drc arlord jailed for 14 years

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Thomas Lubanga

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday sentenced a former Congolese warlord to 14 years in prison after he was found guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Forces Patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC) militia.

In March this year, the court found Thomas Lubanga, the commander-in-chief of the FPLC, also guilty of using children to participate in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern Ituri region between September 2002 and August 2003.

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the day is here again

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Chief Manneh disappears 6 years ago

They have come and gone all year around! I mean the days that leave Gambians reeling with agony, insecurity, uncertainty and so many unanswered questions.

The days that shatter innocent families’ hopes, steal their lovely breadwinners, some of them expecting to marry and reproduce so their image will remain when they join ancestors. These are the days that water down the dreams of patriotic and hardworking Gambians, including brothers and sisters fighting to give voice to voiceless communities. Their high level of patriotism pushes them to surrender their entire heart and mind to their country’s service. In so doing, most of them sacrifice their personal goals.

These sacrificial lambs will never shy away to hold the sword and fight for their motherland when the need arises. God creates them to add value or meaning to lives, which is why communities are devastated by their disappearance or death, usually in mysterious circumstances, for crossing the lines of the powers-that-be. The fact of the matter is that these gallant sons and daughters are fixed in all walks of life. Many more emerge when one dies or disappears.

Yes, July 7th is one of these terrible days – a day that demeans our noble profession and changes its color forever. The day gives us “kidnapping, disappearance and missing.” Yes, we feed on words and use them in whatever way possible; they are our arms and ammunition or better put it tools of our trade. But until the Chief Ebrima Manneh debacle, Gambian pen pushers hardly use the three above words in their day-to-day assignments.

The Gambia government’s naked lies about Chief’s disappearance and unwillingness to investigate Deyda Hydara’s callous murder are both demeaning and insulting to our profession, replacing our passion with sorrow and our hopes with despair.

We are still struggling to stomach what these days have brought to us. The days are devastating in magnitude for journalists in a country with little past problems. Who does not remember the belabored “Gambia no problem” slogan? This phrase belongs to the sweet days of Papa Jawara when we would swim in the pool of freedom and go to bed with hope and certainty of not being harmed for calling spade a spade.

Of course, this does not mean Papa Jawara’s regime has not bumped on our rights. I respect the ousted Jawara regime for not creating families like those of Chief Manneh and Deyda Hydara who are left to chase the air, in search of answers about how and why their loved ones disappeared or murdered.

In reality, our military-turned-civilian regime contains bunch of cowards who do not muster the courage to tell us what happens to those they have arrested. How long do we have to ride with a system in which no one dares tell the truth?

Exactly six years ago, Chief Manneh was arrested in the presence of his Daily Observer colleagues yet the government is diving around the simple truth.

We are desperately waiting for a day when truth will shine over falsehood. This day will reveal the skeleton hidden in our government’s cupboard. It might take some time but we will get there. Until then, our heart of sympathy goes to all the families coping with fear, uncertainty and shattered hopes. Your tears will not surely be wasted!

Musa writes this for http://www.kibaaro.com.

gambia’s army chief removed

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Lt. General Masaneh Kinteh

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has removed the army Chief of Staff Lt. General Masaneh Kinteh from office. Lt. General Kinteh has been sent on diplomatic assignment.

General Ousman Badjie, a brother to the Gambia’s convicted Inspector General of Police, Ensa Badjie, has replaced Mr. Kinteh. Former IGP Badjie is currently serving multiple prisons terms, including two life in jail for robbery and other related crimes.

No reasons have been advanced for Lt. General’s abrupt removal on Friday.

Kinteh, a native of Sankwia in Western Jarra, replaced Major General Lang Tombong Tamba who was sentenced to death together with six others. Major General Tamba, once a trusted ally of President Jammeh, was dismissed together with Major Bore Badjie, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Major General Demba Njie and Captain Lamin Fatty.

Lt. General Kinteh, an elite soldier who bags masters degree in United Kingdom, was appointed in October 2009. President Jammeh also appointed General Yankuba Drammeh as the deputy Chief of Staff at the time. Mr. Drammeh was soon arrested, allegedly tortured and later recycled into the foreign affairs ministry. He is currently serving in the diplomatic service.

Courtesy of http://www.kibaaro.com

bensouda assures fair tribunal

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Unlike her predecessor who was accused of targeting only Africans, the new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said she will be a prosecutor for all the 121 state parties during her nine-year tenure in office.

Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian legal luminary, took oath of office as the new ICC prosecutor on Friday at a brief ceremony in The Hague. Before taking over from Luis Morenco-Ocampo, Bensouda was a deputy prosecutor at the ICC.

“I Fatou Bensouda, solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, honourably, faithfully impartially and conscientiously,” she said, vowing to be guided by the Rome Statute that established the ICC instead of bowing to pressure from suspects.

“In serving justice,” she said, “we should not be swayed by the propaganda of the few criminals but the millions. First and foremost, my thoughts are with our four colleagues currently detained in Libya,” she said, referring to the ICC staff currently being detained in Libya.

“I am humbled by the privileged responsibility that the state parties have bestowed on me. I am also thankful to the

African Union for supporting my candidature which shows that they are committed to fighting impunity,” she said.
She described the African Union’s support for her candidacy as a sign of their commitment to ending impunity.
The newly-sworn prosecutor said her office “will continue to work with other partners namely other offices of ICC, rights groups and the state parties.”

Bensouda’s office is expected to deal with 14 cases, including two Kenya’s post-election violence and preliminary investigation initiated by Mr. Ocampo who managed to secure only a single verdict.

mathew heads gpu-usa

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Following elections late Sunday afternoon, the US-based unit of the Gambia Press Union has elected writer Mathew K. Jallow as its new secretary general. He will head a newly-elected executive which include his deputy Yankuba Jambang, the editor and publisher of the SENEGAMBIA NEWS and a former reporter with a number of newspapers in The Gambia, public relations officer Musa Saidykahn, a former editor-in-chief of the defunct Gambian Independent, treasurer Pa Ousman Darboe, formerly Daily Observer news editor and honorary member Christine Sukuna, an ardent supporter of Gambian causes.

Both the former secretary general and former public relations officer of the GPU-USA Demba Baldeh and Cherno Baba Jallow respectively, congratulated the members of the new executive on their new roles. They thanked their successors for accepting the mandate to conduct the business of the Union for the next two years. “I will be a resource to you at all times,” Mr. Baldeh assured his successor, stressing that he will still be a dedicated member of the Union. “I will still be attending meetings.”

Mathew K. Jallow said he was very pleased with the way the elections were conducted. “There was no acrimony,” he observed, identifying that a few years back, a “tiff” within the media fraternity had roiled relations within the Union. “But that’s all history now,” he enthused. Mr. Jallow said it was a big challenge for his team to fill in the shoes of its predecessor. He thanked them for the hard work and constancy in elevating the status of the GPU-USA and making it more relevant to the situation of the Gambian press. Mr. Jallow said that he and his team would hit the ground running with a program of action for next year. He revealed that he would, among other areas, work towards launching a website for the Union, amalgamate the operations of the GPU-USA with those of its counterpart in the UK and kick off a donation solicitation first starting with the members of the Union.

A prolific and prodigious writer, Mathew became, at various times, a reporter, a writer, an editor, a columnist for the Gambian Daily Observer. From the early to the mid 1990s, Mathew, with an eye on human-interest stories and shifting patterns of culture, wrote numerous features, and opinions in his ‘The Way We Live’ weekly column, for the Observer. Among his notable works for the Gambian daily, include a harrowing, descriptive account of a family tragedy in Bundung, Serekunda, where a family member shot and killed several members of his kin in the early 1990s and a reporter’s crusade on behalf of one young Olimata, who badly needed overseas medical attention for a very serious illness.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Mathew K. Jallow is a native of Sare Gainako, Niamina, Central River Region.

From the GPU-USA:

Cherno Baba Jallow, outgoing Public Relations Officer
Demba Baldeh, outgoing Secretary General

diners hear refugee’s ordeal

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Gambian journalist, Musa Saidykhan, shared his horror story with hundreds of diners at the Bethany’s second annual dinner held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday. With the help of Bethany, Mr. Saidykhan and family were resettled in Michigan in November 2008. Find below his speech below:

I am grateful to Bethany and its army of volunteers for throwing their full weight behind my family as soon we landed in United States. Bethany makes our resettlement process smooth by providing services and networking us with agencies and volunteers. This empowers us with the spirit of practical independence and lifetime relationships.  

 Your support, love and compassion have turned our fears, horrors and sadness into moments of happiness, courage and hope. May God bless all those who support refugees, God’s own family. Every refugee has a heart-breaking story to tell.  

My story is a combination of horror, faith, hope, and strength. This is a story that has been told countless times – in bus stations, workplaces, on the streets,   chatrooms, conferences, courts – everywhere.    

It started with my brush with a dictatorial regime of the Gambia that illegally arrested, detained and tortured me for serving a news-hungry population, correcting injustices and challenging the power of incumbency at home. I became a thorn in the dictator’s flesh when I was appointed editor of The Independent, a bi-weekly newspaper known for maintaining strong and vibrant editorial independence.

I used my position to defend human rights in the Gambia. In the process I used every available means and chances. I spoke at conferences, took part in peaceful protests and issued petition to people who matter, including presidents. Any time I was arrested, the dictator would be inundated with international protest calls and emails. But he wouldn’t be at peace with himself until he nailed me down, and was waiting for a perfect time to do so. Then a so-called coup d’état was reportedly foiled on March 21st, 2006. This gave him the chance to lay hands on all his perceived enemies, including me. His regime’s plans to frame me up had woefully failed. The horrendous tortures had left scars all over my body and a broken hand. I was released without charge following widespread international pressures and threats from Thabo Mbeki, former South African President.

All the doctors I had approached refused to examine me, let alone treat me. One doctor gave me painkillers and asked me to leave for fear of being witch-hunted. For security and medical reasons, I fled with my pregnant wife three weeks later to Dakar, Senegal, where we spent two and a half years, amid insecurity and nostalgia. Due to security threats, we had to move five times. Both Senegal and UNHCR became concerned about our safety, and recommended our resettlement to the United States. My life in exile was well spent; I worked full-time and read French. 

Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. It was a painful decision for me to leave behind my country, family, friends, home, lifestyle, tradition and culture and fled into exile. Every part of my body, including my bones, felt the pains. Equally striking for me was to leave my beloved editorial desk in the hands of perpetrators without completing my mission. The dictator’s security machinery was in motion to eliminate me thus cutting my mission short.

Many people have been asking me one common question: “what kept you in tact?” I have gone through many challenging experiences in my life. But I don’t allow any of them to own or manage me. I am a conqueror who is always determined to conquer with the power of faith and courage. Whatever difficult situation I battled, my dreams kept telling me that I had a future. If I lose my dreams, I’ll surely be a goner. 

u.s. forces kill osama bin laden

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(CNN)The mastermind of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil is dead, U.S. President Barack Obama announced late Sunday night, almost 10 years after the attacks that killed about 3,000 people.

Osama bin Laden — the founder and leader of al Qaeda — was killed by U.S. forces Sunday in a mansion in Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, along with other family members, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

In an address to the nation Sunday night, Obama called bin Laden’s death “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.”

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Obama said. “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”

A congressional source familiar with the operation confirmed that bin Laden was shot in the head.

Footage that aired on CNN affiliate GEO TV on Monday showed fire and smoke spewing from the compound where bin Laden was killed.

Half a world away, the scene outside the White House was of pure jubilation.

Hundreds reveled through the night, chanting “USA! USA!”  Others chanted “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!” in reference to the demise of bin Laden.  Many also spontaneously sang the national anthem.

The news also brought some relief to family members of those killed on 9/11.

“This is important news for us, and for the world. It cannot ease our pain, or bring back our loved ones,” Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93, said in a statement. “It does bring a measure of comfort that the mastermind of the September 11th tragedy and the face of global terror can no longer spread his evil.”

“This welcome news is a credit to our intelligence efforts and brings to justice the architect of the attacks on our country that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, in a statement issued Sunday night.

Bin Laden eluded capture for years, once reportedly slipping out of a training camp in Afghanistan just hours before a barrage of U.S. cruise missiles destroyed it.

He had been implicated in a series of deadly, high-profile attacks that had grown in their intensity and success during the 1990s.  They included a deadly firefight with U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 in August 1998, and an attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.

In his speech, Obama reiterated that the United States is not at war with Islam.

“I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, released a statement  Monday morning welcoming the death of bin Laden.

“As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide,” the statement said. “We also reiterate President Obama’s clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam.”

U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world were placed on high alert following the announcement of bin Laden’s death, a senior U.S. official said, and the U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” for Americans.  The travel alert warned of the “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity  in Pakistan.”  Some fear al Qaeda supporters may try to retaliate against U.S. citizens or U.S. institutions.

But for now, many Americans were soaking up the historic moment.

“It’s what the world needed,” said Dustin Swensson, who recently served in Iraq and joined the revelers outside the White House. “(I’ll) always remember where I was when the towers went down, and I’m always going to remember where I am now.”

source: www.cnn.com