End Impunity in the Gambia- Editor MBai Presents Scary And Disturbing Piece To The Ghana Based Africa Legal Aid NGO!!!
End Impunity in the Gambia Editor MBai Presents  Scary And Disturbing Piece To The Ghana Based Africa Legal Aid NGO!!!

 

The impoverished nation of The Gambia, is currently witnessing untold human rights, social and political crisis. Faced by political and economic uncertainties, The Gambia is the scene for extra judicial killings, cold blooded murder, abductions, arrest and torture of political opponents. The country is on the brink of total collapse, in view of Gambia’s worsening rights and political crisis. Africa’s most ruthless and brutal dictator Yahya Jammeh  is ruling the tiny West African country with impunity, showing little or no respect for the rule of law and basic freedoms of the citizenry.

 

Since coming to power in July of 1994, Mr. Jammeh has been constantly undermining the country’s constitution, with the sole objective of entrenching his leadership. He pioneered all kinds of draconian laws, ranging from the setting up the National Media Commission, the infamous Indemnity Bill and the Local Government Act.

While the National Media Commission was aimed at the muzzling the private press, the Indemnity Act, gave license to our security forces to shoot and kill citizens without having the fear of being arraigned before any court of law. The indemnity Act also gave sweeping powers to the President to pardon security forces, who killed dozens of Gambian students in April of 2000.  The students were protesting against the killing of their colleague Ebrima Barry. Barry was reportedly beaten to death by the personnel of Fire and Ambulance Services. The following students were killed by the security forces.

   1.     Baboucarr Badjie, Talinding Arabic school

2.     Wuyai Foday Mansareh, Anglican Institute

3.     Momodou Lamin Chune, Latrikunda Junior Secondary school

4.     Momodou Lamin Njie GTTI

5.      Claesco Pierra, New Jewswang Secondary school,

6.      Karomo Barrow ICE High school

7.     Regional Carrol

8.      Lamin A Bojang

9.     Ousman Sabally, Brikamaba

10.Sainey Nyabally, Brikamaba

11.Bamba Jobarteh, Armitage Senior Secondary School

12.Unidentified teenager killed

13.Abdoulie Sanyang

14. Omar Barrow, former journalist/Red Cross Volunteer was also shot dead.

 The amended Local Government Act, empowered the President to fire elected Mayors and other Local Government leaders in the country. The President also reserves the right to dissolve Municipal Councils anytime he deems it necessary. The passage of the Local Government Act,  signals the end of free and fair elections in The Gambia. Voters are being stripped off their constitutional guaranteed right to elect their local leaders. The President has been empowered by law to overrule such powers. He can fire local leaders without cause.  

From 1994 to date, Jammeh has been ruling The Gambia with an iron-fist. There are many unresolved murders in The Gambia. The state, which is often suspected as the prime suspect,  in such atrocities, had never demonstrated any interest or commitment to  bringing the killers of such citizens to book.  A classical case  was the murder of the founding Editor of the Banjul based Point Newspaper, Deyda Hydara.  Since the murder of Hydara in December of 2004, there has not been any serious investigations conducted by this administration. The Government instead came with a bogus confidential report, in which it tried to blackmail the slain editor.

Another blood bath hits The Gambia in July of 2005, when President Jammeh personally instructed the killing of 60 West African Immigrants, 40 of whom were Ghanaians. The immigrants were mistaken as dissident rebels poised to disrupt the country’s ailing democratic process. The following Security officials were linked to the killings of the Ghanaians.

1.     Major Musa Jammeh- Deceased

2.     Captain Tumbul Tamba- Deceased

3.     Ousman Sonko-Interior Minister

4.     Staff Sergeant Sanna Manjang- Active Duty

5.     Staff Sergeant Malick Jatta- Active Duty

6.     Lieutenant Kawsu Camara, alias Bombaredeh- Active Duty

7.     Other unnamed State Guard Solders.

 In March, of 2006, the Government also summarily executed five senior Gambian security officials, who were suspected of having hands in the March abortive coup, led by the erstwhile army Chief Colonel Ndure Cham. The following officers were executed by the Government without any form of legal recourse:

    1.     Daba Marena, former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency

2.     Lt. Ebou Lowe,

3.     2nd Lt. Alieu Ceesay

4.     Warrant Officer Alpha Bah

5.      Staff Sgt. Manlafi Corr.

In a press release issued shortly before the killing of these former service chiefs, the Government claimed that the men escaped while being escorted to a jail house in the Central River Division. It issued the said story, in a bid to conceal the killing of  the above mentioned former security chiefs. Sources close to the Army Command said the men were executed in grand style by personnel of the State Guards, known as the jungullars.

          Journalist Manneh Feared Dead!!

 Journalist Ebrima Chief Manneh has been missing for over a year now. There are fears that Manneh must have been secretly executed by the Government. His family, the Gambian local media and the Ghana based Media Foundation for West Africa, had  launched numerous appeals for the Government to produce the body of the missing journalist without success.

Concerned by Manneh’s plight, the Media Foundation filed a court action at the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) court in Abuja against the Government of The Gambia. The said case is pending for judgment, even though The Gambian authorities had openly treated the Sub-regional court with contempt, by failing to show up  in court to defend itself.

To further catalogue the atrocities committed by the Jammeh  administration, it’s imperative to cite the unfinished persecution, meted out to local journalists- most importantly the Independent Newspaper.

Before the illegal closure of the Independent, the Government through its agents at the NIA,  had systematically tortured Editor Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay. The journalists were accused of publishing articles endangering “National Security.” 

     Freedom Newspaper Under Attack!!!

 In addition, following the hacking of   the Freedom Newspaper, by agents of The Gambian Government, dozens of the paper’s subscribers were arrested and tortured by the state. Some workers whose names appeared on the so called list of the Freedom Newspaper subscribers, were also fired from their  jobs, with threats of dragging them to court.  An arrest warrant was  issued for our former Banjul Bureau Chief Editor Omar Bah. The arrest warrant was aired both on public radio and Television for days.

Armed soldiers were dispatched to get Editor Bah alive or dead. Editor Bah narrowly escapes death, as he luckily crossed into neighboring Senegal untouched. Other Freedom Newspaper subscribers suffered body pain as a result of the tortured they have suffered from the hands of the NIA. This author’s family were also routinely persecuted by the Gambian state.

The hackers posted a false statement on the Freedom Newspaper, claiming that the Editor Pa Nderry MBai had pledged his allegiance to the Ruling Party and was poised to return home with a former official of the Government Ebou Jallow. They also claimed that the list of the subscribers posted on the Freedom Newspaper and Pro-Government Newspaper, the Daily Observer, were Editor MBai’s informants.

Their ultimate  goal was to smear my credibility  as a journalist and also to instill fear  into the population. Despite such blackmailing tactics, the Freedom Newspaper is still rattling Jammeh’s cage. The paper is more dynamic and popular today. The paper continues to command its leading role on the cyberspace online journals.

The Government of The Gambia, had applied all kinds of censorship mechanism in a bid  to ban the Freedom Newspaper in The Gambia. It blocked the paper’s main IP address on numerous times. This was contained in the United States Human Rights Report on The Gambia, for the year 2006 and 2007. The most recent case involves the new owners of GAMTEL, who were unhappy  with the paper’s reportage of a looming bankruptcy at GATEL. The new owners who reached a partnership with The Gambian Government, has resorted to blocking the Freedom Newspaper IP address in The Gambia.

Following an international outcry, the paper resurfaces in The Gambia weeks later. There is internet censorship in The Gambia. The Government also arrest and prosecute citizens caught reading the Freedom Newspaper. Many read the Freedom Newspaper in secret.

      The International Community Should Step In!!

 With all these rights and political crisis, taking place in The Gambia, Gambia’s plight is still a major cause for concern. The International Community is not very responsive to Gambia’s plight. Our people are dying on a daily basis in the hands of the ruthless Gambian dictator. Political oppression and marginalization continues to be the order of the day.

Gambia’s case is similar to the Zimbabwean situation. Jammeh and Mugabe shared common characteristics. The two, have been known for their bully foreign policies against the West.

In the case of Zimbabwe, Britain and the United States acted rightly by imposing sanctions against the Mugabe Government. Such sanctions are welcomed because they are geared towards ending impunity in the Southern African country.

We still cannot understand why similar measures are not meted out to the Government of The Gambia. There are enough justifications for sanctions to be imposed against the Jammeh Government.

The liberties and political freedoms of Gambians supersede the interest of President Jammeh and his partners in crimes. The West must help to restore democracy, rule of law and civility in The Gambia. This can be done in the form of cutting aid for the country. They can also impose visa restriction against corrupt Gambian officials and their families.

Besides, what’s the rational behind supporting a murderous and corrupt Government, which is not accountable to its citizens.  Corruption is endemic in The Gambia today. The President is richer than the state. His sudden riches came as a surprise to  many Gambians. Here was a person, whose bank account was in the red at the time of the illegal coup, he spearheaded against the deposed Jawara Government.

         Ailing Gambian Economy

 The Gambia was ranked among the failed states in Africa by the International Human Index. Institutionalized corruption is hindering economic growth in The Gambia.

The nation’s poverty ratio is on the rise, with low life expectancy rate. The average Gambian, lives below one dollar a day, while unemployment continues to threaten the lives of the poverty stricken citizens.

The Gambia is a private sector led economy. The Government is not investor friendly. It arrest, detain and deport foreign investors. The latest case involves the Carnegie mining company, whose General Manager has been charged with economic crime by the state. Carnegie has been of falsifying mining data information by The Gambian Government.

Diseases such as Malaria, diabetics and HIV/Aids are on the increase. The President’s false claim that he has found cure for aids and diabetics had brought false hope for Gambian aids sufferers.

Despite concerns raised by the United Nations, Medical Scientists and aids activists about the potential implications of  Jammeh’s false aids cure claims, the President is still insisting that he got cure for aids.

                    Self Perpetual Rule

There is no indication at this hour suggesting that President Yahya Jammeh will step down from power in the short term. He has fortified himself with his Jolla ethic group by hiring them into key positions in Government. He jails, tortures and kills  his opponents.

Citizens hope for effecting political change, through the ballot box, has been shattered, thanks to Jammeh’s direct control of the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission dance to the dictates of the President.  He hires and fires its official at his own accord. To some extent, this had affected the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission.

The Gambia is at cross-roads. “Jammeh is likely to die violently, because he does not subscribe to the ideals of democratic change of Government. He undermines the constitution with impunity. The Gambia is on the road to full blown political turmoil. Jammeh is not the type who would relinquish the Presidency like that. He wants to rule for life and shall face the consequences sooner or later. All despots end in disgrace.” Warns a political observer.

All efforts should be made to end impunity in The Gambia. Impunity is at its peak in The Gambia. Gambians deserve better life. Impunity breeds lawlessness. The world should act now to salvage the impoverished nation of The Gambia.

The author Pa Nderry MBai, is a Mass Communication Student at the University of  Phoenix. He was asked by the Ghana based Africa Legal Aid Organization to  write a piece on the theme “ End Impunity In The Gambia.”  The piece was meant for Africa Legal Aid’s quarterly Magazine. Legal Aid Africa also had offices in the  Netherlands. Mr. MBai is also the  Managing Editor and Publisher of the US based Freedom Newspaper. Mr. MBai who is also the former Secretary General of The Gambia Press Union, is currently residing in Raleigh, North Carolina. He can be reached by email at: editor@freedomnewspaper.com, pandeerrymbai@gmail.com or pancmbai@gmail.com   He can also be reached by phone at: 919-872-50-28 or 919-798-81-22

 

           

  

Posted on Monday, May 12, 2008 (Archive on Thursday, July 31, 2008)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI
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