World Cup Fever



Infected by the World Cup fever, two sadhus play football on the banks of the River Ganges in Allahabad... courtesy Outlook India

Something to lighten your day...

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Diplomatic Nightmare

The point newspaper and AllAfrica are reporting that President Yaya Jammeh has invited Iran's president Ahmadinejad, Venezula's Chavez and the vice president of Palestine. The last invitee going by the name Farouk Kadoni didn't make a lot of sense to me. Palestine has a president and a prime minister (whose government is as we speak under siege by the Israelis looking for an abducted soldier). However this might be a mistake on the part of the point.

But the question that came to mind after reading this story is what in the world is Yahya thinking inviting such international pariahs when the rest of the world is watching? What value is the Iranian, Venezulian and Palestinian governments to the advancement of the Gambia's interest? Wouldn't this tantamount to poking a stick in the eyes of the western countries that contribute more to the development of the Gambia and happen to be in a delicate nuclear negotiation with Iran?

The United States recently suspended the Gambia from the Millennium Challenge assistance citing human rights abuses. In a statement release by the board of directors they stated thus:

The board based its decision on documented evidence of human rights abuses in the country and increased restrictions on political rights, civil liberties and press freedom by the government, as well as worsening economic policies and diminishing anti-corruption efforts, an MCC statement said. To support its decision, MCC considered reports from several organizations, including Freedom House, the Heritage Foundation, the World Economic Forum, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the U.S. Department of State....read rest of the release here

Could this be the reason why Yahya Jammeh is been intransigent by inviting Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez ... two of the most belligerent adversaries of the United States?

The two actions might not have any correlations, but I don't take anything for granted when it comes to the irrationality of Yahya Jemus Jammeh.

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Priorities messed up.

I am not one of those people who think the Gambia shouldn't host the African Union summit. Au contraire. What I have issues with is the governments indulgence in building structures that are not necessary for the successful implementation of the summit at the expense of more pressing infrastuctural needs such as the Brikama-Basse highway.

The goverment spent $5.5 million to build fifty two villas for visiting heads of states. I will argue that these heads of state could stay at the numerous hotels, pay their bills and in the process contribute to the economy of the host country. But Yahya will have none of that and in the pursuit of grandeur and infantile economic thought, he decided to spend that much money to build villas for a two day summit. Here is a snapshot of the villas.



The condition of Roads in the Gambia are horrible. The Brikama -Basse highway has become a nightmare for travellers. The Government spent a little over 2.5 million dollars to construct the Essau- Kerewan road(a 52Km road on the north bank).It is safe to say that 5.5 million dollars will go along way in alleviating the suffering of travellers along the Brikama -Basse route without causing any significant hardship to the heads of state coming to the Gambia for the AU summit. The Gambia have enough Four and Five star hotels to cater to their needs for the two day event. The economic impact of a reliable road infrastructure cannot be over emphasis. The prices of goods will go down significantly for starters. You don't have to be an economist to know that but alas dictators prefer grandeur to economic sense. See below a snapshot of road conditions in the Gambia and tell me if you don't think the money would have been better utilise fixing them.



And this one in the heart of Serrekunda...the largest city in the Gambia



The Gambia is a sovereign member of the African Union and as such is entitled to host its heads of state summit. However it will be helpful if the government went about it in a way that makes economic sense. In my humble opinion it went about it in an irresponsible manner as far as those villas are concerned.

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Bizarre

I wonder why this man finds it necessary to apologise to Gambians for the inhuman actions of his forbears. He could have done that in his neck of the woods. There are millions of descendants of African slaves in the United Kingdom. They are the people who bear the brunt of slavery. But I guess he knew that they will not tolerate his clownish behavior. So what better place to put up a clownish masquerade than the Gambia. Read the rest of the story below.

Descendent of slaver apologizes in Gambia

BANJUL, Gambia, June 23 (UPI) -- A descendent of an Elizabethan buccaneer has made a formal apology for slavery in an African country where many slaves were taken.

Andrew Hawkins, wearing chains, appeared in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, The Independent reported. He knelt down to express his regret for the actions of Sir John Hawkins, who is believed to have been the first person to sell African slaves in the Caribbean. Hawkins, a youth worker in Cornwall, went to Gambia with the Lifeline Expedition, a British group. His apology was part of the Roots Festival, which marks the events described in Alex Haley's book about his family.

"It was one of the most memorable things I've ever done," he said. "It was a learning experience. You see just how deep the wounds left by the slave trade are. As someone with family links to the slave traders, it was a very difficult thing to see the consequences of their actions."

Isatou Njie Saidy, Gambia's vice president, accepted Hawkins' apology and removed his chains.

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Fathers Day

I have been so busy lately and thus the lull in postings. Today been Fathers day, I decide to recycle a fathers day tribute I wrote last year. Happy fathers day to all responsible dads out there. Here is the recycled post:

Thank you Dad

As a rule, I'm not a fan of Hallmark Days - those occasions when we're obligated to celebrate and tithe to the tinsel titans who compel us to compassion or guilt.

But Father's Day has always had a special spot on my calendar - not only because I like fathers who stood up to responsibility, but it serves as day for me to reflect on the sacrifices of a man who once called the Village of Saba home. The man with the loud voice, but a gentle heart. The joke on our side of the village is that my old man will scare the living hell out of a lion with his voice but the soul behind the man we called Dad is as gentle as they come.

Father’s day is a day of remembrance for me. I remember the phone call that broke the terrible news… the demise of my father. It is still vivid in my memory as the morning dew. But I will not dwell on that sad news, because his is a life worth celebrating.

Frankly, I don't know why Dad doesn't slam the door on his way out. Considering the abject poverty that bedevils the life of an illiterate African villager; who live literally from hand to mouth.

The reason he doesn't is because fathers, when they are true fathers, don't do that sort of thing. They don't act childishly, throw tantrums, pout and demand attention. They take the guff and keep on trucking or in the case of my old man keep on farming and doing any odd job to feed his family. It's a very grown-up thing.

Before everyone who had a bad father or a lousy husband starts typing my name, allow me to disclaim: The world is full of good and bad men, some of whom have managed to procreate, as well as good and bad women. Ditto. But this is not about them. This is an ode to a man I grow up to respect and even more after he gasp for his last breath.

This is my appreciation for my father’s patience and understanding. His strength and reliability in spite of the forces arrayed against. This is the reason I celebrate father’s day. If only I can give ol' dad a call.

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Images of Torture

Click on the Images to see a larger view.

Reporters without borders release the above photos of the tortured body of a Gambian journalist at the hands of the security forces. Read the rest of the accompanying press release below:

Reporters Without Borders
Press release

6 June 2006

THE GAMBIA

We publish photos of journalist beaten by National
Guard while detained

Reporters Without Borders today published
photographs showing the marks left on the body of
a journalist from the blows he received from
members of the National Guard while detained
earlier this year in Gambia, where two
journalists are still in detention.

The journalist's identity and the circumstances
of his imprisonment are known to Reporters
Without Borders but are being withheld to protect
him. Gambia's National Guard is an elite corps
that is under President Yahya Jammeh's direct
orders and has its headquarters next to the
presidential building.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the African
Union, the European Union, the United States and
Taiwan - Gambia's leading political and economic
partners - to do everything possible to bring the
Jammeh regime's increasingly authoritarian
excesses to an end.

"The publication of these photos is an appeal for
help," the organisation said. "Gambia is sinking
into violence and despotism. Some political
detainees are clearly being brutally treated by
the Gambian National Guard. The international
community, including the leading African
democracies, can no longer remain silent. We
believe that the Jammeh government is not fit to
host the African Union summit, and that the
African Commission on Human and People's Rights
(ACHPR) should leave Banjul."

The most recent journalist to be arrested in
Gambia was Lamin Cham, a BBC stringer and former
editor of the Daily Observer, who was detained by
the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on 27 May
and was released today without being charged.
Malick Mboob, a former reporter with the
privately-owned Daily Observer and now the Royal
Victoria Teaching Hospital's spokesman, was
arrested on 26 May and is being held at NIA
headquarters in Banjul.

Cham and Mboob were picked up after their names
appeared on a list of subscribers to Freedom
Newspaper, an opposition news website edited by
Pa Nderry Mbai, a Gambian journalist living in
self-imposed exile in the United States. After
someone hacked into the website, the list was
published in Gambia by the pro-government Daily
Observer under the headline, "Freedom Newspaper
informers exposed."

The police are reportedly searching for other
journalists including Omar Bah, for whom a wanted
notice has been issued. Bar was the Daily
Observer's editor until he was fired last October
and replaced by a Jammeh loyalist.

The other journalist currently held is Lamin
Fatty of the privately-owned bi-weekly The
Independent, who was arrested at his home by
police on 12 April and was not allowed to see a
lawyer for more than a month. He was charged on
24 May with "publishing false news" under a
draconian press law providing for heavy prison
sentences. Despite the protests of local and
international press freedom groups, the law was
adopted in 2004, on the eve of the murder of
Deyda Hydara, the co-editor of the tri-weekly The
Point and correspondent of Agence France-Presse
and Reporters Without Borders.

The photos can been viewed here:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=17935

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MichiGambia Executive....arrogance at its zenith.

Below is the email I received from MichiGambia president informing me and the rest of the community that I have been deleted from the community mailing list. The bold letterings are my response to specific points he made in the email:

There was an article recently distributed to our community mailing list that doesn't help our cause or represent the image of the executive well. Several members in the community have contacted me concerning these articles and expressing disappointment about their misleading and negative implications. The article in question was written by Ousman Ceesay and was very unnecessary and not in line with the humble job the executive and our community as a whole are doing to help make a difference back home.

I will like to think that the people contacting you will have the cojones to speak their mind when they read what I wrote. But again this is more about the executive than anyone else. What is misleading about what I wrote? Please indulge me.



After reading the article which stated the following:

"The Michigan Gambian association has been conned by the embassy who is taking credit of the Medical supplies instead of the Gambian Community and he went on to say that Tijan Ceesay is currently in the Gambian waiting for the container topresent it to the President." This is the most inaccurate statement at any level. Tijan Ceesay did not go anywhere. It is totally unnecessary for someone to fabricate such false statement.


I am flabbergasted at the dastardly way the executive decides to quote me. Nowhere in the said article did I say what they quoted me as saying. But like everything else they do incompetence is the norm. I was narrating the talk making the rounds in the Gambian community.

These allegations are not only uncalled for but not healthy for our community who is just doing with the little we have to send help back home.

What allegations Monsieur de la Presidente? That Tijan tried to outsmart your leadership and nearly succeeded. You can’t be serious. Everybody and their mama know that is a fact. Don’t tell me what is healthy for the community. Free follow of information I imagine is healthy for any community. No?

When we received the acknowledgement from the President's office thanking the
community for a generous donation, he was proved wrong and forced to write the
following:

Ousman ceesay wrote, "Michigambia finally get an acknowledgement of their efforts and the allegations that I made that they may have been conned by the embassy proved false." For Ousman to enlighten his readership about the mistakes he made on his blog and never attempt to correct the misinformation he has been cascading to our community shows how passionate he is about attacking the executive of this association and the community in general.

Lawdy Lawdy…forced to do what? You guys are comical. I did that out of a sense of fair play. Something you guys obviously have no clue about. You confused criticism of your ineptitude to that of the community. When did critiquing the executive become synonymous with attacking the community? Get real. I am part of the Gambian community in Michigan. My best friends are part of that same community that you claimed I attacked but can’t bring forth any evidence to prove your point. What a joke.


This unsubstantiated allegations and unnecessary attacks to the executive have to stop. We are not being paid for doing the job we are doing but strictly volunteering our time and resources.

Therefore we don't deserve to be treated as such. When he is not only criticizing us but went to the extend of pointing out individuals of the executive and calling them names we have to do something. Because if we let people engage in name calling and sending it to the community mailing list, then that will defeat the purpose of this email list. For that being the case Ousman is being deleted from the email list effective immediately.


Now that is what this is all about. Your mighty executive should never be criticized. Like the fictional Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal farm, you are always right. Your little princesses shouldn’t be called out for their prank. Well you are wrong and you are barking up the wrong tree. If you guys think you can silence me by deleting me from the email list, then you got one coming. If I have to do anything all over again, I will do the same thing. No regrets.

We will not engage in a war of words with anybody for any reason. If anybody thinks he or she is able to help this association in anyway, shape or form, you are more than welcome to come forward and help for the good of our community.

I am willing to accommodate anyone at any time if he or she believes they can make a positive contribution. Remember that our monthly meetings are on the second Sunday of every month (or every three months). Bring any ideas or discussion that you want to have with the executive and we will be glad to listen to you!


Oh please save me the patronizing. You guys deleted someone for criticizing your work and in the next breath solicit input. If that is not hypocrisy at it’s height, I don’t know what it is.

Thank you very much and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Modou Jatta
President of the Gambian Association of Michigan


But don’t take my word for it. Here is what Cherno Baba Jallow (a member of the community) has to say about this saga:

It is beneath my comprehension that the executive commitee of the Gambian Association of Michigan can stoop so low as to "silence" its critics. Why expel Ousman Ceesay from the mailing list? Because he has written an "inaccurate" article? He attacks the executive? Does not support
the cause of the Association? Are these justifiable reasons to expel somebody from a forum?

The executive had the chance to respond to Ousman's write-ups when he posted them on this mailing list, but it chose not to. If Ousman had written a misleading article, it is important --- isn't it? --- for the executive to respond to the charges, rebut and clarify where necessary. That will have done two things: Set the record straight, a net benefit for the Association; and help
us all being roundly informed about the issues pursuant to Ousman's revelations.

The reality is this and I hereby allege: the president and the executive of the Gambian Association of Michigan decided to expel Ousman because they did not like his criticisms. Ousman was once arbitrarily removed by Modou Jah from the mailing list. It was only after complaints were lodged that he was re-instated. So Ousman's removal was well thought-out; it was carried out with a whiff of vindictiveness and partiality. It is wrong.

Recently, the executive decided to kill my column on michigambia.com and never even bothered to inform me. I was never served a notice and nor was I extended an invitation to any meeting where I could have had the opportunity to address any concerns or issues pertaining to my writings on the website. The committee just decided to yank my column off, showing no recourse to professionalism and courtesy. At least, I ought to have been formally notified
given the fact that I contributed immensely to the development of the website, needless to say the time and energy expended on the information there-in.But one thing is clear.

This executive has competency issues to resolve. It also suffers from arrogance of power. It lacks the professional approach to handling issues and people. It is a microcosm of the leadership crisis we have back home, when a few people arrogate themseleves the power to censor and silence people. It is a disgrace, the way the executive of the Gambian Association of Michigan has willfully blinded itself to the fact that in the marketplace of ideas, the cure to free speech is more speech.

I am a strong supporter of free speech and I will donate my last pint of blood to the cause of freedom of _expression. That's why I take my removal from the website and even more painful, the arbitrary delisting of Ousman Ceesay, with umbrage. Therefore:

I will not be a party to a mailing list that censors and silences critics. My respect for the ideals of free speech is too unalloyed to permit my continued stay on the mailing list. I hereby ask to be removed from the list. And I also hereby request that the Association not send me solicitations for funds. I will not contribute to an Association whose executive has no or little regard for
freedom of expression. Paging President Modou Jatta.
...Cherno

They can try to frame the issue in whatever way they want, but the fact remains and I have said this before: that the executive of Michigambia take opinions critical of them personally and act accordingly irrespective of the consequence. They are not the most humble bunch and they tend to think they are not in need of much outside input or advice. That is the crux of this saga.

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