Friday, 25 September 2009
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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
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
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
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
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.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Profile of SLAIN GAMBIAN JOURNALIST
The name Deyda in Hassaniya Arabic means someone of great stature. It is not known why Deyda’s father gave him such a meaningful name, but it could be he sensed that his son had the makings of a distinguished character. If so, then his father’s intuition was spot on, because early on in life Deyda showed he was cut out for a big destiny. Unlike his other three siblings who stuck to the traditional koranic school (Dara), he had a foot in both camps - the Arabic and Western educational systems. Coming from the ultra-conservative Hydara clan that claims its ancestry from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his hybrid education at the time must have caused quite a stir. The Hydaras are renowned in the Sahelian region for their exceptional grasp of Quranic Science, so much so that all Hydara males are schooled in the art from a very tender age and are required to uphold the clan’s heritage without adulteration and apology. But he turned out to be one of the few who dared in the thick of the Hydara conservatism to break with tradition to see how the other half lives. Though Baba Hydara had qualms about his son’s incursion into the unfamiliar terrain of western civilization, he laughed it off as a fad his son would soon outgrow, but he was mistaken – Deyda stayed the course, taking to his studies like a duck to water. But such drive is about par for the course for someone born under the zodiac sign of Gemini who are often typified by their self-will, sharp wit, astuteness, and curiosity.
Deyda Hydara was born on 9 June 1946 on Dobson Street, Banjul. His father Baba Hydara was a Mauritanian immigrant of the Moor extraction who ran a grocer’s shop at 8 Hagan Street, where Deyda grew up. On his maternal side, he descended from the Faal clan of Kaur, where Halima, Deyda’s mother, was born. When his father’s business slackened, he returned to Nouakchott, Mauritania, leaving the teenage Deyda and his younger ones - Lala, Mamana and Dawda - with their mother who later remarried one Papa Bila at Barra, where she lived until her death in 1992; two years after Deyda’s father had passed away in Nouakchott.
Like most teenage boys, Deyda took to street football with gusto. On the pitch, he would pace down the right flank, waltzing through seemingly impregnable defences to pull out passes that were usually too tricky for goalkeepers to parry, much less save; but he gave up his football mania after his secondary school teacher told him it was a dead-end career unsuitable for a hot brain like him. His quitting football is like kicking off a ladder after one has used it to climb to the top. It was through football that he forged a friendship that was to change his life forever. He hit it off with Joseph Gilikou during one of their countless football games and both of them became inseparable childhood chums, though it was Deyda who frequented more Joseph’s family home at No 10 Leman Street (now Ecowas Avenue), bantering and occasionally helping out with some domestic chores. His get-up-and-go so impressed Joseph’s aunt, Tata Aubi Caroline Keita (nee Goddard), that she enrolled him at the Alliance Francaise on Picton Street, Banjul, popularly known then as the “Foyer”.
Deyda excelled at the final examination and was sent to Lycee Gaston Berger in Kaolack, Senegal, where he lost himself in French literature. Shortly before taking his baccalaureate, he fell in love with the writings of Albert Camus, Rebalais, and Jean-Paul Satre whose existentialist philosophy originated by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegard caught his fascination, which in turn led him to study in-depth the works of Frank Fanon and Che Guevara. He kept up his passion for literature right up to the Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal. He discontinued his university education after two years due to lack of funds.
He took this setback in his stride and pressed on with life, eager to get a job and contribute something to the family’s upkeep. At about this time he was already wide awake to his theatrical flair, as he had already strutted his stuff in a number of school dramas and musical concerts. He made up his mind then to rely on his own innate ability - his voice – and faith in God to pull him through the unknown. He got a job as disc jockey at Radio Syd, anchoring three entertainment programmes - Morning Show, Rencontre and Disque Agogo. About this time he met and married Maria Dacosta with whom he had four children – one girl and three boys.
Alongside his basic responsibilities at Radio Syd, he worked first as a translator and then as a correspondent for the Agence France Presse (AFP). He also joined The Senegambia Sun as a special correspondent and was to join Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) in latter years as a correspondent. He left Radio Syd to set up Excaf Printing, which metamorphosed into The Point newspaper. He took over the editorial seat of the paper when Baboucarr resigned as editor-in-chief of the paper. He was for a long time the treasurer of the West Africa Journalists Association (WAJA). The other organisations he belonged to included the Association Des Journalistes Francophones (AJF), the Faateleku Cultural Group, the Premier Lions Club and Worldview the Gambia.
Throughout his career as a journalist, he was obsessed with press freedom, good governance and economic development. In his columns - The Bite, and Good Morning, Mr President – he resisted the imposition of the media watchdog – the National Media Commission (NMA) – on Gambia journalism and campaigned without fear for the sanctity of the rule of law as well as for improvement in the lives of Gambian farmers. In his prophetic article “Acara Goes With Pepper” (The Point, Tuesday, 17 August 2004), he wrote that he was ready to pay the supreme price for the cause of a free press in the Gambia. “Government and supporters must also know that some of us have as published in 1992 and 1994 offered our lives in our social responsibility role. Maybe we are crazy but some of us would be proud to be gunned down or simply be killed for doing just that.” The NMA was eventually abolished but was soon replaced with two pieces of draconian legislation – the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2004, and the Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004. The first bill criminalizes defamation and carries a minimum sentence of six months, while the second raises newspaper or broadcasting registration cost from one hundred thousand dalasis to five hundred thousand dalasis. The National Assembly passed both bills on 13 and 14 December 2004. In his reaction “We Shall Prevail” published in The Point’s Wednesday, 15 December 2004 issue, Deyda wrote: “The other bill that was passed last night seeks to amend the Criminal Code providing for the criminalization of speech. It does away with the options of fine and emphasizes custodial sentences of three to three years for libel, sedition, false information and the very vague derogatory language etc, etc. The above amendment is now extended to the ordinary citizen and more so politicians. With this amendment, journalists and politicians are going to be targeted even for their opinions, as per the articulation of the said amendment. We now want to inform the MPs that we have been studying the bills with our lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally and have verified that they have some serious flaws that must be challenged and we have decided to do just that. At a meeting held a few days ago before the passing of the bills, we had decided that we would again have to exercise our rights to seek redress, as these bills constitute an infringement on our professional pursuits and we must challenge them in court as soon as the President assents to them.”
Unrelentingly, on the night of Thursday, 16 December 2004, the 13th anniversary celebration of The Point newspaper, he reiterated his determination to fight to the death the two laws. Writing under the title “The New Laws”, he stated: “Coming back to the amendments, readers will understand that we will not divulge our line of defence as we did for the commission. Suffice it to say that we have mastered the dossier and are going to challenge these revised laws as soon as they are assented to. We have given notice for that to the hearing of the world at large.”
Shortly after writing this article, he was killed in cold blood as he drove home from work. His killers are still at large. “His death plunged the country into a mood of despondency and the media community into a profound shock from which it has yet to recover fully.”
Saturday, 19 September 2009
By Yusupha Cham
Last week’s drama at the National Assembly of The Gambia, bringing the Youth and Sports minister, Sheriff Gomez, against Honourable Sidiata Jatta, member for Wuli West, brought to the fore an unusual but a highly debatable issue. The episode, which is reported to have taken much part of the time of the Honourable members of the House, was the result of the refusal of Minister Gomez to disclose the nature of the salary of the country’s senior national team coach, Belgian Paul Put.
The minister’s action, which, as you would have thought, angered the Wuli West parliamentarian, could be viewed as an insult to the dignity of the National Assembly.
Hon. Jatta’s comment, as published on Wednesday September 16 edition of The Point Newspaper, no doubt represents the views of majority of Gambian taxpayers’ as the minister has no basis, whatsoever, to deprive tax payers of their right to know how much of their money, where and to whom such money is going.
We are talking about National Assembly members here, elected representatives of the people; depriving them of such information raises quite a lot of questions. What was the minister trying to imply? Censorship on information of how their servant is paid from their hard earned money? Who is Paul Put after all, when the salary of the top servant of the land, President Yahya Jammeh, is no secret to Gambians? Or is there any dubious acts the ministry might have done while desperately struggling to secure the services of the foreign coach?
Contrary to Gomez’s assertion to the deputies that the issue of the coach’s salary should not be a subject of discussion at the Assembly as ‘‘it is personal’’, absolutely nothing is personal here. As a matter of fact, this brings to mind the question: is there any need for Gambia to secure the services of a foreign coach for the senior team which continue to defy expectation by not making any convincing headway at all, unlike their junior counterparts, the reigning African champions, The Baby Scorpions, who are on national record for flying the country’s flag high? How many trophies has Put secured for the nation since becoming head of the Gambian squad?
Public officials like Sheriff Gomez should endeavour to curtail their traditional trend of misbehavior of denying Gambians their right to information regarding important matters like this. It will only help develop and promote the game in a transparent manner for the betterment of all.
By the way, how much of our money are you getting at the end of the month, Sheriff Gomez? Don’t tell us it is personal too.
The executive committee of the Network of Human Rights Journalists (NHRJ) The Gambia is once again renewing their call for the immediate release of missing journalist Chief Ebrima B. Manneh, a Senior Journalist and Columnist of the Daily Observer Newspaper, who went missing since July, 2006, after leaving his home for work. He was said to have been picked up at his office by plain clothed security agents. Since then his whereabouts are yet unknown.
Journalist Manneh’s whereabouts have not been known publicly for three (3) years now, despite vigorous search by his family members and colleagues but to no avail. Through out the searching, no positive results have emerged from his employer, the state security units or any other concerned party. The NHRJ is disheartened that for three years now their colleague could not be traced. The NHRJ is seriously concerned with the plight of their colleague and is therefore calling on all the security apparatus of the country and patriotic citizens to help and put in their inputs to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
The NHRJ deems that it is the responsibility of the Gambia government and is duty bound to protect and ensure the security of each and every human being and their properties within the country. The NHRJ calls on the Gambia government to play a leading role and investigate the case of Ebrima Manneh and to bring those responsible to book according to the law.
The NHRJ is further calling on the general public to come up with any explanation or information on the whereabouts of journalist Ebrima Manneh. “This is a serious concern and we call on all the stakeholders to play an active role to secure the release of Chief Manneh. We wish to thank all those who in one way or the other are doing something to secure the release of journalist Chief Ebrima B. Manneh,” said NHRJ executives.
It could be recalled that on July 17th 2007, the NHRJ has organized a symposium to advocate for the release of Chief Manneh, but up to date no positive reaction has been fort coming on the matter.
Friday, 18 September 2009
I am a practicing journalist in the Gambia, trading career with a private daily newspaper, The Point. During the period, I rose through the ranks, becoming the paper’s Sports Editor and Secretary General of the Gambia Sports Journalists Association.
I had painstakingly put my life on the firing line to supply news to a population denied their basic rights and freedoms.
I have been writing since the beginning of year 2000 and I have never looked back thanks to the support of my mentors the late Deyda Hydara and Pap Saine. I am grateful to have passed through the hands of these respectful and knowledgeable people, who played a vital role in my career as a journalist especially the late Deyda, whose untimely death struck me like a thunder bolt. MAY ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY REST YOUR SOUL IN PERFECT PEACE AND SHOWER HIS LOVE, PROTECTION AND GUIDANCE ON US ALL. Amen