Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The uncharted side of Senegal’s music world

Senegalese have an enduring proclivity for obsession. Whether it is sport, politics, music, or religion, Senegalese put their whole in whatever they get involved in. It makes it a somewhat knotty task to pinpoint a particular domineering passion for the people here, like you would soccer for Brazil, American football for the US, cricket for India, or rugby for South Africa.

But music is certainly not a diminutive part of daily life here. Every aspect of Senegalese life touches on it. In fact, one of the most fascinating thing you can find in wrestling, for instance, which appears to be doing well here, despite seemingly losing grounds in many other countries in the region, is the dancing part, where the competitor wrestler is escorted into the ring by his dancing bouncers - that part of it could get you mesmerizingly engrossed; it is really captivating. Such is the musical life of Senegalese.

And they have a lot to show for it.

For a country with a great respect for family cast system, dancing has evolved from being a cast base attribute to everyone’s domain. According to a renowned sociologist, as part of his doctoral thesis, recently at the University Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis in northern Senegal, ‘‘successes in music in Senegal have led to decastification of music.’’

‘‘52% of artists are singers from castes deemed noble, while 22% are actual griots, (traditionally regarded as poets, praise singers, and wandering musicians, considered a repository of oral tradition)’’ Dr Saliou Ndour stated.

Youssou Ndour, Baaba Maal, Ismaila Lo, Coumba Gawlo, among a host of a remarkably acclaimed line up of artists, represent Senegal’s finest.

Both Baaba Maal and Youssou Ndour have been in music for over two decades now. The duo constitutes a formidable artistic ambassadorial core, not only for their artistic ability in terms of the trade, but also the ability to have kept their role as the Senegalese they are while at the same time creating a niche for themselves at the global level.

Frederic Tendeng, a local journalist, blogger and well known political analyst, is familiar with the music scene in both Senegal and Gambia, where Youssou Ndour reportedly got part of his musical training under the Super Eagles, which dominated the music scene in the region in the early 70s. Tendeng argues that Youssou Ndour can be credited for the modern version of Mbalx, the most popular kind of Senegalese music, and he said that the man with the unofficial title of ‘King of Mbalax’ has been quick to realize the need to blend traditional instruments with modern ones. ‘‘This is also true for Baaba Maal,’’ he said, and ‘‘it is what gave the two an abiding edge over the multitude of musicians in the country.’’

Many musicians here seem caught up between an unfulfilled urge to transcend traditional style and to make a hybrid of traditional and foreign style. The result is a tragic attenuation in quality of many works, making true musical ambassadors in the region some sort of an endangered species. The problem has to do mainly with mode of approach.

There is also the social responsibility aspect, in which the two musicians have actually led by example.

‘‘Youssou Ndour is for our country, what Bob Marley is/was for Jamaica, Jimmy Hendrix and Michael Jackson for the United States. He is what Jonny Holiday is for France,’’ the acclaimed Senegalese musician was described recently in an editorial by a leading independent Dakar daily newspaper, xibar.net.

Youssou, as he is fondly referred to by many Senegalese, is not just the Bob Marley or Michael Jackson being referred to for his undisputedly captivating voice, nor is it just because of his popularity. In fact, it is mainly because of a combination of these and many more qualities, with a solemn show of responsibility to the society he believes made him what he is today. His involvement in humanitarian work is well noted given his ties to the UN and various other bodies both at home and abroad. Ndour is the owner of Senegal’s best selling newspaper, L'Observateur. He owns a popular radio station, recording studio, a music production company, a chain of night clubs, among various projects that include a TV station that only awaits signal, which is presently being held back thanks to some political interference by what is Senegal’s political dynasty, President Abdoulie Wade’s family.

Baaba Maal is no less a force of societal change. Winner of the 2008 Djembe award, Baaba Maal has a particular pan-Africanist appeal, and he makes no quietness about his wish ‘‘to restore the continent's history.’’ He is truly Senegal’s cultural ambassador both by way of the kind of message he sends and his appearance.

Unlike Youssou, Baaba Maal was born to a fishing family, representing that defying cultural line - a fisher man’s son, a musician. But today Maal’s people are surely proud of a son they really have. His annual "Festival les Blues du Fleuve" drives the message straight home.

"I think education is one of the most important gifts that we can send to the next generation, in order to pass to the next generation, because I believe that without education the next generation in Africa will not be able to understand what's going on in the whole world and how to go into it and how to exchange ideas, how to use the modern way of communicating to be part of the world. I think education is really, really a key to develop the mind and to develop the spirit and to be free for a lot of things," he was quoted saying recently, as part of an occasion that brought together a cross section of musicians from across the continent and beyond.

These two people aren’t Senegal’s only finest; there are many like them. But arguably they are unbeatable in this country.

The reality about their success story though doesn’t appear obvious to many here, who are mostly confined to ‘‘intellectual ghettos.’’

Bob Marley certainly wouldn’t have been the renowned star he was beyond the shores of Jamaica if he had not identified with the rest of the world; nor would Michael Jackson’s passing have attracted the level of attention it got globally if he had not carved himself a place in the heart of the world’s population.

This is unfortunately what many Senegalese today fail to realize. And the awareness deficiency is extremely prominent among artists, who appear resigned to competing at the local level than international. You don’t want to argue that you are aiming to go beyond Senegal when you can’t say a word in a single language that is spoken outside the region called Senegambia.

Wollof, which is spoken only within this region, is the predominant language in Senegal. It is such a perfect medium of artistic communication that it is seen as the only way of making a way into the highly competitive music industry here in this region. But although uncharted, there is general feeling that it is the only acceptable language in the music industry. While much fuss hasn’t been made openly about it, there is one or two reasons to believe that there are perturbed feelings towards this.

‘‘If you want to sing here, you have to note that here is Senegal. You must sing in Wollof,’’ a little known Senegalese drummer recently told a popular TV talk show, to a disappointingly rapturous applause from his accompanying fans.

That was widely believed to have been directed to an emerging star who sings in Bambara, a dialect popular in neighboring Mali. He is not by any means the only one who sings in a language different from Wollof; Baaba Maal sings predominantly in Pulaar. There are a few others who sings in Diola, Mandinka, etc.

There has hardly been any word of condemnation for that yet, and there probably never will be. But the underlying fact remains that this unspoken reality here holds sway the development of music in a wider section of this enormously rich Senegalese society.

Interestingly, unlike the tribalistic drummer, whose popularity doubtfully extends to a greater section of the country, the Bambara singer is a near household name in not only Senegal but as far as neighboring Gambia. And there is every reason to believe that he would do equally well in Mali. However, there are very many equally potentially talented people like him who can’t manage to make their way up there because of these largely uncharted issues about Senegal’s music world.

Gambia: Caught red-handed

Gambia might not be the only country whose rights situation was reviewed in Geneva recently, at the 7th session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), but thanks to a largely unfavorable press and an unhelpful attitude of indifference on the part of the leadership to the media attention it gets, the country’s highly debatable human rights record remained prominently in focus. Even countries with equally moot reputation had the courage to preach, cautiously though, to the government of the ‘Smiling Coast’ about the need for a free society.

Perhaps the only country in the world that appears to closely rival Gambia in terms of this attitude of pretence of coldness towards external criticism is Eritrea, another highly isolated nation. This, however, does not mean these are the only countries on this continent which are mostly wanting in their responsibilities towards ensuring free society. There is Ethiopia which, shamefully, happens to be de factor capital of the feeble African Union. There is also big brother Kenya; needless to mention Libya. And the list goes on and on and on.

The situation under which any society operates is influenced mainly by the prevailing laws. Amply convincing evidence abound, the world over, to show that under hash prevailing circumstances people are bound to adjust to ensure that life goes on.

Politics wise, repressive moves by droopy governments have always galvanized strong-minded and purposeful societies to resist unfair domination. We have seen it in many countries, communist China being a perfect example, where, for instance, citizen journalism has provided salvation for an oppressed people. China’s protégé, communist Cuba, is another perfect example where the power of online journalism has provided opportunity for much needed divergent views to be heard. There is also Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.

What prevails in these above mentioned nations is no different from what is going on in many African countries today, Gambia very much included. And therefore you would expect no different response from any of the people concerned.

And it was the honorable Justice Minister Marie Saine Firdaus who had the unpalatable task of defending the human rights record of The Gambia! In a sense that is supposed to be a humbling assignment, but certainly not when you are up for such a huge global hostility as it became obvious for Gambia even as delegates headed for Geneva. From the look of things, the experience can be liken to that of a minor who is caught red-handed in a punishable act, and the only way out is to flirt with irrelevant obvious available excuses. The Justice Minister clearly blatantly ignored reason and patched up all sorts of unwitty excuses for the actions reportedly meted out to Gambians under her government’s watch. For an emissary of Yahya Jammeh who wants to keep their job, you will obviously have to do nothing less. Present rumor though doesn’t suggest a good performance of the Justice Minister.

Marie’s denial of the well documented human rights issues the Gambia government stands long accused of is not the issue here, the fact that she appeared to blame it all on ‘‘irresponsibility’’ on the part of the independent press is.

Now, this is where the problem about today’s Gambia lies.

There has been too much ruckus about the manner in which the Gambian media operates today, yet very few people appear concerned about the events leading to the current situation. If the Gambian media has disregarded the rule of engagement it is because the government itself, which now operates more or less on the principle of gangsterism, has thrown the very laws it made into the trash bin.

A heinously misguided anti-independent media policy engineered by devious elements within the early July 22nd ‘Revolutionaries’, many of whom today hide behind pro-democracy organizations abroad, after fallen victims of their own perpetration, unfortunately remains a reality up to this day. And every indication are that this situation is likely to remain until there is a total sluice of the system. This might well mean total regime change. How the latter is attained remains an exclusive decision for the Gambian people, and none else.

Today, a purely independent media operates only outside the Gambia. And, as a matter of fact, this part of the Gambian press has been largely guilty of foul play only in light of its reporting of mishaps in government. The Gambian press appears to be guilty only when it report a witch hunting spree headed by members of the presidential brigade at the behest of the president, or when it reports political interference in the judicial process of the country, or when it reports unlawful arrests, extra judicial killings, unfair treatment of voiceless opponents of the regime.

The Gambia government’s accusation that journalists deliberately engage in sensational reporting only accentuates its guilt of thoughtlessness, for it clearly doesn’t appear to see that it is partly responsible for the prevailing situation.

Minister Firdaus cited the Gambia’s 1997 Constitution, which indeed guarantees free speech and free flow of information, to defend the government’s commitment to those ideals. But it is a well noted fact that the problem of Africa’s democracy is not necessarily constitutional deficiencies; it is mainly the culture of manifest disregard for constitutions. What is the essence of putting clauses in the constitution when they do not hold in reality? What is the essence of one thousand media outfits if they are not free to operate within the limit of their constitutionally guaranteed rights anyway?

And to attribute ‘‘false and defamatory’’ reporting to lack of training on the part of journalists tantamount to self indictment for any responsible government which is committed to its democratic responsibilities. It is a shame that the Gambia government would say so, when it has done all it can to choke any effort to strengthen the press, which include frustrating efforts to creating opportunity for training.

Justice Minister Marie Saine Fredausdenial of Yahya Jammeh’s widely documented alleged pronouncement of the death penalty for human rights defenders also explains her and her government’s bigotry and lack of respect for the free flow of information aspect of the Gambian Constitution, contrary to what she claimed in her report.

In a free society, the first thing the citizens would have expected was official refutation of allegations of such magnitude. But that is not Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia. He feels so condescending that he would not respond; he simply doesn’t care about what the [Gambian] people think. Isn’t that itself a clear indication of the kind of man that is ruling the Gambia? Doesn’t it give an idea about the kind of ‘democracy’ Gambians are enjoying?

So how the independent press in Gambia can be responsible for all this remains unanswered.

How the independent press could provoke the callous acts that resulted in the killing of soldiers alleged to have attempted to remove a government that itself usurped power by the barrel of the gun only God knows; how the independent press could be responsible for the merciless and murderous act of killing dozens of innocent school children who were exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights, demanding justice for the killing of their colleague by demonstrating is also a question worth answering by the Gambian authorities.

Was it also irresponsibility on the part of the independent media when the government that resulted from the illegal military regime unsuccessfully attempted to stifle the press with the introduction of the National Media Commission Bill, 1999 ("NMCB, 1999")? And how does the subsequent murdering of the man who championed the successful fight against that destructive bill, Dayda Hydara, has to do with the ‘‘irresponsibility’’ of the independent media in Gambia?

What about the missing journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh – could he have been engaged in what the government call irresponsible journalism to warrant his arrest and continued detention? And also the opposition UDP supporter, Kanyiba Kanyi - was his kidnapping by armed men the fault of untrained journalists? The ‘witches’ who had witch hunters set upon them, under the watch of Yahya Jammeh’s presidential guards, did that have anything to do with irresponsibility or lack of training on the part of the Gambian media? When the six journalists where arrested was it because of unprofessionalism or the uncanny and irresponsible remark by the president against someone whose death this very government of his virtually stands accused of?

Basically, the focus has always been on the Gambian media because it provides the strongest of challenges to the remaining of Yahya Jammeh’s dwindling influence by revealing the excesses of his government.

When the political opposition in the country showed tangible signs of effectiveness in the embryonic days of the ‘July 22nd Junta’, Lt., later Capt., and then Rt. Col. Yahya Jammeh’s rhetoric used to be directed to ‘unpatriotic groups’ who did not aim well for the country. The unsuspecting Gambian population quickly bought into that, as it were. The result is that even though they were and are still a minority, those who viewed Gambian opposition as enemy, with the aid of the APRC dominated media at the time, succeeded in wrongly portraying a majority view. Coupled with the effect of the internal damage caused by infiltrating destructive elements within the opposition, the likes of Lamin Waa Juwara, as his eventual switch in allegiance suggests, the opposition lost its essence. This left the baton in the hands of the independent media. At least that is what it appeared to be as the government directed every bit of its energy towards undoing the free press, which was clearly the only remaining means for Gambians who shared a divergent view to express themselves. No wonder the Gambian media has become the perceived ‘enemy’ of the Gambian [Yahya Jammeh’s] people.

When a people are confronted by the woes of a government that is on record disregarding the rules it laid down, itself, the only way out of such mess is by ignoring those very rules, because they obviously do not count. That is the situation in Gambia today, and it is the principle by which the truly independent Gambian media, which only exists outside the country, operates.

Just for the record

Make no mistake; Yahya Jammeh very well cares about what the international community feels about his record, contrary to the message his speeches tend to convey. And this explains his attitude towards the independent press which doesn’t appear to be an admirer of his style of governance. Yahya Jammeh also believes in the power of the media in shaping the minds of the masses, and he has made sure of using it much to his advantage. This is a fact the present disorientated opposition doesn’t seem to realize.

I am speaking out of experience. Jammeh detests seeing images of Gambian opposition figures on newspapers, and he has made sure of this, at least, with regards to the state controlled media. You are sure of seeing images of opposition figures on either the Daily Observer or GRTS only when there are bad things to report about them. Jammeh himself make sure of this.

The press, after all, can be fair, depending on the person judging. That is if it toes their line.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Outstanding issues on the El-Faisal saga

Kenya’s amateurish handling of the case of Abdullah El-Faisal, the ‘radical’ Jamaican-born Muslim cleric who has left an awful trail in the wake of his controversial deportation from the country, has highlighted so many facts about Africa.

Firstly, it caught the authorities in the East African nation off guard that someone they wouldn’t have knowingly allowed into their country was already making contact with the section of the population whom he would have goaded; that is, if he actually intended to engage in what the world has come to know him for. As a result, it has not only demonstrated how hastily taken decisions can be counterproductive, but it also showed how ill-prepared and unreliable African countries can be in efforts to counter what appears to be the most pressing of issues in the world at present – the menace of terrorism. Secondly, it has proven that radical measures can force lax countries which have been serving as reservoir of terror, either knowingly or unknowingly, to put their houses in order for the good of the world’s security as we saw in Nigeria. And thirdly, it helped to illustrate how insensitivity and incompetence can cost a whole nation its image, as we saw in Gambia.

The existence of this strange section of the world’s society who would forfeit all life’s worth for some strange imaginary ideologies is as obvious as the existence of life. It is only fitting, therefore, for every rightful thinking persons to be alert about this new, alien and absurd phenomenon of ‘jihad’ they embody, which absolutely has no place in the real teaching of Islam. And in doing so, we must also be cautious enough with regards to the method we employ in order not to stimulate more of existing problem instead of stopping it, again as we saw in Kenya.

Like a young child impulsively responding to a sudden exposure to a burning substance, Kenya just bundled El-Faisal on the next flight to only God knows where. And then Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang, after taking that premature decision, told the whole world that El-Faisal was on his way to Gambia where the authorities had agreed to help him reconnect flight to his native Jamaica.

“As I speak now, he is in Banjul,” Minister Kajwang said. “He requested to be taken there, and after authorities in Gambia agreed to receive him. We did what was required.”

It turned out that Gambia never gave such assurance, nor did any Gambian authority speak to any Kenyan authority. At least that is what we can make out of present information available.

What El-Faisal’s hasty deportation did not cause, his treatment on his ignominious return from Nigeria has caused. But of course the manner of his deportation was bound to inspire that outcome. Maybe the honorable Immigration Minister of Kenya could have done a little better than that. At least this argument will remain so until such a time when Kenya or Mr Kajwang himself could come up with a convincing explanation about what led to El-Faisal’s abortive journey to Gambia, which resulted into the bloodbath that ensued in the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya. And until such a time, we are not likely to figure out yet where the problem lies about how we got to this situation.

And like Kenya, in Gambia also the authorities owe the people some explanation regarding the whole agreement the minister in Kenya alleged. Except something fundamental is wrong with the honorable minister, he couldn’t possibly have attributed Gambia to this El-Faisal saga if there was no prior discussion between both countries. Mr Kajwang’s blaming of the media later for sending out ‘‘alarmist’’ reports that portrayed the religious leader in an “alarmist and negative” way, which he implied caused the Gambian authorities to change their mind, supports this view.

And instead of finding out who gave a word to the Kenyans, the Gambian authorities engaged the ‘‘international media’’, which they blamed for ‘‘tarnishing’’ the image of the country.

One wonders why the Gambian authorities would remain mute all this while as the news of the arrival of an uninvited guest brim over in the ‘‘international media.’’ And until the more serious Nigerians, just recovering from the ‘Christmas Bombing’ experience, returned him without any delay, we would not hear the official press release and condemnatory statement from the Gambian government.

There is every reason to assume that State House in Banjul might have again reminded the ministries concerned what their responsibilities were, which explains the excessively ‘‘patriotic’’ sounded words that dominantly resonated in the unusually lengthy Gambia government press release.

And as part of the damage limitation spree, a rather unhelpful, not-so-well-researched editorial piece by the Daily Observer, captioned: ‘‘Gambia not for terrorist,’’ was published. It is well understandable that the role is to amplify the points of the government, but this, it is also well expected, mustn’t be done in such a way that it accentuates one’s weakness, thereby portraying Gambians in a bad light.

Why attacking the international media when they were only reporting what news makers had said?

It was the Kenyan government through the Immigration Minister which said the Muslim cleric had been deported to Gambia, via Nigeria, which was actually true. The whole world read, listened or watched the story as it was reported. And all this while, the relevant authorities in Banjul, many of them well known for their aloofness to the press, remained tightlipped about the issue, until when Nigeria refused transit visa to El Faisal and they started kicking all over the place for attention. If the concerned government departments meant what they are now trying to make Gambians and the rest of the world believe they should have followed the right diplomatic channel and caution Kenya, but not to stage a fruitless attempt at playing with the intelligence of the world. We never heard any condemnation of the Kenyan minister for unfairly associating Gambia to the whole saga. Could it be that there is some truth in his statement?

‘‘The report by some international media networks about a radical Muslim cleric, who has been linked to terrorism being deported from Kenya to Banjul, without making efforts to authenticate their report from either Kenyan or Gambia government or both shows that these media networks are only hiding behind the tinted glass of journalism to propagate their imperial scheme…’’ Daily Observer, Wednesday, 13th January 2010.

It would have been well acceptable if it’d been meant to say ‘to authenticate the report with the Kenyan government or El Faisal himself’, but certainly not with the Gambia government.

Firstly, it is absurd that we couldn’t just see that it was the Kenyan Immigration minister himself who was quoted. Who else does one find out from in such a case? Secondly, it would have been easier to get to El Faisal himself for authentication of the story than to get any Gambia government official talk on the issue. There is no need for any immediate reference to prove this point.

However, to give an idea about how counterproductive it is that certain people are part of the powers that be in Gambia, I will here highlight how the incompetent and arrogant attitude of one man contributed in putting the Gambia and Gambians in all this stress.

As soon as the news broke that El-Faisal was on his way to Gambia, a particular local reporter who files for an international news agency contacted the press officer at State House in Banjul, Modou Saidy, for clarification on the matter. Saidy characteristically vulgarly dismissed this reporter on figuring out his identity.

Is that the way officials paid by Gambians to serve the people are going to help make a sound Gambia? As a result of Saidy’s insensitivity, it would take a hurriedly prepared joint ministerial press release to clear the country’s image. I can understand the level of animosity between Banjul and media, save for GRTS and Daily Observer. But that issue was way to important to be thrown aside like that. The least Saidy could have done was to take it up with the relevant authorities. I bet he did not do that, else the situation wouldn’t have assumed it final shape.

It is important that the Gambian government mount an investigation to ascertaining who gave a word to Kenya, or if they Kenyan minister was only playing a game with the international media, thereby putting Gambia’s image on the line.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Angola 2010: Who is who?

Soccer has advanced, and so have nations. There is a widely held view that there are no longer any underdogs in soccer. This makes it such a task to predict which two teams will make it to the final of this year's African Nations Cup - Angola 2010. And even more difficult is to say which one will ultimately emerge as the lucky winner. Did I say luck? Well, in a tie that involves giants like Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Morroco, Tunisia and Nigeria, you name them, it is only fit to say that who ever emerges winner is lucky.
But if one must make a single choice, the best bet is certainly one that does not overlook some historical perspective of the various teams. Of course, the teams remain the same by name, but the individual players change with time. Having said that, Egypt, the defendng champions, with a terrific record in the continental tournament, having won it twice more than any other nation, remains a force to be reckoned with. The North Africans' impressive consistency some times tends to be eclypsed by their repeated failure to feature at the world level. Their recent experience in the hands of regional rival, Algeria, is still fresh in the minds of fans, and this makes a rather intimidating group C mate, Nigeria, a possible tormentor for the Phaoraohs, especially in light of the fact that a key figure in the North African side, star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, is unavailable thanks to injuries. And as if to add up to their problems, the Egyptian squad comprises of ageing players who will be sharing the pitch with more younger and formidable players from Nigeria and the other group C teams and most likely outside the group stage. There is an adage in this part of Africa that says ''old cows never waste grass''. That leaves Egypt still a formidable contender for the continental trophy.
Ghana is also a formidable match for Egypt, considering its record. But the conspicuous absence of key experienced player leaves the Black Stars handicapped, very much to the advantage of Ivory Coast, whose last minutes' message has been promising, despite its not-so-good historical record in the torunament. With key players like the striking Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba making headlines in Europe, the Elephants are the second likely to take the trophy back home. Between Egypt and Ivory Coast, well ... its difficult to say, but the Egyptians are more likely to repeat history and clinch the prestigious trophy for the third time in a rowe.
Third and fourth places
Watch out for Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and even Mali, in the knock out stage. It is pointless to stress that Cameroon's miraculous recovery from an ealier poor performance in the embryonic stage of the qualifiers serves as a warning for whoever might be thinking an easy way out of this game. In a group described as favourable for the Indomitable Lions, the Tunisians will only need miracle to pass through.
And the Nigerians' imediate past experience, with the ever compelling pressure from its ever fanatic, eagle-yed fans, will serve as a motivation to see the Supper Eagles through the group stage, and most likely to the third place, facing Cameroon in possible fourth place.

Top goal scorers
The top goal scorers are likely to come from promising teams, since these teams have to buy time, as it were, and create more opportunity for the ambitious goal scorers by prolonging their stay to ensure more goals. But packed with formidable players with terrific records in their club level, it is only fear to say that Angola 2010 CAN is capable of producing any one of the following players as leading goal scorer: Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, Togo's Emmanuel Adebayor, Mali's Fredi Kanoute, Ghana's Michael Essien, Burkina Faso' Moumouni Dagano, with a record performance during the qualifiers, Nigeria's Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Obafemi Martins, Cameroon's Samoel Eto'o, the man with the biggest record of goal scoring throughout the history of the tornament - 16 goals in five tournaments between 2000 and 2008. Therefore, among these, Eto'os stardom makes him an unbeatable scorer in this tournament.
People's choice
Having made quite a mark in the tournament the last time they featured, the mighty Lions of Teranga will surely be missed in Angola, much more so by their ever unforgiving fans here in Senegal. Already the absence of the Teranga Lions is being moaned by the business community here, who are fast runing into loses as their usually highly demanding jerseys aren't selling well. Major markets in Dakar and other major cities in Senegal are presently innundated with vests bearing the names of former heroic lions like the controversial but lovable El-Haj Diof, Henry Camara, and the list goes on and on and on. After all, what is there to celebrate about the fallen lions?
But Senegalese are no good pretenders, you know. Sport, especially football, makes a personate appeal to them. The absence of the Teranga Lions at Angola 2010 does not mean a total disregard for the tournament. In fact, many Senegalese can't wait to see the kick off. And most of those I come across openly discussing the tournament seem to be laying their hopes on Ivory Coast. While majority of these are guided by their shared colonial relation - Ivory Coast being a former French colony like Senegal, there are those who hold a genuine feeling of Elephants' ability to represent the West Africa Region. But there is a substential category of Senegalese who simply don't share that absurd colonial mentality.
They believe that the Supper Eagles of Nigeria have the best record compared to the Ivorians, and that the Nigerians stand a better chance to bring the trophy to the West Side. ''Look at their performance in the campaign during the qualifiers, it was mervelous,'' an avid Senegalese Supper Eagles suppoter remarked.
There are a few other Senegalese who also look forward to Cameroon for a reasonable representation at the CAN 2010.
Generally, however, from the look of things here, we are likely to see the beggest victory party with a victorious Ivory Coast. Only that my own assumption put the defending champions, the North Africans, Egypt, as the favourite. But honestly, I will want to see the Supper Eagles fly high if not for their notoriety for letting their supporters down.My actual favourite, the Supper Eagles

Although we can't possibly totally rule out surprises in this tournament, like in previous ones, with Gabon and Burkina Faso standing the chance of inflicting heartbreaks in Angola, it can only be safe to restrict these teams to the group stage. There is also Malawi, appearing for the second time on the tournament. Their famous home win over African champions, Egypt, is something that should ring a bell.
Although faced with Group B giants in the form of Ivory Coast and Ghana, A little familier Togo is capable of proving for the second time its inclination for surprises, just like it did when it stunned the world by qualifying for the 2006 World Cup finals.
Angola's dismal performance in failing to make it to South Africa 2010 is explicable in their poor show in friendlies in the run up to the CAN 2010. Two wins and seven draws out of ten matches doesn't tell well for a team sharing the same group with giants like Algeria, Mali and Nigeria. But with home support advantage, coupled with the miracule that sometimes characterises occasions like this, Angola might turn out to be the Senegal of 1998, which came from almost nowhere to stunne then European Champions, France; only this time the edge could be from home support.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The beginning of the end

Yahya Jammeh has never been so alienated and frustrated

We are slowly but sorely arriving at the meaning of the recent onslaught that saw the Gambia’s security hierarchy severely bashed, with the ignominious removal of the man everyone would agree was hitherto Yahya Jammeh’s most trusted ally, General Lang Tombong Tamba. At the time of his removal, a number of theories emerged, subsequently overshadowed by the one perpetuated by Yahya Jammeh himself through GRTS, with the help, of course, of his rather subservient dummy, Momodou Sanyang. And it worked, you know. Even if it was for just a short period, as present revelations suggest.
I am not blaming the helpless bully, Sanyang, for this, because anybody else in his place who wants to stay longer, unharmed and without being worried about going through the horror so many well intentioned Gambians have suffered in the hands of Jammeh’s hounding attitude will have to submit nothing short of their integrity to the dictator. But Momodou Sanyang’s incontrovertible penchant to perform according to the wishes of his demigod, which translates in his obstinate willingness to sacrifice the love of even his own family for the company of Yahya Jammeh, which makes it understandable why he is ever willing to sacrifice innocent souls, portrays an altogether loathsome character in his own right. As a result, GRTS has become such a tool for Yahya Jammeh’s mediocre propaganda agenda, targeting the mindset of the masses in such a way that given its calculated unrivalled position in the broadcasting industry in the country, majority of Gambians have no choice but to listen to all the misinformation it continues to pursue. No offence to the many genuine members of staff of GRTS, some of whom I had the honour of working with. We are all just victims of circumstances.
But like I have always held, sooner or latter, we will get to see the truth. Every indication is that the Jammeh media propaganda machinery has failed woefully. The signal we are getting from Banjul strongly suggests, if anything, the beginning of the end of the fascist establishment led by a clearly perturbed, insecure and alienated common dictator. But it might take just some time more before the system ruptures in the faces of all those who fail to pay attention to the imminent wind of change that blows on the direction of Banjul.
But it is also important to understand that Yahya Jammeh views and treats his presidency as divine order, and he will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing, to ensure his stay at the ‘thrown’ until such a time when he will no longer need the seal of the Gambia government to perpetuate his criminal profiteering and terrorist activities in Gambia, around the West Africa region and beyond. But again, if anything, with recent development, it is now clear to all – be you in the security or the civil service - that Jammeh has never been, and he will never ever be the dependable person he has tried by all means to portray himself as. It is now clearer than it has ever been that no matter what you do for the man, you can’t be saved from his treacherous claws when he can no longer restrain his despicable urge for betrayal. Thankfully, this is an underlying reality that seems to have sunk in the brains of some section of Gambia’s security establishment.
General Tamba’s removal, for instance, has never been the result of alleged poor living condition of security personnel, contrary to the pack of lies Jammeh single-handedly perpetuated under the nose of the generally weakened media in Gambia. If so why was IGP Ensa Badjie, Jammeh’s present preferential puppet within the country’s security establishment, spared? We all heard the same Yahya Jammeh condemning the situation under which the police at the Police Line in Banjul lived. What made the police so different from the military that the only way Jammeh could possibly demonstrate his anger was by subjecting the guy who rescued his dented pride from the hands of a more sober Colonel Ndure Cham to such a miserable situation?
And if the problem with General Tamba had been financial malpractice, as has been rumoured in some other quarters [and Yahya Jammeh and Momodou Sanyang tacitly encouraged that by their uncouth failure to come out and give Gambians a convincing reason for that absurd performance of the president against Tamba], the General certainly would have been arraigned just like the way Colonel Gibril Bojang, who allegedly squandered state money illegally allocated for use on Jammeh’s personal business, was dealt with.
The simply fact is that Yahya Jammeh lost every reason to rely on his once trusted security ally, and for failure of any genuine reason to get rid of him, he came up with the petty charge of soldiers’ bad living condition. Was that the first time Jammeh was getting in close contact with Gambian soldiers to allow him get first hand information on their living condition? If so then he has more to answer for as the self-styled minister of Defence than the sacked General. Of course, there have been so many reasons for soldiers to complain about, and Jammeh is very well aware of all of these. Take for instance selection of personnel for peace keeping missions in war-turn regions and also how their remuneration is handled. The corrupt practices of the security chiefs in this area are well known to Jammeh. If he actually cares about the men, he can intervene in that area.
Having stripped the general out of fear, Jammeh remained uncomfortable with him around, freely moving about. Realising the miscalculated move of humiliating so influential a person who probably commands more respect within the security of present day Gambia than him, and weighing the dangers associated with such a foolish move, Jammeh is forced to cook something against his former protégée.
But come to think about it, isn’t General Tamba’s treatment enough of a wake up call for the already traumatised security establishment in Gambia? Isn’t this a worrying phenomenon that it never does matter what one’s rank, political, tribal or religious affiliation is, it could be just a matter of time before you are framed by some one you are a threat to and face the wrath of Jammeh’s insidious demeanour? Even if you are a private officer, when you get commissioned some day and excel in your area, you will attract the invidious side of Yahya Jammeh. Aren’t these enough reasons to have our securities thinking of a way out of this mess?
If anything, reports of arrests of people like the notorious Bombarde and Amadou Samba of all people confirms the state of mistrust that currently wrecks Jammeh’s clearly handicapped government. Every well informed Gambian knows what Amadou Smabda means for Yahya Jammeh in the business world. But Jammeh fails to come to terms with the fact that Mr Samba’s trademark is business … and Jammeh’s blatant disregard for the country’s constitution, which has allowed him to usurp authority in every sector of the country’s business community, has turned him into a corporate opponent of Amadou Samba. There is so much at stake with any possible drastic action against Samba. But let’s cross our fingers and see what comes out of his latest arrest.
By the way, for those of you who have been yarning for convincing evidence of the ownership of the Daily Observer, this is a good time to read between the lines. If Amadou Samba actually owns the newspaper, you would expect it to cover his arrest. But I assure you, you will never see that, because Amadou Samba certainly does not own the Daily Observer; Yahya Jammeh does.
While these arrests will certainly not be welcoming experience for relatives of the detainees, it reveals to the world how oppressed and dissatisfied even those within Jammeh’s inner circle are, in spite of the wrong impression that is being given by the few who hide behind the freedom their man, Jammeh, denies his people back home, which they utilise to misinform the outside world.
The prevailing situation in Gambia has exposed Jammeh’s loosed grip on power. He clearly no longer knows who to trust and who not to trust. Within few months the heads of the three most important security units in the country were either removed or questioned. This clearly suggests nothing less than mistrust between Jammeh and his supposedly trusted allies. Who else does the dictator trust? Yahya Jammeh has never appeared so alienated. Certainly he is on the verge of ruining himself, making it easy for Gambians to reach our long standing goal – his removal and subsequent trial, alongside his closest accomplices in the hate and financial crimes they have committed against Gambians.
As a leader, the danger of surrounding oneself with a pack of uninformed, greedy buffoons is that they wreck your reign with acts of selfish in fights that only rain misery on the masses. People like Momodou Sanyang will do everything to undo innocent and more productive Gambians, while protecting his own thieving son, who now reigns over the Gambia’s US mission, the son who consciously commits financial crimes in connivance with Yahya Jammeh.
These might not be new information, but they serve as strong reminder for the world to know how Yahya Jammeh, thanks to his total incompetence and disregard for wisdom, has been governing the Gambia. You can not defend a judicial system under which big criminals like Lamin Sibi Sanyang are pardoned and less important once like Col. Gibril Bojang get such phoney trials and sentencing. Why would anyone have respect for a leader who imposes himself on those he leads, treating them with such loathsome indifference and disrespect? Why would I respect a leader who shamelessly lies without looking back for a single moment?
And to those who bask in the spoil of such a vicious system, when the inevitable change occurs in Gambia, which by all indication is right at the corner, none of you who have caused innocent Gambians to suffer will be spared by an acceptable justice system.
Let the government in waiting take note of this, because if they too fail to bring a much needed justice for Gambians in the event of a change, they shall be judged by the prevailing situation.
If we must make true our desired dreams for the benefit of our subsequent generations, we must as well learn to hold our leaders responsible. Re-institution of sanity in the justice system of the Gambia must go alongside subjecting Jammeh and his criminal cronies to justice. They must answer for what they have and continue to cause Gambians. If your hands are cleaned, you have nothing to worry about. Rest assured.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Commonwealth SG says Gambia is under investigation

Commonwealth S G

The secretary General of the Commonwealth has reassured human rights groups and individuals concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Gambia that the country is under investigation for death threats made by its leader, Yahya Jammeh. Kamalesh Sharma made this revelation at a news conference, Thursday, on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

Yahya Jammeh has been under pressure to withdraw what seemed to be his most widely condemned statement, made last September, in which he threatened to kill people who identifies with human rights defenders ‘‘to destabilize my country.’’ Jammeh remains characteristically defiant against the overwhelming outpour of international outcry that continues to put Gambia constantly on the spotlight for the wrong reason.

Kamalesh Sharma told journalists at the International Financial Centre in Port-of-Spain that respect for human rights is a core value of the Commonwealth. “I would like to say that we are in discussion with the Gambian side and that discussion continues,” the Trinidad and Tobago’s Thisday Newspaper quoted him. Secretary General Sharma’s statement came after a controversial statement by the incoming Commonwealth chairman, Trinidadian prime Minister Patrick Manning, who sought to relegate the Gambian issue to a domestic matter that needed not be discussed at the CHOGM.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago announced Jammeh’s eventual absence at the CHOGM earlier, after coming under intense pressure from human rights organisations in India and Trinidad and Tobago who demanded that the Gambian dictator be banned from attending the summit of the former British colonies, which commences Friday, 27 November, 2009.

After bowing out, apparently for fear of what he might meet ahead of him, coupled with fears of his possible overthrow amid intense speculation of coup plot at home, Jammeh is reportedly been represented at the CHOGM by Foreign Affairs Minister Ousman Jammeh.

Gambia is on the spotlight alongside Uganda, whose government proved difficult to yield to pressure to abandon a ridiculous Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 which is currently before the Ugandan parliament. This law effectively calls for the killing of HIV/AIDS infected gays and lesbians. This similarity in disregard for human rights in both Gambia and Uganda apparently explains why President Yoweri Museveni, who is the outgoing chairman of the Commonwealth, has been particularly apathetic to calls for action against his Gambian counterpart.

Museveni is expected to officially handover chairmanship of the Commonwealth to Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, who has himself wasted no time in identifying with the reproachful trend of indifference to human rights violations by tyrannical governments like those of Uganda and Gambia.

“The statement of the [Gambian] president essentially related to domestic matters in Gambia. They will not form part of the agenda at CHOGM,” Patrick Manning told the press briefing on Thursday, much to the obvious disapproval of human rights bodies and concerned individuals.

Commonwealth Secretary General Sharma’s statement of assurance is seen as a Cushion, aimed at dispelling reasons for fear and more uproar by a seemingly unrelenting force against human rights violators.

Sharma told reporters that the Commonwealth is in the process of strengthening and expanding its various institutions.
"A lot of Commonwealth voices have been raised," he said. "But one point is clear: Respect for human rights is a core value. We are in discussion with the Gambian side. As far as Uganda is concerned, this is before their parliament and I'm hopeful that the various voices raised when this is debated will bring forward all the issues of discrimination and vulnerability."

At least Sharma’s statement serves as source of encouragement for
Caribbean Centre for Human Rights executive director, Diana Mahabir Wyatt, who reportedly disputed Manning’s view on the matter. She said that they were “in contravention of the Harare Declaration” upon which the Commonwealth was founded.

Maja Daruwala, executive director of the India-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, described the Trinidadian prime minister’s statement as misguided.

"It's a great pity that the leader of a country with a good record on human rights would miss the opportunity to show real leadership," she was quoted by the Ottawa Citizen.

"As the new chairman of the Commonwealth,’’ she added, ‘‘he [Prime Minister Patrick Manning] has failed an early test. It is not only disappointing but against all Commonwealth principles. He is dismissing the cries of ordinary citizens who are asking their leaders for basic human rights."

To add on this, another voice critical of the unresponsive view of the Trinidadian prime minister, Royal Commonwealth Society director Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, whose group is said to have released a critical report about effectiveness of the Commonwealth, said he was shocked by Manning's remarks.

"The Commonwealth is about shared values and principles everyone has signed on to," Director Sriskandarajah said, "so if they can't be discussed here, then where? If a member state falls short you either help them or sanction them in some way. If the Commonwealth stops being about that, we've lost another leg of the Commonwealth stool."