.

    (AP) Gambian activists and politicians have called on West Africa's economic body to take actions against Gambia for its brutal crackdown on rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the run-up to elections later in the year.

    The calls come as Amnesty International released a report Thursday that says amid opposition protests, peaceful demonstrators and bystanders were beaten and arrested in April and May. The group says 51 people, including the leader and executive members of the opposition United Democratic Party, await trial and at least 36 others have been detained without charge.

    Opposition party secretary Solo Sandeng died in custody after torture, the group said, demanding accountability for President Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power since 1994.

    "Gambia is already in bad state. I would recommend that targeted sanctions to be applied against President Jammeh and his close associates," women rights activist Fatoumata Tambajang said.

    Tambajang called on countries like Senegal and Nigeria to put maximum pressure on Jammeh to step down.

    Gambians are forced to face a choice between speaking out or remaining safe, Amnesty said. New laws that further restricted the right to freedom of expression have been introduced since November 2011 elections, and journalists have fled Gambia because of persecution.

    Civil society activists have said they can't trust anyone.

    Gambia, a part of the Economic Community Of West African States, must observe and comply with its protocol on democracy and good governance, Amnesty said, calling for its suspension from the body if no progress on human rights is made.

    Top leaders from the organization have met with Senegal President Macky Sall, the chairman of ECOWAS, to ensure strong actions before the body meets for a summit beginning June 4.

     


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