Thursday, April 26, 2012

LinkedIn affair reflect ‘chill’ in Jammeh administration

April 25th, 2012 · by Modou Joof, Gambia · 1 Comment 

Gambian President, Yahya AJJ  Jammeh

Following widespread local reports on the “theft of President Yahya Jammeh identity” on the professional social networking site, LinkedIn, Gambian journalist and blogger, Modou S. Joof, ask whether the “climate of fear” allegedly hanging over human rights defenders in his country has spread to the inner circle of Government.

A press statement from the Office of the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, dated April 13, 2012, warns of an information security breach and identity theft through an impersonator on LinkedIn using the president’s name, picture, and personal information.

“The impersonator has been monitored since September 2011 to March 2012. His Excellency, the President Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr Yahya Jammeh, does not have a LinkedIn account nor has he invited anyone to join social media networks,” it explains, before revealing that the people invited (144) to connect with the “impersonator” include senior government officials, highly respected private citizens, world leaders and international private business people, diasporans, etc. 

It said the above connections (144) believe they were communicating directly to Yahya Jammeh given the “professional nature of LinkedIn etc” before asking them to cease all communications to the “impersonator”.

“Investigations and further information security analyses are ongoing and we encourage you to print your communication archives and submit them to the Office of the President as we continue to analyze the content of the information exchanges,” the statement said, before concluding that the perpetrator will be dealt with according to the Law.

The Chill 
Critical reasoning would suggest the LinkedIn affair apparently reflect “chill” in the Jammeh Administration, if at all it is confirmed that the “senior government officials” were indeed the very connections.

These government officials have more access to president Jammeh than any other person, yet they did “not” border to ask him if he have indeed invited them to connect on LinkedIn before accepting the request.

As if they were “afraid” to ask: “Sir, did you send me an invitation to join you on LinkedIn?”
The statement fall short of noting exactly when the account was created, but what is clear is that investigations into the matter began in September 2011 and lasted for about six months before it was brought to light. 

Seemingly painting an atmosphere of “fear” within the ranks of senior government officials, whom it should not have taken hours to confirm what is or what is not from the president from the very beginning – just a phone call would do or at least in one of the many meetings with the man.

May be, world leaders too, who are expected to be able to reach the president directly have been too complacent, if at all they’ve not been “impersonated”. 

For the “highly respected private citizens”, “international private business people”, and “diasporans”, may be, just maybe, they do not or will find it a little bit difficult to access the president, hence, they “could not” question the invitation.
Five days later, a young man, Ma Ebou Cham, was sentenced to 14-years 6-months in prison after the Banjul Magistrates Court convicted him as the “impersonator.” 

He pleaded guilty to charges of “impersonation” and “making false documents” when he registered on LinkedIn using President Jammeh’s details. 

However, the sentencing on April 18, 2012 as reported by a local newspaper, was more revealing, which could have a chilling effect on a university professor.

The prosecution said Cham addressed e-mail messages to Professor Kah, the Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, UTG, posing as Jammeh, when he ordered Kah to withdraw D300, 000 from the UTG to facilitate his air travel to look for Ma Ebou Cham, a computer wizard, and employ him at the UTG IT department.

An order, the Director of Special Litigation, D.O Kulo, said was executed by the Vice Chancellor when he traveled to Dakar, Senegal to look for Cham in order to employ him as instructed.

And it becomes chilly

Here, the Vice Chancellor’s attitude reflected a much more “chilly” situation, considering his ability and proximity to the president (the Chancellor of the UTG), who he could easily have questioned not only for the invitation to connect, but the order given to him which has now appeared to be a “waste of time and money”.

It would be interesting to put on the public domain, if at all it existed, orders given to senior officials involving finance executed or not, by the computer wizard, whom the magistrate labeled a “first class criminal”. 

Last month, a Fertilizer Commission Report indicted senior Agriculture Ministry officials as being either complacent or negligent, but the “LinkedIn Affair” too is apparently not far from that. Or maybe it’s just a chill. 

See original article here 

The Author, Modou S. Joof, is the news editor of The Voice newspaper in Banjul. He is also a contributor to the Daily News newspaper and columnist at the Market Place Business Magazine in Banjul and the African Voice newspaper in Dublin.
As IIJ Alumni, he also writes for the IIJ-Weblog and publishes of The North Bank Evening Standard. He twits @thenorthbankeve and you can also follow his page on Facebook: The-North-Bank-Evening-Standard


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