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Friday, April 12, 2024

Halifa Sallah is wrong: dictators should not be cuddled

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By Tumbul Trawally

To Halifa Sallah and those who question the constitutionality of the seizure of the butcher/dictator’s assets, here are the answers:
According to Justice Minister Tambadou, the butcher/dictator had 88 bank accounts, 14 companies, 131 properties; and he swindled $147 million from the Treasury in the last 3 years of his reign. Amadou’s name was linked to US 900 million in the Panama Papers, which is about the Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about $1,000 million, in 2015.

Let us assume that the butcher/dictator had D100, 000 in his bank account on July 22nd of 1994, the day of the coup, and then add his annual salary of D1 million, for 22 years of his regime; the number would be a fraction of the $900 million stashed away for him in Panama. Let us crunch the numbers: D1 million x 22 years = D22 million and we can add the D100, 000 he presumably had in his bank account on the day of the coup. The total assets of the butcher/dictator should, therefore, not be more than D22, 100, 000, his salary for 22 years and the D100, 000 he fictitiously had in his account. Now, let us use a very generous average exchange rate of D15 to one dollar. At a D15 average exchange rate to one dollar, his total assets in dollars would be $1,474,000 (D22, 100,000/D15).

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Compare $1,474, 000 to $900 million, the amount he had in the Panama accounts; there is no comparison. His $3.5 million mansion outside of Washington D.C. is three times more than his total earnings of $1,474,000 during his presidency.

According to Forbes Magazine, he is among the top 10 richest African leaders, worth $1.8 billion. He built a $30 million mansion in Morocco and a similar one in Guinea Conakry. Zineb’s siblings are running his businesses in Dubai. Further, he has mansions in a few European cities. I worked at Standard Bank for 12 years and saw Sir Dawda’s salary of D3, 400. He never–at any time–had more than D30, 000 in his account. He paid bills, mostly, related to his mother’s residence in Brikama and other personal expenses, like his kids’ tuition bills; as a result, he never had an unusual balance in his account. And he had one account, not 88 accounts. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, does not have 88 bank accounts. Then why should a president of a poor third world country have 88 bank accounts?

Let us further crunch some numbers.
In the early 1980s, the dollar exchanged for less than D2. Therefore, let us assume that the average dalasi exchange rate to the dollar was D6 to one dollar during Sir Dawda’s reign. In that scenario, Sir Dawda earned a total of D1, 224, 000. He was president for about 30 years; D3, 400 x 12 months x 30 years = D1, 224,000. If you apply the average exchange rate of D6 to a dollar (D1, 224,000/$6) equals $204,000. Therefore, Sir Dawda earned $204, 000 as president, and the butcher/dictator earned $1,474,000, as president. Any Gambian who has an inkling of what transpired in the Gambia during the butcher/dictator’s reign knows that I am being extremely generous with my assumptions of presidential salaries and average exchange rates of the dalasi. We all know that he did not have D100, 000 in his account on the day of his coup, and his annual salary was less than D1, 000,000, as president. Can’t Halifa and his fellow skeptics see that the butcher/dictator amassed a lot of ill-gotten wealth?

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Halifa knows the assets of the butcher/dictator I cited above were not pulled out of thin air; they are real. Then why try to protect the stolen assets of a murderous dictator? It staggers my imagination! To discourage a would-be potential future butcher/dictator from raiding the Treasury, then the assets of the Kaninlai butcher/dictator should be confiscated. That is a deterrent!

The butcher/dictator flouted and disrespected the Gambian Constitution; he should not be protected by it. Another need for the seizure of the assets of the butcher/dictator is the presence of Gambia on the list of the 25 poorest countries in the World, according to the Global Financial Magazine. Gambia is number 15 on the list. The list looks like the African Union (AU) countries. Twenty one of the twenty-five countries are members of the AU.
The common thread tying these countries together: civil war, ongoing sectarian or ethnic conflicts, and corruption.

That is not an enviable list to be on! We don’t want Gambia to degenerate into tribal/ethnic conflicts. It is irresponsible to be an opposition, for the sake of opposing anything put forward by the government. I don’t know President Barrow; he doesn’t know me, either, but his demeanor does not jive with greed, or cruelty. Mr. Barrow comes across like an honest, down-to-earth human being, diametrically opposite the butcher/dictator. The circumstances under which he took over from the butcher/dictator were—at best—tenuous. The butcher/dictator emptied the coffers at the Central Bank.

When Barrow and Mai Fatty were in Dakar, in January, Mai said that the butcher/dictator withdrew D500 million from the Central Bank, which is about $11 million, days before he went into exile. Halifa caricatured Mai’s statement as outrageous and ridiculous. Well, it turned out the audits of the books at the Central Bank revealed that the butcher/dictator withdrew about $11 million from the bank, in the waning days of his presidency. The Auditors’ statement was in line with what Mai said, in Dakar. Our country does not need the settling of personal feuds between politicians spilling over into governance and transparency. It is a distraction and we cannot afford it!

If the numbers provided by Minister Tambadou, Minister Sanneh, the Forbes Magazine, and other publications do not meet or satisfy Halifa’s threshold for the seizure of the butcher/dictator’s assets, then nothing will. Who better to go after in recovering stolen assets than the butcher/dictator? This was a man who blurred the line between what he owned and what the government owned. It is either naiveté, malevolence, or both, on the part of Halifa and his fellow sceptics, to be so blind to the butcher/dictator’s kleptocracy and disregard for the Gambian Constitution.

I know Halifa is a Sociologist and “Number Crunching” may not necessarily be his cup of tea; however, if he and his fellow sceptics need a lesson in “Number Crunching”, I will be more than willing to offer it to them, online, and pro bono. Thanks to the “Internet of Things”, I can be in Seattle and offer lessons to someone in Jokadou Karantaba. I said this about Pa Ndery Mbye in a previous posting on Facebook; I loathe criticizing my fellow Gambians, but I will not hesitate to do so–if outrageous comments or statements are made–especially when tinged with tribalism.

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