Tuesday, May 31, 2011

National News Round up

Efficient transport system vital to economic growth
An efficient transport system is vital to sustain and enhance economic growth and the quality of life, however, the provision of such transport facilities and services must meet the essential criteria of economic efficiency, says Neville Weeks, WSP Team Leader.
The WSP International Management Consultants is a UK-based Consultancy Firm tasked with the execution of the Gambia National Transport Policy review.
The document is being instituted to better improve the transport system of the Gambia and is funded by the European Commission (under the EU Grant for Support to the National Transport Plan of The Gambia).
“Goods and passengers must move by the mode that is least costly as uneconomic services impose heavy burdens on the economy,” Mr Weeks said in a presentation on “Future Demand for Transport” at a day’s validation workshop of the Policy in Banjul on Tuesday.
He adds: “The objective of the National Road Transport Policy Review Project, undertaken between November 2010 and February 2011, was to develop an overall Road Transport Policy for The Gambia aimed at promoting national economic growth, alleviating poverty and addressing current identified sector challenges.”
He explained that the development of the overall integrated transport sector policies and the modal strategies was based upon a review of the current status of the transport sector and an analysis of the forecast road transport demand
And also assess where practical issues and constraints brought to light at the public consultations with transport sector practitioners during the project. This, he said provides an appropriate policy framework and specific sub-sector strategic direction to achieve the objectives contained in Government macro-economic planning and development reports.
“The transport sector in The Gambia is not able to respond effectively to increasing and diversified transport demand and services are provided at high cost,” he laments.

He said the challenges noted in the transport sector includes Gambia’s geographical location; isolated regions within the country; transport and poverty reduction; integration of various transport modes; need for appropriate transport policies and regulations; road and road transport financing; road traffic safety; regional road transport; heavy vehicle management; private sector involvement; human resource development; and government’s response to the challenges. 
In general, he said the highest daily traffic flows occur on roads on the south bank and the west of the country, with sections of the Senegambia Highway through the Kanifing Municipality operating at virtual capacity during peak traffic periods.
However, Mr. Weeks noted that roads in rural areas of the country carry only light traffic flows (250-500 vpd ADT), while most feeder roads reputedly carry flows of less than 100 vpd.
“It is expected that an average annual rate of about 5% per annum will be achieved for the GDP in the period from 2011-2015. If elasticity is assumed to be 1.4 for passengers throughout the period and 1.1 for freight, then the resulting weighted traffic growth rates would be about 7% per annum in terms of future traffic.
Over the 5 years road traffic volumes may be expected to increase significantly by almost 25% on some primary roads. On most routes, this would still represent relatively low AADT flows, although the Kombo Districts on roads serving the Banjul area, this would serve to exacerbate the present traffic congestion.”
Mr. Weeks further stated that since the privatization of the road transport services (freight and passengers), operators  have not been required to provide traffic statistics to the government, as a result, reliable data on freight (goods) and passenger traffic and turnover via services is held only by individual service providers and is not available in the public domain.
He further said there are no recent estimates of population growth in Banjul-Brikama area, but is envisaged that there has been a possibly significant inward migration from rural areas as people from the east of the country seek employment opportunities.
This, according to him, puts increasing pressure on the municipalities and infrastructure facilities in the west of Gambia, resulting in growing road traffic and congestion.
While it has not been possible during the project to quantify the urban transport issues and growth expectancy over the next five year period, observations have concluded that more detailed information is required of the land use and transportation situation in the capital city, Banjul and its peripheral area.

Wide gap   
The policy statements on transport are intended to provide a basic framework, together with the establishment of guidelines and principles for investment and development, and for the management and coordination of transport services.
And Mr Weeks added that there is recognizably, a “wide gap” between the policy enunciated and the current reality. It’s the Government’s endeavour to narrow this gap, he said.
However, he pointed out that this requires development and application of a multi-modal, integrated transport strategy, creation of a competitive environment, deregulation of inappropriate controls, and restructuring of management to make it more market-responsive, all of which are aimed at “achieving minimum standards of service and safety.”
Gambia is faced with economic, social and regional development challenges, nonetheless, the Government’s stated intentions to with respect to poverty reduction by formulating a strategy with the aim of achieving the key objectives within four primary areas: operational and management; infrastructure development, institutional and competitive framework; and Funding.
He said a vision for multi-modal transport within the context of The Gambia provides safe, dependable, effective, efficient, and fully integrated transport operations and infrastructure in order to meet the needs of freight and minimizing costs to supports Government strategies for economic and social development.
He concluded that an “all improvement measure will be environmentally and economically sustainable. In addition, the efficiency of the transport system will be enhanced in a regional context to allow The Gambia to exploit its unique geographical position”.

‘Women should do away with the culture of silence’ - Lamin Alkalo
Omar Bojang
The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, GAMCOTRAP on May 22-24, 2011 held a three-day “training of trainers on Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful practices” at Lamin, West Coast Region.
The training brought together village elders, religious scholars and influential individuals from around cluster villages within the region.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Ebrima Bojang, the Alkalo (village head of Lamin) challenge women to do away with the culture of silence, “women should be outspoken and manifest the implications of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on them.”
He also urged the participants to take the knowledge gained from the training to their communities. 
Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP said they have being operating for nearly 30 years and their mandate is to promote and protect the rights of women and the girl child, raise awareness on the negative effects of harmful traditional practices.
She note that the training is aimed at equipping participants, chiefs and Alkalos in order to  make people understand the implications of FGM and as well clear the misconception attributed to the campaign against it.
“Lamin is made of various ethnic groups that undergo the practice and is a prominent community in the FGM debate,” she said.
She adds: “Being a cluster headquarters, Lamin serves as a strategic location to engage religious leaders in order to solicit support to abandon FGM. The outcome of the Lamin training was very successful as 90 percent of the participants confirmed that FGM is not a religious obligation.”
Ms Fatou Cham, a participant, said she have learnt a lot but also regrets and sympathizes with women especially the younger ones who have been subjected to the practice.
Her position, she said, emanated from the films that she had watched during the training. The films reveal the negative implications of FGM on the health of women.
And Ms Cham is convinced that FGM is something that totally needs to abandon because as she puts it, it contributes to the violation of the rights of women and the girl child.
“FGM can affect the woman through her sexuality in sexual relationship, child birth and even menstruation. However, society normally discriminates against those who have not undergone the practice,” she said.
Nonetheless, she believes that the later, who are discriminated against, are the “complete women” because they still remain in their natural status.

Abdoulie Sonko’s trial set for judgment on June 27
The alleged Farafenni Army Camp Attacker, Mr. Abdoulie Sonko will know his fate on June 27 when Justice Emanuel Amadi of the Banjul High Court reaches a verdict on his eight count charge.
Mr. Sonko, a native of Berending, Lower Niumi District of the North Bank Region, has been standing trial on two charges on treason and six charges on murder, since 2003.
On May 27, his counsel, Lamin Camara informed the Court that Mr. Sonko had served eight years in prison custody, and that the trial has been handled by eight judges and lawyers between 2003 and 2011.
Camara, who inherited the case from lawyer Mai Fatty, filed his final address to the Court on Friday and would not want to delay the proceeding any further.
On his part, the presiding judge ordered the Director of Public Prosecution M. Abdullahi, who was absent, to file his written address to the Court within seven days.
The penalty for the alleged crimes is long term prison sentences, including life imprisonment or death.
He will be appearing for the verdict before Justice Amadi, who in 2010, found guilty on charges of treason, the former chief of defence staff Lang Tombong Tamba and seven others and subsequently sentence them to death.

Court set to deliver verdict in 4 PIU alleged murder trials
Justice Emanuel Nkea of the Basse High Court in the upper river region of The Gambia is to deliver judgment in the allege murder trial involving four personnel of Police Intervention Unit (PIU) today.
The four officers Modou Colley, Bakary Demba, Babucarr Fatty and Babucarr Jobe are standing trial on one count of murder before Justice Emanuel Nkea of the Basse High court. They have since pleaded not-guilty.
The prosecution, led by Yusuf Abraharaam has called four witnesses in the course of the trial which started earlier this month, while the accused persons entered in their defence and are represented by Lawyer N. Gbuji.
The particular of offence stated that Modou Colley, Bakary Demba, Babucarr Fatty and Babucarr Jobe on 27 January, 2011, at Numuyel Village in Jimara District, upper river region, Republic of The Gambia unlawfully caused the death of one Dembo Sibi alias Mandela thereby committed an offence.

Former agriculture permanent secretary to be jailed if…
Bakary Ceesay
Mr. Bakary Trawally, the former permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture has been sentenced and convicted to a fine of D100, 000.00 and in default he will serve five years imprisonment.
He was found guilty of stealing in person by the Banjul Magistrate Court presided over by Magistrate Manyima Bojang 24th May 2011.
Mr. Trawally earlier begged the court to tamper justice with mercy as his entire family is depending on him. According to him, he is responsible for the feeding and the financial needs of the family.
The particular of offence stated that Bakary Trawally on or about the 7th March 2011 in Banjul, Republic of The Gambia while employed as a permanent secretary at the ministry of Agriculture, by virtue of his position he paid himself a pardiem of D32, 000.00, and thereby committed an offence.  

Bun and Co. trial, prosecution called upon to close case
On May 26, 2011, the trial of the erstwhile National Drug Enforcement Agency, NDEA Boss Ebrima Bun Sanneh and four others failed to proceed as a result of the absence of the prosecution witness.
Bun Sanneh, Karamo Bojang, Amie Sanneh and Seedy Bojang are standing trial at the High Court in Banjul, before Justice Emmanuel Amadi. They are charged with 30 Counts including official corruption, abuse of office, financial crimes and related offences. They denied the charges.
When the case was called on Thursday, Counsel Kebba Sanyang announced his presence on behalf of Bun Sanneh, Karamo Bojang and Amie Sanneh, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd accused persons respectively.
Meanwhile, counsel Lamin K. Mboge is representing the 4th accused, Seedy Bojang. The prosecutor is SH Barhum, who noted that the prosecution witness, a handwriting expert, was sick and had travel to the Southern Senegal region of (Cassamace) for medical treatment.
On this grounds, he said the “State would like to apply for an adjournment”.
But defence counsel Kebba Sanyang disagreed. He argued that the State have brought in many witnesses and that if they cannot “prove their case”, then they should close it.
Prosecutor Barhum in reply, noted that the State would like to proceed with the case but that the witness is absent, so they will not be able to continue with the case on Thursday.
A successive hearing is scheduled from June 21-23, 2011. Source - The Voice

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