Friday, November 26, 2010
Gambia News:OMCT Raises Serious Human Rights Concerns At The 48th Session Of The African Commission on Human And Peoples Rights
Gambia News:African Commission Acting Chairperson Says The Press Is Muzzled,Intimidated And Judiciary Undermined In Africa
The acting Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Commissioner Mumba Malila, has opined that the press in the African continent "is muzzled and intimated, while the judiciary is undermined".
Commissioner Malila made these remarks at the closing of the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights held at the Sheraton Hotel from 10 to 24 November 2010.
The session, convened every six months, was meant to assess and review the continent's human rights situation.
It brought together state delegates, human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists and other delegates.
Commissioner Malila said: "As we all know, in many parts of our continent today, some of those who wield political power choose to misapply and abuse it. Elections fraud and intimidation are the order of the day, dissenting opinions are suppressed for nothing better than political expediency, the press is muzzled and intimidated, the judiciary is undermined."
According to him, there is absence of democratic governance and the rule of law in most parts of the continent.
"Regrettably, the rule of man is the norm in some countries in our beautiful continent. Absence of rule of law is a perfect recipe for anarchy, and the continuing threats to the enjoyment of human rights," he added.
Hon. Malila told regional delegates that the protection and promotion of human rights are cardinal virtues to democratic governance and sustainable development on the continent, and these are integral parts of the African Union's core values.
The African Commission's acting chair is of the conviction that the consolidation of democratic governance and the promotion of constitutional rule and human rights demands that "we always have a climate of legality about us".
He stated: "If as we sometimes see in some African countries, those with executive authority violate the law with impunity, disregard court orders and impose their rule against the will of voters, are in the front line in the open raping and plunder of state resources for personal gains, a climate of illegality prevails."
The African continent, Hon. Malila further stated, has witnessed decades of immense human rights challenges, resulting from a diverse range of factors including civil wars, poverty, corruption and autocratic governance.
"The situation of human rights in Africa, unfortunately, continues to be of grave concern in spite of the existence of the charter and the implementing organ it creates, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights," Malila further noted.
Declaring the session closed, Edward Gomez, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, reminded the session of the enormous task they are performing in curbing the sporadic human rights violations in the African continent, adding that the Commission has to fulfill various tasks on human rights.
He spoke at length about the violations of human rights in the African continent, while applauding the work of the Commission in the promotion and protection of human rights.
"You have embarked on a noble and great task, and I entreat you to continue the noble task. Africa is a great continent," Gomez added.
According to Minister Gomez, the African continent is the richest continent in the world, but there are pending issues that needed to be tackled.
Despite all these, he said, the continent remains the poorest in the world.
He urged the commission to eradicate evil acts in the society, which, he added, is not limited to the violation of human rights.
At the closing of the session, a communiqué was released outlining concerns raised and recommendations made during the session.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Minister of Economic Planning Yusupha Kah
By Madi Njie,Contributing writer
At first, it was the Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA 1), later developed to SPA II known as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP 1), followed by development of PRSP II in 2006 for the period 2007-2011, all aimed at reducing or alleviating poverty in The Gambia.
In pursuance of this objective, the Ministry of Economic and Planning and Industrial Development (MEPID) on 23 and 24 November 2010 continued coordinating meetings of the thematic groups to craft the next national five year development strategy and investment program, the Program for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE).
The meeting followed the inauguration of a fifteen person National Taskforce on16 September 2010 to lead the review of Vision 2020 strategies and to suggest new intervention areas to accelerate the socio-economic development of The Gambia. 'The new strategy to be crafted should when implemented result in The Gambia achieving all the Millennium Development Goals and put the country on stronger economic position to achieve vision 2010 objectives.' The task of the National Taskforce was to review vision 2020 strategic intervention areas and suggest new intervention areas, overall national objectives and strategies. Report of the Taskforce is now with the Thematic working groups, to work on.
The thematic working groups meetings series held simultaneously in various halls at Kairaba Beach and Baobab hotels respectively, brought together stakeholders, forming twelve the thematic groups from various public and private sector, government departments, UN Agencies, local government authorities, NGOs, the media, members of the security forces, among others.
The Thematic working groups focused on topics relevant to their respective field of work, namely: strengthening government institutions and public financial management, National human capital stock formation, Land use planning, Agriculture, Tourism, Health, Energy, Transport Infrastructure, Information and Communication Infrastructure, Business sector, Decentralisation, and Social protection.
A MEPID statement giving reasons for thematic groups meeting quoted President Jammeh's statement at the opening of the National Assembly this year, emphasizing the need for government to move much faster to attain Vision, adding that "failure is not an option."
Mambury Njie, Minister of Economic Planning and Industrial Development in his words states that the program is geared towards implementing local autonomy, enriching cultural development, raising the quality of the human capital stock, enhancing public infrastructure, balancing urban and rural development, accelerating transportation development, strengthening rural infrastructure, promoting farmers' livelihood, enhancing social protection, maintaining social order, creating a harmonious society, strengthening environmental protection, upgrading citizens' health.
Njie referred to Jammeh assertions that "Vision 2020 is not a dream and the Government is committed to its attainment," pointing out that: "It is our strong believe that 'Page' will achieve all the Millennium Development Goals and put the country on a strong footing to attaining the Vision 2020."
He assured that "whilst we will be innovative in financing of the Program, we will continue to seek the goodwill of the international community to support our development process.
The Gambia crafted Vision 2020 as the national development agenda in 1995/96. The objective of Vision 2020, is to transform The Gambia from a low income economy (Gross National Income per capita US$975 and below) to a middle income economy with Gross National Income per capita at least above US$976. The figure for GNIP as at 1995 was US$337, and estimated US$400 as at 2009 (World Bank).
Attention was focused on poverty reduction since 1998, with the design of Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA 1). This was later developed to SPA II /PRSP 1. PRSP II was developed in 2006 for the period 2007-2011. The major results of the implementation of the poverty strategies since 1998 has been increased access to basic social services. Enrollment in primary education has since increased, but the outputs from the junior and senior secondary schools cannot be considered good. Health indicators show some improvement, but with poor general population profile, posing major challenge towards realizing the objectives of the long term development plans.
Reports indicate that urbanization is progressing rapidly. The Gambia ranked 168 out of 182 countries in the UN Human Development Index (UNDP Report 2009). Indications are that the country is not likely to meet MDG 4. Under five mortality rate (U5MR) was 153 in 1990, currently at 131 and should be 51 by 2015. Kuntaur region alone in Central River Region stands at 195. Diarrhea and malaria remain the leading causes of death of children under five. Maternal mortality estimated at 730 deaths per 100,000 remains one of the highest in West Africa.
Reports also indicates that three quarters of all children under five suffer from iron deficiency anemia; 65 percent of the population have access to safe water; only 23 percent use required sanitary excreta disposal facilities; only 25 percent of women of 15 years and older are literate, while 48 percent of men are literate; life Expectancy at birth 55.7 years according to (UNDP Human Development Report 2009.
Reports also indicate that the income of Gambians has not changed much since 1995. Agriculture which accounts for 25 percent of the GDP continues to provide employment for up to 75 percent of the population. And despite the efforts in agriculture, local production of rice, the main food of the population is at 10 percent of national consumption as at 2009. Only 3.9 percent of the Gambian population has vocational and tertiary education (PSIA 2009). Despite the low employment of Gambians in the formal sector, the country lacks nurses and midwifes in the health centres. The vast majority of teachers in the senior secondary schools in The Gambia are foreigners. The Gambia does not have the required skills personnel for industrialization. Less than 40 percent of the population has access to electricity and 70 percent of the population uses forest products for cooking. This calls for a shift in the approach to planning if the country is to achieve Vision 2020 objectives.
Majority leader of the national assembly
Fabakary Tombong Jatta
By Saikou Ceesay
In a move to revamp The Gambia's education sector, the majority leader of the national assembly and member for Serrekunda East Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta has dared the Gambia government to improve on quality education by providing quality teacher training, incentive for teachers as well as maintain quality cadre of teachers in the field for pursuance of a much desired quality education..
Hon. Jatta made these statements recently in an exclusive interview with this paper on the premises of the Regional Education Office in Kanifing during a workshop on inclusive education for national assembly select committee on education.
He said Gambians must first and foremost agree and accept that the country is a developing one, charging that from the very onset of the second republic education has been given priority.
He adds: "Since 1994 to date we have made milestones achievement in the education sector. Come 2015, looking at the statistics and available international data we will be very close to achieving our Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially on education by 2015, I have no doubt about that ."
The representative of Serrekunda East constituency at the national assembly pointed out that looking at the trend, "Education for All" had built enough schools across the nook and cranny of the country.
He said there is no school fee at Lower Basic Schools and that the fee per term at Upper Basic Schools is D125 which he said is very minimal, for government High Schools the fee per term is D250. Jatta indicated that going to school in the Gambia or even at University is relatively very cheap and is second to none in the world.
Asked whether the education budget should be determined by the Ministry of Finance or the Education ministry, this is what he had to say: "Usually what happens is that education would do their submissions as to what their requirements are for the year coming depending on how they are able to justify their claims and the Finance Ministry would provide funds. We are told that education is the best in terms of budgeting, budget defense and budgetary matters and performance. Education is second to none and they are doing very well. And now that we are moving away from line budgeting to programme budgeting it now becomes easy for people to access monies that have been allocated for certain programmes and you value them before you can go to another issue.
Jatta opined that Education for Free is backed by the establishment of President Jammeh's foundation for Empowerment for Girls Education Project (PEGEP) that allows and pays for girl child education up to Senior Secondary School or even at University level. "PEGEP is doing wonderfully well. Girl children are not paying school fees so this is why we are encouraging parents and guardians to send their daughters to school."
On providing conducive learning environment for physically challenged people in schools, Jatta adds that structures at schools and elsewhere in the country must first be friendly to the physically challenged pupil. He says "imagine a pupil sitting in a wheelchair and has to climb up the stairs; someone has to lift him or her upstairs. This is one of the reasons that call for friendly structures in place. We have to restructure our structures in order to meet their needs. We are all Gambians and that we have an all inclusive system where the child's physical disabilities would not impede his/her education. We have seen physically challenged people who are tremendously intelligent as well as scientists. We should include them in the whole programme.It is pertinent that we befriend them, accept them and dialogue with them and see them as part of us," Jatta remarked.
He said the select Committee on Education at the National Assembly few months ago visited Arabic Schools in the country. He lamented that conditions at many of the Arabic Schools were appalling as the students were faced with poor learning environments; shortage of chairs and tables in classrooms was evident. The Majority leader indicated that they have noticed the situation at most Arabic Schools in the countryside.
As he put it: "Yes, we have observed that some Arabic Schools are excellent and some physically handicapped. The Ministry of Education has accessed the Arabic Schools(Madrasas) so that they can be captured as they are now teaching Basic English, Science and Maths.At the assembly level we are also suggesting best ways for these Arabic Schools."
President Jammeh and Iranian Leader
Analysts say the expulsion of Iranian diplomats as a result of cut of ties between The Gambia and Iran will result in the seizure of several projects funded by Iran which include a $2bn (£1.2bn) agreement to supply The Gambia with heavy and commercial vehicles. Both countries' human rights records attracted lots of criticisms.
Efforts to reach Zaed Zare, the Iranian ambassador to The Gambia, proved futile. However, Senior Iranian official Alaeddin Borujerdi told the BBC on Tuesday 23 November that Gambia's decision to cut diplomatic ties was as a result of pressure from the United States.
The Gambia has announced the cutting off of all ties with Iran on Monday, November 22, 2010 and ordered all Iranian government representatives to leave the country within 48 hours.
But there are no official reasons from authorities in The Gambia advanced for the move.
This cut of ties followed Nigeria's alleged interception of an illegal arms shipment in Lagos from Iran, destined for The Gambia last month.
The Nigerian authorities said they had discovered the weapons, including rocket launchers and grenades, in containers labeled as building materials.
The France-based shipping company CMA CGM which transported the shipment said attempts were made to send it to The Gambia before the Nigerian police seized it.
Mr Borujerdi, chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran's parliament, confirmed that a private Iranian company had sent the arms to The Gambia but said this was "in line with international laws", reports the official Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna).
Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council. Iran whose nuclear programme is banned from supplying, selling or transferring arms is under UN sanctions.
According to a statement from The Gambian foreign ministry all government of The Gambia projects and programmes, which were [being] implemented in co-operation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, have been cancelled.
Reports have it that the weapons seized by Nigerian security officials in Lagos included rocket launchers and grenades, adding that ties between Tehran and Banjul became closer after Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994.
The Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a guest of honour of the 2006 African Union Summit hosted by The Gambia.The Gambia has been among those developing nations who have defended what president Jammeh called "Iran's Peaceful nuclear enrichment" on his last visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Friday, November 19, 2010
The media and journalists' rights organisation, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), has indicated in its a statement at the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights that its thirteen years experience "have shown that progress in media development and promotion of the rights to free expression has been very slow."
The Commission is holding its 48th ordinary session in Banjul from 10 to 24 November, 2010.
The statement noted that, "Despite the adoption of constitutional democracy in the countries of the region, national legislation continues to be dominated by repressive media laws that criminalise speech and free expression. In recent years, the media environment in West Africa has witnessed the use of anti-free expression laws by state authorities, to gag the media and limit free expression. The MFWA will like to draw your attention to a few instances particularly in The Gambia, Ghana and Togo."
Regarding The Gambia, the statement noted that, "the state of the media and free expression in The Gambia requires urgent attention." It indicated that media practitioners have faced harassment, intimidation and persecution in the performance of their work. It pointed out that on countless occasions, criminal charges have been brought against journalists; that they have also detained for more than 72 hours without being taken to court contrary to section 19(3) of the Gambian Constitution. The statement added that in recent years a good number of journalists have been arrested and detained and some of them have been charged with false publication and criminal defamation, punishable on conviction by huge fines and terms of imprisonment. Among those convicted "is a Nigerian human rights defender, Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme, who has been sentenced to a mandatory six-month prison term with hard labour for giving false information to the office of President. He was also been ordered …. to pay a fine of 10, 000 Dalasi (about US$ 330) or in default, serve an extra three years imprisonment with hard labour. Nebolisa was also detained at the Serious Crime unit of the Gambian police force for eight days contrary to the 72 hours stipulated under the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia."
Of major concern also to the MFWA is the Gambian government's failure "to comply with the recommendations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Resolution 134 made at its 44th Ordinary session in November 2008 on the Gambia which among other things urged the Gambian government to provide access to all prisoners and bring an immediate end to harassment and intimidation of independent media institutions and respect the rights of journalists and human rights defenders."
The statement went further to state that the Gambian government has not given regard to the ECOWAS Court decision of June 5th 2008, which declared illegal, the arrest and detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a Daily Observer reporter, who was arrested in July, 2006. It added that the court also awarded US$100,000 as damages for the violation of Mr. Manneh's rights. "The arrest of Chief Manneh is a violation of Article 6 of the African charter on Human and peoples Rights' which provides that, "Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person, no one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained," the statement asserted. The MFWA concluded on The Gambia by calling on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights "to take all the necessary measures to ensure that the Gambian government complies with its obligations under the African Charter."
Regarding Togo, the statement recalled how journalists were attacked and jailed when they report on issues of corruption. Although journalists have now been given the opportunity to state their cases in court, this has been overshadowed by the majority of the law suits that have been initiated by government. This year, President Faure Gnassingbé initiated five law suits against three newspapers charging them for "false publication" and "criminal defamation." The law suits have been withdrawn. Again, "Tribune d'Afrique" a privately-owned bi-monthly newspaper, was banned indefinitely and fined one million FCFA (about US$2000) for publishing "false news" against the president's brother, Mey Gnassingbé."
The statement goes on to say that "even in countries where press freedom and freedom of expression are much better respected and protected, repressive media laws are still being used and where terms of imprisonment have not been applied, exorbitant award of damages are used instead to cripple press freedom. In Ghana, two citizens, one of whom is a journalist, were charged to court for publishing false information contrary to section 208 of the Criminal Offences Act. Even though these cases have been discontinued, the MFWA is concerned that the continuous use of criminal law suits against journalists is capable of cowing the media, thereby leading to self censorship."
The statement drew the attention of the Commission to the fact that "Member States of the African Union are parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well as the Declaration of principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which promote the right to free expression." The statement then noted that, "the continued existence of laws such as Seditious Libel, Criminal Defamation, Publishing false news and Insult laws in the statute books of member states pose a major challenge to the promotion and protection of the right to free speech/ free media."
The MFWA therefore called on the Commission "to ensure that member states take all necessary steps to review their national laws in conformity with their obligations under the treaties."
After emphasising the importance of the right of access to information because it facilitates the implementation of other rights particularly economic, social and cultural rights, the statement observed that "in Africa, only four countries have an Access to Information Law. As at now, Liberia remains the first and only country in West Africa to have passed this law. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone are still undergoing the processes to ensure the passage of the law but the processes have not been without huge challenges."
The statement concluded that: "The watchdog role of the media remains indispensable. The Media Foundation for West Africa urges the Commission to pay particular attention to the issues mentioned in this statement. While we commend Liberia for taking the bold step in passing a Right to Information Law, we wish to call on other African leaders to follow suit to enable citizens enjoy the provisions of the African charter, the African Freedom of Expression Declaration as well as the full benefits of the rights enshrined in their various national Constitutions.
Could someone tell us why the Standard News paper has ceased publication?
The opposition say Mr Mugabe is driving
the economy into the ground
In the November 14 article, the 26-year-old reporter alleged that exams were being scrapped to allow war veterans and retired officers to return to the police force. Ndlovu wrote that the war veterans and retired officers, all loyal to the former ruling party ZANU-PF, would direct police operations ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections. Police charged Ndlovu under Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for defaming Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and the entire police force, Ndlovlu's defense lawyer, Josphat Tshuma, said.
Ndlovu presented himself at the Bulawayo Central Police Station accompanied by his lawyer this morning, News Day Bulawayo Bureau Chief Dumisani Sibanda told CPJ. Tshuma said Ndlovu was asked to reveal his sources but he refused, Agence France-Presse reported. (NewsDay is published and produced in the same office as The Standard and The Independent under the Alpha Media Holdings Company.) Police detained Sibanda on Tuesday for two hours of questioning.
"It is absurd in a democracy to use antiquated criminal defamation laws to prevent reporting on a public body such as the police," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We call on the authorities to release Nqobani Ndlovu immediately and drop all charges against him."Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka denied the allegations published in the Standard and accused the reporter of "criminal and irresponsible journalism of the highest order," in a public opinion piece published by the government daily The Herald. Ndlovu had used information from sources within the police department, Sibanda said. "This is the main concern of the authorities," he told CPJ, "they are worried about disgruntled police officers leaking information to the media."
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Gambia continues to face a heavy debt burden, despite the fact that the country's economy has performed well in 2010 mainly because of continued strong growth in agriculture, a statement issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed Thursday.
"Interest on debt consumes about 20 percent of government revenues, mostly in interest on domestic debt," the statement said.
The statement followed a two-week long IMF mission led by David Dunn to assess performance under the seventh review of the Gambia's economic program supported by the IMF under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF).
According to the statement, to generate fiscal savings that could be used for other spending priorities such as a possible stepping-up of infrastructure investment under the government's forthcoming Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment, preparations for the 2011 budget have focused on reducing T-bill yields by minimizing government's domestic financing needs.
"At the same time, strong ongoing efforts to improve budgeting procedures and public financing management would help achieve greater value-for-money from government spending," the statement noted.
The IMF statement stated further that building upon the success of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, which has made excellent progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the government intends to pilot a medium-term expenditure framework in some line ministries in 2011.
The IMF mission, according to the statement, expects real growth in the Gambia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to be about 5 and half to 6 percent in 2010, up from its previous projection of about 5 percent.
"Also, sectors dependent on tourism and remittances from abroad, which were hit hard by the global economic crisis, are beginning to show signs of recovery. Looking ahead, real GDP growth is projected to remain strong about 5 and half percent in 2011," the mission revealed.
The statement further added that headline inflation edged up to just over 6 percent in recent months, prompting the CBG to raise its rediscount rate by 1 percent point (to 15 percent) in September. The IMF mission expects inflation to decline slightly to 5 percent in the year ahead.
Since June, the IMF noted, performance under the ECF programme has improved considerably.
"In the first half of 2010, severe revenue shortfalls led to an excessive fiscal deficit. The rising cost of fuel imports, in particular, cut sharply into fuel tax revenue, which were squeezed by fixed pump prices," the statement said, adding that the Gambian government took difficult, but appropriate actions with mid-term increases to some fuel prices and by adjusting expenditures in line with a tighter overall resource envelop.
"The rapid expansion of the banking system in recent years is providing much needed financing for the Gambian economy. At the same time, it creates challenges for banking supervision. The mission welcomes the CBG's progress in building its supervisory capacity and its commitment and vigilance to further strengthen the regulatory framework," the IMF stated.
The mission welcomed the Gambian authorities' corrective actions for the missed end-March 2010 performance criterion on the basic fiscal balance, notably by making difficult adjustments to execute a more balanced budget.
Looking ahead, the IMF statement went on, the mission very much encourages the authorities to continue the good performance, which should yield dividends for the budget and for the Gambian economy as a whole.
Meanwhile, the statement was released following a press conference by the IMF mission held at the Ministry of Finance in Banjul.
The President of the Federation of African Journalists, Omar Faruk Ousman, has said the continent has lost high-profile journalists in The Gambia such as the late Deyda Hydara and Omar Barrow.
Mr Faruk Ousman, who made these remarks yesterday at a press conference held at the Gambia Press Union in Bakau Newtown, expressed concern over the missing of journalist chief Ebrima Manneh, challenging the authorities to launch an investigation into his disappearance while on duty at his media house as well as into the killing of Deyda Hydara, to judiciously deal with these matters.
He reiterated his association's willingness to fight for freedom and protection of journalists in the continent including those in The Gambia.
According to him, thirteen journalists were killed this year nine of whom in Somalia and three in Nigeria.
He however maintained that they would make all efforts to ensure journalists operate in a more conducive environment.
He further revealed that they paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Justice of The Gambia on Wednesday to discuss some major problems affecting their work and how to create and maintain a peaceful environment for them to function.
For his part, the president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists who also doubles as the president of the West African Journalists Association, Mohammed Garba, lamented that many journalists were arrested and beaten in recent years in the continent.
He added that their associations will give more support to young journalists in the continent.
The opposition say Mr Mugabe is driving
the economy into the ground
New York, November 11, 2010--Zimbabwean police should withdraw an arrest warrant issued last week against exiled editor Wilf Mbanga concerning a 2008 story about the murder of an election official, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Zimbabwe Republic Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Phiri told CPJ on Wednesday that Mbanga, publisher of the The Zimbabwean newspaper, which is edited in London and South Africa and distributed in Zimbabwe, was wanted for an article "prejudicial to the state."
The December 2008 story alleged that senior officials plotted the murder of Ignatius Mushangwe, director of training and polling for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Officials targeted Mushangwe because they suspected he leaked information to the media about ballot-rigging during the disputed 2008 presidential election, the story asserted.
Phiri said the story was untrue. Mushangwe's strangled and partially burned body turned up in a mortuary in the capital, Harare, in October 2008 after his kidnapping four months earlier, according to news reports.
While the London-based Mbanga would not face immediate arrest, the warrant would be an impediment to his return to Zimbabwe.
"We condemn the police warrant against Wilf Mbanga as a form of intimidation distracting from the unsolved slaying of Ignatius Mushangwe," CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. "We call on the power-sharing government to move forward by implementing promised media reforms, ones that are essential to a credible election in 2011."
Since President Robert Mugabe announced that a new general election would be held in mid-2011, members of his ruling ZANU-PF have harassed several journalists covering pre-election activities, according to news reports.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The lord mayor of Banjul, Samba Faal, on Monday appeared before the Banjul Magistrates' Court, where he testified in the trial of Fafa Ceesay and Tamsir Nyang, who are charged with giving false information.
Testifying before Magistrate Emmanuel Nkea as the first prosecution witness, Mayor Faal told the court that he resides in Kotu South, and that he is the mayor of the city of Banjul.
He told the court that he knew the second accused person prior, and that something had transpired between him and the second accused person with regard to the government properties situated at Sarro Denton Bridge in Banjul, which is used for agricultural purposes.
"About six months ago, the second accused, Tamsir Nyang, approached me about the said land that their late father has been cultivating for so long, and that he planted some of the cashew trees there," Mayor Faal added.
The second accused, Mayor Faal added, told him that since there was a fire outbreak on the said land, he wanted to apply to the disaster relief committee for conpensation.
"I told him that the property belongs to the government, and asked him to produce the fire report and documents to prove ownership of the land, but he said to me he can only produce the fire report," he told the court.
"I then referred him to the deputy mayor of the council, who is the head of the disaster management committee. I told the 2nd accused that his late father used to cultivate at the said land for more than 20 years together with many others, but that does not mean that his late father owned the said land, " he said.
Mayor Faal also told the court that he told the second accused that he is aware of the fact that his late father has planted some trees on the said land.
Under cross-examination by the first accused, Fafa Ceesay, Mayor Faal maintained that even though the accused person's late father planted some trees on the said land, the land belongs to the state.
The witness was not cross-examined by the second accused, as he had no questions for him.
At that juncture, the prosecuting officer, Cadet Superintendent Manneh, announced that the prosecution had closed their case.
Magistrate Nkea then adjourned the case till 24th November 2010.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Madam Bjoang and Dr.Touray
Dr Isatou Touray Executive Director and Mrs Amie Bojang Sissoho Programme Officer of the Gambia (Gamcotrap) on Thursday, 4 November 2010 made their first public appearance since their arrest, detention and the subsequent on going trial, so set light on issues surrounding their incarceration.
In her address at the opening of a three day forum on women human rights defenders held at Kairaba beach hotel ahead of the African Commission Ordinary session, Dr Isatou Touray started by conveying greetings of inmates at the Female Wing of the Mile Two Central Prison in Banjul.
She narrated that during her nine days in detention at the state central prison, she received several complains from the inmates detained at the female wing.
Dr Touray said her heart bleeds as she receives reports of violations, harassment and intimidation of women in prison.
Dr Touray acknowledged the level of solidarity shown by members of civil societies, NGOs, human rights organisations and partners, pointing out that this saws that "we are not alone, and we are doing the right thing."
Going further, Dr Touray quest: "what have we done? Is it because we are standing for those who cannot speak? Is it that we are standing for the voice of the voiceless? The critical question is how committed is our state in promoting women's rights, and why were we incarcerated. How much commitment government made on promoting women's rights, why are human rights defenders a target of the state? How effective are the mechanisms in place to monitor compliance to human rights issues. What is the role of NGOs and human rights organisations in promoting rights?"
On effects leading to their arrest, Touray said government made commitments for an alternative report and as an NGO, they have a role to prepare alternative report on how to promote rights together, and also promote women's health.
He said: "Now Gamcotrap is being incarcerated at this moment. The apparent allegation is the Euro30,000, but the case is, we did the consultant and I led the team for that work, with support of the Association of Non-governmental Organisation (TANGO). We prepared an alternative report, but the women's Bureau went and reported that we are saying something against the state.
"These are some of the problems we are facing," she pointed out, acknowledging the hard work being done by human rights defenders, but again asked how we are going to ensure that those defenders are protected.
"This is what we are going through and we fear for our lives. We don't know where its going to end, because we cannot fight with giant. But I hope that justice will prevail in a society where human rights are respected," she remarked.
Narrating the ordeals of their arrest, Dr Touray said they were arrested, put in a cage at the police station, where they were detained over night, denied access to lawyers and rushed to court in the absence of their counsel. "We were remanded in custody at mile two prison for nine days by a court order. It was at Mile Two that we had access to Lawyers, that is why we were in court yesterday to hear the proceedings of the case," she said.
Touray reaffirm her organisation's commitment to the promotion of women's rights because, emphasizing that: "we are women and we are part and passel of the broader community of women. We are representing our ourselves and the voice of the voiceless. 75 percent of Gambian women are poor, pregnant and powerless. Therefore the role we are playing is empowerment of women and what we need is close we collaboration with partner organisations. We are part of the state and as NGOs, we are complementing the state," she said.
Dr Touray expressed the need to for unity to ensure that woman's rights are protected, adding "our lives are put in danger. Today is Gamcotrap; tomorrow could be African Center, or other organisations working in the field of human rights."
She said, the challenge is how to make state understand that activists are not against them, but rather we are trying to help them reach the other side of the coin.
She said in her nine days detention, she was allowed to read papers, but was not allowed access to pen, which she needed to record complains, observations and treatments of the female wing prisoners. She expressed shock over the conditions of female prisoners. I am not trying to paint a colour on my country, but this is the situation we are faced with. We hope that the whole world will understand our situation," she said, as indication the need for improved collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders in building a society that respect, protect and preserve the reproductive and rights to health of women.
For her part Mrs Amie Bojang Sisoho said their role is to ensure that whatever they are doing is based on the commitments the state made, on the promotion of women's human rights, visa vis the protocols ratified on the rights of women.
"We as women of The Gambia have to be aware of the UN conventions and how we can reflect on them in our daily realities. This is what our mandate is all about, and this is the work we are doing. Women whose rights are violated needs to understand the realities. In doing this we look at women whose rights are violated and other violations of reproductive health and rights of women," Gamcotrap program officer asserts.
Dr Touray and Mrs Bojang-Sissoho were arrested on Monday, 11 October ` 2010 by an officer of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA), detained in police custody overnight, remanded, released on bail Wednesday, 20 October 2010 . The case landed in the hands of the police who detained the duo overnight, charged and remanded for nine days in custody before granted bail at the sum of 1.5 Million Gambian dalasi (US$53,571).
According to reports received, they had been detained at Mile Two Central Prison on Tuesday, October 12, 2010. The two women were arrested and detained for an alleged misappropriation of 30,000 euros. Their request for bail, but was denied on Tuesday, October 12 and they were ordered to spend nine days in prison before appearing before the court on Wednesday 20 October.
The Nigerian born judge was appointed by H.E Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahjya AJJ Jammeh, the president of the Republic of The Gambia pursuant to Section 138 (3) of the 1997 Second Republican Constitution of The Gambia. Justice Joseph Wowo's appointment takes effect from 2nd of November 2010.
When contacted by this reporter, Justice Wowo confirmed his appointment as the new president of The Gambia Court of Appeal. Justice Wowo was once at the Civil Litigation Department at the Attorney General's Chambers. He also served as a high court judge and was elevated to The Gambia Court of Appeal as a judge.
Justice Wowo replaces Justice Esther Ota who is going for secondement in the Republic of Swaziland in Southern Africa.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Ceesay Kunda family of FodayKunda in Salikenni Village and the Samusa family in Kerewan North Bank Region regret to announce the sudden death of Mr. Bubacarr Ceesay our father,brother, uncle,son,nephew and friend of Bundung Borehole.Mr Ceesay passes away this Tuesday evening 2nd November 2010 at Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in the capital, Banjul.
He died after a brief illness which lasted for about two days.Ceesay was a devoted Muslim who spent his lifetime helping the poor and the needy.
Editor Ceesay has this to say: "I have stayed with Bubacarr Ceesay for over eight years in the same compound but he has treated me as a brother and father,
and was very instrumental in shaping my life as a young man.I received the demise of my son and brother- Bubacarr with a deep shock.The decease was laid to rest at the old Jeshwang Cemetery.May God-the Almighty preserve place for him in heaven.Ameen!
Gambia:Press Release: The Islamic Regime Of Iran Plans To Execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani Immediately
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
According to news received by the International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution on 1 November 2010, the authorities in Tehran have given the go ahead to Tabriz prison for the execution of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. It has been reported that she is to be executed this Wednesday 3 November.
We had previously reported that the case file regarding the murder case of Ms Ashtiani's husband had been seized from her lawyer's office, Houtan Kian, and found missing from the prosecutor's Oskoo branch office so as to stitch Ms Ashtiani up with trumped up murder charges. Ms Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and her lawyer, Houtan Kian, have warned of the regime's plan to do so on many occasions. With the arrest of Ms Ashtiani's son and lawyer on 10 October and her not having had any visitation rights since 11 August and after fabricating a new case against her, the "Human Rights Commission" of the regime has announced that: 'according to the existing evidence, her guilt has been confirmed.' In fact, the regime has created a new scenario in order to expedite her execution.
The International Committees against Stoning and Execution call on international bodies and the people of the world to come out in full force against the state-sponsored murder of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Ms Ashtiani, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, Houtan Kian and the two German journalists must be immediately and unconditionally released.
International Committee against Execution
International Committee against Stoning
Tel: 0049 (0) 1775692413
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Gambia national flag
By Madi Njie
Mr Lamin Nyanyado- Chairman of the Fund raising Committee of the Gambia Social Forum have disclosed that a total of over three million dalasi is needed to facilitate Gambian civil society participation, as co-hosts, to the Mini- Social Forum and World Social Forum (WSF) to be held in Ziguinchor Cassamance and Dakar Senegal respectively.
Addressing stakeholders at briefing session held at the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Tango) Conference hall, Mr Nyanyado disclosed that The Gambia is a serving as co-host to the forthcoming WSF scheduled to take place from 6 to 13 February 2011. Prior to the global event, he said The Gambia and Senegal plans to organize a mini-social forum, as a test to the organizing capacity of the Sene-gambian social for a. He expressed the need for the Gambian civil society organizations to come up with areas that should be discussed during the mini social forum and World Social Forum respectively.
Nyanyado further said the theme for the Ziguinchor forum, "Decentralisation and integration in the Sene-Gambia Sub-region for development and sustainable peace," is chosen within the context of the WSF, adding that, so far a topic to look at women's potentials in Cross-border trade, Pros and Cons for the regional integration" have already been identified, calling on anyone willing to present a paper on this to show-up to the organizers.
He said among the logistics needed to make it to the Ziguinchor mini-forum includes hire of two buses, fuel cost, accommodation, among others. Furthermore, he disclosed that the Dakar event will go for nine days, instead of the previously planned 6 days, requiring extension of the budget. He 5 buses need to be hired to transport the targeted 200 participants. "The advocacy materials, including T-shirts printing, banners and brochures will be presented in Ziguinchor and Dakar events. He pointed out that logistics involved for Gambia's full participation to both events so far stands at over three million dalasi, yet the fund raising chairman said: "We have not gathered anything yet. We need more volunteers to join in, and share ideas on how we can raise funds."
He assured that the fund raising committee will be reaching out to donors, and call on potential donors to come onboard to give a helping hand.
Amadou Taal, Chair- Steering Committee, Social forum- The Gambia who chaired the briefing said the two social forums of The Gambia and Senegal do have a join forum call the Senegambia Social forum. He said the two held successful social forum in Kaolack three years back. "This time, we are planning to have the two social fora to jointly organize the world social forum to be held in Dakar. Some members of the Senegalese social forum came to The Gambia in order to brief us on what is being done so far in terms of the planning process. Series of meetings were held with the counterparts," he said.
At local level, Mr Taal said meetings have been held with representatives of the national assembly,
Gambia Teachers Union, NGOs Affairs, Action Aid The Gambia, and many other institutions. "The idea was to see how best we can collaborate with the Senegalese social forum, within the context of the World Social Forum to be held soon. We agreed that we should form some sub-committees that work towards the operations of the new initiative. Already the Senegalese Social Forum has established its own sub-committees."
Continuing further, Taal said, "by virtue of the fact that the two social forums are located differently, we would not be able to have a joint committee that will meet on a regular basis. But we expect that before the WSF, we will have the opportunity of meeting again either in Dakar or in Banjul, so that we can harmonise the activities of the two. Already, the Senegalese counterparts have established their sub-committees, who are working very well. We have also established our Sub-committees, who are doing very well so far. The two social for a have agreed that before the WSF, there will be a mini social forum that will be held in Ziguinchor, Cassamance. This will also allow us to test our organizational ability to see how we stand in terms of organizing these fora, prior to hosting of the world social forum, which attracts over hundred thousand people."
He said organizing such event successfully is not an easy task, as it requires planning. The date was initially scheduled on 25 and 26 November 2010, but it might be rescheduled because the Governor for Ziguinchor wants to participate in the event, but he travelled and will only be back on the last date of the event.
He expressed the need to do as much as possible to make the world social forum a success, and urged the need for it to be well organized. He expressed conviction that one way in which Gambian participation can be made successful is to have large presence, by allowing many civil society members to take part. However, he said it is not just going there as civil society members, do contribute effective in the debates and knowledge sharing.
He said many themes and sub-themes are discussed and the Gambia needs to come up with sub-themes to table before the world social forum. He therefore expressed the need for members to start preparations now than waiting. He also called on the media to help in disseminating information about the WSF as widely as possible for public consumption.
Mr Ousman Yarbo- Chairman of Logistic and Social Mobilisation Committee spoke of the various activities expected to be carried, requiring huge amount of money to facilitate the process. He said organizations that will participate have to come up with something to showcase at the World Social Forum, to give waive to the success of the event.
Mr Ousman Sillah, Chairperson of the (IEC) Media Support said the Gambia as a co-host have identified activities and the Information Education and Communication (IEC) component has a crucial role to play to enlighten the public on the issues surrounding the WSF and to popularize it.
Sillah emphasized the need for effective collaboration with the media to realize the full participation of civil society groups. "We feel that civil society organizations in any area can benefit in this event," he said, adding that the event is an opportunity to network and collaborate with others for realization of a common goal.
"We need extensive coverage and publication," reiterating that the intension is to have more civil society participation than projected so far, to ensure that Gambian civil societies are fully represented, as co-host to the event. Sillah also spoke plans to collaborate with both the print and electronic media in terms of publicity and advertisement.
"We are very small in terms of number, and therefore we need communication experts and media practitioners, and any body who feels that you are very effective in this IEC committee to come and share ideas with us on how to make the IEC more effective in popularizing the event for the benefit of the public at large," concludes the WSF IEC committee Chairman.
WSF was first held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001 with the main objective of providing a space for civil society organizations to articulate an alternative to the present neo-liberal development paradigm and has adopted as its slogan, "Another World is Possible." The World Social Forum is guided by its Charter of Principles and all its national and regional members adhere to these principles. In all its meetings, the WSF is characterized by its large number of participations representing diverse peoples from all parts of the globe. It creates a large space for: Democratic debates and exchange of ideas; in-depth analysis and reflections on world issues; formulation of proposals and recommendations and exchange of experiences; free expression and articulation of social movements, workers unions, farmer's organizations, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations which are opposed to neo-liberalism and the domination of the world by capital and all forms of imperialism.
The WSF is therefore, a venue for debates, articulation, formulation and deepening of ideas and visions.
Since the formation in 2001, the WSF has been organized in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The International Committee of the WSF has decided that 11th Edition of the WSF will take place in Dakar, Senegal from 6- 13 February 2011. That will be the second time Africa will host the WSF; the first was held in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2007.
The WSF has always attracted multitudes of peoples from diverse cultural backgrounds but from common socio-economic and political experiences. The first WSF was attended by about 12,000 people; however, this number reached its peak during the 5th Edition of the WSF in 2005 to a staggering figure of 155,000 people. It is estimated that the Dakar meeting will bring together about 100,000 people. In spite of its diversity in cultures and socio-economic-political backgrounds, there is always a unity of purpose, to bring about a better world for the majority of humankind.
President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia
Many reports were received asking us to monitor the nationwide tour of some chiefs to find out what their mission is. These reports were followed by questions whether it is possible for the President to be crowned a King.
Information from the Upper River Region by Foroyaa Newspaper reveals that some people are going about to promote the idea of crowning the President as King of the Gambia. The fact that many people have raised their concerns with Foroyaa confirms that the National Council for Civic Education has more work to do to enable the Gambian people to know the political system in the country and what type of leadership is required under such a system. Those who may wish to undertake such a venture should be told from the very beginning that they would be engaged in a fruitless exercise. Those who understand the first Chapter and the First Section of the Constitution would know that it is impossible for the President to be crowned a monarch. The Chapter deals with the Republic. One does not need political education to understand that a Republic cannot have a King. Secondly, Section 1 says that "The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic." It adds that "The sovereignty of the Gambia resides in the people of the Gambia from whom all organs of government derive their authority and in whose name and for whose welfare and prosperity the powers of government are to be exercised."
Section 26 indicates how power is derived from the people. It states that "every citizen of the Gambia of full age and capacity shall have the right, without unreasonable restrictions to vote and stand for elections for public office, which election shall be by universal and equal suffrage and be held by secret ballot." Section 63 adds that "The term of office of an elected president shall…be for a term of five years.."
These are all entrenched clauses which could never be changed without a referendum. Suffice it to say, entrenched clauses could only be changed at a referendum if one half of those who are registered to vote cast their ballot and if 75 percent of those who voted support the motion. Finally, section 100 saves Gambia from having a one party state. It states that the "National Assembly shall not pass a bill to establish a one party state." Hence Gambians who treasure their sovereignty should not waste their time arguing whether the president could be crown a king or not. Only those who want to make themselves the laughing stock of history would engage in such a campaign. We hope all Gambians would realize that we live in the 21st Century. The adults should know that hey are leaving children and grandchildren behind. None should advocate for things that one's children and grand children would remember in shame.
President Bingu wa Mutharika led the Democratic Progressive Party in Malawi
New York, November 1, 2010--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a government ban on the publication of Malawian weekly tabloid The Weekend Times today. In a letter dated October 28, the National Archives of Malawi issued an immediate suspension of The Weekend Times on charges of failing to register the paper, according to news reports.
The letter cited the 1958 Printed Publications Act, which requires all newspapers to be registered and to deposit a copy of each of their publications with the National Archives. Under the colonial-era law, the National Archives can shutter publications for an indeterminate period without appeal, local journalists told CPJ.Blantyre Publishers, the owners of The Weekend Times and four other publications, applied to register all of their publications with the National Archive last month but did not receive a response, Managing Director Leonard Chikadya told CPJ. Once an application is submitted for registration it is assumed that the publication has commenced the registration process and cannot face punitive measures according to the publishing law, Chikadaya said. Blantyre Publishers' legal counsel has filed motions for an injunction in an effort to continue publishing. CPJ was unable to reach the National Archives or the president's office for comment.
"The The Weekend Times appears to have been shut down without basis," said CPJ's East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "We urge the National Archives to rescind their order immediately and allow the weekly to continue publishing."
The newspaper did not receive an official closure notice, learning of the suspension only through state radio reports, local journalists told CPJ. "We actually printed last Friday's edition since we were not aware of the suspension order made the day before," Chikadya told CPJ.Launched in 2009, The Weekend Times has seen its circulation rise from 3,000 to 14,000. A tabloid weekly, the paper focuses on sports and entertainment, with investigative stories covering cases of fraud and sexual scandals of public figures, local journalists said.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Alhaji Mustapha L. Carayol, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, has described as a non-starter, the "no-elections" demand, stressing that this should be discouraged in all its forms for the betterment of the much-needed development.
"Election is a conflict resolution mechanism to settle unresolved issues and holding free and fair election is a pre-condition for most, if not all, international development agencies' interventions in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa," Mr. Carayol said.
The IEC boss made this declaration in a paper delivered on his behalf by Samboujang Njie, Director of Operations at the IEC, during a powerpoint presentation at the closing of a four-day regional outreach forum organised by the National Assembly at the Paradise Suites Hotel on Saturday.
In his presentation on the topics: "Why elections; Different types of elections; Role of voters in the election process; and Post and Pre-election activities," IEC Chairman Carayol said genuine and periodic elections lend credence to the democratic profile of a country.
"Therefore, the demand for 'no-election' is a non-starter, and should be discouraged in all its forms for the betterment of the much-needed development," he said, adding that elections provide for the creation of government, including representative institutions such as parliaments and area councils.
According to the IEC chairman, elections provide the basis for the authority to govern in a modern democratic state.
"Voters should not place any political banners, posters, placards, drawings, billboards or similar materials on public buildings, national monuments or religious institutions without the owner's expressed consent," he said.
He stated that voters should ensure no campaign in public offices or educational institutions during working hours or hours of instruction, and should not in anyway disrupt, destroy or frustrate the campaign efforts of political parties or candidates.
In his view, elections are very popular nowadays, not only in the first world, but also in the developing countries, where holding free, fair and regular elections is a precondition for most, if not all, development partners' interventions.
"Election facilitates the participation of citizens in their government, a view that is buttressed by a number of international human rights and other instruments," he said, adding further that as a voter, one has rights to vote/or to be voted for, to cast a secret ballot, to campaign anywhere in the electoral division and to attend political rallies and meetings.
He called on the politicians to extend their full cooperation to the IEC and election officials to guarantee the integrity of the election process, and to ensure that safety and security are maintained throughout the election.
It would be recalled that the first regional outreach forum for Lower and North Bank Regions was held at Tendaba Camp in early August 2010.
According to the organisers, the third regional outreach forum for Upper and Central River Regions will take place early 2011, at a venue to be decided later.