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

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 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.”
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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:

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: