By A Staff Writer

Banjul, The Gambia:Federal Judge Gladys Kessler is yet to deliver her judgment on the half a million dollars law suit brought against the Gambian government by the Washington lobbyist John Aycoth. Mr.Aycoth is the Chief Executive officer of the EAW Group lobby firm. He sued the leadership of the impoverished West African nation for breach of contract and loss of earnings. Aycoth presented documentary evidence in court in a bid to support his case. But his former employer the Gambian government says the lobbyist failed to meet their expectation and as such thought it necessary to terminate his contract.

The clock is ticking at this hour. No one can tell for certain what the future holds for Aycoth and his former Gambian clients. Justice Kessler has the final decision at the end of the day. The entire country is patiently waiting for the historic verdict.

At a Washington Federal Court, John Aycoth earlier testified that his previous efforts to woe investors into the Gambia was frustrated by corrupt government officials. John adduced that the government officials insisted in receiving kickbacks before okaying any of his projects. A multi million dalasis GSM mobile phone company intended to create jobs for the country’s highly unemployed population was frustrated by the then Information Minister Bakary Njie. Mr.Njie according to one of the EAW witnesses who testified in court demanded several thousands of dalasis before be would give his blessings to the said project. A South African business firm which was supposed to help relocate the Banjul Shell Depot project also never kicks off the ground. As usual, corrupt officials demanded kickbacks from the pioneers of the project.

Mr.Aycoth, who has been a lobbyist over the years worked in Congo and elsewhere across the continent. Prior to taking up his Gambia’s new assignment his predecessors were fired by the government. His coming was intended to sell Gambia’s battered image to Washington and other Western countries. The country’s ailing democracy was put into question. The West African nation was isolated internationally due to its appalling rights and democratic credentials. Confronted with such a challenging and demanding assignment, John visited Banjul, where he met with the President Yahya Jammeh and some of his close associates. In one of his visits, he was hosted at the Coconut Restaurant. While at his hotel resort, businessman Amadou Samba came to see him. Samba’s first statement to Aycoth was”I handles the President’s businesses.” Samba, a trained barrister later told John that he runs Jammeh’s business errands and it was in Aycoth’s best interest to work with him.

Mr.Samba was used by the regime to secure Gambia’s daily Newspaper, the Observer in 1999. The paper owned by the veteran Liberian journalist Kenneth Y Best, was in financial crisis prior to the sale. Mr.Best who was on exile in the United States with his family had no other alternative but to sell the country’s only daily paper at the time. Best knew Samba as a private businessman. Samba has since turned his back to the paper. The Observer is today operated by a board, mainly government functionaries.

Even though, if the Washington Court happens to rule in John’s favor, observers say recovering the said funds would be the million dollar question. The Gambian government is said to be without a healthy bank account abroad in the United States. In addition, the President has used the likes Amadou Samba to register businesses on his behalf. The idea, they say was intended to keep the President’s assets out of the limelight and also to pre-empt legal decisions. That Jammeh don’t want to take any liability for future and present litigations brought against him and his administration.

Well, sources close to the EAW Group says they are determined to recover their money come what may. While these sources are not keen at disclosing their next line of action in the event of a court victory, the lobby firm in an earlier court deposition lamented about the regime’s unwillingness to settle the said funds.

At his closing testimony John Aycoth, accuses some people in Jammeh’s government of trying to smear his image to the President by spreading rumours that he was messing with the head of state’s wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh. While John had denied having an affair with the Moroccan born first lady, but he confirmed handling the first lady’s past US visits. As a lobbyist, he was assigned to secure hotel lodging for the first lady. The lobbyist says each time he visits the first lady at her Washington resort his body guard Alhagie Martin and others were present.

Justice Kassler recently passed a judgment on the controversial tobacco case, which attracted local and international attention. The landmark judgment was well covered by the US media and other news agencies. Aycoth’s case with Jammeh is next. The inevitable verdict shall come.

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