The Gambia

Gambians demand 'crusade' to name streets

Ade Daramy

Letter from Africa, The Gambia

I had little idea that my Letter from Africa on the hundreds, possibly thousands, of nameless streets in The Gambia would cause such interest and laughter here for those dealing with the headaches of trying to give directions or find addresses without street names or numbered houses.

This was the drawing I had included in the piece of how Gambians are often expected to draw their address on official forms:

A drawing of a map to an address on an official form in The Gambia

Since its publication on Monday, people have been recalling myriad ways used to direct friends to meet them at home for the first time. In one case, the awkward situation of navigating their way to go to a girlfriend’s house and how to call a house phone to say they were lost, only to have one of the parents pick up.

I have even heard from police sources that many people over the years may have been refused bail, even when it was appropriate, because they had no “proper addresses” to which suspects could be released by the courts.

But it seems change may be afoot. Some have been in touch to ask if the piece could prompt a “crusade” (to use their word) to address the situation.

One idea has included a competition for schools to take part in “street-naming” in their local areas, in tandem with local and central government.

Even someone who worked for Google Maps has made contact. He was asking if there was any way his work might help in addressing the situation. I put a counter-suggestion to him, asking whether the internet giant might assist in paying for the actual signs if the streets do get names.

Jammeh 'stole $360m from The Gambia'

Yahya Jammeh getting on a plane
Getty Images
Yahya Jammeh was forced from power after he refused to accept the results of the December 2016 election

Gambia's former President Yahya Jammeh stole $362m (£278m) during his 22 years in power, Reuters news agency reports quoting the justice minister.

Abubacarr Tambadou has been speaking to reporters about the conclusions of an investigation that involved speaking to 253 witnesses.

"This is a staggering amount of money that could have had significant impact on the lives of the ordinary people of this country," Reuters quotes Mr Tambadou as saying

"Instead, it was money used to satisfy the pretentious and delusional lifestyle of an egotistic megalomaniac, acts that were both unconscionable and criminal."

Mr Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 but was forced out in 2017 after refusing to accept that he had lost an election to Adama Barrow.

He is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea and has not commented on the allegations.

Earlier in the week, a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said the former president had stolen nearly $1bn of public funds.

Ex-Gambian president stole $1bn, report says

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh "orchestrated the embezzlement of nearly $1bn (£762m) of public funds", a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) claims.

Mr Jammeh, currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea, has not responded to the allegations, the OCCRP says.

The team of investigative reporters say they reviewed thousands of documents from the course of Mr Jammeh's 22-year rule, which ended in 2017 after little-known presidential challenger Adama Barrow defeated him at the polls.

Gambia's Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou had already accused Mr Jammeh of unlawfully withdrawing $50m from state funds over a 10-year period.

But the OCCRP say the total figure is much higher.

One of the journalists involved, Mark Anderson, spoke to BBC Newsday's James Copnall about the findings:

Earlier estimates put the amount close to $50m but a new report says it could be much more

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Gambia torture hearings start

We are taking a moment to look at what is happening in the rest of the continent, aside from Gabon.

In The Gambia hearings that intend to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed during the 22-year regime of former President Yahya Jammeh have begun.

The exact numbers of people killed or tortured are yet unknown. The 11-member panel hopes to document the scale of the abuses by October 2020.

The hearings are being broadcast live on Facebook:

View more on facebook

More than 1,000 witnesses are expected to testify. Among them are journalists, campaigners, and politicians who criticised Mr Jammeh's rule.

Just wearing a T-shirt calling for democracy was enough to incur the wrath of Mr Jammeh, leading to arbitrary detentions, often without trial, and sometimes death and disappearances.

But in January 2017, under a regionally brokered deal, Mr Jammeh was forced into exile after losing elections.

He went to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea where not much has been heard from him since.

However a recent video surfaced in which he appears to be dancing at an official function with his host, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. This has led to renewed calls for his extradition to The Gambia to face trial.

Fifa bans The Gambia's ex-football boss

A former head of football in The Gambia, Seedy Kinteh, has been given a four-year ban from the sport by Fifa.

World football's governing body said its ethics committee had found him guilty of corruption.

He was also fined $200,000 (£160,000).

An investigation found that he'd accepted cash from Mohamed bin Hammam, who has been banned from football for life.