Thursday, November 21, 2019
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Woman Explains How Witch – Hunting Activity Ruined her Business

By Yankuba Jallow

A woman in her nineties on Wednesday, 20th November 2019 told the TRRC that the Yahya Jammeh’s 2009 witch-hunting exercise robbed her of her life earning business.

Masireh Bojang was part of 62 residents of Jambur abducted by the witch-hunters in 2009.
She said she was selling roasted groundnut at a shop where a man came and held her hand forcing her to go with him. She said the man took her to a bus and took her to Kololi.
She said the man never told her why she was taken away.

“We were many, in fact, the bus was completely full. I was completely living in fear,” he said.

“In Kololi, they began taking us to a toilet where they were gave us concoction. They gave each of us concoction in milk tin and we forced to finish it. When I drank the medicine, I started feeling stomach pain,” she said.

She said those who couldn’t finish the concoction were beaten and forced to finish it up. She said she slept on the floor under a mango tree.

“The moment I drank the concoction, I began developing stomach pain and up to this moment I am suffering from the pain,” she said.

“I was rolling on the ground because of stomach pain,” she said.

She said she cannot remember being taken to bathe by any person in Kololi. She said they were released by the witch – hunters as a result of funeral news reaching them that a person has died in Jambur. She said all those abducted from Jambur were crying after hearing the news of the demise of a member of their community and this made the witch – hunters released them.

She said she is still suffering from body pain. She told TRRC that her business collapsed and she is battling with her health condition.

“Every part of my body pains me now,” she said.

She said she can no more sell and she can’t do anything by herself now.
“The concoction has really affected my life,” she said.

75 Year Old Explains How Witch – Hunters Deceived Him

By Yankuba Jallow

Sainey Bojang, a 75 – year – old survivor of the Yahya Jammeh’s witch-hunting activities on Tuesday, 19th November 2019 told the TRRC he was fooled by the witch – hunters.
“I was told that they were going to cure me and I went with that hope without knowing they were going to make me drink concoction,” he said.

The father of 15 children said he was taken from his family by Yahya Jammeh’s Green Boys under the leadership of Major Solo Bojang and was taken to late Baba Jobe’s residence in Kololi.

The witch – hunters came to the Gambia sometime in 2009 on the invitation of former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh and went to communities abducting people and making them drink hallucinogenic concoction against their desire.

He indicated the witch – hunters were led to his house by the village alkali – Kebba Bojang. He said when they arrived, they found him taking his lunch together with his family and the people wearing red clothes did not tell him anything and they began leaving. He further testified the alkali told him to go with them even though he was not identified by the witch – hunters.

“My family held me and told me not to go, but I told them to let me go. The alkali told me that those people were marabouts who were sent by Yahya Jammeh to come and cure us,” he said.

According to him, Major Solo Bojang was among those who came to his house together with the witch – hunters.

“The alkalo handed me to the green boys,” he said.

He said they were never told that those marabouts were witch – hunters, instead they were told to get on board the bus to be cured.

“I did not go willingly,” he said.

He said he was taken to the bus and it drove to Kololi at the residence of late Baba Jobe, a former lawmaker. He testified the bus was overloaded and some people were standing in the bus. He added they left Jambur at 5 pm.

He said their names were taken by Solo Bojang who told them to queue for them to be issued with the medicine.According to him, he was the second person to be issued with the concoction which he said was made from “Kubejaro”( a local plant).

“We were given the concoction in a toilet. The cup that we used to drink the concoction was a toilet cup,” he remarked.

He told the Commission that after taking the concoction, he lost consciousness and lost control of himself. He testified the following morning, they drank the concoction again under the instruction of Major Solo Bojang. He said in the evening, they were made to get on board the bus and were brought back to Jambur. He added some of them were not able to walk, while others were helped to walk by their relatives.

“We are still living the pain of the concoction,” the witness said.

He told the Commission he sometimes lacks water and blood in his body among other illness that he won’t disclose publicly.

He said Saikou Camara and his wife, Manjiki Cham, Lamin Jammeh Snr, Mama Jamba, Dembo Jariatou, Bouy Koiteh, Wassa Darboe, Momodou Kumba, Lamin Dandang Bah among others could not survive the ordeal they went through as a result of drinking the concoction and died subsequently.

Ex–Yankuba Touray’s Guard Denies Knowledge of Koro Ceesay’s Killers

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By Nelson Manneh

Ensa Mendy, a former Guard of Yankuba Touray, has denied knowledge about the killers of Ousman Koro Ceesay, before the High Court.

Mr Ceesay was a former Minister of Finance, who died sometime in June 1995 while serving as the Minister of Finance under the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). Yankuba Touray was a member of the redundant AFPRC government and he was the Minister for Local Government and Lands at the time of the demise of Ousman Koro Ceesay. The AFPRC government came about after overthrowing the government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and it was headed by former President Yahya Jammeh. Touray is accused of killing Ceesay with the use of a pestle like object and other dangerous weapons. Ensa Mendy, the second prosecution witness in this trial, said he was the personal orderly and later became a bodyguard to Yankuba Touray in June 1995. 

When the case was called, Counsel Sissoho told the court that the state should produce the statements of the witness dated 2nd July, 2019, and 5th July 2019. The witness at this juncture confirmed that the statements were actually his and Counsel Sissoho applied to tender the statements. The State Counsel did not object to the tendering of the statements and they were subsequently admitted by the court.

Under cross-examination the witness was asked several questions by defence counsel A. Sisoho.

“Did you see the deceased at the residence of the accused?” asked Sisoho.

“No,” the witness replied.

“Did you see the accused and the deceased talking?” Sisoho enquired.

“No,” the witness answered.

“Can you name the family members of the accused at his residence at the time?” asked Counsel Sissoho. He replied that the wife of the accused, Mamie Minteh, and her younger sister, Aji Minteh, and the son of the accused, Edward Touray, the younger one he left there and the maid, as well as the guards and one Fatoumata.

Lawyer Sisoho put to him that he named six people who were at the residence of the accused which according to Lawyer Sisoho was not accurate. In his reply, the witness admitted and said the Mr. Touray was only having one child.

Mendy said in his July 2nd statement after coming from the patrol: “As a serviceman, I stood and observed. The place was very lonely. No maid. No wife neither the children. I left there.”

Yankuba Touray is charged with one count of murder contrary to section 187 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offence, Yankuba Touray, sometime in the month of June 1995 at Kololi in the West Coast Region of The Gambia with malice aforethought caused the death of one Ousman Koro Ceesay by beating him with a pestle-like object and other dangerous weapons thereby committing an offence. The accused was arraigned before the Court on the 8th day of July 2019 and he refused to take his plea and relied on his ‘constitutional immunity’.

The matter was adjourned till the 12th December 2019 at 9 am for the continuation of cross-examination of Ensa Mendy and for further hearing.

Seventy Percent of Foreign Vessels Intercepted Were Found Fishing in Restricted Zones

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By Mustapha Jallow

Dr. Bamba A.M Banja, the permanent secretary of the Department of Fisheries has told Foroyaa that 70% of the foreign vessels intercepted by the Navy were found operating in zones reserved for artisanal fishers in the Gambia.

“70 percent of the intercepted vessels were all found fishing in the wrong zone. We have never intercepted any vessel fishing without a license. So all the vessels that have been intercepted were issued with a license,” he said.

According to Dr. Banja, these licensed foreign vessels were supposed to fish from nine-nautical miles to 12 to the high sea. He added that the zone where these vessels were asked to fish was also stated on their license. He said if any vessels failed to stick to what was stated on their licenses, they would be intercepted and fined accordingly.

“This reserved area is for the small scale Fishers and vessels are not allowed to fish there,’’ he said.

He added: “Industrial fishers are allowed to fish starting from nine to 12 miles to the high sea.’’

He continued, “If they are fishing in wrong-zone, we trace them through teleology from the automatic identification system.”

He said, “We will continue to engage our partners such as Sea Shepherd to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in our waters.”

When asked how much has been derived from the ‘out of court settlement’ and the court fines, the Fisheries PS said he cannot tell off-head, but referred the reporter to what he called Monitoring Control Surveillance (MCS).

Stakeholders Urge Gov’t to Invest in Tourism

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By Momodou Jarju

Stakeholders in the tourism industry on Monday urged the Gambia Government to invest in tourism, a sector that is among the highest contributors to the country’s gross domestic product.

The movers and shakers of the industry made the call at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Banjul on the launch of the National Air Access Committee.

The Gambia does not have a single aircraft. And this development came on the heels of the recent collapse of Thomas Cook, a British airline.

Mr. Basiru Jawara, a key player in the industry who owns hotels, said the problem of tourism in The Gambia is a long time problem.

Jawara said the government must involve in the tourism sector, by investing and not only “taking” from the sector.

“Today we have only three tour operators in the country. Twenty years or thirty years ago, we have 15 tour operators,” he said.

Jawara, who said he had worked with Thomas Cook for 19 years, said running a tour operation business is very difficult costing a lot of money, saying one has to sign a plane for six months for one million pounds before they answer.

“I do that before. I do the tour operating business. I have license in London, I have license in Germany, I have license in Finland” he said, adding those licenses still exist.

He said the current government must look into the activities the previous regime did in the tourism sector because it ruined the industry, seizing several hotels when it took over power through coup in 1994.

Mr. Buna Njie, general manager Senegambia Beach Hotel and chairperson of the Gambia Hotel Association, said getting air access to the country has been lacking and thus he calls for the end of dependency on outside tour operators.

Like Mr. Jawara, Mr. Njie said government needs to invest in tourism, adding that setting up the committee is the right direction.

“It is high time that we now look at other avenues, other markets… to create all year round jobs to ensure that people are employed to also ensure that there is enough revenue that government is collecting from the sector,” he said.

Sami Tamin, veteran tour operator, said since the collapse of Thomas Crook, the country is short of 8 to 10 flights weekly. He said this is really reducing the capacity of passengers visiting the country.

He proposed the setting up a national airline company which would partner with the government and the private sector to increase the capacity of tourists coming to the Gambia and charge low fares to Gambians in the diaspora who want to come home.
Abdoulie Hydara, Director of Gambia Tourism Board, said the task of the committee is simple, saying it has been done before and documentations are around which they can use and, collate all the information that they have, put it into a single document and advise the government on the direction they should take for the country to have air access.

“The financial modeling and how it comes, we have financial experts within us. We have done international financing, I have seen financing all over the world and I think that would support us,” said Hydara, who is also the chairman of the committee.

Hamat Bah, the minister of tourism and culture, said there has been an air access committee, but the newly formed one is different from the other one “because it is not a government-led, but stakeholders’-led”, where private people will tell government what needs to be done.

“The sympathy we are earning from our international development partners will fade off if we do not act at this opportune moment,” he said.
Minister Bah said the international community will not come on board to support them if they delay the process.

Sheikh Tijan Nyang, principal of Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG), said veteran stakeholders like Basiru Jawara and Sami Tamin have been in the sector for a long time, but due to lack of support, they held back.
“Now that we have a government that is committed in reviewing the area of air access, we have the local expertise here… who are all committed in seeing the development of the tourism sector and we do hope and pray that whatever recommendations that we make in this exercise would be taken seriously,” he said.

NHRC Nears Conclusion on Investigation of Ousman Darboe’s Death

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By Momodou Jarju

Tasked to investigate and monitor existing and potential human rights violations in the country, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has revealed that they are closed to conclusion on the ongoing investigation on the alleged death in police custody by Ousman Darboe.

The death of Ousman Darboe had sparked riot in Serrekunda in July 2019. A police station and the house of Anti-Crime Unit boss Gorgi Mboob was set on fire.

The protesters accused the anti-crime unit of killing Mr. Darboe, a marker vendor, as a result of the torture meted out to him by the police while he was under the custody of the aforesaid unit at its office in Bijilo.

The protest led to the arrest of 37 youth by the police and they were charged with 8 criminal counts including arson, unlawful assembly and rioters demolishing building. All of them have since been released and seven of them are awaiting trial.

The chairperson of the NHRC, Emmanuel Joof, said they are very closed to the end of Darboe’s investigation, while speaking before the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters on Monday in Banjul.

“We have engaged the Anti-Crime Unit. Our job is not just to castigate but to know what the issues are and also to tell if the police are wrong in some areas to tell them we need to rectify these,” he said.

Equally, the rights’ commission is investigating into the violence crisis of caste system in the Upper River Region (URR) to ascertain the root causes of the disturbance.

The caste system violence erupted in November 2018 at Diabugu village in the Sandu District of URR. Foroyaa reported that the disturbance was a by-product of an existing caste system which classifies some inhabitants of the village as freeborn and others as slaves.

Speaking on the caste system fracas, Commissioner Joof said: “We are also investigating… the violence in the Upper River Region. We will not only come up with a statement condemning violence and discriminating practices, but just to inform you that some two weeks ago, one of our commissioners in the name of Commissioner Imam Muktarr Baba Leigh was dispatched to the URR on a fact finding mission.”

Joof added that the findings of their reports would be given to the standing committee, saying the idea is to prevent the reoccurrence of the abovementioned violence cases, pointing the Commission also play an advisory role as a rights’ commission.

Speaking further, Commissioner Joof, also said his-led commission issued statement in response to unsavoury statements made by a Minister and an Advisor to the president at a political rally in Brikama against potential demonstrations.

Joof said the minister’s statement relating to hot water being sprayed to people and quoting April 10/11 students’ demonstration was unwise.

“We felt in the kind of democratic dispensation that we have now, it was not a very wise thing to say and we had to condemn that… I am sure some people are not happy, but this is the mandate of the national human rights commission,” he said.

Are Demonstrations Expected In December?

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Question of the Day

Foroyaa has been following the calls for National Dialogue to prevent what some people imagined to be a looming political time bomb originating from the Coalition agreement even though many people have concluded that the Coalition has been overtaken by events since parties decided to go on their own to contest elections and hold congresses.

Foroyaa is wondering why December is often considered in some circles as D DAY. The fact of the matter is that President Barrow assumed office on 19th January 2017. He will have three years in January 2020 and five years in January 2022.

Gambians should begin a conversation on what the country needs to ensure that the change which came through the ballot box on 2nd December 2019 will lead to correct strategies and tactics on how to effect democratic change. A powerful people must never allow themselves to be weakened by displaying power without being able to effect democratic change.

All Eyes On The Budget

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Yesterday the Minister of Finance has told the deputies where money will be derived from, how much is to be allocated to each Ministry and what it is to be used for.

That is why Gambians should take interest in monitoring what is being done at the National Assembly.

This is the Third budgetary session under the Barrow administration. Foroyaa will be able to map out the trend of the budget and follow the deliberations of the deputies to shed more light on the priorities of the Government and gauge its performance.

ICC Prosecutor Authorised To Investigate Genocide In Myanmar/Bangaladesh

By Kebba Secka

The Pretrial Chamber lll of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statutes, to open investigations into the situation of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The decision was taken on the 14th of November 2019 following a request from the Office of the Prosecutor, to open an investigation on possible crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. Although Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statutes, Bangladesh has ratified this International Convention since 2010. Commenting on the decision of the Pretrial Chamber lll, Fatou Bensouda said the decision is a significant development in sending positive signals to the victims of atrocity in Myanmar and elsewhere.

“As a prosecuting Office, we hope that through our work we can bring justice to the victims, wherever our jurisdictional conditions are met,” she said.

The Office of the Prosecutor is a prosecuting organ of the Court which conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations and prosecutions of crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has conducted series of investigations in countries like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Darfur amongst others.

Meanwhile, the Government of the Gambia under the leadership of President Adama Barrow, has filed a suit against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also known as the World Court. The Government of the Gambia believes that the Union Republic of Myanmar and Bangladesh, have violated the Genocide Convention.

According to information from the Global Justice Center (GJC), the Gambia’s lawsuit under the Geneva Convention is the first and only State that made an effort in a Court to formally establish Myanmar’s responsibility for genocide. However, after Myanmar began its so called horrific cleansing exercise targeting Muslims minority groups, there were States and other institutions that imposed sanctions against the Country but did not take the matter head on as international crimes.

Information from the Global Justice Center revealed that between six hundred thousand to one million Rohingya Muslims were forcibly displaced from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The country is said to have made systematic attack on the same group in 2010 and 2017, which drew worldwide attention and condemnation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICJ AND ICC:
ICJ/World Court is the UN’s principal organ and performs two functions in settling disputes (contentious jurisdiction) and providing advisory opinions on questions of International Law to the UN’s organs and agencies while the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and tries individuals for categories of crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. The Gambia is qualified under the ICJ rules to hold Myanmar responsible for genocide.

President Barrow tells seyfolu “I am the leader of this country”

By Makutu Manneh

President Adama Barrow at his meeting in Fass Njaga Choi, told the Seyfolu in the Gambia that he is the leader of the country and they have to work with him.

“I am the leader of this country and you people are working under me,” he said.

Barrow said Politicians are saying the Seyfolu, Governors, and Alikalos are not part of politics which he said he agreed with, but that the Seyfolu are working under the president. He added that the day he received his salary is the day the Seyfolu received their salaries.
He said the Seyfolu have to work with him and that his agenda has to be their agenda as well as the country’s agenda.

“Today Gambia’s agenda is President Barrow,” he said.
He further said that the work he has done in the Gambia within 3 years has not been done in 52 years.

He said in the area of road construction, within 52 years only 750km roads were built, adding that within 3 years he is building 400km roads of road network in the Gambia.
“What I am doing in Banjul within these 3years has not been done in 52 years,” he said.
Barrow said he is not touring the country because of politics but to talk with the people of The Gambia, to know their problems and find solutions to them.

He said he is also embarking on the tour to inform Gambians about his programmes and plans. President Barrow said he has established many commissions in the Gambia because Gambians requested for them, adding that no viewer and listener could have believed that what witnesses said at the commissions had occurred in The Gambia.

President Barrow is on a nationwide tour which will last for 20days commencing on 18th November and ending on 7th December 2019.

The tour is a constitutional requirement as stated in section 222 (15) of the 1997 constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

Gambia vs DR Congo -How Each Scorpion Fared

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By Sulayman Bah

Gambia yesterday required a last-gasp effort from Bubacarr Jobe to retain their lead at the summit of group D.

Hosts Gambia were tipped favourites in the lead up to Monday evening’s four-goal-thriller at the Independence Stadium with Gambia’s both goals coming in the second-half in what later turned out a 2-2 stalemate.

Foroyaa Sport makes a rating of each Gambian player on a scale of one to ten.

MODOU JOBE – The former Ball Conge and Real de Banjul now plying his trade in Saudi Arabia, gets an average score after conceding two goals in a single night one of which was triggered by a defensive gaffe. The goals aside, Modou Jobe was hugely untested. His ball-distribution to ignite counter-attacks needs some serious upping. 5/10.

OMAR COLLEY – He was one of the few bright individuals in a wall of defence that shipped in two goals. Omar interceptions were timely. He grabbed an early goal but got flagged to the dismay of home fans in the first period. 6/10.

BUBACARR SANNEH – At club level, he is viewed a flop and peripheral but has become an integral for Tom Saintfiet again who’d few times overlooked him for Mohammed Mbye. The Belgian maintained him in his line up having seamlessly fused with Colley. Considering he finds himself fitted at the back, he certainly won’t be spared if ever the defence were to be berated. 5/10.

PA MODOU JAGNE- Nda was no captain, but fantastic, led by example when he rallied to secure the equaliser for the Scorpions with a sumptuous header after Hamza Barry turned his provider. Bubacarr Trawally had raced on the right wing, delivering in a poor cross whirling out of the box. A quick one-two had Barry’s feet taking him to the left wing corner, clattering in the resultant effort which the unmarked Pa Modou Jagne headed past the DR Congo goalkeeper to nab his second international goal after the first in 2011. He was left playing catch up in the initial stages but recuperated, proving an invaluable overlapping in the second-half to bolster the numbers of Scorpions in the opposition’s backyard. 7/10.
DAWDA NGUM – The void created by the absence of Ngine Faye showed through the time Ngum stayed on the pitch. The 28-year-old cut figure of a man battling confidence crisis. The incessant mutterings from the crowd each time Dawda is passed the ball was evident of his below par showing. He wasn’t just experiencing a dipped form but was divisions below rest of his teammates. His poor judgment and inability to determine when to surge forward, was a perpetual deterrent during a counter or attack initiatives. It was incredible that he saw out the whole game without the more agile Sulayman Bojang joining the fray. 2/10.

EBRIMA SOHNA – Sohna is a midfielder devoid of creativity but his workaholic attitude made up for this setback. Chasing back is his craft but he gave away few balls owing to total lack of composure with the ball to his feet. However, overall, he delivered blood and sweat on the pitch. 6/10.

SULAYMAN MARREH- The 23-year-old wasn’t expected to hit his heights instantaneously on account he is just recovering from an injury. However, he had been decent in Luanda and was yesterday too. The erstwhile Real Valldolid man gave fans a scare when he grimaced in agony in the final minutes but was brave enough to return onto the pitch.

Coach Saintfiet acted on precaution by hauling him off in a desperate scampering for an equaliser, replacing him with the flamboyant Atalanta’s Ebrima Colley.

HAMZA BARRY – Midfield playing requires vision, inimitable brilliance coalesced with deft movements, if need be, to create spaces for strikers to run in. His accuracy for killer-passes though was somewhat disappointing. But Hamza is the epitome of a perfect playmaker in the making and the sure standout player yesterday. A one-time Everton procurement target, Barry was the man-of-the-match. 9/10.

MODOU BARROW – This young man was the architect in Luanda and could have gifted Gambia an early lead when picked out by a Hamza Barry’s pass but he missed his steps, allowing his DR Congolese marker ward off looming danger. His pace was key in the Angola demolition but his mammoth DRC opposition player rarely accorded him breathing space. 6/10.

LAMIN JALLOW – Injury to Assan Ceesay got him incorporated into the lineup but fielding as a wide-man. Italian second tier side Salernitana’s playmaker did track back to help his error-prone right-back Dawda Ngum and thus occasionally took up attacking moves. He had to be substituted albeit reluctantly with disenchantment etched on his face. 6/10.

BUBACARR TRAWALLY – Steve failed to deliver a goal and the obvious difference between him and Assan Ceesay –the man he replaced. He wasted two chances, closest being his scuffing of a begging chance when set through on goal with only the DR Congo net-minder to beat. A clear fan favourite but the jury is out on his ability to score for Gambia as he endured yet another drought with the Scorpions for which his performance will be judged. Of a praise-worthy thing is his tenacity to chase the ball and help in recovering lost possession. 6/10.

MUSA BARROW – The forward was a new entrant and gets 4/10.

BABUCARR JOBE – Scoring ten times in Sweden, earning his Mjallby side promotion to the Swedish Premier League, the former Toronto FC striker has lightening pace and he made it count when he slotted Gambia’s 2-2 equaling goal, his second international goal after the first came last year around this time against Benin. Jobe came is a last-minute new entrant, but bags 7/10 rating for his goal.

Gambia plays again August 2020 away in Gabon.

US$ 7.7 million 5-year Programme for rice self-sufficiency launched

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By Ndey Sowe

The Ministry of Agriculture and Central Project Coordinating Unit on Monday, 18th November 2019 launched the Gambia Rice Value Chain Transformation Programme (RVCTP) in The Gambia.

It is said to be a five-year programme, funded by the African Development Bank (AFDB) of The Gambia with the objective to improve farm incomes, rural livelihoods, and food and nutrition security and contribute to poverty reduction through increased commercialization of rice in the Gambia.

RVCP interventions will be in 3 regions of the Gambia namely: Central River Region- North, Central River Region- South, and Upper River Region respectively. The projective also has 3 components which include: Production and Productivity Enhancement, Agribusiness, Market and Capacity Development as well as Project Management inclusively.

The project will directly benefit about 15,000 households out of which about 40% will be youth and women, beneficiaries who will include farmers, processors, seed producers, input dealers, aggregators, private sector operators, transporters, commercial agents to name a few.

Dr. Isatou Touray Vice President of Gambia in her opening said: “Rice sub- development is crucial to the economic development of the Gambia”. She indicated that rice importation is a considerable drain on our balance of payments, given that it is a staple food commodity in the country with annual demand of over 200,000 metric tons with a self-sufficiency rate of 17% between 2000 and 2018.

She noted that Government is aware that food insecurity in the country is affected by several factors, notable among them being lack of water.

“We have over 81,000ha of irrigable land mainly in CRR and URR currently being under-exploited due to the subsistence nature of our production systems”, she said.

She added that modernizing the Agric sector is one of the cornerstones of the national development blueprint and rice production is a priority for government interventions, targeting production increase of 112,000 metric tons by 2021.

Ken Johm Representative African Development Bank (AFDB), speaking on behalf of the AfDB president said the bank has a Feed Africans strategy, saying, “we believe that Africa is to be able to feed Africans”, which he said, applies to The Gambia being able to feed Gambians.

He underscored the importance of rice in the Gambia, pointing out that statistics show that the consumption of rice per capita in the Gambia is more than double the global average.
“We continue to import over 179,000 metric tons of rice per year, while we produce only 26,000 metric tons of rice every year”, he stated.

Others at the event include the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Marcel Nwalozie and other stakeholders.

Hakalang Road, Electricity Plant to be Commissioned Soon

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State House Banjul The Gambia-President Adama Barrow has unveiled to the people of Niumi in the North Bank Region that the all-important Hakalong road – the only highway that connects most of Upper Niumi to the rest of the region will be launched in a few weeks’ time, alongside $66 million electricity project for the surrounding communities. He revealed the news while on the first leg of his nationwide tour in the North Bank Region. The President highlighted the numerous development projects that his government is rolling out to Gambians to improve lives and livelihoods. In response to farmers at the various meeting grounds, President Barrow revealed that the government is about to sign a contract that will enable farmers to have access to fertilizer as early as April. He stated that the fertilizer will be made available at a government-subsidized price of D700, while the market price is D1700. That means that the state pays D1000 per bag. In three years, he told the gathering, his government has constructed more than 400km of roads, compared to the 700km of roads built by the two past governments since independence. The recurrent message in all the communities the President visited was the need for Gambians to nurture peace and security in the country as well as support his development agenda to deliver the Gambia that everyone deserves. The cabinet ministers took turns to reveal to the people key intervention areas of the government. In the area of education, the minister disclosed that the government has constructed more than one thousand classrooms, in addition to hundreds of staff quarters, and other incentives to improve the quality of education. To cater to the financial needs of women and increase access to credit facilities, the Minister for Women revealed that the government has secured a EUR3million contribution from the European Union, and a GMD12 million Gambia government-funded Women Empowerment Fund project will soon open applications for women to apply with little interest.

Finance Minister tables 2020 Estimates before Lawmakers

As a requirement of the Constitution under section 152 (1), the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs on Monday, 18th November 2019 presented the estimates of revenues, recurrent and development expenditure for the fiscal year 2020.

The National Assembly is the authority that is responsible for reviewing and approving national budget of The Gambia.

In his statement, the Minister indicated that while revenue in 2018 decreased from 25.2 billion dalasi to 24.5 billion dalasi in 2019, expenditure is estimated to increase from 28.8 billion dalasi to 30.0 billion dalasi. In short, the deficit of 3.6 billion dalasi in 2018 is expected to increase to 5.5 billion dalasi in 2019.

The Minister attributes the fall to project grants and budget support.
The Minister also gave a gloomy picture of the debt problem.

He said:“Debt interest payment is projected to consume around forty percent of Government’s tax revenue in 2020 compared to 26 percent in 2019, moving from 2.702 billion in 2019 to 4.648 billion in 2020. The increment is a result of mounting debt stock, domestic debt in particular, coupled with the envisaged rolling over of some of the domestic debt.”

He said the Gambian economy is anticipated to grow by 4 per cent in 2019 compared to actual real growth of 6.5 per cent in 2018.

“The decline in growth is as a result of anticipated setbacks in both the agriculture and services sectors. Growth in these two sectors is projected at -2.6% and 1.5% in 2019 compared to 0.9% and 9.9% in 2018, for agricultural and services respectively. The contraction is on account of the delayed rains and the impact of the collapse of Thomas Cook – the major carrier of tourists to The Gambia,” the Minister said.

He said in terms of sector contribution to GDP, Services continues to dominate with a 55 % share contribution, followed by Industry and Agriculture contributing 20 and 18 per cent respectively. He said this suggests a change in share contribution from the previous years where agriculture ranked second with 20 per cent and industry 15 per cent.

“The late start of this year’s cropping season which was characterized by intermittent dry spells has resulted in a drop in the actual area cultivated compared to what was planned for this cropping season as per the mid-season assessment report. The report highlighted that the area cultivated for upland and lowland rice dropped by 41 per cent and 50 per cent respectively, 59 per cent for groundnuts, 48 per cent for coarse-grain crops and 38 per cent for early millet.

He said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices is estimated at 86.6 billion in 2019 compared to D78.6 billion in 2018, representing a growth of 10.1%. He said the GDP is expected to grow by 4% in 2019 compared to actual outturn of 6.5% in 2018.

“The agricultural sector is anticipated to experience contraction in 2019 due to primarily on poor performance from two important subsectors: crops and livestock. Both of which are anticipated to decline to -6.2 and -10.0 per cent in 2019, compared to 6.6 and -5.6 per cent last year. Forestry and fishing, on the other hand, are expected to grow by 1.1 and 5.9 percent respectively in 2019,” the Minister said.

He said the projected growth in the fishing sector is attributed to recent FDI inflows that are geared towards a new fish factory, and the commencement of a new fishing agreement between the European Union and the government of The Gambia.

He said the industry sector is anticipated to record the strongest growth in 2019, with a projected growth rate of 20.3% compared to 2.5% in 2018. He said the drivers of growth in the sector are construction, electricity and water, adding that these subsectors are anticipated to grow by 31.7, 12.6 and 9.5 per cent respectively. He said the expansion is attributed to growth in both private and public construction, increased power generation and water production capacity due to the commissioning of new generator sets by NAWEC.
On the services, the Minister said growth is anticipated to be mild due to the impact of the collapse if Thomas Cook, slashing the growth outlook of hotels and restaurants from 18.8 per cent in 2018 to 6.2 per cent in 2019. He added that communication, finance and insurance, and real estate are anticipated to register a growth of 13.4, 12.6 and 6.9 per cent respectively.

He said the current account deficit has narrowed to $25.8 million (1.5 percent of the GDP) in the first half of 2019 compared to a deficit of $26.7 million (1.7 per cent of GDP) in the corresponding period in 2018.

“The improvement in the current account balance is attributed to the increase in foreign inflows related to the support from development partners, diaspora remittances, and tourism,” he said.

Minister Njie said the goods account balance is estimated at a deficit of $194.60 million (11% of GDP) in the first six months of 2019 compared to a deficit of $150.0 million (9.3% of GDP) in the corresponding period in 2018.

He said: “The widening of the deficit in the goods account was due to the increase in imports, which reflects rising economic activity. Imports rose to $277.7 million or by 29.8 per cent in the first half of 2019 from $214.0 million in the same period of 2018. Exports also increased by 35.6 per cent to $74.4 million during the period under review.”

He said services account balance, on the other hand, registered a surplus of $59.7 million in the first six months of 2019, higher than a surplus of $40.5 million a year ago, and explained largely by the increase in tourist arrivals.

He said the capital account balance, improved to a surplus of $7.54 million from a surplus of $4.63 million in the previous year, mainly on account of official flows. However, the Minister said financial account balance worsened to a deficit of $30.72 million in the first half of 2019 compared to a deficit of $8.12 million in the corresponding period a year ago due to the increase in currency and deposit by 35.2 per cent.

Survivor Gives Chilling Revelation on Jammeh’s Witch-Hunting Activity

By Yankuba Jallow

Dembo Bojang, a survivor of the 2009 witch-hunting activity initiated by former President Yahya Jammeh, has told the TRRC that he is still suffering from complications as a result of the concoction he was forced to drink by witch – hunters.

Bojang appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) ongoing regional hearing on Monday, 18th November 2019 in Jambur. The Commission came into being through an Act of the National Assembly which mandates it to investigate past human rights violations that happened under the 22 – year rule of former President Yahya Jammeh.

Bojang gave the names of 10 people who died in Jambur. According to him, it was believed their death was caused by the concoction they were forced to drink. He said those who died were Manjiki Cham, Kaddy Jatta, Dembo Jalitou, Lamin Dandan Bah, Saikou Camara, Bouy Kotteh, Kosa Darboe and Mamadou Kumba among others. He also gave names of some people he said, are lying on their sickbed as a result of the concoction. He told the Commission these people were forcefully given concoction by the visitors in a dirty toilet. He testified that the victims were captured around lunch time and so they did not eat anything as of the time they were forced to drink the concoction.

He said the witch – hunters were led by Ali Ceesay from Latriya village and he was accompanied by ex-Major Solo Bojang with armed soldiers and Yahya Jammeh’s ‘Green with ‘Green Boys.’ He added that Solo Bojang was also armed.

He testified when the strangers arrived in Jambur, their village head told them that these strangers were marabouts and they came to cure people. He informed the Commission that the visitors went to the community cemetery where they sacrificed a cock and a goat. He went to add that when they came back, they began going round the village in search of people.

The witness testified he was caught by the strangers, adding his brother who he shares the same mother and father was also abducted. He said the marabouts brought all those who were captured to the bus.

“We were told that they came to cure us, but none of us reported any sickness to them,” he remarked.

He testified they were taken to Baba Jobe’s (a former Parliamentarian) residence in Kololi. He said they were not given lunch by the witch – hunters even though some of them were caught during lunchtime. He said late in the evening, they were asked to line up and each of them was given concoction in a B&B condensed milk tin. He said they were asked to remove their clothes and were bathed by young boys. He added that even the women were bathed by young boys.

“If it was not for the use of force, no human being will drink that concoction given to us. It was very dirty and unpleasant. We drank the concoction inside a toilet,” he said.

He said after drinking the concoction, he realized changes in his body including dizziness and lack of strength among other health complications which he preferred not to mention publicly.

“The concoction weakened me. I am no more the person I was,” he said.
He said they were released the following day, adding that many of them were suffering from different health complication while some became virtually paralyzed.

Daughter of Victim Narrates Her Mother’s Agony

By Yankuba Jallow

A daughter of Yahya Jammeh’s witch – hunt victim has explained in detail the health complications her mother grappled with after drinking hallucinogenic concoction.

Fatou Fatty appeared before one of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) regional hearings and testified about the 2009 witch – hunt activity conducted by so-called witch – hunters from Guinea Conakry. Her mother like many others were abducted and given concoction by the self-claimed witch – hunters.

Fatou Fatty appeared on behalf of her mother – Nyima Koteh alias Bouy Koteh who died around age 80.

In explaining how her mother was abducted, the witness said one of her mother’s friend Adama Bojang came to her mother and informed her about a meeting at the village and told that the two of them should go together. She said her mother accepted and joined her friend because they were told that visitors came to have a meeting with the community not knowing the supposed visitors were witch – hunters. She told the TRRC that they found people drumming and dancing at the village square (locally Bantaba),.

“I went to the meeting ground but I found them drumming and dancing. My arrival coincided with my mother getting on board the vehicle,” she said.

She added after the drumming and dancing, they asked her mother to get on board a vehicle. She said she saw men in military uniform armed with guns. She said there were people dressed in red clothes and they were going around the community. She testified the witch hunters held people against their will. She indicated those who declined to follow the witch hunters were forced to comply.

She remarked: “The people that were abducted were the ones dancing and they were told that they were going to cure them.”

According to her, the abductees were made to dance against their will, adding that the abducted people were all elderly people. She testified some of them were forced to come to the village square while others came voluntarily.

“When they left, we were told that they were witch – hunters,” she said, adding “the abducted people I saw on the bus were many, but all of them were from Jambur.”

According to her, before her mother was abducted and given hallucinogenic concoction, she was healthy used to go to garden by herself, but after drinking the concoction, she began having health complication.

“When she returned, I saw a wound on her mouth and she sustained a broken tooth. She came home dizzy and she has never been the same until she died.

She used to fall whenever she went to the bathroom,” she said.

She said her later mother became weak and objects fell from her hand frequently.
“Sometimes the things she used to say were incomprehensible. Even what she used to say was not clear,” she said.

She said her mother was not able to communicate to any of her children because of her situation then. She said about three (3) days after drinking the concoction, her mother was hospitalized at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for a month.

“The condition of her health did not improve until she died. She did not open her eyes until she died,” she said.

Jambur Imam Narrates His Ordeal to TRRC

By Yankuba Jallow

The Imam of Jambur on Monday, 18th November 2019 gave a vivid account of how he was abducted by ex- President Yahya Jammeh’s witch – hunters.

The 58 – year – old said he was abducted together with his father and two of his uncles and taken to Kololi where they were given concoctions by the witch – hunters. The Imam said 62 people were identified as witches and wizards in Jambur by the witch – hunters.

Former President Jammeh brought witch – hunters from Guinea Conkary sometime in 2009. These men were going round communities and identifying people as witches and wizards.

He said on that day, he did not know what was ongoing but he was told by one his younger brothers that former President Yahya Jammeh sent some people to the village and that his father (the Imam) was asked to go and open the programme with prayers. He said at this time, he was not the Imam but he sometimes used to step in and lead the community in prayers.

He said his father sent one of his younger brothers – Bubacar Bojang to lead them in prayers. He said his brother told him that the marabouts went with him to the cemetery where a red goat and a cock where slaughtered and buried. He added that the goat slaughtered by the witch hunters was taken away.

“My brother was the one who slaughtered the goat and cock,” he said.

He said his brother informed him that after the sacrifice of these two animals, he was told that anyone who attempts to do anything against former President Yahya Jammeh won’t succeed. The witness said the entourage was accompanied by youths who were dressed in green outfits.

“I had visitors on that day. People came to pay homage to my mother,” he said.

He said Solo Bojang came with people dressed in red clothes and they searched his house.

“They told me they were looking for something,” he said, adding that they came with armed soldiers.

He said they searched the whole house and they found something beneath where he takes his shower and he was asked to go with them to the Bantaba.

“They called me and told me that I have a juju that is very bad. They told me the juju is the reason why the youths of the village cannot progress,” he said.

“I was surprised because I did not put there. I don’t know why they came to my house, but they were led by our Alkalo – Kebba Juju Bojang,” he said.

He said he was taken together with his visitors to the Bantaba.

“Our Alkalo told Solo Bojang and his men that I brought those men as marabouts who will prepare jujus to destroy Yahya Jammeh’s government,” he said.

He said at the Bantaba people were drumming and the witch – hunters made him to sit on the floor together with his visitors who came to pay homage to his mother.

“We were many. I was told we were about 62,” he said.

“While I was sitting on the floor, I saw them brought my father, they brought my father’s younger brother and they brought one of my father’s younger brother,” he said.

He said his father was Imam Karamo Bojang, the younger brother was called Arafang Bojang and the other Jarkunda Bojang.

“The three are from the same father,” he said.

He said they boarded a bus and were taken to a residence in Kololi.

“There were men and women,” he said.

“Apart from one Lamin Bojang, I was the youngest among the lot. I was only older than Lamin Bojang,” he said, adding that all those arrested were old.

He said they left Jambur at around 5 pm and when they arrived in Kololi, they were made to line up and they were issued with concoction. He said after drinking the concoction, he was asked to remove his trouser and he was bath using cold water. He said after the bath, he was asked to wear his clothes and he was taken to a hall where he was asked to sit on the tile.

“I lost consciousness. I don’t know what was happening. At 7 am on the following day, someone held my hand and asked me to board the bus and that was the time I regain my senses,” he said.

He said when he arrived in Jambur, he walked by himself but he was helped by people.

“They were several people who weren’t able to walk. They were carried by their relatives,” he said.

“Now, I cannot lead people in prayers. My younger brother is the one leading people in prayers. This is because of my eye problem I sustained as a result of the concoction. Until today, even though I am the Imam, I cannot lead people in Friday prayers,” he said.

He said one of those who came to pay homage to his mother died as a result of the concoction.

“His name is Kebba Saidy and he is a tailor. When we left Kololi, he died one week later,” he said.

He said one Lamin Touray who also came to pay homage to his mother’s demise is still suffering and is currently admitted at a hospital in Zighenchor in Senegal while Amadou Tijan Saidy became deaf as a result of the concoction.

“These people came to me to pay homage to my mother. aThey were healthy and they were taken innocently and given concoction for no reason,” he said.

He said after the 2001 Presidential elections, he was lying at their Bantaba with some of his colleagues when Yahya Jammeh’s Green Boys came and beat him. He said the leader of the Green boys was one Laluwa Conteh from Faraba Banta. He told the TRRC that he reported the matter to the police, but nothing came out of it.

“I am not a politician. I am a farmer but I never supported Yahya Jammeh. I think that was why I was targeted by the Green Boys,” he said.

What Will Be Uppermost In The Minds Of The Electorate When They Vote For The Constitution?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

A constitution has been drafted by the Constitutional Review Commission and when the final draft is ready, it will be submitted to the president together with a report. It will then be considered by the National Assembly before it goes for a referendum.

Since the answer is either yes or no, the crucial question is what will be uppermost in the minds of the people in deciding whether to vote yes or no. Foroyaa will conduct a vox pop randomly to find out from potential voters.

Needless to say, in past referenda, many voters were parochial or sentimental in considering how to vote. Let us see how things will play out this time. Foroyaa will be monitoring the situation.

Draft Constitution Proposes Two Term Limit & Absolute Majority

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The Constitutional Review Commission has shared the Constitution it has drafted with the public to get their feedback before the final draft is done and submitted, together with a report, to the President next month.

The draft Constitution proposes that a candidate is declared elected as president if he or she polls more than half the votes cast. In short, under the proposed Constitution, no one can become President by winning less than half the votes cast. This is called the absolute majority principle.

Paragraph (1) of Clause 95 states,

“The Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission shall declare a candidate elected as President if the candidate has received more than half of all the votes validly cast in the election.”

If no one has more than half the votes cast, there will be a second round of voting contested by the two who have polled the highest number of votes, and the winner will be declared elected.

Paragraph (2) of Clause 95 stipulates:

“If, on the first election, no candidate is elected, the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission shall hold a fresh election within fourteen days of the date of declaration of the results of the first election.”

The draft Constitution also proposes the restriction of the term limit of an elected president to two terms and nothing more. It stipulates in clause 100 paragraph (2) that,

“No person shall hold office as President for more than two terms of five years each, whether or not the terms are consecutive.”

This means that a person may serve as president for a period of up to ten years if re-elected while in office, but he will never ever be entitled to become president again. If he or she is not re-elected he or she would be allowed to serve for only one five year term and no more.

These two provisions will go a long way to curb the incumbency and self-perpetuating rule.

Ministry of Justice Withdraws Parental Insult Legislation

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The Ministry of Justice on Saturday issued a press release on Withdrawal of the Parental Insults Legislation. See the press release below:

The Ministry of Justice wishes to inform the general public that it will no longer present the proposed law that seeks to introduce the offence of parental insults in the criminal Offences bill. This withdrawal decision is as a result of concerns expressed from several quarters regarding the objectives and the possible effects of the said provision.

The Ministry wishes to inform the general public that the introduction of the said proposed law was simply intended to stem the rise of unwarranted abuse and/or intimidation of public officers who serve the public everyday and these include civil servants, police officers, judicial officers, National Assembly members etc.

Contrary to some claims, the proposed law was neither intended to stifle freedom of expression nor to shield public officers from public scrutiny. Far from it.

The Ministry has therefore considered that this single legal provision on parental insults, which is only one among over four hundred other provisions in the revised Criminal Offences Bill that we will be seeking to enact before the National Assembly, threatens to overshadow all the hard work invested in this process, and the more fundamental and far reaching reforms of our governance architecture in general and the criminal justice landscape of our country in particular. These include enacting an anti-corruption commission bill, an access to information bill, a media services bill, a women’s anti discrimination bill and above all, a new draft constitution to usher in renewed hope going into a 3rd republic. These are exciting times in our country and the sense of optimism imbued by these progressive constitutional and legislative reforms must not be allowed to be overshadowed by our disagreements over one single legal provision.

The Ministry further reassures the public that it is firmly committed to its governance reform agenda and that it will always take on-board the concerns of citizens as it shapes this agenda in the best interest of all in our country.