Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year’s Message to the Gambia Armed Forces


The year is slowly but surely edging to an end. With it so many failed hopes, barely realized hopes and unaccomplished dreams fade way. There is no such country where this situation is so realistic than it is in Gambia, all because of a failed and devious political system being shoved into the throat of the masses.
The responsibility to put a stop to this status in Gambia rests in every one who genuinely cares about freedom and the universal human rights. This piece is my humble contribution towards this in the form of a New Year message to the men and women of the Gambia Armed Forces, in pre-emption of their commander-in-chief’s murderous instructions as a New Year message.
It is incumbent on you the men and women of the GAF to beat Jammeh here to put you into sense and make you reflect on the suffering you yourselves have undergone, and have been undergoing in his hands during the past years. My fervent hope is that after digesting this message you will act, as that is the only sure way to halt the ceaseless frenzy of mistreatment that characterizes your professional ranks these days, and, in doing so, you will be accomplishing a genuine mission for your people, the people you are supposed to serve in the noble profession of yours, by salvaging our nation from further chaos.
The recent reshuffling and purging of the Gambian army goes to confirm that Jammeh’s first constituency as president is not the entire populace but the armed forces. As far as he is concerned, the most important job in the land is soldiering. He has no doubt made it a habit to reiterate this at any slightest given opportunity. This is because not only does he wants the populace to believe him, but perhaps more importantly he wants to impress you the soldiers that only he [Jammeh] has your interest, naively overlooking the fact that by treating the top brass of the force in his unbecoming way he is in fact putting the integrity of all of you at stake.
By Jammeh’s own admission, close to 14 million dollars have been pumped, according to him, to maintain the already flamboyant life styles of your officers. You all know that in today's Gambia if you attain the rank of a captain and you are willing to be a trigger-happy, gun-wielding soldier, ready to terrorize your own defenseless civilians on the orders of Jammeh, what he calls loyalty, you are almost certainly going to ride on 4x4 pick ups with tinted glasses and roam the streets with impunity.
But hey, ask yourselves, what has become the fate of all those who went through such unenviable path – Musa Jammeh, Tumbul Tamba, and just recent Bombardier and Gibril Bojang, just to name a few.
By allocating huge amount of unaccounted monies collected from rogue states such as Venezuela and Iran to you, Jammeh has enticed a preferentially treated section of the army into total submission and transformed its officers to zombies and robots good enough only to obey his orders in exterminating whatever sign of divergent view that emerges from any end of the Gambian society. He would shout at the top of the sky that soldiers sacrifice to keep the country as the nation sleeps, and all other nonsense and unrealistic praises, but in actual fact what Jammeh needs from your total submission is to safe guard his selfish, paranoid head and throne. As long as you the army will continue to do his killings and harassment for him, Jammeh will accord you all the temporary comforts of life at the expense of the majority of people whose freedom he seized and whose dignity and rights he continues to erode. And remember, these people are your own flesh and blood. The leader is worthless without the complete happiness of the people. The general upliftment in salaries and other benefits that Jammeh is claiming to have given you the army does not come without a prize. He wants you to passively obey him and swim in temporal wealth while he plunges knife into the hearts of the citizens.
After all he used soldiers to shoot 14 innocent students, he terrorizes his political opponents and he even boast of sending fellow soldiers six feet deep into their graves. What callous act by such a dangerous and beastly man.
Today the Gambian soldier is reduced to a robot, not even able to say a word about his job or even name President Jammeh in public, among his family or among his own colleagues. No one talks to anyone about the job in the barracks, where everyone lives under perpetual fear, careful of one’s movement and associates, all because one man wants to watch over your deeds, words or movements, so that he can take you out any time he feels like you are becoming to think like a human being. This situation in Gambia is only reminiscent to the excruciating days of the holocaust, or the oppressive Stalinist era. This puts the man, Jammeh, on the same rank with the devilish Hitler, Stalin and their kinds in history.
Let me at this point make it clear that I am not against soldiers, and certainly no Gambian is. You are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. Rather, I am particularly against the habitual bastardization of the true spirit of the role of the armed forces by turning it into a mere militia group and put to the murderous service of only one man who has shown enough evidence of blood thirstiness. I think even soldiers can bear me witness that this stupid system is bloody from the root to the top most branch.
Let me ask you, my dear soldiers, how long are you going to sit by while this monster swallow each of you one by one? Each time Jammeh humiliates, kills or locks up an officer, others are ready to jump to fill his place with happiness, only to be shown the same path of jungle justice. When are we going to learn a lesson from the fate of those before us and put a stop to this nonsense, ones and for all? Are we not aware that if we come together we can end this madness in one hour and then Gambians will live in peace for the rest of our lives?
I am not a soldier but intelligence sources told me how Lang Tombong crushed the coup of 2006 only to be dumped, humiliated and almost certainly heading to jail. Now consider these, the same men who sits and drink Attaya with the disgraced General are being sworn in to succeed him until their turn comes too to follow suit.
Your Oga will use you to do all the dirty things for him, until you your selves become Mr dirty and then he gets rid of you when he feels you have no bargaining power. Why is everyone afraid of a mortal human being who kills innocent human beings at will?
I hope that you will take advantage of the New Year to get your self and your dear country from the clutches of this satanic monster.
By the way, merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Deyda Hydara, a martyr for the cause of justice



A Memorial by Yusupha Cham:
December 16th, 2009, marks five solid years since so far ‘unidentified’ gunmen stalked my former boss, Deyda Hydara, on a dark and lonely street of Kanifing, and rained three bullets into his skull before taking off in a taxi, delighted that they had completed their diabolic mission.
My apologies if I arouse anyone feeling of grief with my recollections of what happened that fateful night. I, too, hate to remember this day; certainly not because of lack of love for my former boss, but because the thought of the manner those cowards of murderers took him out brings me incalculable feeling of sorrow blended with anger. What makes it even more agonizing for me is the thought that I could possibly have been one of the beleaguered passengers who witnessed Deyda’s tragic killing if, by what I can only attribute to sheer luck, I had not turned down an offer of a ride in his car on that fateful night of our anniversary. I had asked for permission to leave for home early, and it followed that Deyda had insisted that no staff member should go home until the party was definitely over, promising to give everyone a ride home in his car if need be, no matter how late in the night it might have been.
I was however determined to get home early and in the middle of the laughter and celebration, I sneaked my way out. If I had waited and failed to get the normal transports to my Wellingara home, Deyda would certainly have made good his promise and took me home, just as he had done in previous times. Imagine how I would have felt witnessing that horrific act; that is if I was lucky enough to have escaped it unhurt.
The shocking effect of that dastardly and criminal act on the faces of journalists on the day following Deyda’s assassination was visibly distressing. For the first time I saw elderly members of the Gambian society weeping uncontrollably in public.
As his sports reporter, I spent well over four years working with Deyda, meeting him every morning and sharing his great experience of work and life in Gambia. I always found his stories about life in Gambia very interesting and informative. To my greatest delight, he, alongside Pap Saine, happened to be well endowed with knowledge in Gambian sports and I was always their devoted audience whenever our lunch time conversations got underway.
Throughout those years I discovered a uniquely strong and resolute stance in the public life of the man who was apparently destined to leave an everlasting mark on the global crusade for justice; and his records explicate this very well, as he really fought for the cause of peace, justice and fair play, and in doing this he never for once got deterred by a single grain of fear.
For legal reasons, we consider the killers of Deyda as unidentified. However, the cruel irony is that if you knew the man and his work, which goes with his fearless stance against oppression, you are miles into finding the clues as to who actually his killers are.
Firstly, I have read in dozens of crime books, from James Hardly Chase to Robert Ludlum, that the quickest way to find a killer is to first look for the motivating factor. Who would have motivation, meaning a good reason, for good or bad cause, to kill a person? In doing this one might have to start with the style of life and work of the victim to glean out a reason why he made enemies and with whom. Even (as it is in the minds of all decent men and women), the greatest suspect in Deyda’s murder, Yahya Jammeh, knew this formula because when he attempted to fool the world by pretending that he was investigating the puzzle, he came out with a report that suggested Deyda's private life could have something to do with his death.
But come to think of it, Deyda Hydara commented critically on all matters of government he deemed bad, a government which is headed by a ruler who is on recording, threatening to bury his critics 6ft deep and closing and burning press houses?
Which group of people in Gambia is armed and freely roams the streets, trigger happy, and drunken in convoys? Which group of persons is capable of killing innocent and unarmed children, only to coin a big lie, claiming that the children were armed? My country men, the question as to who has the motivation and wherewithal to kill Deyda is rhetorical in light of the above.
The trial of the famous six Gambian journalists over the famous GPU press release, presented an underlying reality in that it offered the wider world the opportunity to get an insight into what operates in this small and besieged nation within the claws of a defiant dictator. The press release that provoked that unwarranted response from Yahya Jammeh and his mercenary-infested judicial institution is right in all ways to say that Jammeh killed Deyda Jammeh because whether they said it in public or in their bedrooms, all genuine and right thinking minds in the Gambia; soldiers, school children, market women, farmers, etc., will all agreed that only Yahya Jammeh and his criminal thugs have the guns and carry out all the killings and disappearances in the country, in utter disregard for the country’s constitution.
If there existed any armed group in the Gambia other than Jammeh's cruel and murderous thugs, we would have known that from the paranoid and lousy heavy handed reaction of his troops as we have seen in the Kartong and Farrafenie attacks.
As I remember Deyda Hydara, therefore, I pray and hope that the lies that Jammeh is peddling about the existence of another armed group becomes true and chase him and his thuggish group from our good country.
Rest in peace, Deyda; and be rest assured that good people in Gambia and the world will continue to pursue Jammeh to his grave to avenge your death. It is just a matter of time.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Gambia Continues to Make News in Press Freedom Repression


COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS
CPJ’s annual prison census 2009:
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 9 out of 10 detained without charge
New York, December 8, 2009—On December 1, a total of 25 journalists were imprisoned in Sub-Saharan Africa in retaliation for their journalism, and nearly 90 percent of these journalists were detained without charges in secret detention facilities, according to an annual census of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Countries as wide ranging as Eritrea, Iran, and the United States were on the list of nations who had imprisoned journalists without charge.
With at least 19 journalists behind bars, Eritrea by far leads the list of shame of African nations that imprison journalists. Eritrea holds this dubious distinction since 2001when the authorities abruptly closed the private press by arresting at least ten editors without charge or trial. The Eritrean government has refused to confirm if the detainees are still alive, even when unconfirmed online reports suggest that three journalists have died in detention. CPJ continues to list these journalists on its 2009 census as a means of holding the government responsible for their fates. In early 2009, the government arrested at least six more journalists from state media suspected of having provided information to news Web sites based outside the country.
Eritrea’s neighbor, Ethiopia ranked second among African nations with journalists in jail. Four journalists were held in Ethiopian prisons, including two Eritrean journalists who are detained in secret locations without any formal charges or legal proceedings since late 2006. The Gambia, with its incommunicado detention of reporter Ebrima Chief Manneh since July 2006, and Cameroon, which has imprisoned the editor of a newspaper since September 2008, completes the list of imprisoned journalists for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Worldwide, a total of 136 reporters, editors, and photojournalists were behind bars, an increase of 11 from the 2008 tally. The survey also found that freelancers now make up nearly 45 percent of all journalists jailed across the globe.
China continued to be the world’s worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 11 consecutive years. Iran, Cuba, Eritrea, and Burma round out the top five jailers from among the 26 nations that imprison journalists. Each nation has persistently placed among the world’s worst in detaining journalists.
At least 60 freelance journalists are behind bars worldwide, nearly double the number from just three years ago. CPJ research shows the number of jailed freelancers has grown along with two trends: The Internet has enabled individual journalists to publish on their own, and some news organizations, watchful of costs, rely increasingly on freelancers rather than staffers for international coverage. Freelance journalists are especially vulnerable to imprisonment because they often do not have the legal and monetary support that news organizations can provide to staffers.
“The days when journalists went off on dangerous assignments knowing they had the full institutional weight of their media organizations behind them are receding into history,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Today, journalists on the front lines are increasingly working independently. The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable.”
The number of online journalists in prison continued a decade-long rise, CPJ’s census found. At least 68 bloggers, Web-based reporters, and online editors are imprisoned, constituting half of all journalists now in jail. Print reporters, editors, and photographers make up the next largest professional category, with 51 cases in 2009. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest.
The number of journalists imprisoned in China has dropped over the past several years, but with 24 still behind bars the nation remains the world’s worst jailer of the press. Of those in jail in China, 22 are freelancers. The imprisoned include Dhondup Wangchen, a documentary filmmaker who was detained in 2008 after recording footage in Tibet and sending it to colleagues overseas. A 25-minute film titled “Jigdrel” (Leaving Fear Behind), produced from the footage, features ordinary Tibetans talking about their lives under Chinese rule. Officials in Xining, Qinghai province, charged the filmmaker with inciting separatism.
Most of those imprisoned in Iran, the world’s second-worst jailer, were swept up in the government’s post-election crackdown on dissent and the news media. Of those, about half are online journalists. They include Fariba Pajooh, a freelance reporter for online, newspaper, and radio outlets. Radio France International reported that she was charged with “propagating against the regime” and pressured to make a false confession.
“Not long ago, Iran boasted a vigorous and vital press community,” CPJ’s Simon added. “When the government cracked down on the print media, journalists migrated online and fueled the rise of the Farsi blogosphere. Today, many of Iran’s best journalists are in jail or in exile, and the public debate has been squelched alongside the pro-democracy movement.”
Cuba, the third-worst jailer, is holding 22 writers and editors in prison, all but two of whom were rounded up in Fidel Castro’s massive 2003 crackdown on the independent press. Many have seen their health deteriorate in inhumane and unsanitary prisons. The detainees include Normando Hernández González, who suffers from cardiovascular ailments and knee problems so severe that even standing is difficult. Hernández González was moved to a prison hospital in late October.
With Eritrea as the world’s fourth-worst jailer, Burma is the fifth with nine journalists behind bars. Those in custody include the video-journalist known publicly as “T,” who reported news for the Oslo-based media organization Democratic Voice of Burma and who helped film an award-winning international documentary, “Orphans of the Burmese Cyclone.” Journalism is so dangerous in Burma, one of the world’s most censored countries, that undercover reporters such as “T” are a crucial conduit to the world.
The Eurasian nations of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan placed sixth and seventh on CPJ’s dishonor roll. Uzbekistan is holding seven journalists, among them Dilmurod Saiid, a freelancer who exposed government agricultural abuses. Azerbaijan is jailing six reporters and editors, including investigative journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, a 2009 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee. A seventh Azerbaijani journalist, Novruzali Mamedov died in state custody in August, after authorities denied him adequate medical care.
Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ's analysis:
• About 47 percent of journalists in the census are jailed under antistate charges such as sedition, divulging state secrets, and acting against national interests, CPJ found. Many of them are being held by the Chinese, Iranian, and Cuban governments.
• In about 12 percent of cases, governments have used a variety of charges unrelated to journalism to retaliate against critical writers, editors, and photojournalists. Such charges range from regulatory violations to drug possession. In the cases included in this census, CPJ has determined that the charges were most likely lodged in reprisal for the journalist's work.
• Violations of censorship rules, the next most common charge, are applied in about 5 percent of cases. Charges of criminal defamation, reporting “false” news, and engaging in ethnic or religious “insult” constitute the other charges filed against journalists in the census.
• Internet and print journalists make up the bulk of the census. Radio journalists compose the next largest professional category, accounting for 7 percent of cases. Television journalists and documentary filmmakers each account for 3 percent.
• The worldwide tally of 136 reflects a 9 percent increase over 2008 and represents the third-highest number recorded by CPJ in the past decade. (The decade high came in 2002, when CPJ recorded 139 journalists in jail.)
• The United States, which is holding freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam without charge in Iraq, made CPJ’s list of countries jailing journalists for the sixth consecutive year. During this period, U.S. military authorities have jailed numerous journalists in Iraq—some for days, others for months at a time—without charge or due process. U.S. authorities appear to be using this tactic less frequently over the past two years.
CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs. The organization has sent letters expressing its serious concerns to each country that has imprisoned a journalist. Over the past year, CPJ advocacy helped lead to the release of at least 45 imprisoned journalists.
CPJ's list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at midnight on December 1, 2009. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at www.cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ's list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.
Journalists who either disappear or are abducted by nonstate entities, including criminal gangs, rebels, or militant groups, are not included on the imprisoned list. Their cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.”
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465 1004 Fax: (212) 465 9568 Web: www.cpj.org
Tom Rhodes | Africa Program Coordinator | trhodes@cpj.org | (212) 300 - 9022

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sports fraternity mute over Lang’s ordeal


Like the rest of the country, the sports fraternity either as members of the National Olympic family and the Gambia Football Association, remain mute and resigned to the waiting game as the only response to the current fate of the GFA Number 2 and GNOC President Lang Tombong Tamba.
For well over a week now, news reports circulating from Banjul and other media sources abroad, suggested that Tamba, a former army chief has been arrested and so far since there has been no official statement on the matter, no one seem to know why. However www.Gamsports .com over the weekend attempted to get reactions from both the GFA and the GNOC, or their constituent clubs and affiliated sports bodies respectively but our efforts met a dead end as we discovered that no official, or fan wants to talk about the incident involving the former Gambian General. One soccer analyst who preferred to be anonymous told Gamsports-Online that Tamba's current ordeal has nothing to do with sports. ‘’I think the best thing for us sports people is to keep a low profile in our views and wait and pray for Tamba because you may never know what can happen or what to say that might cause more damage."
He further went on; "GNOC and GFA are still functioning well because according to their constitutions, anyone who is not in attendance can be replaced by another in the organisation so that the overall functions of the body remains intact’’.
So I see no reason why anyone should worry though we are very sad and concern but this country has become such a place that people live in perpetual fear and if you are waiting for the sports community or the public to say something on the Tamba’s matter, then forget it, concluded our anonymous interviewee. Source: Gamsports.com

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Escalation of Rights Violations Worries African Commission


The hundred and eighty six delegates present at the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights held in Banjul from 11th – 25th November 2009 have noted with concern the gross human rights violations escalating in countries like the Gambia, among notorious others like Guinea-Conakry, Sudan, Niger, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
Members agreed that the Commission continues to receive numerous reports of human rights abuses perpetrated on the continent, adding that as the first decade of the 21st century ends, there have been important developments in many parts of the world, including Africa, which have “witnessed unparalleled growth of democracy” and major social and economic changes that have transformed the political landscape. It pointed out that Africans have continued to agitate for the right to determine how they are governed, and though major strides have been made in this regard, there are still a few areas in which Africa must do better.
The document notes that numerous elections that have taken place in many of the nation states on the continent give a clear indication that Africa has started “an irreversible trend” towards political liberalization that is driven by the participation and the choice of the people. It informed the strengthening of the human rights infrastructure, promoting the rule of law; and monitoring governance structures to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected, becomes very significant during these times and must be reinforced in order to preserve what has been achieved over the years.
A final communiqué of the 46th Ordinary Session read by Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye urges the African Commission to urgently undertake a fact-finding mission to Guinea in their bid to end gender-based violence, violations of child rights, violation of the rights of human rights defenders, violations of freedom of expression and religion, torture and the continuing marginalization of homosexuals and bisexuals.
They also agreed on the need to campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, underscoring the relevancy of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a landmark document that is contributing to the process of building a regional human rights culture. They decried that socio-economic rights are going beyond the reach of the majority of Africans, with millions of Africans trapped in poverty and living without access to basic needs like clean water, adequate housing, food, education and primary health care.
The said Communiqué is also in line with the issue of climate change as “another disturbing threat” to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent, out lining that many African nations are realizing that the threats from climate change are serious and urgent, since no nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor can escape the impact of climate change. It indicated the rising sea levels which it says, are threatening many coastlines as more powerful storms and floods continue to wreak havoc, whilst in many other places, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.
It argues that unless Africa and the international community adopt policies and programmes to combat the negative effects of climatic and environment changes, there is the risk of massive violations of human rights in Africa, through the loss of livelihood of the peasantry across Africa, who continue to rely on rain-fed agriculture. They further assured that member states of the UN, including African States, to carry out activities aimed at reinforcing the progress made in the field of human rights while urging African states to ratify international and regional human rights instruments and to establish National Human Right Institutes (NHRIs) in countries where such institutions do not exist.
The African Commission also adopted its Twenty Seventh (27th) Activity Report, which will be submitted to the 16th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and the 15th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, scheduled to take place in January 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, the African Commission decided to hold its 47th Ordinary Session from 12 to 26 May 2010 in Tunis, the Republic of Tunisia. It also selected new Commissioners to replace the outgoing Commissioners at the 46th Ordinary Session held in Banjul. Source: Dailynews.gm

Saturday, 28 November 2009

President Jammeh Talks on the Family and Greed


In his traditional address to the nation on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Tobaski or Banna Salo, President Jammeh has said that the family in The Gambia has “degenerated seriously” and that on such an occasion Gambians should find time to think about how to restore it. President Jammeh also had another volley of diatribes against businessmen for engaging “in greedy profiteering” during Muslim feasts even though most of them call themselves Muslims. Appearing on shots played by state media on the evening of Friday, President Jammeh appeared tense and unsteady as he read from a script. This says an observer, may be because he has been warned to strictly read from the text and avoid words that may invite further trouble. Mr. Jammeh is known to be loose cannon that can throw out regrettable words that are likely to attract international criticism. It was in a previous Muslim feast, two months ago that Jammeh threatened to kill human rights defenders who try to “destabilize” his country.

Africa's Human Rights Record Remains Poor


The delegates at the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Right held in Banjul from 11-25 November 2009 have observed that despite some progress made in the past, the overall human rights record in Africa is still poor.
They noted with regret that many African countries continued to violate the rights of their own people.
According to the delegates, the deteriorating human rights situation in many African countries has negatively impacted on the life of women and children.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the 46th Ordinary Session, delegates highlighted that climate change is another disturbing threat to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent
Among the resolutions adopted by the Commission are the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on prisons and places of detention in Africa, resolutions on the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on refugees, asylum seekers, internally-displaced persons and migrants in Africa.
It also adopted a resolution on the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa, appointment of the Chairperson of the working group on older persons, Resolution on Climate Change and Human Rights and the need to study its impacts in Africa, Resolution on the Impact of Global Financial Crisis on the Enjoyment of Social and Economic Rights in Africa and MOU between the Community Law Centre of the University of Western Cape, South Africa and the African Commission.
The Commission has decided to hold its 47th Ordinary Session from 12 to 26 May 2010 in Tunis, the Republic of Tunia.
It has also adopted its 27th Activity Report, which will be submitted at the 16th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and 15th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union, scheduled to take place in January 2010, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This year's session was attended by sixty-seven delegates, representing twenty-one states parties, seven National Human Rights Institutions, eight International and Inter-Governmental Organisations and forty-one African and International NGOs. Altogether 286 delegates had participated in the session.
The Commission often holds two Ordinary Sessions in a year: May and November. The sessions are always occasions for state parties, Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) to interact and look at the overall human rights situation on the continent.
The Commission has this time around elected Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou from Togo as its new Chairperson.
Source:The Point

Friday, 27 November 2009

UDP Leader Remembers Journalist Chief Manneh, Kanyiba Kanyi in His Tobaski Message to Gambians



A Message from Mr. Ousainou Darboe, Secretary General and Party Leader of the United Democratic Party on the Occasion of the Celebration of the Feast of Eid El Adha (Tobaski), Friday, 27th November, 2009
My Gambian Compatriots,
As we celebrate the Moslem feast of Eid El Adha, I would like once again as Secretary General and Party Leader of the United Democratic Party, to extend to all of you as well as those living among us, my warmest greetings on this auspicious occasion.
This feast is in celebration of an event that took place many centuries ago. It is the remembrance of a deed of sacrifice and total acceptance of the will of Allah by Abraham who believed that there is one God and in absolute abnegation, he did Allah’s will. We commemorate it therefore in emulation of this great deed of Abraham.
As we celebrate the Tobaski, let us remember all those who in the past have been with us, and who for some years now have not celebrated the feast with their families, friends and colleagues. We must particularly remember Chief Ebrima Manneh, the journalist and Kanyiba Kanyi, the UDP Eastern Kombo Constituency Secretary, who was abducted by security agents of the Government on 18th October, 2006. Both men have not been seen or heard of since their abduction.
For the past few years the average family in Gambia has found it more and more difficult to save enough money to buy the traditional sacrificial sheep. This year is even more difficult as all indications are that many families will no doubt go without making the sacrifice. The difficulties that we all face, with the escalating prices of essential commodities and products and services in the country, have reached alarming proportions.
The global financial crisis has also exacerbated the situation. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters living and working overseas who have regularly been remitting funds for sustenance of their parents and loved ones in these difficult times, also have their fair share of the problems in catering for the usual necessities like Tobaski here at home. May Allah guide and protect them wherever they are in their legitimate endeavours for without them, things would be really grim and intolerable for most families.
I wish to take this opportunity to pray that Allah the Almighty will grant us all, in His limitless bounty, the Tobaski we need for ourselves and our families. On this holy day, may Allah the Almighty grant us the prayers that we make for ourselves, our families and our country and grant the leaders of this country the empathy that He granted Abraham Alaihi Salam and his great grandson Mohamadou Rasoululahi PBH.
I wish you all a pleasant Tobaski. Salamu Allaikum Warahmatu lahi wa barakatuhu

Banjul, The Gambia
27th November, 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

United Nations Calls Chief Manneh’s detention, ‘violation of international law’


FREEDOM NOW
P.O. Box 30155 • Bethesda, Maryland 20824 • 202 629-3385 • info@freedom-now.org • www.freedom- now.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
United Nations Declares Gambia’s Detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh a Violation of International Law, Calls for Immediate Release
Washington, D.C., November 18, 2009 – In response to a petition filed by attorneys from Freedom Now and Hogan & Hartson LLP, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an opinion affirming that the arrest and continued detention by the Gambian government of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a senior reporter for the Gambian newspaper, Daily Observer, are without legal justification and in violation of international law. In its decision, the UN called for the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.
Freedom Now Chair Jeremy Zucker stated: “We are strongly encouraged that the Working Group has issued a clear and direct opinion in support of Mr. Manneh. We urge the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.”
On July 7, 2006, two plainclothes agents of Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency arrested Manneh in the Daily Observer’s Banjul office. The agents did not inform Mr. Manneh of the reason for his arrest; whatever the reason, it was clear that he was detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Mr. Manneh has not been charged with a crime nor given a trial. Instead, he remains imprisoned incommunicado, while the Gambian government disavows his arrest and detainment.
Reports from Gambia indicate that Mr. Manneh may be subject to deeply inhumane treatment while in detention. According to the U.S. State Department, Gambian security forces have used various forms of physical and mental torture against Gambian political prisoners. In addition, Mr. Manneh has suffered serious health problems during his detention yet has generally been denied access to medical care.
The UN decision is the latest in a growing number of demands for Mr. Manneh’s release. Last year, the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared that Mr. Manneh’s detention violates international law. The Court demanded that Gambia release Mr. Manneh and pay damages to his relatives. U.S. Senators Durbin, Feingold, Casey, Murray, Lieberman and Kennedy echoed these demands in an April 22, 2009 open letter to Gambian President Jammeh. The Committee to Protect Journalists also has called for Manneh’s release. To date, the Gambian government has ignored these demands.
In response to the UN decision, Senator Durbin, the Assistant Majority Leader, stated: “This judgment by the United Nations adds a new and important voice to the growing chorus of those calling for the immediate release of Chief Ebrima Manneh who, for three long years, has been held incommunicado and without charge or trial. The UN’s judgment is more than a powerful rebuke of the Gambia government; it is a warning to all regimes holding political prisoners without cause. Freedom Now and the Committee to Protect Journalists should be commended for their tireless work, not only on behalf of Mr. Manneh, but for thousands of political prisoners languishing in prisons across the globe.”
Senator Russ Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, stated: “I am deeply troubled that Chief Manneh remains in detention incommunicado and without trial.
The UN Working Group has affirmed that this is a violation of the most basic human rights. If the Gambian government does not immediately release Manneh or provide information about his
whereabouts, the international community should take action to make clear this is unacceptable.”
Freedom Now, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to free prisoners of conscience, and Hogan & Hartson, an international law firm, welcome the UN’s decision. They call on the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.
Contacts: Jeremy Zucker 202.468.4648 / Erica Mintzer: 703.623.8767. Source: thegambiaecho.com

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Repeal Repressive Media Laws - ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Tells Gambia Gov't


The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Madam Faith Pansy Tlakula, has called on the government of The Gambia to immediately decriminalize all repressive media laws in order to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the country.
Madam Faith Pansy Tlakula made the statement on Saturday during the 46th Ordinary Session of the Commission, which kicked off in the Gambian coastal city of Brufut on Wednesday, November 11, 2009. She said the current media situation in the Gambia is unacceptable, and therefore urged Yahya Jammeh's government to repeal repressive laws and respect 'Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights'.
Tlakula also told the session that she had sent three letters to president Jammeh in June concerning the deterioration of press freedom in the country. In one of the letters, she said, president Jammeh's attention was drawn to the arrest and detention of 7 Gambian journalists, which seriously threatened free speech and undermined the Universal Declaration on human rights in Gambia. The concern of the lone female detainee and a nursing mother of a seven month old baby, Sarata Janneh-Dibba was raised in the letter,Tlakula told the session.
Ms Pansy Tlakula also asked president Jammeh in one of the letters, to withdraw threats made against Imam Baba Leigh, who happened to differ in opinion on the sensitive issue of female circumcision.
According to the Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, a letter of appreciation was also sent to the Gambian leader after he had set the journalists free through a presidential pardon.
Although the Commission had asked the African Union to "authorize and provide extra-budgetary resources to the African Commission to ensure that the 46th Ordinary Session is convened and held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or any other Member State of the African Union, in the event that [president Yahya Jammeh] does not withdraw his threats and the Government cannot guarantee the safety and security of the members and staff of the African Commission and the participants of the 46th Ordinary Session", president Jammeh never withdrew his threats. Click here to read the Commission's Resolution on Gambia, done in Dakar, Senegal, from October 5-11, 2009.
A day after the session opened in Brufut, the West African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Leo Igwe, brought the attention of the Commission to human rights violations in the Gambia when "government agents and some witch doctors from Guinea raided villages and homes, abducted hundreds of mainly elderly persons alleged to be witches and wizards, took them to some secret locations where they were tortured and forced to drink magical concoctions. Some died after taking the magical substance, while others developed severe health complications". Below is his entire statement in verbatim:
The Chairperson
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) would like to draw the attention of the Commission to gross human rights violations that are committed because of fear of witchcraft across the region.
In Africa , the belief in witchcraft is strong, common and widespread. Over the years, claims of witchcraft have been used to abuse the universally recognized human rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. In many African countries, to call somebody a witch automatically makes the person unqualified for human rights protection. To accuse somebody of witchcraft is like passing a death sentence on that person. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, persecuted and killed. They are subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by gangs, mobs, pastors, witch doctors, parents and family members in the name of exorcism or to elicit confessions. Those alleged to be witches and wizards are victims of jungle justice, extrajudicial killing, forced exile and disappearance.
In Africa those abused in the name of witchcraft are mainly the vulnerable members of the population—the poor, the elderly, women, children and people with disabilities.
IHEU has received reports of witchcraft related human rights abuses in many countries across the region.
In the Gambia, government agents and some witch doctors from Guinea raided villages and homes, abducted hundreds of mainly elderly persons alleged to be witches and wizards, took them to some secret locations where they were tortured and forced to drink magical concoctions. Some died after taking the magical substance, while others developed severe health complications. This state-sponsored witch hunt is in breach of Gambia 's human rights obligations under the African Charter.
In Malawi a magistrate's court has convicted two people for practicing witchcraft. In October, Emily (62) and James Kunjes (68) were sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour for killing two members of their community through magic. In Kenya, at least 15 women suspected to be witches were killed last year in a deadly witch hunt that occurred in some parts of the country. Relatives of those alleged to be witches and wizards continue to live in fear.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of children alleged to be witches and wizards have been driven out of their homes and forced to roam the streets.
And in Nigeria, in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, children accused of witchcraft are abandoned, beaten, slashed with knives, bathed with acid or lynched by parents, family and community members. Some of these so called child witches are chained and starved, some have been tortured to death by unscrupulous pastors during deliverance ceremonies. Also human rights activists working to defend the rights of those accused of witchcraft have been at risk. They have suffered attacks, threats, intimidation and harassment. In July, agents of a self-proclaimed witch exorcist and founder of the Liberty Gospel Church, Helen Ukpabio, raided a centre for the rehabilitation of child victims in Eket in Akwa Ibom state. They attacked the organizers of a child rights conference in Calabar in Cross River state.
In Ghana, women accused of witchcraft are attacked, persecuted and killed. Some of them fleeing persecution have taken refuge at a camp in Gambaga in the Northern Region. Those alleged to be witches and wizards suffer similar fates in Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia etc.The witch hunts in many African countries are not isolated attacks but an organized campaign, a silent and systematic elimination of anybody alleged to be a witch or a wizard.
IHEU calls on the Commission to issue a resolution condemning witch hunts and witchcraft related human rights abuses in Africa. IHEU requests the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Women in Africa, on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally displaced Persons in Africa, on Human Rights Defenders in Africa to raise issues concerning witchcraft related abuses with state parties during their promotional missions.
IHEU calls on the governments of the Gambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to fulfill their commitments under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights by improving the quality of education, law enforcement and the justice system.
IHEU urges all state parties to take all necessary legal and administrative measures to combat all human rights abuses that are committed in the name of witch hunts. Source: Senegambianews.com

Saturday, 17 October 2009

AU urged to intervene in missing Gambian journalist's case



The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has urged the African Union (AU) to get the Gambian government to investigate the case of missing journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, the Pan African rights body said in a statement received here by PANA Friday.
The call was made following a resolution passed by the commission after its seventh 'Extraordinary Session' held recently here.
The continental rights body further called for a proper investigation into the 2004 killing of 'prominent journalist, Deyda Hydara' as contained in its resolution, made in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, last November.
Meanwhile, the African Commission has also demanded that the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh withdraw his recent 'death threats' against human rights defenders.
The rights body further urged the African Union 'to change the venue' for its forthcoming session if President Jammeh 'does not withdraw his threats' and that his government 'cannot guarantee the safety and security of the members and staff of the African Commission and participants.' Source: PANA

Friday, 25 September 2009

Press Release: UDP and the Gambian People Shocked and Appalled of Jammeh's Death Threats!


The United Democratic Party and The Gambian people were shocked and appalled when they saw and heard the president, Yahya Jammeh, on GRTS utter the words he did on the HOLY day of Eid-Il-Fitr or "Koriteh". This is a sacred day for Muslims all over the world ushering in the end of Ramadan. It is a day that Muslims everywhere wish well for each other and humankind in general. Muslims pray to God to foster unity amongst all Gambians and bring prosperity to all.
Unfortunately, the president used this occasion to embark on his usual attacks on people he perceives to be opponents to his regime. It is obvious that human rights defenders operating outside the Gambia cannot be targets of his "I will kill you" threats. These threats are directed at the opposition parties and media practitioners that have been relentless in exposing the persistent human rights violations by his regime in The Gambia. The threat is also directed at those lawyers who have stood by and defended Gambians whose rights have been trampled upon by this regime.
These kinds of threats that Jammeh issues on state TV is unbecoming of a president. What people were expecting from him is to give some words of wisdom that would inspire Gambians to feel proud of themselves and to work harder for the development of the country. The Gambians did not expect him to promise them “blood” nor do they expect him to engage in the sort of ranting he did.
President Jammeh should be under no delusion that these threats will not weigh on the human rights defenders in The Gambia. He needs to come to terms with the reality that people in The Gambia have developed the culture of exposing human rights violations and there is "no going back".
EID-MUBARAK to all Gambians.

United Democratic Party Secretariat
Banjul, The Gambia
24th September, 2009

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ISSUES PUBLIC STATEMENT ON JAMMEH DEATH THREATS


AI Index: AFR 27/007/2009
Amnesty International deplores the statements made by President Yahya Jammeh on Monday 21 September on national television, in which he reportedly stated that he would kill anyone who wants to destabilize the country.
President Yahya Jammeh also specifically threatened human rights defenders, and those working with them, by emphasizing that their security and personal safety would not be guaranteed by the government of Gambia.
Amnesty International calls on President Yahya Jammeh to immediately retract these statements made on Monday 21 September and to affirm The Gambia government’s commitment to respect, protect and promote human rights in line with its constitution and obligations under international law.
Amnesty International also calls on the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, to condemn the statements made by President Yahya Jammeh in the strongest possible terms.
Background:
In November 2008 Amnesty International released the report Gambia: Fear Rules (AFR 27/003/2008). The report illustrates how human rights violations in Gambia are perpetrated by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), army and police against real and perceived opponents of the government on a routine basis. It demonstrates that once people are in the custody of the government, they are susceptible to a whole range of human rights violations including unlawful detention, torture while in detention, unfair trials, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions. On 22 July 2009, Amnesty International, along with civil society groups across Africa, organized a day of action to protest continuing human rights violations in The Gambia, including repression of the media.
ENDS
Public Document

"Enough is enough", Gambian president tells UN General Assembly


The Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has told the UN General Assembly that Africa has suffered centuries of racism, exploitation, unfair trade and marginalization from the West, and that "enough is enough".
The Gambian leader, who addressed the 64th UN General Assembly on Thursday in New York, said the new generation of African leaders will end the suffering and humiliation of Africa and its people by all means necessary.
"We have been forced to endure this for far too long and now we are going to put an end to it as we have ended Apartheid in South Africa; by force if need be. We will defend our humanity, our dignity, our resources, our interest and our culture from now on", president Jammeh threatened.
The developed world, he said, was built on sweat, blood, tears and resources of Africa.
The Gambian leader also expressed his indignation about such labels as dictator, corrupt leaders, failed states and rogue states, that have now become synonymous with African leaders.
President Jammeh also talked about the issue of Palestine and Israel, Taiwan's bid to be represented at the UN, the reform of the Security Council to include at least two permanent members from Africa.
The five page speech by president Yahya Jammeh failed to mention the lingering human rights abuses in the Gambia, democracy, rule of law, press freedom and the brutal massacre of nearly 55 migrants in his country, or the looming political crisis in his own country, the neighboring Guinea Conakry and Guinea-Bissau.
He made no reference to the increasing drug trade between Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia and South American drug barons, who continue to use West African as transit points to ship cocaine and other deadly drugs to Europe.
The Gambian leader also failed to bring before the UN General Assembly, the inhumane treatment of Gambian migrants in Spain, Italy and other European countries.
Please read the full text of president Jammeh's speech here

Gambia's pitiful political class



Welcome to The Gambia, the land of "His Excellency President Professor Alhaji Dr AJJ Jammeh", a sign at airport tells visitors to the West African nation.
It is a country where the ubiquitous display of a photograph of one man relegates the North Korean leader to the backburner.
Children sing his praises; women dance to his name; men adore him - mostly willy-nilly.
I would guess, of every three billboards in the capital Banjul, at least two have President Yahya Jammeh's photograph on them.
His name has to be in the newspapers lest an editor is tagged "anti-Jammeh".
His image is almost always on the state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) for much of the news bulletin.
One day it shows the country's armed forces working on his farm as he gazes on benignly. The day before it was civil servants doing the same thing. The next it will be some group or other - there as an act of loyalty. And on and on and on, GRTS reports.
Petty squabbles
All this publicity prompted one opposition spokesman to tell me wryly that the president is the "most popular" person in the country.
"It poses a lot of problems for us," he said.
That is an understatement. Like elsewhere on the continent, opposition parties in The Gambia are beset with problems besides that of being out of power.
The fact that the country has known only two regimes - some would say hegemonies - since becoming independent from the UK in 1965 seems to have blinded the opposition to the fact that their own "democratic credentials are as tattered and torn as the current military strongman-turned-civilian president", according to one Gambian journalist, who did not wish to be named.
The problem is that with the president's authoritarian presence lauding over a nation mired in poverty, you would think the opposition would overcome any petty squabbles to focus on a common enemy.
In fact, many of the leaders of the five opposition political parties in the country can barely stand to hear each other's names.
Crucially, many Gambians say these parties are guilty of the very thing they often accuse the governing Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) of being: Undemocratic and lacking transparency.
Oxygen starved
Many do not even have headquarters, and where they do the structure is barely standing upright.
Granted, though, they are operating in less-than-ideal circumstances.
The government is stifling criticism by trying to cut off the oxygen for some of these parties. The United Democratic Party (UDP), for example, is banned from holding public rallies.
But that is no consolation for many ordinary citizens.
"My greatest concern is what happens after President Jammeh leaves or is removed from office," said a school teacher, who did not want to give his name.
He lashed out at the president calling him "a despot".
But said there was no alternative to Mr Jammeh's rule as opposition parties are not offering anything viable and lack the democratic torch to brighten his country's future.
This is a common view. One civil servant asked: "When was the last time any political party held any credible and transparent national delegates' conference to subject themselves to the democratic will of their members?"
Long-time leaders
The UDP came second in 2006 polls, and is thus the official opposition, but last held a conference in 2000. Some critics even dispute that date, saying the meeting was anything but a convention. The UDP say that they are not even sure when they will hold the next one.
Most glaringly perhaps, the party has had only one leader since it was founded in 1996.
Its spokesman and campaign manager since its birth, Femi Peters, said Oussainou Darboe has been at the helm for so long because he is "the fittest person" and shows no compunction in saying so, adding: "If we find somebody credible enough to replace him, we shall replace him."
Without a delegates' conference in the near future, this will not happen anytime soon.
Mr Darboe himself was out of the country on vacation during my visit and refused to comment via email.
Reacting to all this, a journalist I met who is not a supporter of President Jammeh simply shook his head.
It seems The Gambia does not follow the precedent of its near-neighbour.
In Sierra Leone the tendency is that anyone who leads a party to a defeat at the polls immediately ceases to be its leader. In contrast, in The Gambia there seems to be no such limit imposed either by a party's internal constitution or its electoral fate.
Halifa Sallah, once the most vocal and courageous critic of the current regime, is sadly another case in point.
He is probably as right as he is complicit when he says Gambians have lost hope in all their politicians.
Mr Sallah has been secretary-general of the opposition People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) since its establishment in 1987.
When asked about internal democracy - or the lack of it - within his party, he deviates into a history lesson, and then gets all philosophical.
Unconvincing
Defending his long stay at the top echelon of the PDOIS, the former presidential candidate told me that his party was "in transition" from 1987 to 1994 when the military coup happened which banned all political parties.
Once the ban was lifted in 1996, he said his PDOIS functioned up to 2001 when they formed an alliance with four other political parties under the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) - but this was an alliance that collapsed pretty much before it started.
But Mr Sallah is still the PDOIS secretary-general 22 years on. He concedes the point but is quick to add that his party "operates on [the system of] collective leadership. Individuals who are in authority do not have individual powers… [because] there is no individual-centred leadership in the party," he said, sounding as unconvinced as he looks embarrassed.
With a governing party respected only by its die-hard supporters, Gambians and most diplomats in the country believe that opposition parties should show a greater level of democracy within to send a strong message to those in power.
But perhaps Gambians are all-too-familiar with a statement by their first leader, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who after nearly 30 years in power, announced he was stepping down.
This did not stop him returning to the fray shortly thereafter saying that his People's Progressive Party had been prevailed upon by the people to let him stay.
Not long afterwards he was overthrown in Mr Jammeh's bloodless and initially popular coup.
Yet it seems Sir Dawda's words are those many Gambian politicians are still espousing.
By Umaru Fofana
Source: BBC Focus on Africa magazine

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Outrage at Jammeh's death threat


An online petition has been launched in protest at the Gambian president's threat to kill human rights workers.
President Yahya Jammeh told state TV earlier this week he would kill anybody who wanted to "destabilise" The Gambia.
"If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assure that your security is not guaranteed... we are ready to kill saboteurs," he said.
The campaign by a coalition of pressure groups wants the African Union's human rights commission HQ moved from Gambia.
Chidi Anselm Odinkalu from the the Open Society Institute, one of the bodies behind the petition, said Mr Jammeh's comments were "beyond the pale".
"The people of Gambia have been under siege for the past year or two. We've got an obligation to speak up," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
The headquarters of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is in the Gambian capital, Banjul.
The Open Society, along with the African Court Coalition, is now campaigning to have the offices moved to a different country.
Their aim is to secure as many signatures as possible from non-governmental organisations involved in the work of the AU's human rights commission before 28 September, when the petition will be forwarded to the African Union.
Their petition quotes Mr Jammeh's speech, which was made before he went to the UN General Assembly in New York.
"I will kill anyone who wants to destabilise this country," he said.
"If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it."
The petition says Mr Jammeh's declaration "leads us to fear for the safety, security, and lives of ourselves and our colleagues".
Mr Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and has won three multi-party elections since then.
But amid claims of plots to oust him, journalists have been harassed and dozens of people have been arrested and unlawfully detained, human rights groups say.
Source: BBC News

Kanyiba’s Disappearance Clocks 3 Years, As His fate Hangs in Court


Mr. Kanyiba Kanyi an employee of the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) and also the Kombo East Constituency Chairman of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), who is said to be arrested at his home in Bonto village, on 18th September 2006, on Friday 18th September 2009, clocked 1095 days without his family setting eyes on him or knowing his whereabouts.
According to his family, Kanyiba was arrested by three plain clothes officers in the evening of the said date while they looked on. They stated that his 3 arrestors came onboard a cab and whisked him away. They said since then they have never set eyes on him or established his whereabouts. The family added that his arrestors later came back for his younger brother Wandifa Kanyi who was said to be detained at the Serious Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul only to be released the following day without any charge.
The family further said they have moved both heaven and earth to establish his whereabouts but to no avail. The family expressed their frustration over his long disappearance which they said has caused them sleepless nights; that they have now lost hope and faith that they would see him again. They expressed their sorrow and said their only hope of seeing him is in the next world.
The family of Kanyiba took lawyer Ousainou Darboe and filed a “writ of Habeas Corpus” at the High Court on 17th October 2006, against the Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Attorney General to produce him. The State counsel said they have written to all the concerned parties about the case but could not get any response from them.
On 5 June 2007, Justice Sanji Monageng of the Banjul High Court ordered the State to release Kanyiba from their custody. Justice Monageng ruled that human beings cannot disappear from the face of the earth like that. The State failed to adhere to the Court’s order and the matter became stagnant before the Court as the State keeps on denying that he is in their custody.
Again on 21 May 2008, in the same pursuit of the release of Kanyiba, an affidavit deposed by Rambo Ousman Jatta was filed by Lawyer Mrs. Neneh Cham Chongan at the High Court presided by Justice Mabel Maame (Yamoa) Agyemang. (Rambo Ousman Jatta, is reported to have been held in detention incommunicado for 14 months at different detention centres in the country.) The State counsel however, promised to file in an affidavit in response to the application. The State added that they were yet to get any feedback from the State authorities on the case.
Justice Aygemang raised concerns about the previous ruling by Justice Monageng ordering the State to release Kanyiba. In her ruling, she said, “it is disappointing that the previous Court order can be flouted like that”. She registered her disappointment over the nature of the case due to the failure of the State to comply with the Court’s order. Justice Aygemang ruled that there is no doubt that Kanyiba is in State custody as his co-applicants Rambo was found in State custody. She also reiterated her surprise about the State’s lack of respect for the Court.
From there, the matter became stalled until the 29th January, 2009 when the case came up again, before Justice Joseph Wowo, as the third judge to hear the case. Lawyer Darboe reminded the Court about the previous ruling on the case for the release of Kanyiba. He told the Court that at times they do establish that Kanyiba was detained at NIA and Mile 2 Prison, but added that sometimes they could not establish where he is being detained. The State counsel Mrs. Marley Wood said she would consult with the Attorney General on the matter on whether Kanyiba is in State custody. This did not suit Darboe, who emphasized that he had evidence that Kanyiba is in State custody. Darboe added that the former minister for the Interior Babucarr Jatta bluntly confessed that he ordered for the arrest of Kanyiba.
On 1July 2009, State Counsel Mrs. Marley Wood, representing DPP R.N Chenge told the Court that the DPP was indisposed and requested the Court to adjourn the case for the DPP to submit his report to the Court concerning the case.
On 29th July, the case took a new twist, when the presiding judge, Justice Wowo, ruled that he would send the case file to the office of the Chief Justice to determine the fate of the case. The DPP was not in Court on that day.
By Fabakary B. Ceesay
Source: Foroyaa

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Jammeh launches veiled attack on west


Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday launched a veiled attack on the west for criticising his human rights record vowing to deal with those who want to 'destabilis' the West African state.
He lashed out at those who, he said, claim to be defenders of democracy and human rights but still have their soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, 'killing innocent people, including women and children, just because they want to protect their countries'. The west, Led by the US, has tens tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting extremists.
'If anyone believes in ideologies and wants to destabilise this country, I will deal with you," Jammeh told journalists in Banjul before leaving for the UN General Assembly in New York.
Jammeh has been criticised for his poor human rights record that has seen people disappearing, murdered and arrested for various reasons.
According to him, "all those who talk about democracy and human rights are fight ing terrorism in Iraq because they do not want the terrorists to infiltrate their countries'.
'What I want to make clear to the so-called human rights defenders is that they should leave my country. If you stay in my country, I will deal with you," he warned.

Source: Pana

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Gambia Gov't Seeks Amendment of ECOWAS Court Powers

The ECOWAS Commission has called a meeting of Government Experts of the 15 Member States in Abuja, Nigeria from 28 September to 3 October 2009 to discuss proposals From the Gambia to amend the provisions concerning the jurisdiction of and access to
ECOWAS Court of Justice Under the Protocol creating the Court.
The Gambia's request for an Amendment is accompanied by a draft Supplementary Act (amending Instrument) prepared by the Government of the Gambia.
The Gambia Seeks an amendment of Articles 9(4) on jurisdiction of and 10(d) on Access to the Court. In particular, they request five specific Amendments:
(A) that with respect to human rights cases, the Court should only have jurisdiction In respect of international instruments ratified by the respondent country;
(b) Also in human rights cases, the ECOWAS Court's jurisdiction should be made Subject to the exhaustion of domestic remedies;
(c) Cases should only be admissible if instituted not later than 12 months after the Exhaustion of local remedies;
(d) Cases should not be anonymous; and
(e) The court should not hear cases that are before other international mechanisms Of settlement.

By Ndey Tapha

President Jammeh Greeted With Protest at the UN

Dear Gambians and friends of the Gambia,
Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD) working to promote Democracy, Human rights and Justice had a big protest in front of a down town New York Hotel where President Jammeh is lodging immediately after his arrival from The Gambia. The hotel activities were totally disrupted and Guests started to find out about the reason behind the noise and confrontation while all the other nearby hotels had been peaceful but Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Posters and banners were displayed around the hotel reading: (Who ordered the killing of Ousman Koro Ceesay? It is President Yahya Jammeh). (Who ordered the killing of our fourteen students? It is President Yahya Jammeh). (Who ordered the killing of Deyda Hydara? It is President Yahya Jammeh). (Where are Daba Mareneh and the four officers whom President Jammeh claimed have escaped while on their way to be transfer from Mile 11 Central prison to Janjanbureh prison? We want to know.)
T-Shirts reading (Release Chief Ebrima Manneh, Release Kanyiba Kanyni were worn during the protest.
There were two ladies supporters of president Jammeh who attempted to counter our protest but were too weak to do so despite president Jammeh's own personal protective guards present at the seen. Major Alhagie Martin and Lft. Gilbert Gibba, some protocol officers were all at the seen but Jammeh cowardly refused to face the protesters but opted to escape into the hotel.
The mother of all protest against President Jammeh has begun in New York. This is going to continue till the last day of his departure from the USA. We therefore, call on people of conscience, democratic minded people and believers of human rights to join us in these protests to let President Jammeh be aware that Gambia is not an Island.
During these protests, we will call on President Jammeh to release Journalist chief Ebrima Manneh, Kanyiba Kanyni and all rest of the detainees.
Those who want to reach President Jammeh can do so through the below hotel address and phone number.
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
50 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019
(212) 308-9100ý
Ritzcarlton.com
Note, during the protest, the New York police were called to stop us but after explaining to them the reason for our protest, and more over the type of president we are protesting against, who kill his own people and dislike America, we were allow to go ahead.
From the executive Committee:
New York City, USA
By Movement for Democracy and Development

Gambia Opposition Rejects Jammeh’s Death Threat


Gambian opposition parties have rejected President Yahya Jammeh's pronouncement to kill people deemed enemies of the state.
During a television address Monday, Jammeh said he will supervise the killing of anyone who aims to destabilize the country.
He also warned human rights groups to stop interfering in Gambia's internal politics, warning citizens not to cooperate with them.
But the opposition claims Jammeh's death threat is a calculated ploy to silence any dissent.
Jammeh has often been criticized for his iron fist rule in clamping down on journalists who are critical of his administration.
Halifah Salah, an editorial member of the Foroyaa newspaper, said that there is need for the opposition to demystify President Jammeh's antics.
"Clearly I must say that the Gambia cannot continue to focus on statements of this nature. What we are doing now is to get the Gambian people to understand that the country belongs to them (and) that leaders are there as trustees," Salah said.
He described President Jammeh's death threats as bad taste.
"What we expect is the language that will enable the people to understand that there is rule of law, there are courts, there are institutions. And that the executive is mainly there to be able to utilize their tax money to build the institutions which will protect liberties," he said.
Salah said there is need for the opposition to provide sharp contrasting language to stand up to the president.
"The fact that the language is belligerent indicates to us on our side…I must say that the way to counteract this type of language is to offer an alternative," Salah said.
He said the opposition should work on discrediting the president's death threats.
"We must demystify the executive. And the way to demystify the executive is to state exactly what he said for everybody to hear, but at the same time, to build up the confidence of the people, to see that governance must be determined by the people," he said.
Salah said Jammeh's threats undermine the confidence of Gambians.
"Anybody who is there who utilizes a language which is not in the interest of the people… it is (important) to tell the people that this language is not in the interest of the people… and it is the right of the people to put in place the type of government… which will safeguard their liberties prosperities," Salah said.
President Jammeh has often called on journalists to obey his government "or go to hell". In June, 2005, he stated on radio and television that he has allowed "too much expression" in the country.
The Jammeh government introduced harsh new press laws following the December, 2004, unsolved killing of reporter Deyda Hydra, who had been critical of his administration, in. But Jammeh denies security agents were involved in the killing.
By Peter Clottey
Source: VOA News

Shopkeeper Found Dead In Mysterious Circumstances


A shopkeeper was last Saturday found dead in his shop, in Serrekunda London Corner around Momodou Musa Clinic.
Hamidou Jallow, a Guinean national, aged 35, was found dead in his shop around 11:00am, which had taken the neighbourhood into grief and despair.
Speaking to this reporter, Wuri Jallow, an elder brother to the deceased who is also staying in London Corner, but in a different compound, said they did not know the exact time when his brother was killed.
According to him, his dead body was discovered around 11:00 am.
“I left my residence to visit my brother on Saturday morning, only to find him dead in his shop with all the two main front doors closed,” he explained.
According to him, the supposed killer(s) of his brother might have jumped over from the back fence and broke into the shop. He said that when he entered the compound where his bother was resident, he found customers knocking on the door, while others were calling him to wake-up but to no avail. Jallow said he also joined them.
He said after waiting impatiently, he asked two boys to jump through the back fence to open the back door, but it was impossible to do so as it was blocked with pipes.
He said upon removing the blockade, he entered the shop and to his shock and disbelief, he found his brother in a pool of blood. He said all over the floor and even some goods were stained with blood.
According to him, the late Hamidou’s dead body was taken away by the police in Serrekunda.
He is said to be survived by two wives and three children, all of whom, are presently in Guinea Conakry.
When contacted, Superintendent Sulayman Secka, the police Public Relations Officer, confirmed the story, but could not elaborate on the details.
Author: Lamin B. Darboe
Source: The Point

Monday, 21 September 2009

Jammeh threatens death to troublemakers


Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Monday warned that anyone who sought to "destabilise" the tiny west African nation would be killed.
"If you want to destabilise this country and bring trouble and suffering to my people, I will make sure that you are dead," Jammeh told state television.
He added that cooperating with human rights groups was no guarantee of protection.
"Those who want to collaborate and listen to those so-called human rights campaigners and think that they will be defended by them are fooling themselves," said the president, who has held power in Gambia for 15 years.
Jammeh also issued a direct warning to human rights groups, which have criticised the Gambian head of state's iron-fisted rule, not to interfere in the country's affairs.
"What I want to make very clear to everybody and those so-called human rights campaigners is that I will never allow anyone to destabilise this country," the president said. "If you are a troublemaker, keep away from the country," he warned.
Jammeh, who has ruled since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has been repeatedly attacked by human rights campaigners for his repressive attitude particularly towards the media.
He came under fire earlier this month from press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which urged Jammeh to "loosen the vice" on the media after six journalists who criticised him were jailed.
The journalists -- one woman and five men -- spent just under a month in prison after publishing comments critical of Jammeh.
They were originally given two-year jail sentences but were freed two weeks ago after receiving a presidential pardon.
Despite freeing the journalists, Jammeh has kept up pressure on the media by warning journalists they could still be prosecuted for being "disrespectful".
RSF places Gambia 137th out of 173 countries in its press freedom ranking.

GPU condemns conviction, imprisonment of six journalists


The Gambia Press Union vehemently condemns the conviction, jailing and heavy fines, today of six Gambian journalists, three of whom are members of the Union Executive, Emil Touray; secretary general; Sarata Jabbi Dibba, vice president and Pa Modou Faal, treasurer; Pap Saine and Ebou Sawaneh, The Point’s publisher and editor respectively; And Sam Sarr, editor, Foroyaa newspaper.
The group have been convicted of all six counts and sentenced to two years imprisonment without the option of a fine for four of the counts and fined each 250,000 Dalasis (about US$10,000) on the other two counts, failure to pay, they will serve two years for each count.
Today, August 6 marks one of the darkest days in the history of the Gambian judiciary, where a judge of the High Court, Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle, despite Constitutional guarantees to Freedom of Expression, an independent judiciary and despite a weak and senseless prosecution effort, has allowed himself, to be used openly and publicly by the Executive to further enforce its reign of terror.
The pain and trauma inflicted on these gallant journalists and their families, the Union and its membership by the state authorities and a legal system geared towards bolstering tyranny and oppression is unimaginable. Yet, we are hopeful that in a regional and world community that respects and promotes the ideals of freedom of expression, good governance and democratic principles, the freedom and rights of our colleagues will be guaranteed.
The Union will immediately launch an appeal in The Gambia Court of Appeal, for one reason and one reason alone. It is the only institution that can overturn the decision of the High Court.
In a similar manner and for the fact that we have no faith in a flawed Gambian judicial system that demonstrates open bias, we shall simultaneously seek redress through the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. At this point it is also worthy to mention that at least on two occasions whilst the trial was ongoing, the head of state, President Yahya Jammeh issued direct threats to journalists and others “hiding behind freedom of expression”. Our Constitutional and international guarantees to freedom of expression aside, we find this and other procedural flaws enough grounds for appeal.
The fact that the case, from the onset should have been heard at the Criminal Division of the High Court, which never happened, is still a cause for concern
Today’s Court decision only confirms our claims that the Gambian judiciary is being used to bolster State-supported tyranny and oppression. We call on the Judicial Service Commission and the Gambia Bar Association to defend the Constitutional mandates of the Courts and the Judiciary in its entirety.
Gambian journalists and the Union have been at the forefront of challenging unconstitutional measures geared towards stifling freedom of expression, media and other constitutionally and universally guaranteed freedoms and rights. We are also among the very few Gambian voices on the ground speaking out against impunity, constitutional and human rights violations and other State engineered governance inconsistencies with the hope of getting the Gambian people and the attention of the international community to ensure accountability, transparency, good governance and respect for human rights.
For this, we continue to pay a high price. We face unnecessary harassment, intimidation, protracted and mostly irrelevant Court cases, unfair convictions, exorbitant fines, closure of media houses, exile, the risk of disappearance and in the case of Deyda Hydara, victims of targeted killings.
The GPU reiterates its call for a Gambia where every citizen is free to openly express themselves and participate in debates geared towards national development without fear of State retaliation. This is call for every Gambian to enjoy their rights as Guaranteed and stipulated by the 1997 Constitution, Article 9 of The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are deemed to be a Sovereign nation, where each and every Gambian is equal before the laws of the land, thus we deem it a travesty of Justice when the custodians of the law, bend the laws to suit the interests of a few.
The Union also wishes to thank the hundreds of individuals and institutions at home and all over the world who have reached out to us in writing, in protest, through the phone and financially at the darkest hour of the Union’s history simply for our exercising our rights as Gambian journalists to express our concerns and to hold the executive accountable to the very Gambians it has sworn to uphold.
Your support is greatly appreciated and has given us the strength and willpower to continue in our quest in search of the truth regarding the death of Deyda Hydara, to continue to demand for the expansion of the space for effective independent media participation and we hope serves as a strong reminder to journalists in The Gambia and elsewhere that speaking the truth and in defence of it at any cost, is as honourable today as it was in the beginning.
As stated earlier and aptly in Court by our two doyens Pap Saine and Sam Sarr, the Gambia Press Union and its members will today more than ever seek to defend the principles of freedom of expression, speak and stand up in defense of the truth and practice our profession in good faith.
The Union also reiterates its call on the Gambia Government to:
• Conduct proper and professional investigations into the death of Deyda Hydra and bring to an end the speculation and counter speculation regarding circumstances surrounding his death;
• Comply with the ECOWAS Court order on the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh;
• Emulate progressive West African and other states by scrapping all the media-related laws regarding sedition and defamation.
• Work towards the drafting and debate of Freedom of Information and Access to Information laws as provided for in Article 66 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.
• Evaluate its relationship with the Gambian media and, based on mutual respect, engage in consultations geared towards mapping the way forward for enhancing and strengthening Independent media participation.
Ndey Tapha Sosseh, President

Gambia at crossroads




It’s rather unfortunate that the Gambia – which in the days of PP – prided itself with being the champion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, is at crossroads.
Even the very regime that continues to bulldoze the rights of innocent citizens does not know where to go. The reality is that it’s succumbed by fear, and therefore resort to applying all kinds of tactics to trample on dissent.
The railroaded and unfair jailing of innocent journalists, which came on the heels of gross violations of citizens’ human rights in the form of disappearances, illegal detentions, unsolved murders, arson attacks, among others, was calculated to cause fear among Gambians of all walks of life.
Soon the Jammeh regime will swallow the bitter pills of putting behind bars people like Sam Sarr who has rendered invaluable service to the nation.
The heartlessness of the regime and its remote controlled judge was evident by the denial of Pap Saine to undergo a heart surgery and separation of Sarata Jabbi from her seven month old weaning baby. This happens under the directive of a regime that claim to prioritise women’s empowerment. Evidently, Sarata has been punished for challenging the regime rather than singing its praises.
As the author of Animal Farm, George O’well said, “not all birds are equal.”
It was no surprise that Mr. Saine had been hospitalised after few days in horrible prison. Afterall, the doyen journalist had earlier collapsed during the trial.
We will continue to monitor the conditions of our colleagues with our ears and eyes until they are released. Their health and survival lies in the hands of the Jammeh regime. By Musa Saidykhan