Barbarity

Saddam is dead. It is all over the news with the cool graphics and accompanying music. I guess this means we won in Iraq huh? This is why we invaded Iraq, right? To hang a brutal dictator and establish stability? To free the Iraqi people from the violent arbitrariness of Saddam's regime? To improve their standard of living? To show them the benefits of American democracy? That WMD thingy is just a sideshow right? A little hoodwinking of the gullible American public.

We invaded Iraq to convict Saddam Hussein, so we could execute him by tying a nose around his neck. What a barbaric act. But hey it makes for cool television and the ratings are sky rocketing.

It was one heck of an expensive trial though: Nearly 3,000 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed since the United States invaded in March 2003. And the current cost of the war to the U.S. taxpayer is half a trillion dollars.

But, hey, what is a half trillion dollars? We convicted the SOB, right? Fair's fair. He had a scrupulously fair trial. He had his day in court. He had a chance to scream at our chosen judges and we delivered a legal ass-whipping on him. Hang him by his dictator neck .Yippee…

The lives lost and the dollars spent to get us there? They were totally worth it, weren't they? I mean, shit, even if we don't get another darn thing out of being stuck in this God-forsaken hellhole, we got to see Saddam swingin' from the end of a rope, brother. Woo-HOO.

That is what our boy king wanted all along. What a sad act.

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Hanging Saddam...

Victors justice is knocking on the cell door of Saddam Hussein. The United States government is going to hand him over to be murdered/hanged. Josh Marshall has a brilliant piece over at Talkingpointsmemo on this impending barbarity. He starts off saying:

It's a hornet's nest. But I'm game. So why not jump in.

And he went on to described the ineptitude and borderline juvenile behavior of our boy king in a succinct way when he wrote:

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

I, like Josh, find this transparent charade and its handling a profound embarrassment to our country. What next, W? Not to worry Josh made a point in the writeup that sums it up perfectly:

I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.

What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?

Don't get me wrong...I hate dictators like Saddam with a passion. But I am an unapologetic opponent of the death penalty. Imprisoning Saddam for the rest of his natural life has a more deterrent effect than killing him and emboldening his maniacal followers to wreck havoc on innocent civilians in blood lust revenge. But in bush world it is all about power trips. Consequences be damned.






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First Impressions

Unlike the nightmare that I encountered flying with Ghana Airways in 2003, my experience with North American Airlines on my recent vacation to the motherland was positive. The level of customer service offered is comparable to any airline I have flown with within the continental United States. The flight crew is gracious and courteous. The in flight entertainment isn’t bad either. Moreover and most importantly we depart and arrived at our destinations on time. Something Ghana airways know nothing about. It is a pity that this little airline that could is abandoning the Baltimore to Banjul route come January. Lack of passengers is obviously the reason. Apparently, Gambians in the United States don’t travel back home as often to warrant weekly flight s to the smiling coast and visa regulations after September the eleventh make it virtually impossible for Gambians to gain entrance into the states.

My flight landed in Banjul on a humid December afternoon. The first sign of economic decay confronts the casual observer from there on. The airport bus that ferries airline passengers disembarking from the plane to the terminal building has most of the instrument panel broken. The idea of repairing them hasn’t occurred to anyone. The bus driver was definitely in a hurry. Screaming for the arriving passengers to hurry up so that he could drive for what amounts to a block give and take. A little bit of patience on his part might help with his blood pressure.

The immigration and customs process was lackluster. The immigration officers look detached and wary. The process could be speeded up if each had their own stamps instead of sharing one. Welcome to Banjul international airport: The bragging port of entry that you can’t make APRC supporters stops talking about. Structurally the airport isn’t bad for a country the size of the Gambia. It complements the travelling habits of the populace. Most Gambians have never flown in their lives and the few that flew is catered for by this structure adequately.

Once you walk through the immigration gate, you are confronted by a throng of uniformed porters offering you their services. Grown men milling around with carts begging to carry your bags for a handout to feed their families. The sight of these straggly looking men will humble the most boisterous of a human being. You feel bless and sad at the same time. Blessed that you don’t have to go through what they are going through and sad that there is very little you could do to alleviate their plight.

Then it hit you that there is collusion between the porters and the customs inspectors at the Gambia’s airport. To avoid your bags searched, all you need to do is have one of these porters carry them. Once they go through the X-ray scans, the porter just signal to the inspectors that you are with them and you are saved the trouble of opening your bags for the inspectors to rummage through.

I was flabbergasted when the guy who carried my bags breaks it down to me when I tried to give him a ten dollar tip. He made it clear to me that the inspectors inside are waiting for their cut once he gets inside. I felt a sense of rage at that comment after all I don’t care if they search my doggone baggage. There is nothing illegal in them after all . To make a story short, I gave the guy twenty dollars for what amount to nothing I couldn’t do myself. I was trying to support a fellow by letting him carry two sixty pound bags on a cart for me. I could have drag them on wheels myself like I did in the states. That was my first brush with corrupt Gambian officials barely twenty minutes after setting foot on Gambian soil.

I will dwell on other issues in subsequent posts as time permits. I am swamped at the moment with work.

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I'm Back

I have been vacationing in the Gambia for the past three weeks. needless to say the internet connection down there sucks. I had the intention of blogging before I left, however my experience at the internet cafe the second day of my visit made it abundantly clear to me that this is not going to happen.

I will blog about my experiences during this trip in the days to come.

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Who Killed Deyda?

Readers of this blog have come to live with a permanent fixture on the right side of the blog in the form of a photo, a poem and a question: who killed Deyda? It has been two years since he was murdered in cold blood on a deserted street in Kanifing. His killers still roam the street of the Gambia for all I know. His murder join the list of many more that has never been adjudicated in the annals of Gambian history. Names such as Ousman Koro Ceesay, Ebrima Barry and the martyrs of the student demonstration that followed his death at the hands of Brikama firemen. Ousman Sillah escape their bullet, but will live the rest of his life reflecting on how lucky he was to escape the assasins bullet. The scar of that fateful day will live with him till kingdom cometh.

I am not a member of the journalistic fraternity. Never claimed or aspired to be one, but I have an affinity for what they do and respect those that stick to the ideals of the profession. I don't know Deyda Hydara, never met him, but will forever respect him. He paid the ultimate price for something he believed in. That counts for something in my book.

To commemorate his work in the face of adversity and paying the ultimate price for it, reporters without borders added his name to a cenothaph honoring the work of many a great man that work for something bigger than themselves. Here is what his son wrote of his experiences at the ceremony:

A little over a month ago, my mum Mrs Mariam Hydara, my sister Nelly, I and a host of guests from Africa, Europe and America attended a memorial ceremony in Normandy, France, for journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of the ideals of their profession.

Reporters Without Borders had erected a cenotaph for journalists who were killed in the last two years in the course of their work.

Among the names on that glorious cenotaph was my father’s - Deyda Hydara - who was murdered two years ago, even though his killer or killers are yet to be tracked down and brought to justice, as demanded by the national and international media fraternities.

It was a memorable day for the Hydara Family as it was an honour for us to have his name on the cenotaph in Normandy where heroes and historical greats such as Charles de Gaulle and Second World War veterans were laid to rest. These veteran soldiers fought for the freedom of France while these journalists, including my father, died for the freedom of expression in their own countries...GambiaEcho

The colleagues he left behind at the point ( the newspaper He co-founded with Pap Saine) wrote a heartfelt editorial to commemoriate the anniversary and vent their frustration at the fact that his killers are still at large. Reproduced below is the editorial in its entirety:

It’s said that when death is glorious, it has to be envied. Deyda died gloriously, and his murderers are probably even envious of the glory that has followed his death.

Ever since Deyda was murdered by some cowards two years ago, his name has been reverberating all around the globe. Though his physical frame has been destroyed, his soul remains untouched and untouchable, because it is a noble soul. Great souls such as Deyda don’t die - they live on and on forever.

Deyda like Julius Caesar, seems to be much more important in death than in life. At least posthumous awards have been showered on him since his passing on 16th December 2004.

Now, Reporters Without Borders has immortalized his name for all time by inscribing his name on a cenotaph, where the likes of Charles de Gaulle are memorialized.

Deyda was a great man through and through, not in the sense of being wealthy, because he wasn’t; he just had enough to take care of his needs and share generously with those who lacked. But he was great in the sense that he took on a cause greater than himself.

He believed that public office should not be used for personal aggrandizement but to serve the common good.

He believed and insisted consistently that politicians should put the interest of the State above their own narrow personnel interests.

He saw in journalism the capability of pushing his ideas to the powers-that-be. He established The Point not to enrich himself, but to contribute meaningfully to the process of nation-building. Besides, he said it was an opportunity to help younger Gambians to develop themselves as journalists and social crusaders. In his own little way, he helped a lot of Gambians and non-Gambians alike to give a meaning to their lives.

So why would someone ever think of killing such a kind, patriotic and humane man? Who was afraid of Deyda Hydara?

It is those who dwell in murkiness, it is those who can’t stand the force of the truth who couldn’t stand Deyda’s guts.

If Deyda had been a coward, perhaps he would still have been alive today, wining and dining with scoundrels. But he wasn’t. He chose to lead a life of purpose; he was gunned down by evildoers who wouldn’t want their dirty linens to be washed in the public.

His killers are cowards. They chose brute force to confront a man of peace and letter. While they believe in the power of the gun, Deyda affirmed the supremacy of the pen over the gun. Isn’t the pen mightier than the sword?

Deyda is still honoured all over the world today, but his killers are sneaking around at night, fearing exposure.

Deyda died in glory, but they will surely die in shame, Deyda has been immortalised, but no one will ever speak or remember his killers. Deyda is a celebrated martyr but his killers will die unsung, uncelebrated and unremembered.

Their memories will turn to ash the very day they die.

We will remain proud of Deyda, not only for his famed generosity, for he was generous to a fault. He would rather go without than to see his fellow human suffer. We are proud of him because of his unswerving commitment to the cause he believed in. We are proud of him because he was a man of courage.

We are proud of him because his life is an inspiration that evil never triumphs over good.

Though Deyda has died, many more Deydas will spring up to continue on with the cause he had started. Deyda has proved to us that there is value to a life of service and sacrifice.

To his killers, we pray that nemesis should be kinder to them than they were ever him! Amen... The Point

The daily Observer in the meantime didn't even think it is important enough for an honorable mention. Instead they (Daily Observer) have become a notice board for the never ending messages of felicitation sent to Yahya Jammeh for winning the september elections. What a piece of rag.

Rest in Peace Deyda.

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Stupid is what...stupid does.

Is it just me or is the office of the president so inept at spin that they will release an idiotic statement like this:

According to the release, “it is amazing that the hidden safe was not part of the inventory of the office and cash found in both the safe and the steel cabinet were also not reflected in the handing over notes, which Mr. Jaiteh presented to his successor.”..the point

Run that by me one more time. Mr. Jaiteh was transfered from one position to another or fired. He hand over an inventory of what he is leaving behind to his successor, but didn't mention the hundreds of thousands of dalasis he has sitting in a safe under his desk. A desk that he won't be returning to again. Really smart...won't you say. Except that Mr. jaiteh I take it isn't that stupid. The press people at state house don't even care to lie good anymore or else they won't release such a bogus statement and expect Samba from sare pateh to believe that.

Why would someone trying to steal money leave it in the office he is vacating? Does that make any sense to any functioning human being? The office is the last place to hide stolen money in the volatile environment that constitutes working for Yahya Jammeh.

The press release is just a smokescreen. The hiring, firing and detention of Gambians trying to do their duties continues. I have seen some of my country men blame the victims of Yahya's endless firings and detentions as deserving of it. They argue that these officials shouldn't work for Jammeh in the first place. I disagree. We should place the blame where it belongs...on the ignoramus that is ruining that nation. Somebody has run the infrastructure that is the polity of the Gambia. Don't think for a second that Yahya Jammeh will give up if these professional fail to work for his government. He will just stcok the departments with mediocre talent and run the country to hell faster than you can sneeze.

My beef with these professionals is their tendency to get dominated once they get into these positions where they can effect positive change to the system. Instead most of them collect their checks and have this don't want to rock the boat mentality.

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Mass Deportation

In his now famous Sunugaal slide show with its heart breaking lyrics, Senegalese poet cum musician Awadi sang the following:

All your beautiful words
All your beautiful promises
We always wait for them

You had promised me that I would have of the job
You had promised me that I would never be hungry
You had promised me of true activities and a future
Really up to here I still see nothing
That's why I decided to flee, that's why I break myself in dugout
I swear it ! I can't stay here one more second.
It is better to die that to live in such conditions, in this hell
Come what may
I again prefer to die

See the slideshow and hear the accompanying lyrics here

He was decrying the decay that has befallen his countrymen, but you can swap the name Senegal with any other African country, and the situation he is bemoaning will be just as true. The Gambia has lost many a son to the waves of the Mediterranean sea. They died braving the demons of the sea to reach what they believe is the promised land. Those fortunate enough to make it to the shores of the Spanish Canary Islands are now been sent back en mass as reported by the point in this story:

As part of the drive to combat illegal immigration, some 111 Gambians have over the weekend been deported to The Gambia as they tried to enter Spain.

The Point has learnt that the would-be immigrants left The Gambia some three weeks ago aboard a vessel but ran out of luck on entering the Canary Islands, their vessel having been intercepted and all the men on board put in a plane back to The Gambia.

The latest arrivals bring to 255 Gambians deported within a period one month..point

The economic toll of this mass deportation will reverberate around the whole nation. There are families in the Gambia that sell all their livestock to scrunge together the 25000 dalasis ( about $890) to have someone going on this trip. Getting sent home means no returns on their investments and the consequences will not be pretty economically. The toll apart from the millions of dalasis that went down the drain will take years to reverse. The psychological impact of cheating death just to be dump back to square one could have traumatic effects on many a youngster in a country where mental health advice is virtually non-existent.

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Timbuktu Manuscripts


African countries have thrown their weight behind efforts to preserve the priceless Timbuktu Manuscripts, ancient documents that hold the key to some of the secrets of the continent's history and cultural heritage - and shatter the conventional historical view of Africa as a purely "oral continent".

The Timbuktu Manuscripts - or Mali Manuscripts - reams of written manuscripts dating as far back as the 13th century, are ancient Arabic texts that hark back to the Malian city of Timbuktu's glorious past, when it existed 500 years ago as a gold trading port and centre for academics and scholars of religion, literature and science.

The manuscripts provide a written testimony to the skill of African scientists, in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine and climatology in the Middle Ages...

click here to read details of this project

Other avenues to peruse for timuktu manuscripts are linked below:

The ford Foundation

The Library of congress

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Black Like Me

Like most immigrants coming to this country, I wasn't privilege enough to have my school paid for. I had to get a job to pay for school and support a family back home. A co-worker at one of these jobs ( yes I had numerous jobs) used to tell me that despite our similarities in skin tone, my accent counts for something. It used to make me laugh. The notion that white people will gravitate towards me despite what I termed as a detriment (my accent) doesn't make a lot of sense to me then. But he insisted and as I integrate more into the society of my adopted country, I have come to realize the folly of taking his insistence for granted. The institution of slavery have left a stigma on the off springs of Africans who came through the middle passage that Air Africa arriving immigrants like yours truly are not subjected to. This story in the Nation magazine illustrates just that point:

Less than ten years ago I found myself one Sunday in a white Baptist church in rural South Carolina listening to a sermon titled "Surrounded" and sincerely wishing I was somewhere else. For more than an hour I sat there, gradually realizing that my own considerable discomfort was dwarfed by that of the worshipers around me. The stares I received betrayed not hostility but genuine confusion. In a segregated town that was 60 percent black, my presence in this white space was itself a statement. But about what, no one knew. The eyes fixed upon me desperately sought answers. "What are you doing here? You know the rules. Everybody knows the rules. We don't go to your churches, and you don't come to ours. Why are you doing this to us? What do you want?"

When the sermon was over, I tried to leave as quickly as I could, but a hand caught my shoulder.

"Welcome. I'm so glad you came," said one woman.

"Thank you, I'm glad to be here," I said.

On hearing my voice her face relaxed a little.

"You're not from here, are you?" she said.

"No, I'm from England," I said.

As the words were repeated all around me a small crowd formed. "He's from England," "He's English," I could hear people muttering as a mini-stampede came to shake my hand and greet me. I was English. I was not their problem. I would not be coming back.

As a black Briton I know a thing or two about white America's comfort zone around race. The wariness at the sight of me and the relief at the sound of me can leave doors half-open that might otherwise be firmly shut. American racism has me pegged somewhere between the noble savage and the idiot savant--it adds twenty points to my IQ for my accent but docks fifteen for the bell curve.


Read the rest of the story here.

If only I can find old Mitch, I will tell him he is got a point.

Update:
As Fola said in the comments:

Stanley Crouch wrote in his New York Daily news column something along the same hypothesis. He has a provocative title for it: "What Obama isn't: black like me". Here is a snippet of what he said in that column:

Back in 2004, Alan Keyes made this point quite often. Keyes was the black Republican carpetbagger chosen by the elephants to run against Obama for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. The choice of Keyes was either a Republican version of affirmative action or an example of just how dumb the party believes black voters to be, since it was obvious that Keyes came from the Southeast, not the Midwest.

That race was never much of a contest, but one fascinating subplot was how Keyes was unable to draw a meaningful distinction between himself as a black American and Obama as an African-American. After all, Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.

Read his take on this subject here.

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African Arrivals

The metro times has an interesting take on African immigrants in the metro Detroit area. I happened to be one of those immigrants who now call metro Detroit home. The story focuses on our successes and short comings. Our interactions with the broader native born black citizens we found here. The suspicion as intimated in the article is hindering cross cultural cooperation amongst our people. This sums up the frustration felt on both sides of the debate:

Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick questions whether there is enough communication between the traditional African-American community and Africans who have arrived in recent years and decades. Kilpatrick says he has high expectations for unity between the two communities and suggests the present relationship is nowhere near its potential.

"I don't know if Detroit is benefiting from African immigration because Detroiters themselves don't feel like they are benefiting from it," Kilpatrick says. "The community doesn't feel it, so we can't say that we're benefiting from it yet as a city. ... It's great for property taxes and revenue, but currently that's about it."

Instead of the mayor taking the initiative to bring together people of African descent, he is promulgating the stereotype that make this happen in the first place. He spoke as if property taxes do not benefit Detroiters as a whole. The last I checked, property taxes help to maintain the city. The problem lies in ignorance on both sides of the divide. We failed to take the time to learn enough about each other and end up sticking to preconcieved notions. Thus we end up in isolated communes within the same city.

Read the rest of the story here. It is a wonder read.

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Poverty

George Bernard Shaw wrote that:

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

Lest I come off as condescending or patronizing, please understand that it is stories like this one in the point that make my body die for the Gambia. Translation: feel sorry for the state of affairs in that nation.

These morons are borrowing a shit load of money from international banks for projects that fall on the wayside. In the process they are robbing Peter (the Gambian taxpayer) to pay Paul (Banks) and the cycle continues. The international financiers will continue to use the gullibility and more so the greed of third world bureaucrats to line their pockets with the interest that is tacked on these loans.

The most revealing part of the story came at the very end when the minister is quoted as saying:

adding that in The Gambia, poverty is widespread and endemic, although there is evidence of alleviation in certain areas of the country.

So after massive borrowing, poverty alleviation is still a slogan bandied around. The beneficiaries of these funds continue to be corrupt officials with fat swiss bank accounts."Chai fitna".

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Cabinet Unveiled

The Point as usual has the details:

By His Excellency the President of the Republic of The Gambia, Alhaji Dr Yahya A.A.J. Jammeh, acting under the provisions of sections 70 subsection 1, 70 subsection 3, 71 subsection1 and 71 subsection 3 respectively of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, has effected the following cabinet appointments with effect from yesterday, 19 October 2006.

Read the story here

There is not a lot of changes. He move some pieces around on the titanic. Kanja Sanneh (agriculture) and Maba Jobe (foreign affairs) are the only new faces in the cabinet so far with four vacancies still remaining. Lamin Bajo (ex foreign affairs) may still land another post. He has always been cool with Jemus.

Bala jahumpa, Susan Ogoo and sheik hydara might still be returned to their old portfolios of works and communications, Tourism and Justice respectively. Susan, unless she wants to resign is definitely getting her job back. She is family to the boss you know. Or is there a falling out.

 Of all the appointees, Kanja is the only outsider. Until two months ago and except for the ten months he spent in the country in 2005, he has spent most of the last two decades in the united states. Maba Jobe might be new in the cabinet, but his military background gave him some familiarity with the head honcho.

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Cabinet Update

Yahya has appointed a new secretary of state for agriculture. The fate of the ex occupant of that office...Yankuba Touray (also the APRC propaganda Secretary) isn't clear at this moment.

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Jammeh dissolves his cabinet

The point reports:

According to a press release from the Office of the President, His Excellency Dr Alhagie Yahya Jammeh, the president of the Republic of The Gambia, acting under powers conferred on him by section 76 (1) of the Constitution of The Gambia, has dissolved the Cabinet with effect from yesterday, 18th October 2006.

The dissolution precedes the swearing-in of President Jammeh for a third term, which is expected to take place soon.

Too bad he didn't sack himself along with useful idiots that populate his cabinet. That would save the Gambia a lot of grief.

I guess this partly validates the story that the folks at freedomnewspaper were alluding to a few days ago..link.

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Coerced, and tortured

I have been busy lately moving hundreds of servers, storage units and security apparatus to our newly built server room. I have been lobbying for this relocation for the past four years and finally got one built this year. The new room is spacious and very well ventilated. The late nights calls I have been getting because of production issues associated with the old server room's ventilation should be a thing of the past.

As with any complicated move, I am still working on the kinks that are associated with it and thus the lull in postings.

Browsing through the Point today, a story on the court martial of Captain Yahya Darbo caught my eye. I wish I can say I told you so, but the abuse and indignity suffered by the victims will make your blood boil. This was what I wrote in march when these guys were paraded on national television and forced (in my opinion) to make confessions:

The Daily Observer ( here and here) has a run down of confessionals that the "alleged" coup plotters in the Gambia made. Yep thats right "alleged". For all we know these people could've been tortured or threaten with torture to make those statements. Their confessionals in my opinion lend credence to my suspicion. All roads in this convoluted affair leads to Ndure Cham. Everyone keep harking back to what he told them. And since he is not around to refute them and the government is hellbent on punishing someone, they parade these people on television to narrate some scheme that they were supposedly part of...confessions

And this is the confession Captain Yahya Darbo made on television:

Explaining his knowledge about the March 22 foiled coup d’etat, Captain Yahya Darboe, adjutant at the Yundum Barracks recalled that “it was around 6:45 or 7:00, I was at the Farafenni Barracks working there as the 2IC. When I watched a football match on Saturday, I came back. My CO told me that the C.D.S called and said he will come to the Barracks Monday; first parade (8:00 a:am). He said I should use my vehicle and we go there on Monday 8:00 a am. On Sunday, I reported to work normally. I closed from work and then went home.”

Capt Darboe then said that it was on Tuesday, “Around 9:00 a am or 10: 00 a am, I saw Capt Wassa Camara, who entered my office. I said welcome and he said thank you. He pulled out D800 all in notes and then gave it to me. He said the C.D.S said let me give you this. I said for what? He said don’t mind. The C.D.S said he will talk to you later. I took it and then we start having breakfast together. And the he left. I was there until around 11:00 a am, when my wife called and said she could not cook, because she was sick. So I took permission from my CO, Major Bah and then I left home.”

“I was there till around 2:00 p m or 4:00 p m, when Capt Camara called to say I am going to have lunch with you today. I said OK. You are welcome. I am almost ready. Around 2:30 p m, he came and we had the lunch together. After the lunch, we left one soldier at my backyard. He said lets see. We went in front of my house and he said didn’t C.D.S called you still. I said not yet. I am not yet called,” he added.

According to him, it was after sometimes, when Capt Camara asked him about SoS Edward Singhatey’s residence. “I said of course, he is staying at Cape Point. He said no, you are lost. He said that man is not staying at Cape Point now. I said I don’t know. He said they said he is living at Brusubi, here. I said Brusubi is in Phase 1 and 2. I said I am in Phase 2, but I do not know whether he is in Phase 1. I do not know. He said they said he is staying around here. I said OK, the only place he might stay and I point to my right direction. I said there is a compound there that has electricity 24hrs and you have private guards’ there- Uncle Sam or so. I said somebody said to me the last time he is staying there, but I do not know. May be he is the one staying there. He said OK, I will find out.”

YMS Darboe, as he is fondly called, said both of them returned to drink Attaya (China green tea), before Capt Camara parted with him. He recollected: “I was there up till around 4: p m, when Capt Camara called me and said C.D.S said you meet him at the Brusubi main junction at 5:30 p m. I said did he say that? He said he said it. I said OK, no problem. I think it was around 4:45 p m, when I departed my house and went to where he said I should meet. I was there around 4:55 p m sitting but no body was coming.

Nobody came, and then I decided to buy a scratch card from a nearby shop. Then I loaded by mobile and called Capt Camara, because I do not have the C.D.S number. I told him I am here up till around 5:00 p m and this man is not here still. I said can you tell him that I am still waiting and he said I will call. I do not know whether he called or not. After some 20mins or so, there was nobody coming. I called Capt Camara again. I said please call C.D.S; tell him I am still waiting. He said OK, I will call. Then nobody appeared again. Just around 20mins or 30mins, I called Camara again. I said please, tell him that I am going. He can call me and I will call him back. He said he (Col Cham) said is just around there and he will soon be with you. I said Ok.”

“Immediately that call, a vehicle came. I was even expecting a Gaf vehicle as I was looking around. Then he (Col Cham) came out, after I trying to look somewhere. I saw him and I said sir, I am here. He said ah haa, come. I came and then he said jump in. Then I got in the vehicle and he said where is your home located. I said the other direction, if you lead left towards Brufut,” Darboe narrated.

He then further explained: “We went to the main junction, where you have Gamjuice “tabler” (billboard) that goes to my house straight. He said Ok, no need for you to go to your home. I said you wanted to see me? He said yes. He said don’t you know what is happening today. I said what is happening today. He said we are going to take this country today. I asked, are the NIA informed about this? He said yes. The reason why I asked this is because I have a lot of friends in the NIA. He said yeh, they are aware of this. I said OK.”

And this is what he is saying in court now:

Capt. Yahya Darboe, one of the alleged coup plotters currently on court martial, yesterday testified in the Voir Dire to determine the voluntariness of his earlier statement.

In his testimony, Capt. Yaya Darboe told the general court martial that he was arrested on 21st March 2006 at home and taken directly to the Mile 2 central prison. He said at mile 2 he was taken to the confidence room where he was stripped of his clothes and searched, before being taken to the security wing where he was confined to a cell alone.

He further narrated that at around midnight on 22nd March, 2006, he was removed from Mile 2 and taken to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) office in Banjul. He said on the way to the NIA offices, he was handcuff and placed on a black pickup vehicle where officers wearing black military uniform started insulting and slapping him.

Capt. Darboe added that at the NIA office he was handed to someone who called himself Hell Manager. This officer, he continued, announced to him that he had come to hell fire. He adduced that at the NIA office he was subjected to severe torture, apparently with a view to extracting what pleases them.

Capt. Darboe informed the court martial that his statement was not obtained voluntarily but under severe torture...The Point

For the sake of disclosure, I know Captain Darbo. We lived in closed proximity in Fagikunda in the late eighties to early nineties. Graduated from high school in the same year and infact study at the same library for our exams. He is a little bit older than me, but hang out with my older cousin and thus I interacted with him a lot during this period. He is personally affable and very good natured.

I didn't believe he was making that statement out of his own volition then and now my suspicion that torture was visited upon him and the other alleged coup plotters has been confirmed. Torture doesn't get the truth out of the victim. Most of what you get out of a tortured victim is what he/she thought you want to hear. My heart go out to Yahya and all those tortured victims of Yahya Jammeh's gulag.

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NAWEC

Could this be the straw that breaks the camels back? The perenial power shortage that has plague Gambians for almost two decades could be a thing of the past if you believe what the managing director of a German management firm task with whipping NAWEC into shape has to say in this point story:

Speaking at the signing ceremony at state House, Mr Muhammad Bazzi assured that in the next six months the electricity problem would be a thing of the past. He revealed that in the next two months they would install another 20 megawatts capacity. He said that by the 15th of October, the third generator would start operation. According to him they would be giving out 19 megawatts by the 15th of October.
I sincerely hope his management team do a better job than MSG (management service Gambia). They took over the GUC (Gambia Utilities corporation) or as we used call to it Gambia useless corporation and make it worst. NAWEC took over from MSG and power issues have not relented since.

Power has been a headache for not only the APRC, but the PPP couldn't tackle it during their thirty year rein either. However the first step to solving any problem is to admit that it exist in the first place. Yahya Jammeh has taken that first step when he is quoted as saying the following at the signing ceremonies:
For his part, President Jammeh lamented that if there is any sector that his government has failed in delivering to expectation throughout his reign, it is the energy sector, especially with regards to electricity and water.

Governemnts are not the best providers of services. The bureaucratic weight usually hinders quality of service. However parastatals such as NAWEC are cash cows for African governements, thus Yahya is reluctant in privatising NAWEC out right. He put it in this terms:

President Jammeh however made it clear that NAWEC still remains to be a national company, adding that the contract only covers electricity generation and that everything continues to be under their duty and responsibility...point

Government and private partnerships have work well in western Europe. I hope this new partnership between the government of the Gambia and German management company resolve the electricity crisis in the Gambia. The country will be better for it.

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What am I

All political discourse on Gambian online forums (especially amongst opposition supporters) has deteriorated into taking sides - not in the context of a particular issue, but in the Manichean sense of are you a supporter of the original NADD project or are you for the UDP/NRP alliance. It is increasingly difficult to take a nuanced stance on any topic when it comes to opposition politics in the Gambia. So try to find out where I stand.

I do not support the withdrawal of the UDP/NRP from the NADD alliance. However when they did, I fully supported their right to association. If we are going to build a truly democratic society, we should be tolerant of others right to choose what they want, notwithstanding the extent to which we disagree with their decisions.

I fully support the need for PDOIS (NADD’s biggest constituent party today) to forcefully espouse the virtues of enlightenment in the electorate, but oppose the contorted lengths their supporters will go to malign the characters of those who disagree with them as unpatriotic.

I am a believer in values such as honesty, forgiveness, trust and tolerance. However, I oppose extremist of any nature (be they religious or political). Both parties to NADD have broken a tenet of these values along the way and since the breakup. The vitriol displayed is sometimes stupid considering that both alliances lost the presidential elections. The status quo characterized by cronyism, nepotism and brutality remains intact and arguably strengthened by the results. Instead of formulating ideas to undermine that stranglehold, opposition camps are harking back and forth at trying to lay blame on each other for their woeful showing at the polls. Get over it guys, we lost and will lost again if we don’t learn anything from the previous six months: that obtusely clinging to ego will not get anyone anywhere. Pragmatism is what makes great political movements.

I am a firm believer in the capitalist system of competition, but was flabbergasted at the rhetoric employed by all presidential aspirants during the run up to the elections. They promised the electorate everything under the sky, instead of calling on the ingenuity of their countrymen. It was all a bash of feel good rhetoric with no basis in macroeconomics.

Do I believe government has a role to ameliorate poverty and its effects? You bet. What I don’t like and in fact despise is candidates to political office bamboozling the electorate with grand schemes that will not come to pass. Both candidates did that in one form or another. Instead of promising to buy farmers produce, why don’t they promise to institute policies that will foster an environment where private entities could fill the void. Governments and the bureaucracy they entail are not the best machinery for the undertakings that is needed to market our farmers produce.

Despite what the UDP/NRP alliance might be saying, the electorate has spoken. Do I like the result? No, but I agree with the electorates right to decide the nature of society they want to live in. If the process leading to the election was fraudulent, they should have not participated in it. Somebody should have figure out that you don’t play in a flawed game and cry foul at the result.

I think I have managed to piss off both parties to the September 22 poll. What label should I apply to myself? I consider myself a concerned Gambian, but opinion been what it is, you go ahead and label me.

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Jammeh threw a victory Party


Tens of thousands of people crammed onto Gambia's tiny island capital Banjul on Saturday as President Yahya Jammeh threw a massive beach party to celebrate his re-election for a third term. The authoritarian leader was declared the winner of Friday's poll with 67.33 percent of votes cast across the tiny West African nation.

"My priority is to make this country the best in the world," Jammeh said as thousands of his supporters swarmed around his beachside state house, banging
drums and screaming.Soldiers danced in Banjul's ramshackle streets, chanting
"President Jammeh, the government is yours", as tractors, trucks, police cars
and taxis ferried thousands more people towards the beach...source

There you have it folks. All is well in Bathurst (Banjul). Our people are in a festive mode. They have voted Dear leader back to his throne and he threw them the bones. Party on people because tommorow will be another day. You've made your decision and the results will be visited upon you. In other words you will be accountable for your votes either in a good way or otherwise. I hope for the former dear countrymen.

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Yahya Jammeh is the Winner


Incumbent Yahya Jammeh is the winner of yesterdays presidential elections held in the Gambia. With 90% of the votes counted, he is running away with almost 65% of the votes casted. The results were nothing political observer ever envisioned.
Most Gambian political observers expect the incumbent to win especially after the opposition split, but the margin of victory that emerge from yesterdays poll has caught everyone by suprise. However unless someone can prove electoral mischief, I will venture to say that the Gambian people have spoken. They prefer the status quo to change. I don't agree with the decision, but I respect it. They are the masters of their country's destiny and have decreed with yesterdays vote that they like it the way it is. 65% is not a narrow margin. It is a whipping.
Does this mean folks like yours truly will cut Yahya a slack when he trample on the rights of the citizenry....don't even think about it. He has a constitutional mandate to rule and we have a constitutional right to criticize his excesses. That role will continue for the next five years. God bless the Gambia.

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Poll update

It is pretty much a done deal at this hour. The APRC is on its way to an electoral blowout. What amazes me is that the combined opposition figures are not even close to the incumbent's number. The idea that a divided opposition will dilute the opposition votes and enable Yahya to win by default is not supported by the figures been release by the IEC. Yahya's vote tally is more than twice the combined opposition figures in all of the constituencies counted. My native Badibou went overwhelming for Yahya. This used to be the opposition stronghold during the first republic and they paid badly for it as far as infrastructural development is concerned. The APRC campaigned on the projects they've initiated especially the Kerewan-Farafenni road construction to woo Badibunkas to vote massively for them. Another factor is the Badibunka businessmen and the influence they have over the folks back home. Their ( the businessmen) palm were greased to exert their influence and pull a huge victory for the APRC. One has to remeber that Yankuba Touray (APRC's chief mobiliser) married into one of these families. Progressive Africans has the latest updates here

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Update

The results release so far has the elections trending towards an APRC landslide. With seven constituenties reporting, the APRC has garnered a whopping 75% of the votes counted. The capital city of Banjul voted solidly for the incumbent. Nothing new here...Banjulians always vote for the incumbent. Here is the 2001 results that show the same trend. What is disappointing to me is the poor showing of NADD in Banjul. I was thinking that NADD's method of campaigning will be most effective in this urban setting, but alas I was wrong.

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Election results

Progressive Africans ...an outlet run by Ebou Jallow is running a live election results update. So far Yahya jammeh is polling 65% with three constituencies posting their results.....Progressive Africans. The UDP is also running live reports at this location.

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Elections monitoring

The elections went without a hitch or any reported violence. The polls closed at 6pm GMT or 2pm EST despite the downpouring of rain that marked the day. The counting is underway and should be a lot faster than usual since the IEC has designated 48 counting centers instead of the usual seven adminstrative areas previously used. Having worked for the electoral commission in an administrative officer, I have seen first hand the logistical nightmare involved in moving all ballot boxes in an adminstrative area to one location for counting.


I will be staying up late into the night monitoring the news coming out from the Gambia from any source reporting on the elections.

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Election Day

After criss crossing the entire country for the past three weeks, the aspirants for the Gambia's highest office will have to wait for another 48 hours to hear the verdict of the electorate. The campaigning officially ended on Wednesday, September 21 with all candidates making their final pitch in mass rallies organized in various locations in the Kanifing Municipality area... the largest demographically settled area in the country.


Overall the Campaign went fairly well for all and sundry. Compared to the 2001 elections campaign, this one went peaceful with no lost of life reported. The candidates and their supporters should be commended for that. After all is said and done peaceful cohabitation is what we need in the Gambia.


Electoral politics is not strange to Gambians. They have been voting since independence. You may not agree with their choice in the past and may not agree with it come saturday, but it will be pompous for anyone to tell Gambians what to do on election day.


Citizenship, Halifa like to say is not an accident. I happened to agree with this assertion. Gambians should comport themselves well after casting their votes to avoid any kind of violence. The Gambia is all we have. The security forces should desist from intimidating the electorate.


Finally, the losers of tommorrows vote should gracefully concede provided the vote is certified free and fair by the international observers. The victor should drink some humble juice and not gloat, but acknowledge the challenge and contribution of his opponents and their supporters.

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Run down of events

The Daily Observer is reporting that Sudan's genocidal maniac Omar Bashir is on a two day working visit to the Gambia. Here is the story:

Omer Hassan Ahmed El-Bashir, President of Sudan, will arrive in Banjul this afternoon, on a two-day working visit, according to reports from the Office of the President.

President Yahya Jammeh, and members of his cabinet as well as senior government officials, will receive the Sudanese leader at the Banjul International Airport.


According to reports, President El-Bashir will land at the airport at 15:00hrs, and those expected to welcome him are expected to be at the airport at least an hour before his arrival....Observer


Why is Yahya Jammeh inviting a monster who is perpetrating the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur. He is also asking the African Union troops stationed there to protect helpless women and children to leave so that his evil Janjaweed could finally complete the genocide they started a few years ago.This picture illustrates the evil that Bashir is unleashing on the people of Darfur:



How can Yahya break bread with such an evil man? To borrow a phrase from Keith Olberman: Have you no shame sir?


On the elections front the presidential campaigns are going violence free. Some commentators attributed this to the absence of Baba Jobe from the political scene.This is a welcome development. However a reporter for the state run TV station wasn't so lucky. He got arrested and detained by the Gambia's gestapo like agency...the NIA. His only crime was reporting on opposition rallies taking place around the country.

All three presidential campaigns are drawing huge crowds according to press reports, here, here and here. The commonwealth has an election observer group led by the erstwhile African Union secretary general ready to go to the Gambia according to this story.

Needless to say, the bickering continues on Gambian online forums on the break up of the original NADD project. With a week before D-day, I can't fathom why intelligent folks continue to rant on an issue that will not change the dyanmics of the game on the ground. Go figure.

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War Mongers

Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country...Hermann Goering

With the September 11 anniversary around the corner, King George and his minions will be beating the war drums again. They will try to convince the citizens of this nation that Iran is coming to get us. Iran is the new bogey man. Remember the big bad wolf of mesopotamia(Saddam)? He supposedly has weapons to annihilate civilization or that was the rational Georgie and his handlers told us will happen if they don't get him first. We all know how well that thingy turned out. Yeah Saddam is in jail but Irag is tettering on the brink of disintergration. What a noble venture it has turnout to be.

In the last week or two they have started their disinformation campaign again. First defense secretary Rumsfeld compared anti war Americans to Nazi symphathizers in a speech to the American legion. He later claimed to be quoted out of context after a barrage of counter offensive from the other side led by MSNBC's Keith Oberman. Here is a snippet of what Keith said on his TV show:


The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve... read the ret of the takedown here

Here is a video of Keith's rant:





But Keith left most of his outrage for Rumsfeld's boss (our boy king)when he said on 9/05/06 the following:
"Have you no sense of decency, sir?"...truthout

Here is a video of the takedown:




If only we had men like Olberman looking for America before the advent of that mistake in human life and treasure called Iraq, it would have been a different story. However, Hermann Goering's analogy is still apt today. It worked for Bush and co in 2002 and unless we are relentless, they will pull another one on us...we the people.

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Game Set

They have their game faces on and with that said, contenders for the Gambia's highest office are campaigning around that tiny islet of a country seeking and in the case of the incumbent demanding that the electorate vote for him as he did in my native village of Saba when he is reported saying:

As the President of The Gambia, I will do what is expected of me but this time around if you vote for me I care for you and if you refuse voting for me, I will also give you my back,” he stressed...observer

Ok let me get this straight, Yahya Jammeh is asking the people of Badibou to vote for him or else his government if re-elected will ignore that region. This is authoritarian to say the least. He is paid by the taxes levied on these people he claims he is rescuing. They are paying taxes and the structures he enumerated are paid for by those taxes. But dictators like jemus never understand the distinction between state property and their own personal property. They refuse to understand the fundamentals of governance...you serve the electorate, use their taxes to provide security for their lives and livelihood, utilise the tax base to build and maintain a viable infrastructure thereby fostering a vibrant economic environment for the betterment of the citizenry.

However, I hold on myself on my Jammeh rant for a minute. The purpose of this post is to acknowledge the developments taking place on the political front. The nominations for the presidential aspirants went fine and the candidates are:


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Incumbent Yahya Jammeh (Candidate for the ruling APRC)

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Ousainou Darbo (Candidate for the opposition Alliance for Change)

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Halifa Sallah (Candidate for the opposition alliance NADD)


The campaign is in ernest and the elections are slated for September the 22nd. The Gambian electorate is the final arbiter. The decision they make on election day will determine what kind of society they want to live in. Personally I am in the anyone but Yahya camp. I believe either of the opposition figures will be a boon for the Gambia. But if the electorate decide to stay with the status quo, that is their right as well. The consequences of such a decision will be visited upon them.

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Unintended consequence or Deceit?

The law of unintended consequence and the phrase for that matter is bandied around quite liberally in politics and for good reason. It’s always the unintended consequences that seem to take precedent when a big change occurs. This is the case with the events surrounding the registration and subsequent break of the original NADD project.

Most of the focus has been on the collective temper tantrum opposition supporters on either side of the debate have been throwing. Rants against each other aside, there seems to be one giant unintended consequence of this early break up: shifting the momentum and jiggering an easy landslide for the APRC.

So how did the law of unintended consequence come to pass in the case of NADD? The Gambia Journal has what I believe to be one of the best summation of the conundrum that led to the fallout and breakup of NADD. It all hinges on that single act: registering NADD as a party. Either by willful machination or by gullible mistake some in the executive decided to register the alliance as a political party, notwithstanding the advice of one of the Gambia’s most celebrated lawyer who happens to be a member of the executive. Of particular interest is this paragraph:

At the time, we thought the registration of NADD at the IEC was a mere mistake, but a type of mistake unbecoming of a leadership that is never done projecting its intellectualism, maturity and professionalism. Now, from hindsight and from facts that the Gambia Journal have gathered, what looked like an innocent mistake could have been a deliberate ploy by some members of the coalition leadership. We have gathered from reliable sources that UDP’s Mr. Darbo, who is a lawyer by profession, had strongly advised the NADD executive against registering the coalition at the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) in the organizational form they had adopted. Being unable to convince his colleagues Mr. Darbo decided on washing his hands off the registration process. The then NADD Chairman, the venerable Assan Musa Camara, was assigned to meet Mr. Darbo and bring him back on board for the registration exercise. At Mr. Darbo’s office Mr. Camara had everything laid out for him in such a way that he was alarmed and worried at the erroneous decision to register NADD in the manner that they did. Mr. Sallah, the NADD coordinator, was out of the country but his colleague Mr. Sam Sarr was around. Mr. Camara hurriedly took to the phone and got Sarr, asking him to go to the IEC office and withdraw the registration papers immediately. Mr. Sarr promised the Chairman that he would do that. In reality Sarr never went back to withdraw those papers. Hidden behind this case is one of the problems that were to finally lead to the fall out that was to come almost a year later in February 2006.

If you believe what the Journal is reporting in the above paragraph, then Sam Sarr was deceitful and insubordinate to the chairman of the alliance when he promised to go and withdraw the registration papers because he was part of the group that has the following scheme in mind:

Other members of the NADD Executive were adamant on pursuing the registration process. Their tactical thinking was that by registering NADD, they would commit all parties in the alliance irrevocably to it. If this could be achieved, then UDP and NRP would have their rear blocked; there would be no turning back for them. The registration was completed; the parties that had seats in the assembly lost them after contesting it in court. Now it is believed that all of them have reached a point of no return and that all that parties have be leveled to equal status and that no party dare to withdraw from the NADD Alliance, as doing that would be committing political suicide. In this way a showdown became impossible between the major and the minor parties of the NADD alliance that has now been hijacked into a “party.”...Gambiajournal.com

And again that famous phrase “unintended consequence” rear its ugly head. The political calculation of the registration group(Sam and Co.) is akin to the act of gerrymandering so pervasive and hated in American politics.

Of course, the real test of the law of unintended consequences will be in about a month when we look back and realize that if only NADD had stay as an alliance and not get bog down in the legal albatross that came about due to its registration as a party, then we will shake our heads in a collective acknowledgement of what my elementary school teacher used to call “had I known shall never be known”. Only in this case the parties responsible for the registration of NADD had known what the consequences of their actions are. How? Because they were told by one of their own. They just happened to have something else in mind.

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Playing Devils Advocate

Andrew Young is in trouble and had to resign his role with Walmart for saying this:

In the [Los Angeles] Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.
"Well, I think they should; they ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."...source


I am going to be a devil's advocate here and defend everyone involved in this saga. For starters I think Mr. Young has a point. Throughout Urban centers in this country or mainly Poor black neighborhoods, there are plenty of small Liquor stores filling the role of grocery stores as well. Everyone of them I have been to in Detroit (the few times I did), the prices are outrageously high and the goods are of sub par quality. These establishments made the most of their money selling liquor, Tobacco products and lottery tickets. They gouge residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods who don't have access to reliable transportation to shop at upscale suburban stores. The grocery products they offer...did I mention sub par? The milk is usually old, the meat, well I won't touch it and don't get me started on the fruits.


However, I will not necessarily heap all the blame on the owners of these establishments. The risk of operating in these neighborhoods is enormous. Insurance premiums in Detroit are off the chart and this is true of most large cities in the United States. The owners of these stores have to factor that in their business decisions. I am not saying they should provide sub par service because of these factors, I am just saying there is a need and they service that need at their own risk. Plus if black folk will start opening up business to cater to the folks living in these neighborhoods, the people Mr. Young is calling out will not be there. Instead of pushing Walmart's agenda, He could have organize some of his millionaire friends and have them open up grocery stores in under served urban areas.


In any case if Mr. Young and his friends do not want to take the risk involved in investing their own money in establishing grocery stores and if he can get Walmart to come into these neighborhoods and deliver groceries and other services as efficiently as they do in suburban neighborhoods, I say more power to Mr. Young.




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Stop it already...

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does the series of letters exchanged between UDP/NRP alliance and NADD bring them any closer to forming a viable and united front against the APRC? Instead what it has generated into is a one upmanship between the two alliance leaders. One concludes his missive with the line: in the service of the truth and the other uses: in the service of the nation. No kidding. What is this in the service line all about. Sincerely will do just fine, but what do I know. This is a contest in letters between a sociologist and a barrister and little people like me will not understand. But if I read one more time another one of those lines, I swear I will puke.


Who are they kidding. In the service of the truth/nation? Come on people. What truth? What nation? These guys can't agree on nothing. Now they all got on their high horses and wanted to bamboozle us into thinking the other guy is the bad apple. If they have the interest of the nation above their personal ego, they will be pragmatic enough to come together. Blaming the other party for the disintegration is so yesterday. Obtusely demanding your opponent to join you on your terms is nothing short of authoritarian. And that is exactly what both parties to these letter writting series are doing.

It is time to stop the insanity and focus on the price. Gambia is a "multiparty democracy". If your parties can't convince the electorate to oust the APRC, so be it. At that point the electorate will have spoken. It is their nation and the consequences of their decision will be visited upon them. That is democracy. It is messy. Get over the recriminations and campaign your hearts out. The envisioned NADD project has failed. It is a three way race and may the best candidate win.

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So they write letters...

With barely a month before the September presidential polls, leaders of the two opposition political alliances in the Gambia exchange letters on the way forward, vis-a-vis a grand alliance to take on the APRC. After reading through the missives, I am pessimistic that the parties will ever reach common ground within the limited time frame they have. The letters are devoid of pragmatism. The parties to the talks are taking a defensive stance and trying to protect their turf. I hate to say this, but in my humble opinion the game is up and reconciliation between the UDP/NRP alliance and NADD ain't gonna happen. The winner of this untenable and obtuse behavior is Yahya Jammeh and his APRC.

I am not going to reproduce at length the letters they wrote to each other. However see below the proposals contained in a letter the UDP/NRP sent to NADD to start off the correspondence:

We in the UDP/NRP Alliance have since had a meeting of our joint National Executive Committee. The joint Executive Committee has mandated Mr. Darboe to pursue the discussions with NADD as quickly as possible. We have since been waiting to hear from Hon. Halifa Sallah so that discussions could resume. The membership of UDP/NRP Alliance and NADD are well conscious of the fact that the elections are just around the corner and there is not much time at our disposal. In view of the time constraint the UDP/NRP Alliance formally invites you to consider the following proposals for a united front of opposition parties and these are:

1) The UDP/NRP Alliance be expanded to include NADD

2) ‘That the new Alliance adopts a single flag bearer to contest the 2006 presidential elections.

3) That the whole activities of the elections be governed by the dictates of the present Constitutions.

4) That the issue of allocating portfolios and responsibilities be shelved and that the Alliance concentrates on the principles of regime change which will ultimately lead to a system change.

5) That after the elections and provided that the expanded Alliance wins the elections arrangements be made for organizing a National Constitutional Review Conference within a period of three months after the National Assembly Elections.

6) The recommendations of the Conference will be the subject of a referendum and thereafter be submitted to the National Assembly for adoption and ratification. It is our belief that only the Gambian people can determine how the affairs of this country should be administered and all other actors are to abide by the dictates and the will of the people.

In response, this is what NADD has to say:

Your first proposal is for the UDP/NRP Alliance to be expanded to include NADD. The position of the NADD Executive is unequivocal. The executive members are convinced that after the second round of voting was eliminated no opposition party or its leader could be promoted to win an election on the basis of its individual strength. NADD wants the UDP/NRP Alliance to take note of the current state of their parties. It wishes to go on record to affirm that NDAM, NRP, PDOIS, PPP and UDP are still registered parties in the country; that the registration of NADD was not designed to kill other political parties and it has not killed other political parties.

That is why the UDP/NRP Executive members who were in NADD could go back to their original parties as fast as they could write their signatures. The Executive Committee wishes to reiterate that all the other Executive Committee members of NADD decided to create this umbrella party and register it so as to galvanize the collective strength of the opposition parties to remove the present regime and then give life to each party to contest the next following election on equal footing on the basis of its own merit and that of its candidate. The creation of NADD cultivated a sense of common ownership that no alliance around a single party can create. The Executive Committee further observes that a UDP/NRP/NADD Alliance will not be recognized in law.

Any candidate would have to be under UDP NRP or NADD ticket. Hence your proposal is considered to take NADD back to square one when the opposition parties were considering whether to contest the election under an umbrella party or under the leadership of one of the existing parties. It is therefore maintained that the NADD arrangement provides the best opportunity for collective ownership of the candidate and the campaign process to guarantee victory. This is the first point.

Secondly, you propose that the new alliance adopts a single flagbearer to contest the 2006 presidential election. The Executive Committee of NADD considers the proposal to be incomplete. It would like to know how the selection is to be conducted. NADD had established a selection process based on consensus or voting by party chairmen, chairwomen and youth leaders. If no mechanism is proposed there is no way the NADD Executive can make a decision on this matter.

Thirdly, you propose that the activities of the election be governed by the present constitution. The Executive Committee does not understand what this means. The constitution has been amended so many times that it gives the president monarchical powers. A President now rules without term limit. The President can appoint and dismiss the Chiefs; dismiss the members of the IEC and can even dissolve the National Assembly. Are you implying that the flagbearer should not give commitment on a political platform not to seek a second mandate or support another candidate in the next following election? Should we not have a transitional arrangement to curtail the monarchical powers of the presidency which should be propagated on our political platforms? Should the flag bearer not be urged to give commitment in public to combat and uproot such powers that legitimize impunity? This is the corner stone of NADD’s attempt to put an end to self perpetuating rule. The NADD Executive strongly maintains that this platform of putting an end to self perpetuating rule and impunity is the best weapon the opposition has in winning popular support. This is one platform it has been propagating to the wide approval of the electorate. How to reverse this process without being accused of being power hungry is a dilemma we need to give careful consideration to.

Your fourth proposal is for the alliance to limit itself to regime change and that the issue of portfolios be shelved. The NADD Executive wishes to convey that the issue of creating a cabinet based on shared responsibility by member parties should not be mistaken to be an attempt to share the cake of power. NADD aims to keep the opposition parties alive and facilitate a healthy multiparty system after a five year transition by implementing the policy of collective leadership. Nothing is explained why such a general undertaking to operate a government based on the participation of all member parties and representatives of civil society should be shelved.

The NADD Executive maintains that the first five years after Jammeh, should be a transition period to genuine democratic and constitutional rule. All the basic rectification programmes that should be made should be known to the people, so that no leader will be able to betray their aspirations without being challenged and removed in the first five years. It stands to reason that if a future president, elected on the basis of merit is expected to accept a two term limit why should the first president of a post Jammeh government not accept one term to build the culture of establishing term limits for the presidency?

The fifth point is for a National Constitutional Review Conference to be the held within a period of three months after the National Assembly elections. In our view, the review of a constitution should be done through civic education programmes designed to enable the people to know what is in the constitution followed by a nationwide debate on the need for amendments through the auspices of a constitutional review commission. This is part of the NADD programme of action.

Your sixth point is that the recommendations of a national constitutional conference will be subjected to a referendum and then presented to the National Assembly. The Executive Committee of NADD considers such a proposal to be of a general nature. No issue has been raised. It is not clear whether the recommendations will be transformed into a bill that would require the approval of the National Assembly before a referendum. We don’t know what recommendations will touch on the entrenched clauses to warrant a referendum. Hence there is no point to make a decision on. To conclude, allow us to indicate that the best way forward for any party which thinks that it has the might to remove the APRC regime is to proceed to do so and ask other parties to support its programme. However if all opposition parties are convinced that an alliance is the best instrument to remove the present regime then the NADD arrangement appears to have earned popular appeal. The flagbearer of NADD has stated in no uncertain term that he will be ready to vacate the seat in favour of anyone who can be a unifying factor of all those who are dissatisfied with the existing regime. The NADD Executive therefore calls on the UDP/NRP Alliance to do a critique of the NADD MOU and make recommendations on what to delete to make it acceptable to them. The NADD Executive will review any recommendation with objectivity. While anticipating a swift and practical response, we remain yours in the service of the Nation.... read the rest of the letters here...

Basically they agreed to disagree. No new grounds were broken here, no compromises made. Both parties are set in their stance. Meanwhile the APRC under the guise of meet the peoples
tour have started their presidential campaign.

The efforts of concerned Gambians to get the two opposition camps to reconcile though laudable isn't going to make a lot of difference at this stage in the game. It will be a three way contest come September and if the electorate knowing what they are going through decided to stick with the status quo, God bless them. At this point, the electorate is the final arbiter and may the best candidate win.

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