Monday, February 20, 2017

Gambia's new president pledges fresh start, economic reform

Gambia's President Adama Barrow vowed on Saturday to revive the country's faltering economy with sweeping reforms as he sought to draw a line under the erratic 22-year rule of his predecessor.

Barrow was sworn into office a month ago during a brief exile in Senegal as Yahya Jammeh refused to accept his defeat in a December election. Jammeh fled into exile days later as troops from West African countries prepared to enter the capital and force him to go.

Saturday's inauguration event at the national stadium was ceremonial, timed to coincide with the date that Gambia won independence from colonial master Britain in 1965.

Tens of thousands of Gambians gathered at the stadium to watch military marches and brass bands performing before a giant banner reading #GambiaHasDecided, the slogan of a campaign to persuade Jammeh to accept defeat.

"Few people would have thought that I'd be standing here today," Barrow said, wearing a traditional flowing white robe with gold trim.

"For 22 years, the Gambian people yearned to live in a country where our diverse tribes will be bridged by tolerance and our determination to work together for the common good," he said. "One Gambia, one nation, one people."

Barrow, 51, now faces the task of lifting the tiny nation -- which straddles the banks of a West African river -- out of grinding poverty, in part a consequence of Jammeh's volatile rule during which thousands of dissenters were jailed and scores of businesses expropriated.

"We have inherited an economy in decline," Barrow said

He pledged to introduce free primary education, which is guaranteed by the constitution but was not implemented during Jammeh's rule.

Gambia's economy depends on exports of groundnuts from small-scale farming and on the hard currency brought in by thousands of tourists drawn to its sun, white sandy beaches and lively resorts.

Barrow said his government would start work immediately to encourage investment in other sectors such as technology.

He also pledged to re-build institutions that had been hollowed out under Jammeh. During his rule, Gambia's supreme court judges fled the country and the press was muzzled.

Jammeh's cruel and eccentric antics often made headlines, such as when he vowed to rule for "a billion years" and threatened to slit the throats of homosexuals.

Barrow, in contrast, is nicknamed "no drama Adama" because of his calm quietness.

A self-made real estate developer who once worked at an Argos department store in London, he is softly spoken and plans to reverse Jammeh's more capricious acts, such as a letter withdrawing from the International Criminal Court.



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Zimbabwe's Mugabe says he is people's choice for 2018 election.

Zimbabwe's people and the ruling ZANU-PF party see no viable alternative candidate to President Robert Mugabe for general elections in 2018, state media quoted him as saying on Sunday.

"They want me to stand for elections, they want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party ... The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am," he said in comments to state media ahead of his 93rd birthday this coming week.

"The people, you know, would want to judge everyone else on the basis of President Mugabe as the criteria," Mugabe, who is Africa's oldest leader, said.

Mugabe has been in power in the southern African country since 1980 and in December his party confirmed him as its candidate for the next presidential election expected in mid-2018, when he will be 94.

"Of course if I feel that I can't do it any more, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can’t say so," Mugabe said.

Mugabe, known for his combative style, said he agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump's "America for America" approach.

"When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans - on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans," he said.

The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper, which published the comments, said he added Trump might review the sanctions imposed on Mugabe and members of his inner circle by Washington in 2003 over alleged rights violations. The sanctions were extended by the Obama administration.  

No reason was given as to why Mugabe felt Trump might re-examine sanctions and his direct comments on the matter were not published.

But Mugabe said he had not wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 White House election because "I knew she could slap sanctions on us as a legacy."

"We are just now under sanctions imposed not by Donald Trump, but by Obama. What arrogance is that?" Mugabe was quoted as saying.

The comments were published in advance of the full broadcast of the interview on state-run TV on Monday and Tuesday.

Critics accuse Mugabe of wrecking one of Africa's most promising economies through policies such as violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms and money printing. He and his party say the economy has been undermined by western powers.



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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

UK's Johnson says Gambia to rejoin Commonwealth 'as soon as possible'

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Gambia, which is seeking to emerge from more than two decades of authoritarian rule, would be readmitted "as fast as possible" to the Commonwealth, a body whose African members he once maligned.

Longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled since seizing power in 1994, fled Gambia last month after regional militaries launched an operation to remove him.

In 2013, the mercurial former coup leader pulled his tiny West African nation out of the Commonwealth, the grouping including Britain and most of its former colonies, branding it a "neo-colonial institution."

Johnson met with Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, who won a Dec. 1 election that Jammeh rejected, on the first leg of his maiden trip to Africa, a continent where he has been accused of racial insensitivity in his previous career as a journalist.

"We are going to admit them as fast as possible. Last night I talked to the Commonwealth secretary general, and she is determined to speed it up and get it done as soon as possible," Johnson told reporters after the meeting.

Barrow is attempting to reverse many of Jammeh's most controversial decisions and is also planning to stop Gambia's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

"We welcome any effort being made by the newly democratically elected government of The Gambia to try to re-join the Commonwealth," the body said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Should it decide to apply, we have formal processes which have to be undertaken and membership agreed by the 52 heads of government," the Commonwealth said.

Before becoming Britain's foreign minister, Johnson was known for his often abrasive writing as a newspaper columnist. In a 2002 article in The Telegraph criticising a trip by then Prime Minister Tony Blair to Congo, he employed a racially charged term to describe the Commonwealth's African members.

"It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies," Johnson wrote.

He apologised for the language while running for mayor of London six years later.

Johnson continues his Africa tour in Ghana on Wednesday.






'We welcome Gambia's efforts to rejoin' - Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Secretariat has reiterated its stance that its doors are wide open and it is ready to re-admit The Gambia back into the fold.

A statement released on Tuesday (February 14) quoted a spokesperson as saying, ‘‘We welcome any effort being made by the newly democratically elected government of The Gambia to try to re-join the Commonwealth.’‘

The statement follows a visit to the West African country by the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who held talks with the Gambian President Adama Barrow.

Ahead of the trip, Johnson was quoted to have said, ‘‘I am also very pleased that Gambia wants to rejoin the Commonwealth and we will ensure this happens in the coming months.’‘

The Commonwealth, however, clarified that should The Gambia apply to rejoin, there were formal processes which have to be undertaken and membership agreed by the 52 heads of government.

“When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, the heads of government, meeting in Colombo in Sri Lanka that year, noted its decision with regret. We looked forward to the country’s eventual return because it was part of our very close knit family and our doors have always remained open,” the statement concluded.

Exiled President Yahya Jammeh led the Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, The decision to quit the United Kingdom’s league of nations was because Jammeh’s Gambia was not going to be part of any neo-colonial institution.

Subsequently, Jammeh declared the country an Islamic republic in December 2015 as part of efforts to distance it from its colonial past. Jammeh came to power through a bloodless coup in 1994, he was elected in 1996 and reelected continuously in 2001, 2006 and 2011.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of more than 50 independent and sovereign states. Our countries span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific and are diverse – they are amongst the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries.

Thirty-one of our members are classified as small states – countries with a population size of 1.5 million people or less and larger member states that share similar characteristics with them. Africa has the highest representation with 18 countries. The Gambia will become the nineteenth upon readmission.







Zuma to Begin Presidential Campaign for His Ex-Wife to Replace Him

It was reported last month that President Jacob Zuma will be endorsing his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma following his assertion that he wouldn’t be vying for a third term, and that his political party is ready for a woman President.

Now the South African President has decided to start campaigning in support of his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the next president to take over from him in 2019.

According to reports from sources within his political party, President Jacob Zuma summoned KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson, Sihle Zikalala to inquire why the province is yet to start drumming up support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the next president.

After much deliberation, a source said: ' Zuma told Zikalala to go do the work that is expected of him.'