Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The sensitisation of National Assembly members on the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) before ratification is a necessity, because lawmakers should not just ratify a convention without knowing its objectives.
The objective of the Kampala Convention is explicit through its objectives.
Adopted by the special Summit of the Union held in Kampala, Uganda 22 October 2009, the Kampala Convention aims to promote and strengthen regional and national measures to prevent or mitigate, prohibit and eliminate root causes of internal displacement as well as provide for durable solutions.
Needless to say AU heads of states at the time of making the agreement were conscious of the gravity of the situation of internally displaced persons as a source of continuing instability and tension for African states. They also know about the suffering and specific vulnerability of internally displaced persons.
So if ratified the Convention is expected to establish a legal framework for preventing internal displacement, and protecting and assisting internally displaced persons in Africa. It will also establish a legal framework for solidarity, cooperation, promotion of durable solutions and mutual support between the States Parties in order to combat displacement and address its consequences.
As a formal agreement between states, it will also provide for the obligations and responsibilities of States Parties, with respect to the prevention of internal displacement and protection of, and assistance, to internally displaced persons.
The objectives clearly states that it will provide for the respective obligations, responsibilities and roles of armed groups, non-state actors and other relevant actors, including civil society organizations, with respect to the prevention of internal displacement and protection of, and assistance to, internally displaced persons.
According to the general obligations relating to state parties, state parties undertake to respect and ensure respect for the present Convention.
When the Convention comes into force it is capable of preventing political, social, cultural and economic exclusion and marginalisation that are likely to cause displacement of populations or persons by virtue of their social identity, religion or political opinion.
This convention will also enable state parties to promote self-reliance and sustainable livelihoods amongst internally displaced persons, provided that such measures shall not be used as a basis for neglecting the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons, without prejudice to other means of assistance.
For the past years Gambia's vulnerability to natural disaster has increased. This is evident in the number of people affected by flood and storm in the rainy season. Many people were homeless; some lost their food stuffs and other belonging due to floods. Instead of some of their properties been replaced, majority of them were only donated food item, even though their pressing problem was a house in which to be sheltered.
We hope that the thorough scrutinizing of this Convention and its subsequent ratification will protect and assist both disaster victims and the vulnerable.
As the rainy season approaches, many people are scared and doubtful about their protection against any natural disaster, especially floods and storms. The previous disasters caused by the floods have affected all the regions in the country.
Another good thing about the Convention is that it will require states parties to respect and ensure respect for their obligations under international law, including human rights and humanitarian law, so as to prevent and avoid conditions that might lead to the arbitrary displacement of persons.
The devise early warning systems, in the context of the continental early warning system, in areas of potential displacement, establish and implement disaster risk reduction strategies, emergency and disaster preparedness and management measures and, where necessary, provide immediate protection and assistance to internally displaced persons is indeed more than necessary for a continent like Africa where natural disasters are on the increase.
The ratification of the Convention will facilitate assisting disaster victims and protect the lives and properties of the vulnerable.
Monday, March 21, 2011
The villagers initially resorted to fetching water from wells that have been abandoned for years.
But with reports of diarrhea, they are now going to their gardens to fetch water for drinking and others uses, but the diarrhea is unabated, the chairman of the Village Development Committee confirmed to The Daily News.
Haja Sanneh Jawla, the women chairman also expressed frustration over the appalling situation.
"I have been going round the village, in various compound and I found out that many of them are complaining about Diarrhea," she told The Daily News.
A Lower Basic Teacher Mr Huma said the situation has also affected the students and staff of the school.He said the hand-pump in the school is out of use because its water stinks.
He alleged that an animal must have died inside in the well.
The villagers are renewing calls for the intervention of government or anyone who could help bail them out of their predicament.
The village authorities can be reached on the following numbers: 7354064, 7450688.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has slammed as ridiculous the demands made by Gambian journalists for the decriminalisation of anti media free laws and subvention ofto media outlets.
"Some of you [journalists] have made ridiculous demands that cannot be met. Tell me one country where there is no libel law and where government subvents the media?" Jammeh told the Gambian media chiefs and their editors at Statehouse on Wednesday.
The uncommon gathering between the government and the independent media was made possible thanks to the efforts of the newly appointed Director of Press and Public Relations, Fatou Camara.
The government-media relationship has been tense for over a decade. The government boasts of creating an enabling environment giving rise to proliferation of media outlets. However, the media practitioners decry lack of liberty in the face of 'unwarranted arrest, detention, intimidation, lack of access to official information and laws that impede on freedom of speech.
The unsettled murder of veteran journalist Deyda Hydara and the mysterious missing of journalist Ebrima Manneh, as Sam Sarr of Foroyaa told the president and his cabinet, trigger uneasiness on the part of the executive.
And the meeting witnessed renewed calls made by media chiefs for government to address these issues for any progress to be made, but their demands were met with yet an objection by the president.
However, both parties expressed satisfaction with the initiative and hope it could be the beginning of a new chapter in government-media relations with promises of follow-up meetings all, but geared towards smoothening the rough edges.
Newspaper publishers want government to repeal laws on sedition and defamation
Held on Wednesday at Statehouse, the meeting was described by both the media and government officials as a significant move towards settling the differences.
"I would not wish to rekindle the fire of the old wounds," said Mr Swaebou Conateh, the editor/publisher of The Gambia News & Report weekly magazine, referring to the detentions, prosecutions, attacks and the mysterious killing of Deyda Hydara, founder of The Point newspaper and disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh of Daily Observer.
Conateh added: "However, it is not too late to adjust or re-adjust the position, so that the Gambia can, among its many achievements under the Jammeh administration, boast of having the most free press in Africa, if not in the whole world.
Being the oldest practicing journalist in the country, Swaebou said: "I therefore propose to take the bull by the horns to ask for certain programmes of the government to be carried out in order to make more satisfactory and systematic progress on what is now a vexed question."
Conateh calls for the decriminalizing of speech since one is in contravention with the universal principles as the free flow of information is necessary for human understanding cooperation and developments.
"Our laws on sedition publication our libel laws and false publication laws are either archaic or out of step with the information age and should be repealed or revealed" saying that other countries have done this.
Swaebou also called on the government to have an open door policy, recommending for the president, interior and foreign ministries to hold regular press briefing to entertain questions from media on offices they hold to clarify it to the public.
"I know you are capable of doing it," Conateh told the president, "But there is some reluctance on your part which makes us to have doubts about your intentions."
Mr Pap Saine, Managing Director and co-publisher of The Point newspaper emphasized the need for the independent press to access to government news in order to effectively execute its constitutional mandate to disseminate information about the activities of the government for the benefit of the public.
"We want to make our position very clear that we are not an enemy to the state," said Mr Saine, whose friend Deyda Hydara was gunned-down by unknown assailants since 2004. "The journalist does not see himself or herself in that role. We are neither backers of nor the opposition. Our job requires us to report on both the pleasant and the sordid aspects of society."
According to Sam Sarr, Editor of Foroyaa newspaper, governments have to be kept on their toes in order to assist them to become more effective, and also to preempt wrong doings and errors that may be created in the process of governance.
Mr Sarr highlighted that rather than government cooperating to bring about justice to the case of Deyda and others, there is uneasiness on the part of the executive whenever such cases are mentioned.
According to him, the government is taking pride in allowing the large number of radio stations, but the fundamental question that should be asked is where they are allowed to broadcast local news.
"There must be an alternative broadcast," said Sam Sarr, who was among the six journalists jailed last year after found guilty sedition and defamation, but release after two months following presidential pardon.
"There must be divergent views and dissenting opinion," he added.
For Abdul Adiamoh, publisher of Today Newspaper, The Gambia is a very beautiful country, but the Gambian media is denied to portray the image of the country.
Adiamoh said he is a Nigerian, but he considers himself as a Gambian. He told the president that throughout his extended stay in the country, he has not seen a single Gambian journalist locally who is set out to vilify the country.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Gambia News:'I Will Not Sacrifice Gambia’s Security At The Alter Of Freedom Of Expression' Says President Jammeh
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh was speaking Wednesday evening at State House in Banjul during a lengthy meeting he held with members of the fourth estate [the media]. The rare meeting that had in attendance cabinet ministers including the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, brought together media chiefs and senior journalists in the country; and was meant among other things to strengthen and improve on the existing relationship between the government and the media fraternity.
Described as a major boost in government-media relationship, the rare meeting at the presidency accorded President Jammeh and his government the opportunity to make their positions very clear with regards to the issue. It also provided the country's media practitioners the opportunity to relay their concerns, recommendations, as well as the challenges confronting them.
The Gambian leader emphasised that he is here for the peace and stability of the country so that everyone would enjoy life; everyone would realise their dreams; everyone would have a chance to pray to the Almighty Allah; and to ensuring that those going to school can go to school in peace; those teaching can teach in peace and those writing can write in peace. However, he reminded the fourth estate that this can only happen in a conducive environment that can only be provided by absolute peace and stability, thus stressing that all of them are responsible for the peace and stability of this country. "Also remember that when you set a fire; all you know is to set the fire but where it is going to end you don't know," he stated.
To this end, the president pointed out that he had sworn to uphold the constitution and the laws of The Gambia; to defend the interest of this country, something he stressed he is ready to pay any price for. While noting that his government's role is to make this country better, the Gambian leader averred that he is not hostile to any one of the members of the media fraternity, and that he has no hatred for them. However, he maintained that he will not compromise national security, thus urging for responsibility. "Let me make one thing very clear – my heart is a very small heart; it does not have enough space to accommodate hatred. My heart is full with the love for humanity and the love for this country. I am a Muslim and I am not a pretending Muslim but a practising real Muslim. Any human being whatever your position is, if you think that you're so high, that you can do anything to humanity, you are making a great mistake," he stated. He added: "So what would I gain by harassing the press? I have always made it very clear from 1994 to date; that whatever I do, write it, but if you write what I didn't do I will deal with you even if the sky is to explode. You will have to tell me where I did it, if not we will have to go to court. It is not because I am the president that I can trample on anybody's right, no! but also because you are a journalist doesn't also mean that you can write whatever you want to write knowing that it is not true."
No law for public servants not to talk to the press
Dispelling the widely held belief that the public officials in his government are not supposed to talk to the press, the Gambian leader made it clear that his government has never put in any law preventing them [public officials] from talking to the press as portrayed. He recalled: "When we came from Mecca, I got that same comment that people are complaining that they are not enlightened; that they never have access to information - public officials are tight-lipped, giving the impression there is a ban." He added: "My government has no law that public officials are not supposed to talk to the press. There is no law that prevents public officials from talking to the press. I want to be very very clear. "When you ask anybody [the public officials] and they tell you we are not supposed to talk, ask that person to put it into writing and sign it and ask the person who does not allow you to talk to the press."
The Gambian leader made it clear that as president, he does not expect everyone to like him. "If I also expect all of you to like me, then I am making a great mistake. Any individual, even the dead body has enemies – some would say good things about it and others will say a bad thing about it. I know that there is nothing in this world that will prevent me from answering to the Almighty Allah and He will judge me for what I do. That is why I am very careful. The image given to The Gambia is that it is a dangerous country for journalists to live. Well, as far as I am concerned that will not give me grey hairs," he stated. The president reminded the journalists that when his government came in, they used to have briefings with the press, but stressed that this was discontinued due to misrepresentation.
" When we say this thing, instead of writing exactly what we said, you decided to say what I didn't say as if you are Yahya Jammeh. You want to say Yahya Jammeh wanted to say this but he didn't say it or Yahya Jammeh said this but this was exactly what he wanted to say. You say what is in my mind," he stated. "So if you want information, and you talk to the person who you want information from; and the person say oh, we are not allowed to give information; ask the person who did not allow you to give information. But don't go and generalise that Yahya Jammeh's government does not even allow public officials to talk." The Gambian leader stressed that he is "a dictator of development; a dictator of peace and stability; and a dictator of service to humanity and nothing else." He stressed that he is not here to enrich himself but to make sure that Africans who he said are today synonymous with poverty and backwardness, would one day walk with their heads and shoulders high as they did before the coming of the white man.
"Interestingly, those people who are tutors of freedom of expression are the same people [in whose country] you can insult the Prophet (SAW) and get away with it because of freedom of expression and you go to jail for denying the holocaust. Something is wrong with us the Africans," he lamented. President Jammeh also pointed out that the proliferation of media outlets both in print and electronic goes to vindicate his government in terms of press freedom, noting that this was not happening then. He then pointed out that if his government doesn't want the press, it won't have allowed operation of these outlets given the fact that it is the government that issued a licence and hence none of them could have operated without a licence.
Speaking earlier, the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy harped on the positive developments that have taken place from 1994 to date in terms of good governance, democracy and human rights. She noted that democratic institutions have been put in place by the current government such as the National Council for Civic Education and the Independent Electoral Commission; institutions she added were not here before the advent of this government. She said: "Let all Gambians realise that we have nothing except the country and let us not take the peace and stability of the country for granted." Dr Njie-Saidy urged the journalists to act responsibly and think through what they are reporting.
The secretary general and head of the Civil Service, Dr Njogu Bah told the media practitioners to ensure responsibility in the discharge of their duties; one that will be accompanied with ethics. SG Bah deplored the lack of responsibility in the media, underscoring that responsibility is important in whatever one does. "Nobody is saying don't write anything negative about what government does, but constructive criticism is what we are asking for," he stated, while stressing the need for genuine partnership between the government and the press. The Civil Service boss concluded by urging journalists to make sure that they report accurately. The ministers of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Finance and Economic Affairs, and Health and Social Welfare, Alagie Cham, Mambury Njie and Fatim Badjie respectively, all took turns to express the need for responsible journalism, one that will not jeopardise the peace and stability of the country.
The media chiefs who took turns to relay their concern spoke on a wide range of issues affecting the media, ranging from lack of information from public officials, to capacity building and the call made by them for repeal in the current media legislations. The media chiefs, while lauding the forum at the presidency, expressed hope for a new beginning between government and the press.
Suwaubou Conateh, veteran Gambian journalist and publisher of the News and Report Magazine, recommended that the government provide a platform for regular press briefings, especially at the Office of the President, as well as the ministries of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, and the Interior respectively. He also recommended repealing of certain media laws in the country.
Pap Saine, the managing director of The Point Newspaper underscored the importance of having access to government news to enable journalists effectively contribute their quota to the dissemination of information about what the government is doing and saying, for the benefit of the general public. While emphasising that the media is not an enemy to the government, The Point boss and Reuters Dean of Correspondents underscored the need for the institutionalisation of training of media personnel, particularly to diploma level at the University of The Gambia. This, he argued, will enhance quality of output and strengthen professionalism. Sam Sarr, managing editor of Foroyaa Newspaper and Abdul Adiamoh, publisher of Today Newspaper all expressed similar sentiments.
Fatou Camara, director of press and communication, Office of the President, co-chaired the ceremony.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
One Alhagie Faal, a 20-year-old Quranic teacher known locally as Oustass in one of the schools in Farafenni, North Bank Region (NBR) has been arrested for alleged rape and is currently under police custody.
Narrating the incident on Tuesday at police headquarters in Banjul, ASP Yorro Mballow, public relations officer (PRO) of the Gambia Police Force, said the Quranic teacher is accused of rape and is currently detained at the Farafenni Police Station. He added that the accused has about 60 students in his class. "On Sunday 20th February 2011, during the morning lessons, Alhagie Faal, the accused asked the victim, a 10-year-old girl (name withheld) to bring him an exercise book and the victim failed to do so," he explained.
According to PRO Mballow, after the lessons in the evening time, the accused asked the victim to stay back in class as a form of punishment while the victim's colleagues closed and went home. "The victim complied with the instruction given to her by Oustass Faal, and she sat down in her classroom waiting for Oustass Faal to instruct her to go home," PRO Mballow stated. He said the accused suddenly appeared before the victim and forced her to have sex with him. According to PRO Mballow, the victim refused but she was later overcome by the accused who succeeded in raping her.
"In an attempt to cover the act, the accused told the victim to tell her mother that she was raped by an unknown man, if she asks her. The victim later escaped and rushed to her home and upon arrival, she told her mother that the accused told her to tell her mum that she was raped by an unknown individual," PRO Mballow further explained. "However, the mother persuaded her child (the victim) to tell her the truth, and the victim finally disclosed that she was raped by her own Quranic teacher," he stated.
The PRO further stated that the matter was then reported to the Farafenni Police Station and the accused was subsequently arrested. He said the accused is now helping the police in their investigation. The accused is charged with rape contrary to Section 121 and punishable under Section 122 of the Criminal Code.
In a similar but different case, one Landing Sanneh, a 36-year-old man and resident of Kololi was also arrested for allegedly raping a 7-year-old girl and is currently under police custody. Explaining the incident to the Daily Observer, ASP Mballow said that the incident happened on Thursday 11 March 2011. The police spokesperson added that during the course of investigation, it was revealed that the accused had sex twice with the victim in his house. "The victim also revealed that she was going out with her friend when the accused invited her to his house and tied her two hands together with a rope and started having sexual intercourse with her," PRO Mballow further explained.
Monday, March 14, 2011
President Jammeh has been under pressure to intiate presidential term limit and new political reform
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), recently revealed that the European Union is tracking human rights situation in The Gambia.
Although there are no set benchmarks, the European Commission can and currently does, restrict EU funding, the human right group revealed.
"The European Commission and some member states will continue to monitor EU funding to The Gambia until improvements are made in political governance," it stated.
In a letter sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently by the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), the EU countries raised concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in The Gambia.
Foreign Office pointed out that within the article 8 dialogue process, the EU Commission has approved the placement of a Detached National Expert in Banjul.
The expert funded by DFID will work on improving political governance and working closely with civil society, media, judiciary and other areas where the EU seek to influence good governance and improved human rights.
"We have told the government of The Gambia that we will continue to raise human rights whenever necessary and we will continue to keep abreast of the current political and economic situation in The Gambia. We hope our next EU discussions will continue the impetus for the government of The Gambia to continue moving towards tangible reforms, the letter says.
Meanwhile, Alieu B Ceesay Campaign Officer of (CHRG) says the campaign will continue to engage the coalition government and senior politicians in the UK in the defence of human rights, civil liberty and political freedom in The Gambia.
"The situation in the Gambia is horrendous. Opponents of the government are being routinely arrested and held without charge. The recent arrest of supporters of the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) for exercising their constitutional rights is an eye sore on the country's democracy," Alieu told PHRG.
According to him, more must be done urgently and that is why Campaign for Human Rights-Gambia will continue to engage the UK government and the international community to ensure that the Gambian government meet its human rights obligation and bring an end to the wave of terror that have swept that country for the last 16 years.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
GMC is the latest political party in The Gambia and is gearing up for the upcoming presidential election to be held this year.
The standard bearer, Mai NK Fatty, is an outspoken lawyer who has reportedly been in exile after surviving an alleged controversial car accident.
Saja Fatty, his father, Bunka Jarumeh Fatty and Kebbanding Fatty, younger brothers to GMC leader's father and Karamo Kijera, uncle to the GMC leader's father have been arrested on March 7, according to a statement signed by GMC spokesperson, Wandifa Sanneh.
"GMC leader himself personally contacted Basse Police Station to ascertain the reasons for his parent's arrests, and was informed that it was in connection with GMC poster and GMC flag at the family compound which higher authorities ordered to be removed and the family refused to comply," the party's statement says.
The mobile telephone number made available for contact for further clarification from the spokesperson could not be reached. And the police spokesperson was also contacted via mobile telephone, but could not be reached. Meanwhile, the GMC leader has issued a statement condemning the 'unlawful arrest and continuing detention' of his parents.