Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gambia presidential affairs minister describes EU as “crazy guys”

Dr Njogu Bah
Dr Njogu Bah, minister of presidential affairs, and secretary general and head of civil services has referred to the European Union as crazy guys for imposing their 17-point demand on The Gambia government which he said they (the EU) don’t have the moral authority to do.

“Looking at the EU’s submission, we find it very insulting, to say the least; lack of respect to our independence and sovereignty,” Dr Bah said on Monday, during an extra-ordinary session of the National Assembly, convened for parliamentarians to discuss the demands of the EU to The Gambia government.

The EU has presented a 17-point demand to The Gambia government in which it is requesting the government to revise the portion of the Criminal Code that allows for prosecution on the charges of sedition, libel, false publication to a public servant within 6 months; revise laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months; review the death penalty by the National Assembly within 12 months, and review the provision of the death penalty in the element of the Criminal Code and other laws for most serious crimes within six months.

Dr Njogu Bah said the EU does not have the moral authority to demand that the Gambia government implement these changes in the laws.   

“The laws of The Gambia are adequate as they are,” he says. 

According to him, whatever action taken here (in The Gambia by the government), are taken within the dictates of the laws. 

“They [the EU] have their own laws, but we can pinpoint many flaws in their system, they are not perfect and that is clear to all of us; in fact there is no perfect system in the world,” Dr Bah said.

By telling the government to implement these changes, the presidential affairs minister said the EU is trying to bring chaos and anarchy into the country.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gambia ready to forgo millions given by the EU, National Assembly members claimed

The APRC and nominated members of the National Assembly have unanimously claimed that The Gambia is ready and willing to forgo the millions of Euro donated to the government by the European Union than to implement the 17-point reforms the EU demanded the government implement.

One after the other, the parliamentarians on Monday, during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, strongly condemned the EU. 

For them, the EU already knew that the government “will not accept” to implement the 17-point demand, so in that case they can cut aids to the government, but the government is ready to weather the storm.

The extraordinary session was convened for the parliamentarians to discuss the demands of the EU to The Gambia government.

In a 17-point demand presented to The Gambia government, which are strongly condemned and rejected by President Jammeh forthrightly, the EU demanded the Gambia government to undertake some reforms in order to improve the country’s governance and human rights situations.

Among the reforms they are demanding from the government are the upholding of moratorium on the death penalty with immediate effect, revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months, provision of information regarding the recent executions, including location of burial to the families. 

“Gambia is willing to forgo any kind of aids than to implement these kinds of demands,” said Fabakary Tombong Jatta, member for Serrekunda East and majority leader.  

He said the government will be glad to get the EU funds with respect and dignity, but not under servitude, or slave-master relationship, though he acknowledged that the EU contributes to the socio-economic development of the country.

These kinds of things are done with a pre-conceived mind, Hon. Tombong Jatta says, adding that the EU did this so that if the government refuses, they can take the next action.

Prime Bank’s liquidation creates panic in the banking industry

The liquidation of Prime Bank Gambia has caused some general panic and confusion in the banking industry, as customers of both the bank and other banks in the country are afraid that such a big bank is wrapping up at this point in time.

The bank has been the second to close down in two years.

The Central Bank of The Gambia on Tuesday issued a press release stating that Prime Bank is closing down its operations in the country because its parent company, Societe General de Baque Liban, has opted to divest its subsidiary in The Gambia, hence the decision not to augment the bank’s capital to the required minimum capital of D200 million. 

Prime Bank is sufficiently liquid to meet its obligations to depositors, other creditors and any other person entitled to funds or property thereof.

The customers, who are compelled to withdraw their savings from the bank, have raised concerns over the bank’s closure. 

“I was shocked when I hear this sad news on the television. It has been my preferred bank but we the customers are left with no other choice except to withdraw our savings,” says one of the bank’s customers who spoke on condition of anonymity, after taking her deposits from the bank.

Prime Bank is the second financial institution in the banking industry to liquidate, after Oceanic Bank also failed to meet the minimum capital requirement of D150 million in 2010.

“Now which bank is going to close next,” Ousman Jammeh, a customer of one of the local banks in the country, asked rhetorically, while expressing concern over the closure of Prime Bank, a bank he said one of his friend was banking with.

Gambia security officers prohibited from marrying each other

All the security apparatus in The Gambia - the army, the police including the police intervention unit, and the fire and rescue services – have been stopped from marrying each other. 

A security source has told this paper that the Ministry of Interior has issued a circular to all the national security agencies banning all officers of the same security unit from marrying each other. 

The public relations officers of the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services and the Gambia Armed Forces have confirmed the new development, although the Police could not be reached for their comments.

According to the security source, the reason for such a move is “to maintain discipline and efficiency at work in the security.”

The source said, for instance, if a female officer does anything wrong or acts contrary to rules and norms of the security apparatus, effective disciplinary actions will hardly be taken against that officer if she happens to be the wife of the senior officer in charge of that station or guard post.

And if other senior officers happen to effect disciplinary actions on the wife, it hardly goes down well with the husband and could bring enmity between the husband and the officer(s) who effect the punishment. 

Again, the source said, there is likelihood that the wife will be reluctant to take orders from his husband by virtue of their relationship.

However, previously officers of all other security units were allowed to marry from within the same unit except officers of the Fire and Rescue Services who have been maintaining the colonial law. 

In a similar vein, as part of the same circular from the Ministry of Interior, henceforth married female officers are now prohibited from getting pregnant before the first two years of their recruitment into the security unit.

It is said this is done to make the female officers to work for at least two years to get more experience before getting pregnant “because when you are pregnant as an officer, you cannot work actively and security needs activeness”. 

Gambia working days slashed by one

Working hours increased

President Yahya Jammeh has used his executive powers to change the official working days and hours of The Gambia from five to four in a week and increased working hours from 8 to 10.

A news release by the state television, GRTS, on Friday night stated that with effect from February 1, 2013 official working days in The Gambia will be reduced from five to four, Monday through Thursday, and working hours will increase from eight to ten; that is from 8am to 6pm. 

Presently, official working days in the country are from Monday to Friday, and hours from 8am to 4pm for Monday through Thursday, and 8am to 12.30am for Friday.

When effected, The Gambia will be among countries in the world with a mandatory four-day working week.
As a result, the country will be shutting down for a whole day while most parts of the world continue in active business and financial transactions. 

However, the Office of the President has particularly singled out that banks in the country can operate on Saturdays to compensate them for the lost Fridays they will not be working. 

Well, as it is now, banks in the country operate from Monday to Saturday.

The reason advanced by the Office of the President for this sudden move is that when the changes are effected, Friday will be a rest day for people of The Gambia and for Muslims to worship Allah.

The new schedule will also allow people of the country to have more time to do their agricultural work as part of President Jammeh’s call for Gambians to go back to the land to ‘grow what you eat and eat what you grow’.

Utah, one of the states in America, in recent past experimented a four-day workweek but it was later abandoned because it was not saving as much money as hoped for and that residents were complaining about not having access to services on Fridays.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

European Union may cut aids to Gambia

Euro Banknotes: Source: Gophoto

The Gambia could lose a lot of million Euros from its main donor, the European Union, as a result of President Jammeh’s outright rejection of the governance reforms that they, the EU, has demanded The Gambia government to undertake in order to improve the country’s governance and human rights situations.

The European Union has presented a 17-point demand to The Gambia government which are strongly condemned and rejected by President Jammeh forthrightly.  The EU has also scheduled a meeting - EU Article 8 Intensified Political - with the government slated for 11th January 2013 during which the demands are to be discussed. 

In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Jammeh denounced and rubbished all the demands by the EU saying that there is no need to meet with the EU because “none of their demands is subject for discussion”.

The EU says it demands are prompted by the significant deterioration in the human rights situation in The Gambia in recent months, notably the execution of nine death row inmates, the forced closure of independent radio stations and newspapers, the trial against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists and human rights defenders.

Among the reforms that they are demanding from the government are: the upholding of moratorium on the death penalty with immediate effect, revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months, provision of information regarding the recent executions, including location of burial to the families.  [See below the story all the 17-point demand of the EU.]

However, the strong refusal of President Jammeh of these reforms could have some chilling effects on the government and The Gambia as a whole because the EU is the country’s main donor and it is an open secret that most or all the aids by the multilateral agencies are tied to some conditions like the ones demanded by the EU to The Gambia. 

For instance, the EU has cut financial aid to Kabul due to inefficiency and lack of progress in governance and justice system reforms in Afghanistan.

Again, it has cut aids to Bulgaria due to the government’s little progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime in the country. 

So could it also cut aids to The Gambia for Jammeh’s refusal to improve the governance and human right situation in the country?  It is worth noting that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values for the EU and these determines to a large extend the Union’s external relations policy and support to any country.

The Gambia continues to benefit millions of Euros donation from the EU in form of projects in different areas like infrastructure, rural development, food security, climate change, water and sanitation all of which continue to positively touch the lives of thousands of Gambians both in rural and urban areas.

For instance, the country is benefiting a lot under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), which is EU’s main instrument for providing development aid in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs).  Under the 10th EDF, the EU is assisting The Gambia government to address the key issues that are hampering economic and social development.

For the period 2008-2013 (10th  EDF), €70.6 million was allocated to The Gambia with two priority intervention sectors: transport as a focal sector, with a broader emphasis on infrastructure and regional interconnectivity, and governance, in order to help the government in undertaking reforms at the macroeconomic level as well as in the judiciary.

The complementary objectives of the 10th EDF Country Strategy for The Gambia is reforming and improving governance, human rights and the rule of law situation in the Gambia and which areas the government is not even entertaining the least of reforms.

As for now, efforts to get to get comment from the European Union office in Banjul, as to what next after President Jammeh rubbishes their demands, proved unproductive.  However, we wait and see the official position to be taken by the Union.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Foundation ‘Gambia Speelt Mee’ donates playgrounds to 15 schools in Gambia

A Dutch project ‘Gambia Speelt Mee’, which means ‘Gambia Plays Along’, has donated playground equipments and stationeries to about 15 nursery and primary schools in various regions across The Gambia.

The project started in 2010 and it was initiated by Bert Min, a successful Dutch businessman who owns a video production company called TBMVISUALS Professional Video Experience, in Holland.

Mr Min said the initiative to build and offer playground equipments - such as swings, climbing-frame, and seesaws - to various schools in The Gambia came after visiting the country in 2010. 

“Once back in Holland it became very clear that children in Holland have little to worry about, they own a lot of stuff they do not even really need,” Mr Min said while noting that children in the Gambia most of the time do not even have the essential. 

Other than a game of football on a dusty field, there is no real possibility for entertainment, he observed.

It is in cognizant of this that Mr Min made some plan and drawings of various playground toys, modeled after Dutch example and decided to travel to The Gambia again.   This time he was armed with some necessary documents to start a project to create more fun for the schoolchildren. 

This is how Gambia Speelt Mee started in Gambia with its slogan "Together we make it a little more fun".  Mr Min said together with other sponsors, those who made some financial contribution towards the project, the lives of many schoolchildren in the country are “a little better” now.  Personally, he said, I consider it a privilege to spend my donation to realize more fun for the schoolchildren.

“I always feel happy when the children are happy, and this is my biggest motivation to continue with the project,” the initiator of Gambia Speelt Mee said.