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Between Pa Njie ‘Girigara’ and Ousainu Darboe: Who is telling the truth?

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By Salmina Fatajo

In the Friday 25th March edition of The Bantaba column in The Standard, I read an interesting question-and-answer interview conducted by reporter Alagie Manneh with Alhaji Ousainu Darboe, secretary general and party leader of the United Democratic Party.

It is an excellent interview and I congratulate Mr Manneh and The Standard. The interview showed that Mr Manneh understands issues and Mr Darboe did not disappoint with his forthright and generous answers.

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I was particularly pleased that Mr Manneh asked the UDP leader to respond to claims made by Pa Dawda Njie alias ‘Girigara’ because since Mr Njie made his allegations almost a year ago, Mr Darboe had not definitively responded to them anywhere. Mr Njie’s allegations were serious and grave and if true they would demonstrate that Mr Darboe is corrupt like the NPP politicians he is always accusing of widespread graft.

The accusation

On 15th June 2021, I read the article quoted below on the Barrow Media Empowerment Facebook and also on Freedom online newspaper:

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“Hours after President Adama Barrow has accused the leadership of the opposition United Democratic Party of selling out to some businessmen by promising them ministerial positions if they should win the presidency, businessman Pa Njie Girigara, has added his weight to the president’s claims. Girigara told the Freedom Newspaper that Ousainu Darboe offered him himself a ministerial post back in 2011. Darboe, he said, had asked him to provide a one million dalasi election campaign fund for the UDP, with the promise of hiring him as information minister if he wins that election. Girigara said he agreed and provided the one million dalasis to the UDP leader. However, according to Girigara, he wasn’t interested in becoming an information minister in a UDP government. He added that despite his unwillingness to accept Darboe’s quid pro quo offer, he was told by Darboe to find a person of his choice to man that important portfolio.  

According to Mr Girigara, Darboe did not stop at selling a ministerial position to him, he even made a written undertaking in the presence of the former UDP administrative secretary Ebou Manneh, “promising that he would appoint Pa Njie Girigara or a person of Girigara’s choice to head the information ministry if he [Darboe] is elected to office as The Gambia’s president”.

Girigara said he has a copy of Darboe’s promissory note of hiring him information minister. He has vowed to expose Darboe’s promissory note undertaken [sic] if Darboe should deny the story.

“I have Darboe’s own undertaken [sic] note, promising to hire me, or a person of my choice as information minister. Ebou Manneh was present when Darboe signed that document. President Barrow is right, Darboe has been selling positions in exchange for money. I gave him D1million dalasis for a ministerial post. I have a copy of Darboe’s own promissory note to hire me as information minister,” Girigara told me (Pa Nderry Mbai) in a phone conversation on Monday.

According to Mr Girigara, the one million dalasis that he provided to the UDP was made in three different disbursements.

“I was instructed by Ousainu Darboe to channel the first disbursement of D250,000 through Ebou Manneh, the then administrative secretary of the party. Darboe later asked me to make the second disbursement through Amadou Sanneh, the treasurer of the UDP. On the third disbursement, Darboe personally asked me to channel the half-a-million dalasis D500,000 to him. I handed the remaining half-a-million dalasis to Darboe himself,” Mr Girigara said.

Darboe did not win the 2011 presidential election. He was defeated by the erstwhile dictator Yahya Jammeh.

Mr Girigara never succeeded to secure that ministerial post that Darboe allegedly sold him. He said diplomat Ebou Manneh was his witness when Darboe sold the ministerial position to him. Mr Manneh had served as The Gambia’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, following the death of the late Femi Peters.

Girigara’s disturbing revelations followed President Barrow’s recent pronouncement accusing the leadership of the UDP of criminal activities. The president has accused the leadership of that political party of selling ministerial positions in exchange for favours from businessmen. He also accused the leadership of the party of awarding a gas importation contract to Lebanese businessman Muhammed Bazzi in exchange for kickbacks. Bazzi has been indicted by the US Treasury Department for financing terrorism and drug trafficking related crimes.”

As the readers can see from the Freedom story, Mr Njie was very categorical in his statements.

Well almost a year later, this was Mr Darboe’s reply to Mr Njie as published in The Standard newspaper of last Friday:

“I have always felt that I should not edify the ravings and rantings of a person like Mr Njie by responding to them. Let me say this. I have never sat down with Mr Njie at any time when he gave me a million dalasis. I was on tour in the provinces, and he met Mr [Ebou] Manneh and offered to help on condition that he has a company that deals in call cards. He wanted us to give him an exclusive contract, exclusive rights for that. He also wanted to be appointed minister. My response to Mr Manneh was that when it comes to the call cards, there’s no way that we can make such a commitment because this has to go through the proper procurement procedures. For a ministerial position, that is left to the prerogative of the president, which could be considered. I never gave that to him as an incentive. I think his company was called Westcom. He wanted Westcom to order all cards for Gamtel. I said well, for that, no, we cannot give that. You have to go through the normal procedures. He also told Mr Manneh specifically what ministry he wanted – communications. I told Mr Manneh, wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest if he is minister for communication and wanting his company to be supplying Gamtel call cards. I told him that would be a conflict of interest. That’s it. You know, Mr Njie has never told anyone about this. Mr Njie left UDP to go to GDC, but he never mentioned any of these things. When I came out of prison, I told Adama Barrow there’s this Mr Njie and if he could be considered. The president told me this man abandoned UDP, and had gone to GDC, so, we could not consider him for any ministerial appointment. Even as a member of GDC, Mr Njie never said anything. He never came out with these rantings. Do you know what happened? His wife was working for Mega Bank, and she was eventually removed, and he asked me to ask Mr Amadou Sanneh [then finance minister] to reinstate her. I said we will investigate. I went and spoke with Amadou Sanneh and found out that there was justification for her removal. I told him ‘Look, I am sorry, but your request to have your wife reinstated is not possible’. He said, ‘Koto, Sanneh is your child, and whatever you tell him, he must do it’. I said, ‘But that is what we fought against during Yahya Jammeh’s time – doing the wrong things to please individuals.’ I didn’t have the power to force him to do anything, and even if I had the power, I wouldn’t force any minister to do anything to reverse a decision that was taken after due consideration just to bring back the Yahya Jammeh practice. This is what hurt him. He is not happy because we have not done the wrong thing to please his wife’.”

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