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Editorials


WHY DO PRESIDENTS WAIT UNTIL REBELS ARE AT THEIR GATES TO ENTER NEGOTIATION? BOZIZE’S FUTURE HANGING ON THE BALANCE

The power struggle in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) started with demands for President Francoise Bozize to open up the democratic space. The failure to build a genuine democratic environment eventually led some opponents of the Government to turn to become an armed opposition
In December 2012 the rebels started to seize town after town. The group started from the North to move towards the capital. When they started to draw near Bozize accepted to enter into dialogue with the armed combatants. 
In January 2013, they agreed to form a unity government. All those who accepted to be President, Vice President or Minister were also to be disqualified in running in the next elections. In March, the rebels began to make advances under the pretext that Bozize has refused to implement the agreement. As they stood at the outskirts of Bangui, France did call on the Security Council to act. 
The French troops decided to take over the airport. They were just 150 strong. They could not stop the rebels form infiltrating the city. Now it is revealed that Bozize has decided to leave for DRC. If the soldiers in the city decide to fight then many people would lose their lives, while the President who could have stopped the bloodshed has taken a safe passage. 
One would have thought that in the 21st Century all those who occupy Presidential posts would have understood by now that they are not monarchs who should hand over power to their heirs and successors but should build credible electoral systems that would facilitate a peaceful succession of power. 
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki still have full public life according to their capacity. Transfer of power has occurred without violent conflict. 
Foroyaa would like to emphasise again that the only secure government is one that protects and consolidates the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizenry and undertakes the fullest democratic and electoral reforms that would ensure the periodic selection of the undiluted choice of the people. 

ANOTHER REASON TO REVIEW THE TEN HOUR WORKING DAY

The School Children are on holiday. Even parents who are privileged to be able to hire maids cannot keep them at home after 5 pm to look after their children. Most parents cannot afford to hire maids. 
Hence children were already becoming separated from their parents for most part of the day. What the change of working hours had done is to increase the number of hours that children would be left without any adequate supervision. 
Children are being blamed for developing negative values and displaying negative behaviour. All admit that children need attention and adult role models. Adults have to contribute to the general division of labour in society by working for 8 hours a day to feed their families. 
They should also have eight hours to pursue their social life and raise their families. They should have off days for recreation. Each government needs to consult with all stakeholders to determine working days and hours. 
The interest and welfare of families, particularly children should be paramount in making decisions. It is very clear that if parents work for ten hours and cannot reach home until night time they would not have contact with their children to find out their problems and assist them during working hours. 
Hence children from low income families are likely to roam about while those from families that could afford a television are likely to be glued to TV and be influenced by the violent films they watch. It is very common to see children taking Karate postures and using sticks to imitate those engaged in war. 
There is no doubt that socialisation is taking place by being exposed to violent conduct against others. There is a need to show more attention to children. Parents should spend more time with them so as to help to guide their behaviour. 
The less time parents spend with their children the less they know them and the greater the danger of being alienated from them. The ten hour working day is certainly not a step in the right direction. It is not putting children first in making National decisions.

ARE YOU AN INCOME TAX PAYER? 2.1 BILLION EXPECTED FROM DIRECT TAX AND 1.7 BILLION FROM INDIRECT TAX

March is the month for annual income tax payers to pay their taxes. They will be making their declarations. Some earners pay personnel income tax if they are employed. Others who own businesses pay monthly income tax. 
Those who import goods pay duties and sales tax. Direct tax amounted to 1.7 Billion in 2011. It rose to almost 1.8 Billion in 2012. In 2013, it is anticipated to be 2.1 Billion dalasi. 
The Personnel income tax from workers rose from 620 Million Dalasi in 2011 to 657 Million in 2012. It is expected to reach 806 Million in 2013. Tax paid by businesses rose from 507 Million in 2011 to 612 Million in 2013. Customs and exercise contributed 1.4 Billion dalasi to the budget in 2011, 1.5 Billion in 2012 and 1.7 Billion in 2013. This is why the pioneers of the struggle for self determination and Independence linked taxation with representation. 
It is the tax payers’ money which is acquired by Government directly or indirectly by purchasing imported commodities on retail basis after the tax paid by the importer is added to the cost per item that is used to provide services to the people. 
In a properly managed country where every butut paid by the people is used to improve their condition, the people who are to pay taxes would be keen not to evade tax payment and those who are given the responsibility to manage the funds would be happy to deliver quality services. Suffice it to say that no one could predict how honest those who are put in charge of funds would be. 
Hence if taxation is linked to representation any failure to deliver services up to expectation could be referred to as misrepresentation. Such persons could then be changed to elect others who are expected to be more accountable. 
Wherever people are responsible for providing public resources a democratic system of Government becomes the only legitimate form of government.

The GNOC saga - a stain on Gambia’s image

Thursday, March 28, 2013

(The Point) - As the battle for the leadership of the GNOC rages, soiling the reputation of Gambian sports, we deem it fitting to drop a word of caution to all parties in this thorny dispute that never seems to end. 
In the first instance, the GNOC is meant to be and, in fact, used to be the epic centre of Gambian sports; the most organized and stable sports organization in the country, admired even by other NOCs in the region and elsewhere on the continent.
But ever since the organization went into leadership change in the wake of the exit of the former president Abou Dandeh Njie, this very important body has ceased to know calm and stability. Allegations of plots and counter plots surface, as power-hungry personalities clash for authority.
It then became a battle ground for control of positions between rival gangs of the sports fraternity, whose battle spread to further split the fraternity into two, with each side sworn never to see eye to eye with the other.
The embarrassing jostling for power, in a place that is supposed to be a voluntary  service, leaves many outsiders wondering just what is in that building worth scrambling for. Was it just to serve the Gambian sports men and women, or is it for personal aggrandizement and free luxury?
We are also obliged to ask how could we count ourselves serious people in the world arena, if all what we hear from the GNOC is the sound of lawyers and magistrates brooding over legal wrangling to determine who takes charge or is allowed to contest or vote in the GNOC, instead of who we are sending to the next Olympics.
What is in fact mind boggling is the sad fact that those involved in this childish behavior are supposed to  be well-educated and responsible citizens of the country, whose dedicated service to the nation is now being ridiculed through useless bickering for positions in what is for all intents and purposes supposed to be a voluntary job.
Just why can’t grown-up people put aside differences and merge themselves into a powerful body, to function as a Gambia National Olympic Committee?
In searching for answers to these questions, we call on the actors and the sports authorities to put a definite end to this ugly scene in Gambian sports, for the betterment of our sports in general.  We rest our case for now.
Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.Vince Lombardi

Compromising Our Sovereignty


Monday, November 21, 2011
(Daily News) Unlike the previous elections, in the second republic to be more precise, the vote canvassing political activities in the electoral body’s declared campaign period have been generally hitch-free.

Or say, this paper is yet to receive report of disruption of any of the contesting party’s activities neither have we received report of clashes.

As a developing country, this is a remarkable improvement, though it does not mean that we could not do better.

We therefore have none, but ourselves to commend for the peaceful, tolerant and mature manner in which we have been conducting ourselves towards the Nov.24 presidential election.

Also, in spite of our government’s unacceptable shortfalls in measuring up to certain minimum democratic requirements, we take this opportunity to commend them for ensuring that there is no unnecessary delay in observing our five-year national elections – presidential, parliamentary and local government.

Of course, we have not forgotten that a few months back, there were doubts as to whether there will be elections, especially after some traditional chiefs engaged in their widely condemned campaign to transform our hard-earned republic into a kingdom.

And we cannot say for certain that they do not have the backing of the leadership. Infact, there are all indications that the president is in support of the campaign that seeks to crown him king.

It is therefore a deep sigh of relief to many Gambians as everything now comes out clear that come Nov.24 we will vote to elect a new president to steer the affairs of the country for another five-year period.

The question as to whether president Jammeh will have his mandate renewed or the opposition candidates will be given a chance will be answered in a matter of less than five days.

What we are however concerned about here is the apparent breach of electoral rules by the ruling APRC party.

Not only is the APRC abusing its incumbency by using state resources in what should be entirely a party affair, the party is compromising our sovereignty. Here, we are referring to the pumping of funds by non-Gambians for APRC’s political campaigns.

The laws guiding the conduct of our elections, particularly regarding who should donate a party and who should not are very clear. It is stated that political parties should be funded entirely by Gambians. No party is thus allowed to receive funding from a non-Gambian. The reason for this is quite clear.
Therefore, the amount of D1million donated by chief executive officer (CEO) of the Global Electrical Group, a so-called independent power producing is an infringement of the electoral rules.  


Updated: Government must step-up on free press and expression 
October 31, 2011
(The Voice) Recent pronouncements by Gambian ministers of the ever-increasing importance of the press in the country are welcome. For long, the media in this tiny West African State have endured so much repression regarding the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of the press.
The latest coming from Gambia’s Minister of Interior, Mr. Ousman Sonko, who remark that “trust must exist between journalists and security personnel”  when he opened an October 22, 2011 4th Anniversary and 2nd Congress of the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG). He said “media plays a very crucial role in national development and that security personnel are not enemies of the press. We are partners in development” while revealing that a team of security personnel has been put in place to meet with the Gambia Press Union (GPU) to chart the way forward during the process and conduct of the November 24, 2011 presidential elections.
Mr Sonko’s comments followed those of the Gambia Press Union President, Bai Emil Touray, who urge the Minister of Interior to talk to his security personnel to create an enabling environment for journalists to operate freely during the 2011-2013 cycle of elections in The Gambia.
During an August 2011 Commonwealth Media Forum co-hosted by The Gambia Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat, Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and Information and Communication Infrastructure, Mr Momodou Tangara and Mr Alhagie Cham told local and international media, Gambian civil society, diplomats and communication scholars, that the Government recognised media as “important agents of development” and were prepared to do their “part in promoting this notion”. 
Early this month, this stance seemed further strengthened by Mr Cham’s comments that “a free and independent press is the lifeblood of a strong functioning society and a lifeline to progress. Therefore, freedom of expression is very essential in maintaining a form of government that can be trusted by the people it serves.
He was speaking in a statement read on his behalf by the Director of Information Services, Isatou Davies-Ann during a weeklong training for 20 Gambia journalists on “International Standards on Freedom of Expression” being implemented by press freedom and free expression watchdog, Article19 West Africa and the Gambia Press Union.
These statements are indeed welcome, but are yet far from being a catalyst to the status quo of the current media environment. Hence, the availability of repressive media laws which continue the hinder the much needed freedom the press deserves.
Such laws meant categorically to gag the press or stifle free expression have no place under international law. Since Government have said it recognises the role of the media in national development and is open to the “debate on media reform”, its main concern, now, should be working towards the repeal of the Newspaper Amendment Act and all other related laws that serves as an obstacle to the freedom and effectiveness of the local media.
The Enactment of an Access to Information Law (FoI) would have given media practitioners’ greater access to official information which is of fundamental importance to the public, who have a right to know how government policies and programmes are implemented and most importantly, how taxpayers’ money is being spent.
But, we must note that having such a law is not enough to guarantee access to information, the authorities had to be seen to be ready to implement them. 
We tend to disagree with the Information Minister that the Government of The Gambia (GoTG) attaches a lot of importance in the development of the media and “this is manifested by the proliferation of newspapers and radio stations in recent years.”
“The proliferation of newspapers and radio stations” does not really guarantee press freedom and free expression, besides newspapers and radio stations have been closed down without court order as prescribed by International Law Standards.
Since public officials are holding public offices and paid by taxpayers, they should be open to greater criticism from the press and the public, take note of the concerns being raised, to better serve the interest of the public.
There is a need for greater flexibility and tolerance to criticism, hence, Nigerian Poet, Playwright, social-commentator, Wole Soyinka said “the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”.  
For instance, criminal suits against journalists and non journalists on allegations of “false information” have become monotonous in this country, and we ask “what would have been more appropriate than simply writing back to the person and tell him or her that we have found out that what you said is not true, rather than bringing criminal charges against the individual” and the waste of taxpayers money on such trials.
As the November 24 Presidential Elections draws nearer, we call on the various security apparatus of the country to give journalists the breeding space needed to better execute their duties in an “Independent, Impartial, and Factual” manner for the benefit of the electorate and a free, fair and democratic election”.
“A free and independent press is the lifeblood of a strong functioning society and a lifeline to progress.” – Minister Alhagie Cham

 

  • The YJAG Example Should Be Emulated



Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Young Journalists Association of The Gambia, in short, YJAG has undoubtedly proven to be one of the most viable media organisations in the country.

Since inception, this body of dedicated and committed young media practitioners, some of whom infact hold key positions in their various newsrooms, has implemented  series of significant programmes geared towards creating a better working  environment for its members in particular and enhancing Gambian journalism, in general.

Notable, among its many accomplishments has been the training of its members and even non-members on journalism related subjects ranging from environment to laws governing media work in The Gambia.

Of course, YJAG’s commitment and efforts in building the capacity of young Gambian journalists is an indication that the leadership and by extension the membership of YJAG never lose sight of the crucial need of horning the skills and broadening the knowledge of young Gambian media practitioners, most of whom enter into the profession without undergoing any form of formal journalism training or alternative training of any sort.

As vividly recollected during the organisation’s congress on Saturday, apart from capacity building, YJAG has engaged media managers during which they highlighted the plight of young journalists.

The Association also supported Gambia College Press Club (GCPC) to hold a day long training session on “Basic Journalism” for its members and it has broken ‘provincial boundaries’ by embarking a tour of the provinces where they held series of meetings with Community Radio Stations and Senior Secondary Schools.

Cognisant of the need to collaborate and to have the backing of Gambia government in its endeavours and more importantly to contribute their quota to smoothening out the rough edges between government and media, YJAG executive made a bold move by paying a courtesy call to the vice president of The Gambia and also visited the Minister of Interior.

As each of these initiatives has their common and peculiar significance, especially in bettering the media environment for themselves and others, YJAG should therefore be not only be commended, but also be encouraged and supported  by all relevant stakeholders.

And while all these accomplishments are respectively remarkable, the democratic culture developed and jealously pursued by YJAG leadership no doubt towers above all the earlier mentioned undertakings.
  
Its founder president was voted out under a climate of tolerance. Though there were some controversies here and there, this was soon sorted out amiably and he continued to be consulted on issues that affect the life of the association.
Last Saturday witnessed another wonderful display of democracy, a sense of purpose and maturity by YJAG leadership as the outgoing president stood down after serving only a single term and handed the mantle over to a new executive without any hullabaloo.

The Daily News is therefore imploring on other media organisations to emulate the YJAG example and put their houses in order. Journalists should not lag behind in the exercise of democracy and transparency. We should practice what we preach.

YJAG no doubt deserves kudos for its maturity and sense of purpose. We wish the new executive all the best and hope they will consolidate the gains made over the years by their predecessors.

Good Luck to the new president of the association Modou Joof and team. Congratulation also goes to Nfamara Jawneh and Assan Sallah both ex-presidents of YJAG and their teams for a job well done.
Long Live The Gambia, Long Live The Press Long Live Africa!
Government must step-up on free press and expression
14th October 2011
(The Voice) Recent pronouncements by Gambian ministers of the ever-increasing importance of the press in the country is well come. For long, the media in this tiny West African State have endured so much repression regarding the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of the press.
During an August 2011 Commonwealth Media Forum co-hosted by The Gambia Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat, Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and Information and Communication Infrastructure, Mr Momodou Tangara and Mr Alhagie Cham told local and international media, Gambian civil society, diplomats and communication scholars, that the Government recognised media as “important agents of development” and were prepared to do their “part in promoting this notion”. 
Early this month, this stance seemed further strengthened by Mr Cham’s comments that “a free and independent press is the lifeblood of a strong functioning society and a lifeline to progress. Therefore, freedom of expression is very essential in maintaining a form of government that can be trusted by the people it serves.
He was speaking in a statement read on his behalf by the Director of Information Services, Isatou Davies-Ann during a weeklong training for 20 Gambia journalists on “International Standards on Freedom of Expression” being implemented by press freedom and free expression watchdog, Article19 West Africa and the Gambia Press Union.
These statements are indeed welcome, but are yet far from being a catalyst to the status quo of the current media environment. Hence, the availability of repressive media laws which continue the hinder the much needed freedom the press deserves.
Such laws meant categorically to gag the press or stifle free expression have no place under international law. Since Government have said it recognises the role of the media in national development and is open to the “debate on media reform”, its main concern, now, should be working towards the repeal of the Newspaper Amendment Act and all other related laws that serves as an obstacle to the freedom and effectiveness of the local media.
The Enactment of an Access to Information Law (an FoI) would have given media practitioners greater access to official information which is of fundamental importance to the public, who have a right to know how government policies and programmes are implemented and most importantly, how taxpayers’ money is being spent.
But, we must note that having such a law is not enough top guarantee access to information, the authorities had to be seen to be ready to implement them. 
We tend to disagree with the Minister that the Government of The Gambia (GoTG) attaches a lot of importance in the development of the media and “this is manifested by the proliferation of newspapers and radio stations in recent years.”
“The proliferation of newspapers and radio stations” does not really guarantee press freedom and free expression, besides newspapers and radio stations have been closed down without court order as prescribed by International Law Standards.
Since public officials are holding public offices and paid by taxpayers, they should be open to greater criticism from the press and the public, take note of the concerns being raised, to better serve the interest of the public.
There is a need for greater flexibility and tolerance to criticism, hence, Nigerian Poet, Playwright, social-commentator, Wole Soyinka said “the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”.  
For instance, criminal suits against journalists and non journalists on allegations of “false information” have become monotonous in this country, and we ask “what would have been a more appropriate than simply writing back to the person and tell him or her that we have found out that what you said is not true, rather than bringing criminal charges against the individual.”
As the November 24 Presidential Elections are numbered, we call on the various security apparatus of the country to give journalists the breeding space needed to better execute their duties in an “Independent, Impartial, and Factual” manner for the benefit of the electorate and a free, fair and democratic election”.
“A free and independent press is the lifeblood of a strong functioning society and a lifeline to progress.” – Minister Alhagie Cham



  • GPU Should Clear the air as a Duty Bearer in educating, informing and entertaining the Public

The Daily News/Friday/June 10, 2011

The media is a very powerful instrument in
populace of every society. In pursuance of its watchdog role in society, the media keeps the society safe from the excesses of duty bearers.
However, the media must not ignore that it is a duty bearer. Thus, the conduct of individual media practitioners, media outlets and organisations should be subjected to equal media scrutiny.
In recent times, Gambian journalists, including those outside the country – both members and non-members of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) are raising a very significant question: What is holding the announcement of the congress date of GPU, which should hold since March 2011?
We hope the executive will not wait for any pressure or follow-ups to inform the public
about the cause of the delay of the announcement of the congress date in the local media or hold a news conference.
As an umbrella body of the media fraternity in the country, it is important to note that GPU is also accountable to rights holders – journalists and other citizens who rely on the work of journalists to be informed, educated and entertained.
It will be very unfair to overlook our own issues and make a giant leap to other affairs.
Self criticism for improvement is a good mechanism to set pace for proper accountability and transparency as a Union.
Though the GPU executive has done quite well during its three year tenure of office,
especially in capacity building of young journalists, self criticism should be looked
upon as a positive thing, and not a tool for beating ourselves up.
It is only when we can impartially judge our motives and actions, we can overcome obstacles and weaknesses.
The Union has undergone several trial and tribulations and it is still struggling to do
more as the media environment remains unconducive.
Journalists should now be ready to stop looking at their own institutions being run without scrutinizing their actions in every step.
The questions from journalists as to when should the congress be held was bred by the lack of information on what was responsible for the delay. This further gave rise to the editorializing of a piece on the issue by an online newspaper.
We remind all journalists that it is our duty to constructively hold our own institutions
accountable rather than grumbling in safe corners, whispering or speculating.
Lack of transparency provokes development of different individual perception about one thing in a speculating manner.
Journalists should also know that GPU is the only strong union for journalists in the country that needs their contribution in different ways to achieve the most admirable atmosphere for freedom of expression and that of speech.
Above all, journalists, as communicators should rumours and speculations. Let’s criticise ourselves for what we should have done and have not done.
“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere


  • Electricity supply in Gambia remains a concern
June 7, 2011 (The Voice) - Ever since the National Water and Electricity Company, NAWEC decided to go against the wishes of the public “not to increase the tariff for electricity” the supply system has gone from bad to worse.
Members of the public, who attended a public hearing on the National Water and Electricity Company’s (NAWEC) proposed tariff review for the year 2010/11 disapproved of any attempted to increase charges on electricity, water and sewage on 12th February, 2011.
The Company had proposed to increase the tariffs for electricity, water and sewage by 36, 26 and 24 percent respectively and despite a public outcry at the hearing organised by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), NAWEC decided to increase the tariff for electricity a month earlier than it had set to increase the charges.
The hearing seemed meaningless and the question raised was can the company defy the will of the people? The regulatory body will have to explain.
As been the case in many years, in recent months, Gambians have been experiencing frequent power cuts, affecting institutions and households heavily dependent on the supply of the Electricity Company.
It is sad to note that the situation has become worst towards the end of May and the beginning of June 2011 as of date. With power supply available in many parts of the Kanifing Municipality in dribs and drabs. 30 minutes on, hours off.
Since the increase in tariff for electricity for poor households and institutions is inevitable, we suggest that the company step up its efforts to serve the people to their satisfaction.
It’s the duty of the Government to ensure that public institutions perform as expected of them. It should also ensure that the reported D300, 000, 000 it owed NAWEC be paid to bolster the efforts of the Company in its service delivery.
NAWEC cannot better serve the taxpayers if the Government continues to owe it huge sums of money. The issue of this money has been muted about since, the company should tell the people whether the money has been paid or not.
And if the former is the case, then NAWEC should better explain what has led to the current poor state of electricity supply in recent weeks.
The Gambian people are experiencing hard times as noted by common women who have been interviewed by this paper on the free-rise in prices of basic commodities. In fact one said “it is very hard to live in the Gambia now-a-days”, depicting just how much the people have to take care of their families compared to earnings.
At the February hearing, members of the public noted that in fact it may be reasonable for NAWEC to increase its tariffs, if the people were well-off socially and economically.   
We reiterate that we should take our priorities right, this National Company being heavily owed financially, said it needs more money to cater for its running cost, ironically it pledged up to half a million Dalasis to the national assembly in February 2011.
“Electricity is a critical aspect not only to the development of a nation, but to the well-being of its people”

  • Curbing crimes and corruption is pertinent
June 2, 2011 (The Voice) - Crimes and corruption are critical components of social vices that can unarguably stunt the development process of any country.
In recent years, The Gambia has witnessed an upsurge in crimes and corruption, a trend that has left many asking more questions that providing answers.
It is evident that poverty, low earning and growing unemployment has contributed to the menace.  
Thus, initiatives to nurture peace building and conflict prevention in the minds of the people is quite relevant, but at least these issues should go side by side with trying as a government and as a people to find sustainable solutions to crimes and corruption.
It is not just enough to note that youth are the cream of society; we should pay more attention to issues that have to be in place for them to really be what they are being called to be.
Since securing a job, a decent job has become the most daunting challenge faced by school leavers in The Gambia; it is evident that the dependency ratio remains high.
Thus, increasing poverty since those said to be having decent jobs may not be earning enough to satisfy their needs not to talk of the extended families behind them.
The government has strived in recent years to fight crimes but we believe that the judicial system should adopt better measures to curb certain offences such as murder, torture amongst others.
For corruption, the government has taken various measures to curb the situation, however, there is not specific government agency to combat this social vice born out of greed and selfishness.
Public corruption has been perceived to be high in The Gambia as the country was ranked 106 of 180 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2009. Last year, the country moved six places better but we are still not out of the woods yet.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

  • The Outrageous Sexual Lives of Public Officials

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Daily News - Public officials who should be accountable for their words and deeds are seemingly the most carefree people in The Gambia when it comes to morality. They are capable of abusing their powers in many ways, both at work and out of workplace.
It is interesting to see a senior official dressed casually like an American rapper wearing brim hat, making it difficult to be recognized. People tend to be more concern about their political responsibility than what they do socially, especially their sex lives. They can go with any woman at anywhere, anytime and anyhow. There are also complaints that other top public officials do even take underage girls to hotels just to pursue their sexual desire.
Ignoring the sexual lives of public officials is not protecting women and girls in our society but heightening their ranks as economic and social victim. Some participants at the good governance training at the friendship hostel at the Independence Stadium have witnessed some top public officials bringing women and girls to some of the rooms late in the night. 
A senior security personnel, a high municipal official and a man manning a respectable position in the youth and Sports ministry came to the hostel with women and young girls respectively. Most of the participants who were aware of their activities raised brows about it, complaining that the hostel is being turned into a brothel by officials. What lessons are they teaching young participants who were resident at the hostel to be trained on good governance?
To answer this critical question, it is worth noting that as public officers, the women and girls they take to the hostel are on one hand, their own victims who might come from poor families and whose tax monies are not proportionately utilised for the general economic wellbeing of the nation, hence been easily cajoled by men of such ranks to satisfy their sexual desires.
On the other, they are victimised twice, after depriving them of their economic rights, again get sexual favour from them, probably for a short time token of benefit. Giving sexual favour to top officials would not alleviate their poverty, but earn them only indignity. Public officials should also know that they are duty bearers who are always being seen by right holders involving in all kinds of activities which do not tell well on them as officials.
Gambians are fond of turning blind eyes to the actions of their public officials. There have been many complaints from different quarters that hostels, motels and hotels are the evening hideouts of some Gambian public officials for sexual activities. It is not uncommon to go to a workshop that is residential without seeing a public official coiffeur -driven to a resort with a woman or girl who is not a marital partner.
Women and young girls should also know that the officials who cajole them because of their positions are paid from their tax and it is their right to benefit from the national cake and should not allow to be prostituted. It is unbecoming officials to use a hostel where young people were residing to be trained on good governance as a brothel. This issue of abusing women and girls should be vigilantly pursued by gender activists, journalists, youth activists and other advocates to promote the welfare of women and girls by launching aggressive campaign on their rights and talk to managers of hostels, motels and hotels to help curb this growing menace.
As the visible deeds are those of officials who go out looking for hideouts for such activities, but there exist others who are also in various offices who abuse their office by exploiting their female workers or even bringing other women and girls to their offices for sexual activities. We should be aware that both government officials and private sector officials are duty bearers and should be accountable for their deeds and even words.


  • A well-organized transport system essential to economic growth…

The Voice - At a recent validation of the reviewed National Transport Policy document, it was noted that “an efficient transport system is vital to sustain and enhance economic growth and the quality of life” to which we agreed.

However, the provision of such transport facilities and services must meet the essential criteria of economic efficiency.

The transport system in the country has been overlooked in many years, with more vehicles (private and commercial) coming into the country with less and less suitable structures in place.

There have not been adequate spaces for car parks or garages to accommodate the ever increasing commercial vehicles in many parts of the country, and the situation is worst in the urban area.

Regardless of the increase in commercial vehicles, it is a pain that commuters’ are faced with many hurdles during rush hour, especially those intended to go to the capital, Banjul.

A draft summary of the Policy does not highlight the issue of where and how commercial vehicles should operate during the rush hour, if not included in the policy, we suggest it should be.

For instance, many people (workers, students, and hospital goers, especially women and children) found themselves at Westfield in the morning but found it very difficult to get transport, as if the country is running out of cars.

The most disheartening part of it is that all commercial-van-drivers will keep telling people that they are stopping at Jeshwang, when scores of people are eager to catch up with time.

When these are coming from Brikama, they will tell their clients that they are stopping at Tabokoto, from Tabokoto to Westfield, to Jeshwang and then finally to Banjul, collecting four fares along the way to the disadvantage of commuters.

In fact, on Saturdays and Sundays, they will tell people that we are taking on board passengers going from Brikama to Farato and Busumbala only. From there they head to Serrekunda, committing people to pay more money in order to reach their destinations.

The same is happening in many other areas within the Kanifing Municipality and the West Coast Region.

At the north bank region (Barra Garage), there is virtually no price control regarding fares and commercial drivers can overload their vehicles without being questioned. Almost everyone who once passes there can testify on this fact.

The deliberate increase in fares is mainly done during festive occasion such as the two Muslim feasts (Koriteh and Tobaski), annual Gamos (marking the birthday of the Prophet) etc.

Over the years, it seems there were no authorities deployed around that area. However, that has never been the case, they have been there and looking-on as irregularities unfold.

We also believe that the “safety and security of passengers” in road traffic should be included in the policy and must be made a top priority. The ferries included.

To this end, we agree with the WSP International Management Consultants, a UK-based Consultancy Firm that “goods and passengers must move by the mode that is least costly as uneconomic services impose heavy burdens on the economy.”

HARD FACT: “Lets take our priorities right”


  • Guest Editorial: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director
Invest in Youth, Women - UNFPA
Investments in young people, women’s empowerment and reproductive health, including family planning, are critical to boosting least developed countries’ (LDCs) productive capacity and speeding their escape from poverty – UNFPA Report.
The report, “Population Dynamics and Poverty in the LDCs: Challenges and Opportunities for Development and Poverty Reduction”, says that the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs) have a large and rapidly growing youth population, with some 60 per cent of their population under the age of 25.
These young people can drive economic growth and poverty reduction if they enjoy health, education and employment. Further, investments in young girls, often overlooked, could provide a significant development dividend.
Empowering women and girls starts with improved access to reproductive health care and family planning. Too many teenage girls become mothers, too many die giving birth, too many drop out of school, too many are abused and discriminated against in their daily lives.
When girls are educated, healthy and can avoid child marriage, unintended pregnancy and HIV, they can contribute fully to their societies’ battles against poverty.
In a world of 7 billion, every person, especially women and girls, should enjoy human rights and human dignity, and have the opportunity to make the most of their potential.
Investing in reproductive health services would empower women to decide the spacing and number of their children and increase their opportunities for employment, thereby helping their national economies.
The investments would also reduce maternal death and lead to smaller families with more resources to pour into the health and education of each child. This virtuous cycle helps families, communities and nations escape poverty.
World population is projected to reach 7 billion on 31 October, of which 855 million will be living in the LDCs, many of which continue facing large challenges in achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The LDCs are lagging in reducing infant, child and maternal death and HIV prevalence. This is strongly related to lack of reproductive health care, including family planning, according to the report.
Due to high fertility, the population of the LDCs is expected to double to 1.7 billion between now and 2050. Rapid population expansion in the LDCs makes it harder for countries to increase or maintain per-capita spending on essential services, such as health and education.

  • On the safety and protection of African journalists


(The Voice) - The fact that media personnel in Africa continue to be subjected to dangerous and targeted attacks, threats, physical violence and assassinations, imprisoned among other violations of their rights, is of great concern.
“Journalist are victimized and their rights deliberately violated for carrying out their daily work, promoting people’s human rights to know and discharging their mission as watchdog of social and political life, holding accountable public personalities and institutions,” laments the president of the federation of African journalists, Omar Faruk Osman.
Faruk has since been leading a campaign for the African Union to make the “safety and protection of African journalists a top priority” after the AU declared 2010 as the year of “peace and security” in Africa.
At the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul on May 6, 2011, he extended his call to the African Commission.
We agree with him that across Africa, crimes against Journalists remains unpunished and State Parties to the African Charter should set up mechanisms to ensure that journalists are protected from physical violence and intimidation.
It is no longer a secret that the state of freedom of expression and freedom of the press is increasingly deteriorating in Africa.
An issue that the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) agreed to, saying in a statement on World Press Freedom Day that  it is unfortunate, Africa does not fair very well when it comes to press freedom. In many African countries, authorities have little or no tolerance for press freedom.
“The right to freedom of the press is one of the most important human rights. It is indeed an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. It is also seen as one of the cornerstones of democracy,” the Pretoria-based Pan-African body said.
The PAP’s mandate and objectives include the promotion of good governance, democracy, transparency, accountability and human rights in Members States of the African Union.
And it reveals that it is “planning to launch a continent-wide campaign on media freedom in Africa which will focus on the reform of media laws through National and Regional Parliaments.
The PAP added it hopes that this campaign will encourage African governments and legislators to continue working towards the “democratization of our continent” and help create a more conducive atmosphere for our journalists to work in.
While we wish them well, we also hope that their initiative is not undertaken for nothing.

  • Towards a Free Press: Who will take the next step?
    (The Voice) - The Gambia Press Union (GPU) observed the 2011 World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday May 3 at the Tango Conference Hall in Kanifing.
    Over the years, press freedom and free expression have come under attack in The Gambia, leaving the country to continue grabbing front page headlines for the wrong reasons.
    Violations of press freedom have been lowered in 2010 and 2011 if not for the continued disappearance of the pro-Government newspapers journalists, Chief Ebrima Manneh; the unresolved murder of Omar Barrow and Deyda Hydara, the pending report on the findings of circumstances leading to the death of Lamin A. Darboe and the harassment of sport journalists at the Stadium.
    This year, only one journalist (Sports Producer and Presenter for West Coast Radio, Bakary B. Baldeh) has been put on trial by Gambian police for hosting aggrieved golf-workers during a February 11 sports programme.
    However, a twist in events last year, seemingly brought renewed hopes that the Union’s efforts to achieve press freedom may not be a far fetched factor, following the Government’s acceptance to send a representative to grace and participate in the 2010 Press Freedom Day celebrations for the first time ever.
    With a call for dialogue by the Government extended to Media Chiefs of Independent Newspapers in March 2011, though the meeting seemed not to realize its objective due to a defensive approach on the side of government, it is believed that the realization of a free press is in the making gradually.
    The onus now lies on both sides to call for a follow up to the March Meeting to go a step further. It is the greatest opportunity offered to Media Chiefs to take the bull by the horn and make the next step without waiting on the executive, in order to convince them that their demands are legitimate and is the case in other African countries and, that “the media is not only a partner in development, it is also guided by common objectives to achieve the best for our country”.
    This year too, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure graced the opening ceremony.
    Hard Fact: “A free press can be good or bad, but most certainly, without freedom, it will never be anything but bad”
     
  • Human rights situation in Africa getting worse
    (The Voice) - In November 2010, it was reported that the Human rights situation in Africa has deteriorated in the previous six months. This was contained in a report on the “overview of the human rights situation in Africa” presented at the NGOs Forum.
    During this time, updates on regional human rights situation unveiled gross violations of fundamental human rights across the continent. And at least a fourth night ago we noted that that situation is more or less expected to get worse bearing in mind the crisis that  engulfed the continent. We have been vindicated during opening of the NGOs Forum in Banjul, on April 25, 2011 and the subsequent Sessions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
    The situation shows just how committed are perpetrators of human rights violations to the cause of victims in Africa, governments, rebel groups, factions and individuals included. In a continent ravaged by war and terrible suffering, the safety and protection of the common man needs much to be desired, though it should have been made a top priority.
    The declaration of 2010 as the “Year of Peace and Security” in Africa, witnessed more fighting and conflicts across the continent.
    Sadly, often human rights violators go unpunished because they hide under the guise of impunity and this has relegated human rights defenders from watchdogs to dolls, because when some authorities are ready to trample on our rights, human rights defenders can’t do much.
    It has become a tradition for African governments to sign and ratify international Conventions and Charters only to leave it rot without domestication and implementation. Take for instance the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, it was reported earlier last year that only 22 of 53 states in Africa ratified it. God knows how many of them have even attempted to domesticate and implement it.  
    It has be clearly stipulated in every Constitution of African states that it is the mandate of our governments to protect their citizens, and when this is not forthcoming, one can only imagine whether the authorities have any regards for practicing what they preach.
    Human rights defenders and the African Commission has no doubt done a lot in the promotion and protection of human rights in the continent. But without the support of the African Union (AU), their efforts would be reduced to nothing and they will be more or less dolls.
    When the ICC issued an indictment for an international arrest warrant for President Al Bashir of Sudan in order to answer to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at The Hague, it was shocking and disappointing to see the support he received from African leaders.
    The move not to arrest Bashir when he attended the AU Summit in 2009 was a manifestation of the disregard of the Rome Statue which set up the ICC of which more than 30 African States are a signatory to.
    Hard Fact: “Better to have common people safe and secured than trumpet about so-called democracies”


       
  • We cannot work on AIDS in Isolation
Guest Editorial: Michel Sidibé, Executive Director UNAIDS

(The Voice) - Countries are beginning to take seriously the goal of meeting their universal access targets for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We need to recognize success, but we must not forget the challenges that still need to be overcome.
AIDS is not over yet. For every two people starting treatment, five people are newly infected with HIV. The waiting lines for people needing immediate treatment are increasing, and each day children are orphaned and their survival threatened.
I see the AIDS movement as an opportunity. We cannot work on AIDS in isolation. We must leverage the results of AIDS response across the economic, social and political spheres.
Whether it is through an invigorated attempt to stop the sexual transmission of HIV, highlighting and addressing homophobia, decriminalizing the transmission of HIV, promoting human rights, amplifying the voices people living with HIV, or treating tuberculosis and saving mothers and their babies, I want to lead by asking this: “Is what we are doing improving lives?”
In order to achieve further progress, it is essential to take steps to address specific gaps in the response to the epidemic, as well as the social, political and structural constraints that limit results.
Framework for saving lives will be informed by the following nine priority areas:
·        Reduce sexual transmission of HIV.
·        Prevent mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV.
·        Ensuring that people living with HIV receive treatment.
·        Preventing people living with HIV from dying of tuberculosis.
·        Protecting drug users from becoming infected with HIV.
·        Removing punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective response to AIDS.
·        Stopping violence against women and girls.
·        Empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV.
·        Enhancing social protection for people affected by HIV.


Hard Fact: “We need to recognize success, but we must not forget the challenges that still need to be overcome.”

  • Nigeria’s elections tipped to be the most credible in 50 years
(The Voice) The Federal Republic of Nigeria, which was no doubt under pressure to hold free and fair elections, after its Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the April polls twice, is being tipped to hold the first credible elections for over half a century.
Elections in the West African country have been largely reported to be flawed for many years and the recent development raised questions and doubts over the credibility of INEC, though its Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega has always maintained that the postponements were meant to ensure the holding of credible elections.
However, reports has it that International Monitors have projected Saturday's presidential election to be Nigeria's first credible vote for decades, since previous polls were marred by widespread violence and vote-fixing.
This time, voting was reported to have generally gone smoothly, despite some reports of fraud and incidents of violence.
The incumbent, Mr. Jonathan after casting his vote, described the election as a "new dawn in Nigeria's political evolution".
"If the ballot paper means nothing then there is no democracy… Nigeria is now experiencing true democracy where we the politicians have to go to the people," the BBC quoted him as saying.
"There's a desperate attempt by the ruling party to rig this election in a more sophisticated way," Gen Buhari, Jonathan’s closest rival told the BBC.
"This time around - the level of awareness and commitment by the masses is what has given me some relief," adding that he had more faith in INEC this time round, and that "probably 60 percent of the election will be credible.
Last month, the sub-regional economic bloc, ECOWAS said it has endured so many conflicts for more than 30 years, and elections has played a major part as currently witnessed in the situation of Ivory Coast. 
This was the reason why the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government issued a host of recommendations in a Final Communiqué at its 39th Ordinary Session held in Abuja, Nigeria from March 23-24, 2011, for countries due for elections this year to ensure the holding of free and fair elections.
Now that the Nigerian elections has already hold, The Gambia, Cape Verde and Liberia, must to take all necessary measures to create optimal conditions for the conduct of peaceful, credible, free and transparent polls, in conformity with the relevant provisions of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
Hard Fact: Peaceful, free and fair elections is critical to national, sub-regional and regional stability


  • COULD THE EXECUTIVE DEFY THE ORDER OF A COURT WITH IMPUNITY?

(foroyaa.gm) - During the President´s discussion with Ministers and Security Chiefs which was broadcast over GRTS some reference was made to a court case and remarks added that the Government will not respect the verdict of such a court. We expected the Attorney General, as the Principal Legal adviser of the Government to remind his colleagues of the letter and spirit of Section 17 of the Constitution which states among other things that: “The Fundamental human rights and freedom enshrined in this chapter shall be respected and upheld by all organs of the executive and its agencies, the legislature and where applicable to them by all natural and legal persons in the Gambia and shall be enforceable by the courts in accordance with this Constitution.”

It is the right of every person to resort to the courts to have one´s grievances addressed.

Section 24 states that “Any court or other adjudicating authority established by law, for the determination of …. the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation, shall be independent and impartial.” Furthermore, the case “shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable period.”

In our view, one does not have to be a legal practitioner to know that it is both trite law and practice that all should abstain from commenting about the outcome of any pending or anticipated legal proceedings in any court in the Gambia.

It should be clear to the executive that any refusal to abide by the order of a court would amount to a contempt of court. This could lead to the aggrieved party going to the ECOWAS court for redress.

Foroyaa found the comment on the court proceedings to be out of place since the basic trust of the discussion was how to get members of the security forces to respect the rights of the people and not to behave with impunity. What lesson did the Executive hope to teach by mentioning the case in the courts?

  • Gambian Youths Should Challenge Political Leaders

 (dailynews.gm) - Youths of The Gambia should take the bull by the horns and start challenging our political leaders – both the alternative parties and the power wielders.
Politicians of the older generation who always challenge and sometimes blame youths for not taking their destiny in their own hands could also be blamed for not being good listeners to the young ones.
This apparent divided opinions should embolden the youths to challenge such politicians both in ideological debates and by active participation in politics.
It is an open secret that successful politicians use young people as their spinal code to stand on their feet.
The ruling APRC party relies on the so-called green youths and other young militants to build their political base.
And the rest of the youth populations seem to be politically pessimistic about the opposition, due to the common notion that they are not the right camp to bring about the desired change of the time.
One can date the struggle for an alliance by the opposition camp to more than a decade from now, but their efforts yield no positive result.  All the camps do have a different story to tell about what is keeping them asunder up to now, when the nation is going to the polls in November this year.
The culture of debate and the preparation of the young cadres as the future leaders should be promoted by all political parties.
All political parties should create room for internal party debate on leadership and decisions making.
It is not yet in The Gambian political culture for young people to be critical of their own parties or party leaders in the interest of the nation.
Their leaders always bury some of their internal political problems from the young ones so that they can continue to rally behind them.
The tendency of limitation for youths have affected almost all parties that is why there is no prominent neutral youth group that could influence either the ruling party or the opposition to take a more people-centered direction.
If one makes a sample surveying, many young people attracted by politics are easily carried away by the personal cult, which could lead to hero worshiping.
It is, as well, up to the politicians to choose between working towards building a great nation or concentrate on trying to make themselves great people.
Both the ruling party and opposition have not yet made any remarkable momentum to make The Gambia great and most of them are great people in their own rights, hence the youths of the country should challenge them.
They should be inviting them to debates, symposia, conferences, panel discussions and engage them on issues of governance and internal democracy in their parties. And they should also raise questions on what foundation have they laid, and what way have they charted for the young people who are interested in politics.
The names of the political leaders of the parties are the mantras of their militants which makes it difficult for most of them to accept the political realities.
Gambian youths should challenge politicians of both the ruling and opposition parties for the emergence of new pragmatisms in Gambian politics.

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