Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Some Gambians Are Still Expressing Doubts About Covid-19 US Imposes Travel Restrictions Against Brazil

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As some Gambians perpetuate that COVID-19 is not a threat in the Gambia, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation banning those who have been in Brazil within the last 14 days from entering the United States in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 which is heading towards taking 100000 live in the US.

It is claimed that   the Centre for Disease Control in the US and the Department of Homeland Security have been collaborating to give advice to the President on how to handle COVID-19.

Diplomatically the Brazilian government is in the good books of the US President after the removal of the previous administration which tried to link up with China, India, Russia and South Africa to build a new economic bloc that had failed to endure.

To take such drastic action against Brazil confirms that the US president is convinced that Brazil’s infection figure of 363,000 cases and more than 22500 deaths is real.

Gambians are being encouraged by some to ignore the Pandemic instead of preventing it by taking all precautionary measures to make the Gambia an example to follow in employing a preventive strategy. COVID-19 is real. It is easier to prevent than to cure. Join the campaign to prevent it by listening to the advice of the medical practitioners .The life you save may be your own. Practice safe spacing and proper hygiene to keep the disease from spreading.

The President should be seen to take the front line with his Minister of Health, Justice and Interior to have a zoom conference with his appointed coordinator, the Mayor and Mayoress and Chairperson of Councils as well as the IGP and CDS to appeal to the Nation to give preventive measures a chance. The Nation should see a team approach with passionate leadership to fight the PANDEMIC.

Residents of Jambur Decry Failure of the State to Compensate Them

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By Madiba Singhateh

The residents of Jambur on Thursday decried what they called the failure of the State authorities to fulfill their promise to compensate them for the proposed use of their land to establish an energy plant.

The residents of Jambur had a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy at Jambur regarding compensation for their lands, that will be used for the Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project _ (GERMP) and European Investment Bank (EIB) for 20megawatts Renewable Energy Program.

The residents complained to Permanent Secretary Lamin Camara that the compensation scheme is taking longer than expected and they wanted to know their fate. Mr Camara in turn promised that they will be paid compensation before 2021.

The complainants said over 100 compounds have to give way for the project and as of now they wanted the Government to fast track the compensation package.

Some demanded compensation in cash while others asked for a plot of land.

Alieu Jallow one of the affected persons said they took their documents long ago. He added they were told they will get back to them in four months. He said they have not heard from them during the past eighteen months.

“We want to complete the work we started,” he said.

Arona Ann also said he has a compound at Kongkoba. “Over two years ago, some people came to us, and told us that they were sent by the Local Government to collect our compound deeds,’ he said.

He said since then, they’ve not seen or heard anything from the authorities.
Penda Bah also complained about similar issues.

The permanent secretary told them that one of the conditions stipulated by the funding agencies including the World Bank was that the beneficiaries have to be compensated before the project could kick start.

The permanent sectary assured them that he had forward their files to the Ministry of Finance for approval so that they can get their monies.

He said he believes that the delay in payment is caused by the covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Camara assured them that they will be compensated before 2021.

Speaking to Foroyaa, the Alkalo of Jambur Arona Bojang said the government had told them that they will be compensated.

He said initially the residents felt bad about the issue, but later they understood the objectives of the project.

“I don’t like it this way. I want things to settle as soon as possible. That will be in the interest of everybody,” he concluded.

How Was Africa Liberation Day Commemorated In The Gambia?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

There was no statement from the highest office and no Pan African movement to remind the Nation that 25 May is a day established by the OAU/AU as Africa Liberation Day. An organisation called MBOKA held a zoom conference on the subject 120 years of Pan Africanism. The key takeaways that the keynote speaker , Halifa Sallah , asked the participants to register is that Pan Africanists have placed three tasks on historical agenda:

the task of attaining the right to self- determination and Independence , the task of building an Africa ruled by the consent of Africans, and Africa where government exists for the people and the people not for government and the task of putting the ownership of the wealth of Africa and the means of production in the hand of the people. Simply put in the next decade power must be derived from the consent of the African people and exercised only to promote their liberty, dignity and prosperity. These are the three phases of the Pan African struggle that started more than 120 years ago, but took shape in 1919 during the first Pan African Congress as conveyed by the deliverer of the Keynote address.

Mira Farms lay-off Two Women Kafos Due To Covid-19

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By Momodou Jarju

Work in progress at the Mira farmland in Wellingara in CRR, Photo Credit: Mandou P Fofana
Co-founder of Mira Farms Limited, Mandou Fofana, has revealed that two women groups,

locally called Kafos, have lost their job with them due to the effects of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Mr. Fofana said they have two permanent staffers and outsource most of the labour to women groups or Kafos at Wellingara in Central River Region (CRR) – a region where rice cultivation is the highest in the country.

“However due to the pandemic, we have no choice but to limit the Kafos we hire from three Kafos to one for now,” he said.

The young farmer said the jointly-owned rice company, Mira Farms, was established on June 2019 and dreams to be the biggest commercial rice farm in the country. They are also considering the prospect of venturing into horticulture.

Fofana said Covid-19 has affected their work, saying he could not travel to his farm like he used to since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I have put a halt on almost everything. We even resort to put a halt on the number of daily contract workers because we might not be able to pay them all. However, I have to say labour at the farm is relatively cheaper because more people want to work because they are out of work or they couldn’t find anywhere to work,” he said.

Speaking further, Fofana also said they are facing an acute lack of capital and funding to continue with most of their operations, since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our water pumping machine broke in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and we basically couldn’t get replacement since. As a result, we have to reduce our land area under cultivation and limit it to the area we have water through the river tide,” he said.

Asked whether the extension of the state of public emergency will not further hinder their work, Mr. Fofana unlike some Gambians responded in the positive.

“I won’t be selfish. If we look things from a business perspective the lockdown is not good at all. But for the overall safety of our people, I think the extension of emergency is necessary to be able to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fofana, who is also an IT Officer at the National Association of Cooperative Credit Union of the Gambia (NACCUG), and his cousin Modou Lamin Suwareh, founded Mira Farms Limited and Fofana is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the farm.

Gambia appoints national Coordinator for Covid 19 Response

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State House, Banjul, 22nd May 2020 – Following the nationwide broadcast and the proclamation of a State of Emergency on 17th March 2020 and 24th March 2020 respectively, the General Public is hereby informed that His Excellency the President, Adama Barrow has appointed Mr. Alasan Senghore, Secretary General of the Gambia Red Cross Society (GRCS) as the National Coordinator for the Government of The Gambia for COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Programme.

Mr. Senghore will coordinate the work of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Government of The Gambia, local and international NGOs, partners and others involved in the COVID-19 Response.   He will be supported by a team that will pursue effective measures to prevent, protect and curb the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in The Gambia. He will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health (MOH) in facilitating responses during the emergency situation. His task will also involve facilitation of the direct public health and indirect immediate humanitarian responses as a consequence of COVID-19.

The general public is hereby assured of government’s Commitment to prevent the deadly disease from causing major human loss and economic disruptions through appropriate prevention of the incidence and spread of the virus.

No adherence to Safe Spacing at Brikama Market and Car Park

By Louise Jobe

Many people are still not following the Emergency Powers Regulations on safe spacing (social distancing) or gathering, especially at very busy places like markets and commercial car parks, particularly during the rush hours of Ramadan.

This reporter observed that a lot of people were gathered together at the Brikama market and the car park, without observing safe spacing (social distancing) in an effort to fight the corona virus, covid-19.

A multitude of people could be seen without face masks and some shook hands with each other contrary to the Gambia’s ministry of health and WHO guidelines.

Dr. Bojang a resident of Banjulunding who was at the market at the time, said this is a very serious problem the country is facing in the fight against the pandemic, adding that safe spacing should remain compulsory for all residents of the Gambia and that everyone should play their part in reducing the spread of the virus. The importance of social distancing is to avoid a sharp peak of infection, he concluded.

Alieu Jeng a businessman at Brikama market said he is concerned about the situation at the market because a lot of people converge there on a daily basis and no one knows who is infected or carries the virus.

According to him, Brikama is a cosmopolitan town and people come from everywhere including Casamance and Kombos.

Malang Fatty a driver who plies between Brikama and Serekunda, said traffic congestion is causing transport problems because they spend a lot of time on the road. According to him, traffic jam waste their vehicles fuel and they run into losses because they are allowed to carry only half the number of passengers prescribed in their licences.

He also said that because of these conditions, many drivers decided to ply short routes.

Gambia registers 25th COVID-19 Case

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By Nelson Manneh

A 58-year-old woman was recently confirmed positive of the Coronavirus following her return from Senegal.

The woman, together with her husband, was on the 18th May 2020 intercepted at the Giboro border entry point coming into The Gambia. The test result of her travelling companion was negative while hers turn out positive.
The newly confirmed COVID-19 case is a female Gambian and she was under quarantine for some days.

The Gambia currently has a total of twenty-five confirmed cases of COVID 19 of whom fourteen recovered, one died and ten are still active cases. The Gambia has also one probable case. Currently, The Gambia has One hundred and nine (109) persons under quarantine.

Dr. Mustapha Bittaye, the Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health said out of the one hundred and twenty-four laboratory test results received, all but one returned negative for COVID-19.

Bittaye said a new person has been taken to quarantine. He explained that the newly quarantined person is a sailor who has been criss-crossing several countries in the sub-region. He was intercepted by personnel of the Gambia Navy.

Globally, Bittaye said since 31st December 2019 and as of 21st May 2020, a total of five million one hundred and eighty-eight thousand seven hundred and five cases of COVID-19 have been recorded.

“Of these three hundred and thirty-four thousand and fifty-seven deaths were registered and two million seventy-eight thousand four hundred and eighty-seven recovered from the diseases,” he said.

He said Senegal recorded two thousand and eight hundred and twelve confirmed cases, one thousand two hundred and fifty-one recoveries and thirty-two deaths.

Currently, Dr. Bittaye said the country has one hundred and nine people on quarantine. He added that the Gambia has conducted a total of one thousand six hundred and forty tests.
He said, so far in The Gambia since the beginning of the outbreak, four hundred and thirty-one people completed quarantine, seven hundred and eighty-nine contacts traced and three hundred and ten people completed follow-ups.

The State And The Councils In Delivering Food Aid

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The Councils are executive bodies. They collect taxes, make by-laws and execute to provide services. That is why Councils are to play a prominent role in the implementation of Emergency regulations to combat COVID 19.

Foroyaa is trying to get the Gazette that indicates the measures and regulations that are going to be implemented in the next 21 days to give teeth to the Declaration of a state of emergency, identify the roles of the Councils and other stakeholders, then interview them to find out whether they have strategic plans and programmes to execute their mandate.

If they do, then they would be seen to be fit for purpose. If they do not have the measures in place, they would be encouraged to put their acts together so that they would earn credit in fighting COVID-19 with an iron fist.

How Could We Succeed In Combatting Covid 19?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

A declaration of a state of emergency is simply a way of alerting the whole nation that COVID 19 is a threat to Public Health. Is there any Gambian who disagrees with this assertion that COVID 19 is a threat to health and life?

If we agree that is the case, one must ask what measures are to be taken to combat it. This is why an Emergency Powers Act is necessary to indicate the powers a President should have in taking measures to combat the threat.

The powers come in the form of regulations that must be reasonably justifiable to combat the threat. Gambians as a whole must pin down the executive and members of parliament to explain the measures that are taken so far, what they agree or dis agree with and what measures are appropriate to address the threat.

They must be challenged to explain what they are doing to work together along with the councils to ensure that measures are appropriate and further affirm the appropriateness of the mechanism for their effective and efficient implementation. Anything short of this is empty chatter that no right thinking person should entertain.

Patrol Troops Deployed Upon Senegalese Soldiers Entering Gambian Territory

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By Mustapha Jallow

Gambian troops have been deployed to the village border of Sare Omar after villagers confronted Senegalese soldiers for wrongly entering their territory in the Lower River Region (LRR).

Army spokesperson Major Lamin K. Sanyang confirmed that the incident had occurred on 20th May 2020. He said they received information about the presence of Senegalese troops at a village.

He added: “What we did immediately was to instruct the Commanding Officer at the Infantry Battalion in Farafenni to investigate the matter.”

He continued: “A patrol-team was sent to the ground and what was gathered is that the place is a timber landing-site in Lower River Region.”

Major Sanyang said, in their interaction with the community members, the GAF patrol team got information that the Senegalese soldiers in three pickups and one Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with 20 to 30 personnel – who were posted at one guard post in Amdalai (in Southern Senegal), claimed to be on a routine patrol around the border and entered Sare Omar village.

The community elders told Senegalese soldiers “don’t you know that you are in Gambian territory?” But the villagers said the Senegalese soldiers told them that they had entered The Gambia mistakenly. “We were on this patrol and we kind of lost our way and found ourselves in Sare Omar,” the soldiers replied.

This was when the community youths and elders asked them to leave, which the Senegalese soldiers agreed to do and left Sare Omar without any incident, according to the army spokesperson.

Additionally, he cleared doubts that people may connect this incident to

Hot Pursuit Agreement that Gambia and Senegal have signed sometime in 2017.

He added that this case has nothing to do with that agreement on Hot Pursuit.

“We can just term this as an incursion into Gambian territory by the Senegalese Armed Forces,” he said.

He explained that under the security agreement between Senegal and The Gambia one country can pursue offenders into another up to 5km.

“This operation was not Hot Pursuit. I think their target was the timber,” he said. “At this moment our personnel are mounted at the village to monitor the area,” he added.

According to Major Sanyang, the Senegalese troops left the place since, even the GAF didn’t find them there.

Mayor Bensouda solicits more support from Government to councils

By Yankuba Jallow

Talib Ahmed Bensouda, the Mayor of Kanifing Municipality has called on the central government to support councils by divulging some of its powers and revenue to council.

In an exclusive interview with Foroyaa on Thursday, Mayor Bensouda talked at length about his council’s activities in the fight against COVID-19, their constraints and their challenges to implementing their development programmes. Here is the full verbatim interview between our report and Mayor Bensouda.

Foroyaa: Do you have any guidelines for the food distribution?

Mayor Bensouda: Yes, the taskforce set-up a guideline. If I can remember a few, we were targeting the vulnerable including the people living in swampy areas, people who are heads of households and are single mothers, and the disables. There was a criterion we used and our monitoring team ensured that the right people got the food aid.

Foroyaa: How many households were you targeting?

Mayor Bensouda: That exercise targeted ten thousand (10,000) households. Recently, we are working with the central government for national food aid relief. Our councillors, in partnership with the alkalos will be distributing that food aid as soon as it is available.

Foroyaa: So apart from that, is your Council collaborating with central government on other things?

Mayor Bensouda: yes, as I said earlier, the Ministry of Health is part of our taskforce. Initially, it was difficult but recently we have seen more response from central government. Just like I said, recently we are partnering with them for national food aid relief for the people of KM (Kanifing Municipality).

Foroyaa: What Challenges are you facing in the fight against COVID-19?

Mayor Bensouda: The biggest constraint we are facing right now is the financial constraints. As you know, Council survives from business licenses, property rates and market duties and the shutdown has affected many people’s income both individuals and businesses. They are finding it very difficult to pay their taxes. So of course, finance of the Council is suffering and we don’t have the luxury of getting grants like the central government or credit from other countries. So is a very tough time for the local government. Like I said, we appealed to the Government to support councils from some of these grants they are getting to make sure that we also are subvented to be able to deliver the services to the people.

Foroyaa: Are you not subvented by central government?

Mayor Bensouda: We are not subvented yet. So far, none of the councils is subvented.  All of them are really hurting right now and are finding it difficult to maintain services. We know the central government said they will work on a package for councils, but we ask them to please fast-track it because it is very difficult for all councils across the Gambia.

Foroyaa: How do you plan to overcome these challenges and are you also thinking about tax reduction after knowing COVID-19 has hit businesses?

Mayor Bensouda: We assessed it but unfortunately for us, we don’t have any grants –outside support. So any dalasi we let go that might be a dalasi that we sacrifice to pay somebody’s salary. So hope the central government will come and support us. If we get subvented by the central government, these are all initiatives that are possible including business license relief, tax relief and duty relief for the people of KM.

Foroyaa: What success story do you have to share with our readers in the fight against COVID-19?

Mayor Bensouda: I think the responses of the council (KMC) have gone a long way in the fight against COVID-19. The moment Senegal announced their first case, our council was the first council in the country and the first government institution to have a public sensitisation campaign about COVID-19. We are the first to distribute hand wash stations widely within the municipality. I will say this is a big success story and also, we are the first institution to do food relief for the people. So I think these are successful stories in the sense that awaken other councils and other institutions to also think about the same initiatives. We can only do it in KM but if we can set an example for the rest of the Gambia, this is something we are proud of.

Foroyaa: How many communities have you reached out to?

Mayor Bensouda: We have reached out to all nineteen (19) wards within the municipality. As you know, every ward is represented by a councillor and has a ward development committee. The members are the alkalos, the imams, lady councillors and youth leaders within that community. So, I as the Mayor or the admin, we are not responsible for this distribution. The community leaders who know their communities best were the ones who distributed it based on the task force guidelines and monitored by our admin department and services unit.

Foroyaa: The issue of social distancing is much talk about. Is it something difficult to enforce?

Mayor Bensouda: It is an extremely difficult thing to execute (enforce). I think even the first state of emergency when there was the public gatherings declaration from the executive (Government) – they had the public gatherings banned, I was the first and I think I might be the only politician who came out to ring the alarm bell and say the public gathering ban is not being respected by the people and we want the executive to increase their enforcement. Council has very limited enforcement capability and this is why we always try to partner with the central police. We have seen that 21 days have been extended and the markets are still overcrowded. People are not still taking the issue of social distancing very serious. Once again, I appeal to the central government, if need be, they can solicit the support of security services including the army to come and increase the manpower of the police and just try to enforce especially the market. I don’t think closing markets totally is the best solution since most of our people depend on the markets for their daily living. If they partner with councils, we can come up with solutions where we create spaces for vendors one to two meters apart.

Foroyaa: Apart from the fight against COVID-19, the issue of the bad drainage system is another concern. in 2017 alone, about 400 households were destroyed within your municipality. What are your plans for the drainage system since the raining season is fast approaching?

Mayor Bensouda: Annually, the Council embarks on what we call operation to clean the drain. We conducted it in my first year in office in 2018 and again in 2019. We were planning it again this year. However, due to the constraints of resources, we are trying to target it at a limited basis to focus on areas that have the highest impacts. So this year we have decided to move the drains out (leave it out) and focus on the canal which is the Kotu Stream which is the cause of most of the flooding. The Canal runs from Kotu and empties in Abuko. So, we plan to dredge that Canal with excavator before the rainy season. The exercise, unfortunately, cannot be as widespread in scope as the years before due to financial constraints.

Foroyaa: There is no town planning within the municipality. There are no proper car parks. Almost all car parks in the municipality are on the highway and most of the times cause traffic obstruction.  Do you think the lack of town planning within the municipality will affect the development of the municipality?

Mayor Bensouda: Absolutely it is going to affect it and this is why we have been calling for decentralisation. The authority to do physical planning, the authority to zone within the municipality, the authority to allocate land and to revoke allocations – I mean these are powers that every city and municipality should have. That should be under the control of the council and that is why we keep advocating for central government to decentralise power and to empower the councils to conduct these services because we are in a better position to plan our cities and municipalities because we live in them and we know our cities, we represent the people and we know what they want.

Foroyaa: On the issue of car parks, almost all of them are on the highways and they contribute to traffic congestion. Do you have any plans regarding that to create car parks within the municipality?

Mayor Bensouda: This is part of our plans but we have to have the powers to be able to do physical planning. We have to have the power to allocate land. One of the ideas was to conduct public-private partnership for people willing to invest in car parks and charge a little fee for people to park. This is why we keep saying, we need central government to divulge some of these powers to the councils and also, we need to be subvented. Councils have very limited sources of income. When you look at other countries you will see that councils have shares from the sales tax and sometimes utility tax like NAWEC, but in The Gambia councils only have three areas that they can get funding from; that is the licensing, market duties and property rates. We need the central government to divulge some of its revenues to councils.

Foroyaa: Thank you, Sir.

Mayor Bensouda: Thank you.   

 

Kanifing Municipal Council Launches 50,000 Face Mask Initiatives

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By Yankuba Jallow

Talib Ahmed Bensouda, the mayor of Kanifing Municipality on Thursday, 21st May 2020 presided over the launching ceremony of fifty thousand (50,000) face mask initiative by his council.

Mayor Bensouda said his council has been in the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 adding they have so far supported ten thousand households with their food aid relief which was launched to support people during this difficult time. He said it has been recommended for people to wear face masks particularly in public gatherings, adding in this spirit, the council decided to embark on this project.

He said the face masks will be distributed within the municipality particularly at the eighteen markets of the municipality.

Mayor Bensouda enjoined the people of his municipality to adhere to the health guidelines as he called on the private sector together with the development partners to support his council to achieve their goal of 50,000 face masks. He said the masks were made in accordance with the Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines on the production of face masks.

“The face masks contain multiple layers of fabric with durable materials that contain materials of hydrophobic properties to keep droplets inside the mask. The shape of the masks should entirely cover both the mouth and chick up to the ears. The fit of the mask should be slut without much movement,” he explained.

Bensouda encouraged the market vendors to effectively use the face masks and be washing them after use. The Gambia so far has recorded twenty-four positive cases of COVID-19 ten of whom are still in hospital while all others recovered except one who died.

He said his council in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) together with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), the Gambia Police Force (GPF) and Red Cross joined hands in glove to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect residents of the Municipality.

On her part, Sainabou Martin Sonko, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kanifing Municipality said COVID-19 posed one of the greatest threats to the existence of mankind and has affected all sectors of the society. She called on people to observe the guideline on the practice of social distancing.

Ndey-Fatou Njie, founder of Tiga and also a representative of the tailors said the face masks are essential at the trying times of COVID-19 and therefore they (the tailors) and fashion designers have taken it upon themselves to assist the situation in contributing their quota in the provision of face masks.

“Face mask has become a symbol in the fight against COVID-19. In some countries such as the Czech Republic, it is now mandatory to wear a face mask before leaving your house. However there is an increasing global shortage of face masks,” she asserted.

Musa Camara, the Regional Principal Public Health Office (RPPHO) said COVID-19 is a common enemy and thus, they needed to fight together. He added: “COVID-19 knows no boundary, but through concerted efforts, we will make headways. Fighting the common enemy has taken a holistic approach whereby you relieve the individual who is suffering by protecting them from the disease by providing them with face masks and hand washing materials.

CSOs want IEC to conduct voter registration before referendum

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By Yankuba Jallow

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in The Gambia have called on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to honor its mandate by conducting voter registration on time in the run up to the proposed constitutional referendum.

A joint statement on the final draft constitution by the CSOs was on Thursday, 21st May 2020 read by John Charles Njie, the Chairman of the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations’ (TANGO). Njie said they are fully aware of the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and time limitation towards the 2021 election, however, the civil society actors urge the IEC to share with the people of The Gambia its plan of actions, calendar and challenges thereof relating to the conduct of voter registration and referendum.

“This will allow for proper planning with major stakeholders,” he said, adding “the aspirations of the people of The Gambia is to hold the 2021 election under the new constitutional framework to usher in a new democratic era for the current and future generations.”

The final draft Constitution was submitted to the President of The Republic on the 30th March 2020. The civil society organizations in The Gambia welcome the Government’s decision to gazette the draft Constitution on or before May 30th before presenting it to the National Assembly as prescribed by the 1997 Constitution.

“This is indeed timely and consistent with citizens’ expectations,” Njie remarked.

The CSOs held that it is incumbent on the current government to take all urgent steps necessary to ensure that the draft Constitution is submitted unaltered to the National Assembly to respect the aspirations of the people.

“The civil society recalls that short term gains must not overshadow the importance of a Constitution that serves the interests of present and future generations,” Njie said.

The civil society further urged the executive to sponsor the reform of the electoral laws once the new Constitution is passed.

In august 2020, the final draft constitution will be presented to the National Assembly for their deliberations, as promised by the Gambia Government. The destiny of the nation will once again be entrusted to you, the National Assembly, to vote in a transformative draft Constitution that will finally obliterate the vestiges of 22 years of dictatorship and usher in a Third Republic, the statement added. The Civil Society urged the National Assembly to take into consideration, in its deliberations, the extensive public consultations that culminated into the final draft.

“The Civil Society reiterates to the National Assembly the urgency of completing their deliberations and voting on the final draft in time to ensure the 2021 presidential election is held within a new constitutional framework,” TANGO Chairman said.

Whilst acknowledging the contributions of the Political Parties to the draft Constitution during the consultative process, the Civil Society believed that their position on the final draft Constitution will be a key determinant of whether or not the country will usher in a new constitution in time for the 2021 presidential election.

“We therefore urge all political parties, as primary stakeholders, to prepare their National Assembly members in readiness for their deliberations on the draft in August of this year,” Njie said.

The civil society acknowledged and agreed with the political parties on the importance of respecting the rule of law and holding a credible referendum in time, before the 2021 presidential election.

The Civil Society asked the citizenry to continue to engage and demonstrate commitment to ensuring that the final draft Constitution, which reflects the will of the people, is passed before the 2021 election.

“The future of our country is at stake and the choice is between regression by maintaining the 1997 Constitution or marching forward into a new destiny by birthing a new Constitution,”Njie said, adding “The Constitution is the first building block in the creation of The “New Gambia”. Ultimately, The Gambia we have is The Gambia we want and The Gambia we create.”

The Civil Society called on the international partners to continue their support of the Constitutional Review Process to its logical conclusion to enable the citizenry exercise their choice through a referendum and usher in a Third Republic before the 2021 election.

The goal of the Constitution building process is to enable the country transition to a full-fledged democracy that stands on the values and standards of sovereignty, separation of powers, republicanism, democracy, national unity, public participation, and peace.

Salagi Demolition Clash: 11 Men, 2 Women Charged With Obstruction

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By Mustapha Jallow

The Gambia Police Force have charged eleven men and two women for obstructing a Police Officer during a clash with law enforcement over a land dispute at Sukuta-Salagi on 19th May 2020.

When contacted, Police Spokesman ASP Lamin Njie confirmed the report and said thirteen people were charged with obstruction contrary to the laws of The Gambia.

“They are currently granted bail while further Police action continues,” he said.

Dozens of houses and fences were demolished in Salagi by officials from the Local Government and Law enforcement agents of Government. The exercise later resulted in a clash between the security forces deployed to carry out the demolition exercise and residents

Detention without Trial Still Exists

By Mustapha Jallow

Five soldiers and one civilian have been detained by Gambian authorities without their appearance before any Court of Law for trial. This is contrary to the requirement of Section 19 of the Constitution which says a detainee should either be released within 72 hours or be taken before a court of competent jurisdiction.

The present Government of Adama Barrow promised to usher in a new era to end the prolonged detention of citizens without trial and detaining people without taking them to Court. More work needs to be done to fulfill this promise.

If Gambians can recall, President Barrow ordered the release of all persons detained without trial under the repressive regime of former president Jammeh, in February 2017 and pledged to all Gambian that his Government will end human rights violations in the country.

However some soldiers are still detained beyond seventy two hours without any Court appearance while others continue to languish behind bars.

A person in detention is Lance Corporal Sarr. He has been under custody for twenty five days and is yet to be brought before a Court of Law or  released.

Two other Lance Corporals have also been detained at a military camp for forty days now without any Court appearance. The two Lance Corporals are Saidy Faye and Sarjo Conteh. The two are accused of involvement in an alleged break-in and disappearance of fuel coupons worth over D300,000.00. The two soldiers are also detained for more than seventy two hours.

Warrant Officers Class 1 Ismaila Jammeh and Alieu Jeng who are both members of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) are still in detention without any Court appearance. The two were allegedly accused of committing a crime under the past regime of ex-President Jammeh.

A family source of one of the Warrant Officers recently raised concern over the long detention of their loved one and asked how long the authorities will continue to hold their loved ones in custody without preferring any charges against them; that since the time they appeared before the Truth Commission, they are yet to know their fate.

Bully Jammeh, brother of Ismaila said his brother’s detention for over three years now has devastated them.

He said the authorities have violated the rights of his brother and asks the kind of justice we have in the country; that those who were accused of the same allegations with his brother have been released since whilst his brother is still kept in detention.

This reporter sought the opinion of Malick H.B. Jallow, a practising Lawyer who said that under Section 19 (3) of the 1997 Constitution, any individual under detention shall be either released or brought before a competent Court of law as soon as practicable and in any event, not beyond 72 hours; that the exercise of emergency powers pursuant to an Act of Parliament passed to deal with an existing situation warranting a state of public emergency, can give rise to an exception to the 72 hours rule; that Section 35 (2) of the Constitution permits subject to some judicial safeguards, the detention of an individual beyond 72 hours during a state of public emergency to the extent that it is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances arising or existing during a period of public emergency, for the purpose of dealing with the situation.

“If there is an apparent conflict between the Constitution and the Armed Forces or any other Act of Parliament, the Constitution prevails. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. The onus is on an aggrieved party to seek redress at the High Court for an infringement of the fundamental right not to be detained beyond 72 hours,’’ he concludes.

When asked about the fate of two former “Jungulers”, Cherno Marenah, the Solicitor General at the Ministry of Justice told this paper that their position has not changed yet and they still maintain what the Minister of Justice stated at a press conference last year.

Efforts were made to hear from the Army and Police PROs for them to shed light on the issue to no avail.

What is the land Commission Doing?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

Land has led to killing in Kombo South. It has led to destruction of property in many other areas. Demolitions are taking place due to intrusion into reserves to the detriment of those who spend hundreds of thousands to get land and millions to build structures. Who has authority to give or not to give land is still not clear to many. Civic education is needed to know how to get land legally so that others would not continue to reap where they have now sown at false pretense .The Lands Commission was designed to address the key challenges associated with land . FOROYAA will do an indebt study on the functions and operations of the Commission.

A Nation In Search Of A Way Forward Nation Focus Or President Barrow Focus

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Political leaders and their supporters have a choice. They could either be focused on the Nation or on Barrow.

If they are “nation focus” they would want the hardship of the people to be reduced. They would focus on assessing developments on a daily basis to identify shortcomings that should be addressed, conditions that should be improved and steps that should be taken to improve them. It would be left to the government to prove by its action or inaction whether or not, it is fit for purpose and which force could best replace it if it is not fit for purpose.

If they are Barrow focus, they would concentrate day and night in talking about what Barrow says and does and even add their imagination on what he says and does to paint a picture that would earn him the dislike of the electorate.

The danger with this tactic of becoming so obsessed with Barrow is to become oblivious of the plight of the people and always harbour a wish for the worst to happen in the country until dooms day.

This negative approach tends to give a negative image to a party leader and the members as people who would want to heap sand in the soup just because of not being part of the invitees for dinner.

GFA PRESS RELEASE ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS ON COVID-19 What next- a nation in crisis?

We come back to express our very deep concern over the way and manner that a major national crisis continues to be handled without the seriousness of purpose and diligence that should be the hallmark of a country at war, which we all agree, is the case as in other parts of the world with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. The message coming out of the National Assembly during their Extraordinary Session seems to have missed the point. The fight on the chamber floor should not be about asserting the legislative power but promoting a united front against COVID-19. If we all agree that to arrest the spread of COVID-19 we need to adhere to the WHO guidelines which the state of emergency helps to ensure, however imperfectly, then let us allow the state of emergency. The focus of the discussion should be on how to alleviate the resulting socio-economic hardships through a clear roadmap that goes beyond the provision of food relief and, setting out clearly the potential impact of the coronavirus on the key sectors of the economy such as agriculture and tourism, proceeds to outline measures for addressing the challenges.

GFA had earlier said that we should not politicize COVID-19 because the risk of national disaster extends beyond the scope petty partisan politics. We need a national collective effort in this struggle, which should as a priority, be directed at raising public awareness and getting the citizens to play an active role in the fight. It is in this regard that our Party, GFA, in its press release of April 20 strongly urged the government to … “start by bringing together representatives of religious and traditional leaders, political parties, trade unions, private sector and civil society to promote wider understanding of and support for the challenges and ensure a wider mobilization of the community effort.” It is clear that this has not happened as the NAMs during their recent sitting, confirmed what is already common knowledge, and that is the persistence of a disturbingly low level of awareness of the dangers, amongst the population. This explains the behavior of most members of the public today. The people have a central role in this fight, and to assume that role they need to be more aware of the disease and the measures that need to be in place in order to take full ownership of the process. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to provide this space and we have not heard the National Assembly push for it either.

In the first place, no keen observer can miss the point that the Government’s own attitude, as well as its efforts so far in addressing the pandemic, are best characterized by lack of diligence as well as woeful failure to rise up to the occasion. Ineffectual communication, indeed lack of transparency altogether, maintains the nation in darkness about immediate and medium-term plans, if any, for helping the economy to recover through help to businesses, especially the sectors of tourism, fisheries, agriculture etc, in order to protect jobs and livelihoods.

And, indeed, the outbreak of the Corona virus epidemic presents us with a multi-faceted crisis threatening lives and livelihoods on a scale we may not be able withstand. Where, for argument’s sake, the crisis is reduced to its simplest dimension as just a public health issue, recent admission by the Health Minister before the National Assembly, speaks volumes about the precarity of our situation; Gambians are now left with no illusion about the prospects of gloom and doom facing us, unless by some miracle we can achieve a turnaround in our management of the critical health system, amidst such an appalling penchant for bare-faced thievery and diversion of public resources, so much corruption with resultant ineffectiveness.

One other front opened in the crisis is in respect of the ravages of hunger and hardship brought, or worsened, by the restrictions decreed under the declared state of emergency. After much delay, the Government announced amidst fanfare its food aid program, holding it out as its flagship relief operation. Fine, we welcome food assistance; it is still better late than never! But then, for heaven’s sake, get the foodstuffs to reach their ultimate destination, i.e. the beneficiaries’ kitchens. Leaving them littered in the McCarthy Square, or even stacked in intermediate stores located in distant regional administrative headquarters, for nearly three weeks while the people starve in their towns and villages, is callous, on top of being an indictment of the administration for its inefficiency. Why, in the first place, was it necessary to deploy the logistics and waste the energy to cart all those tons of rice and sugar with drums of oil to be displayed at the Square in Banjul. Is it that the supplier(s) have no store(s) to keep them from where they could have been collected by vehicles in an expeditious, controlled and orderly manner. Or is it another case of political showmanship reminiscent of the Jammeh era, – in very poor taste to most people.

Returning to the National Assembly, and the debate on extending the state of emergency, we remind Members that exceptional situations demand exceptional measures; we expect the NAMs to lead in this regard in their attitude to the subject presently before them for consideration. They have an important role because of their outreach capacity and the recognized positions they occupy in the constituency, which should be used to reach out to all, irrespective of political, religious and ethnic affiliation and create the inclusiveness necessary at the constituency level to allow genuine participation in the struggle against COVID 19 pandemic. This will complement the Government’s sensitization program and help ensure that any support received at constituency level from Government or other donors goes to the deserving populace within the constituency. We should not allow the exploitation of the misery of our people for political or any other gain.

We continue to believe in the establishment of a National Solidarity Fund which should collect all donations given in the name of combating COVID-19 and which will be managed in a transparent and inclusive manner to avoid the abuses we have seen. We expect the NAMs to push for the creation of such a fund and expect them, as a mark of solidarity to be among the first to make personal donations to such a fund.

Combatting COVID goes beyond Government and National Assembly; it is a national challenge requiring a collective national effort. When the history of the struggle against COVID-19 gets written the role of both the Executive and the Legislature will be scrutinized and any failure on their part will be a serious indictment of the political class of this country at a time when the country needed them most.

GFA believes things can and should be done differently if we are to win the fight against COVID-19 and its socioeconomic consequences.

Before concluding, GFA wishes to express once again its deep appreciation to the health workers and other frontline actors who are working tirelessly and at great risk to themselves and their families.

Stay Safe Everybody!

Gambia For All

CDS Drammeh Calls on GRA Commissioner General

By: Kebba AF Touray

The Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) Major Yakuba Drammeh, has called on the Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA).

According to CDS Drammeh the purpose of his visit was to strengthen the already existing good working relationship between the two institutions, and to further strengthen the cordial relations between GAF and the Tax Authorities. He called on the two entities to nurture the peace and tranquility of the country; that since he took command on 17th March 2020, he deemed it fitting to call on all the heads of institutions across the country because they are central in the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the country.

CDS  Drammeh added that “the purpose of the visit is to devise means of working together as well to further solidify relations between our two entities. We want to make sure that we have a legitimate professional Armed Force which is subordinate and accountable to the Authority.” That they want to have a Force whose action falls within international best practices and which is effective and efficient in discharging its constitutional mandate, to address the needs and aspirations of the citizenry.

For his part, the Commissioner General of the GRA expressed profound gratitude to the CDS and his delegation for the visit. He described the visit as timely and reminded them that the mandate of the GRA is to collect revenue which cannot be effectively done in the absence of peace and tranquility.

“The visit was to strengthen the already existing relationship among our entities and I assure you of the unflinching support of GRA in promoting our working relationship with the Army,” he said. He added that it is only when they work together that they can promote peace and tranquility in this country. He disclosed that they have discussed a range of pertinent issues with the aim of promoting of peace and tranquility in the country.

CG Darboe advised the citizenry to nurture the culture of team work, peace and stability because no single institution can bring peace without the support of everyone. He called for concerted effort from all to promote and maintain the peaceful co-existence of the citizenry in the country.

Human Appeal International provides food Aid to vulnerable Institutions

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Human Appeal International, charity organization based in Ireland, on Wednesday embarked on a distribution of food aid to three institutions within the Greater Banjul Area.

The charity distributed over one hundred bags of Rice of 25kg to three beneficiaries namely The Gambia Prison Services , GOVI , and Tanka-Tanka psychiatric hospital respectively.

Speaking at the presentation ceremonies, Mr. Momodou Njie a representative of the Human Appeal International in The Gambia, conveyed appreciation to the Director General of the Gambia Prison Services for accepting the food aid package meant for the inmates.

Mr. Njie said the establishment is a global charity network working across the world giving support and care to families.

He added that this donation is designed to contribute to the national pandemic relief package and to help provide food to the needy during Ramadan

He said in 2015, Human Appeal International based in Ireland, donated medical items to the ministry of health worth over two hundred thousand Euros.

He added “This was followed by another container loaded with surgical and medical equipment, which was donated to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in February 2019.

He also stated that in the same year, there was shipment of second hand clothing to improve living condition of vulnerable citizens.

He said the organization is also donating more than one hundred bags of Rice to three vulnerable institutions within the Greater Banjul Area.

He said the objective of the donation was to impact on the livelihood of the vulnerable people in this country.

He said they are ably representing the organisation in the Gambia to ensure that this food Aid reach the right people.

Matty Senghor Njie a representative of Human Appeal International The Gambia expressed appreciation to the management of Gambia Prison services and other institutions like GOVI and Tanka Tank psychiatric hospital”, he noted.

Saikou Kawsu Gassama Director of Administration Gambia Prison Services, said with this donation, they are really tough for this benevolent gesture provided by Human Appeal International based in Ireland.

He cited this was a clear indication that this organization is a charitable organisation and the good work that is working towards helping people during the times of need.