Monday, October 31, 2016

Gambian Opposition UDP Leader Elected Alliance Candidate

Opposition Alliance Candidate
Adama Barrow
After a long convention at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Banjul, Adama Barrow, the leader of Gambia's largest opposition party the UDP, has been elected as the opposition parties alliance candidate to face incumbent Yahya Jammeh in elections scheduled for the end of the year.

Yahya Jammeh of the APRC party has ruled Gambia both as a military and civilian leader since 1994. He has won every election held in the country since he declared a second republic after a few years of military rule.

Adama Barrow was recently elected to head the UDP after the incarceration of veteran UDP leader Ousainou Darboe.  Mr. Darboe, a lawyer, was jailed earlier this year for leading public protests against the government of Yahya Jammeh.

Barrow was the youngest of the four candidates and also the one with the least political experience.  He however largely benefited from the UDP legacy and was a clear winner over veteran Gambian politicians like Hamat Bah and Halifa Sallah.

Under the alliance agreement, the flagbearer candidate will stand as an independent candidate, while all the other Presidential aspirants are expected to  withdraw from the race and give him both their support and the support of their party machinery. The alliance will rule for about three years and then arrange elections in the country after ensuring a level playing field for all political parties.

Some Gambians on social media were disappointed that a more experience and articulate candidate was not elected, as Adama Barrow, a poor public speaker, visibly struggled during the convention to articulate his party position. He kept reading his written speech without looking at the delegates in the hall.

Halifa Sallah and Hamat Bah on the other hand were very articulate and stated their political positions very clearly. However, Mr. Barrow whose party has a lot of support in the rural areas of the country, won by more than 60% of the votes in the first round.

The other political parties have promised to support the alliance candidate. In the past, other attempts to form an alliance have  been unsuccessful.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Gambia's Major Opposition Parties In Convention to Elect Alliance Flagbearer

Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yayah A. J. Jammeh
The major political parties in the small West African state of The Gambia have taken the unprecedented step of holding a convention today at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Banjul, to determine a single alliance candidate who will  face Gambia's long term leader his Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa in Presidential Elections slated for December 1st 2016. The Gambia President is renowned for his anti-western stance, his claim to have the cure for HIV AIDS, Asthma and a host of other ailments and his strong opposition to homosexuality.
Hamat Bah

President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the small country of about a million people since July 22nd 1994 when as a young military officer he overthrew the country's long post independent leader Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara in a bloodless coup. Sir Dauda had been the sole leader of the country since independence from British colonial rule and had presided over a long period of political stability. Gambia is a small country of very friendly people and a major tourist destination in West Africa. It's main sources of revenue are tourism and groundnut production. Remittances from Gambians living abroad also contribute significantly to the country's revenue. Gambia has a large population in America and Europe, many of whom left the country for political and economic reasons.
Halifa Sallah

As a young leader in 1994, the Gambian leader started with one of the most progressive agendas in the West African region. He rebuilt the country's international airport, established the first national university, built hospitals in the rural areas, built junior and secondary schools in many rural areas of the country, and built such monuments as the Arch 22 leading to the capital Banjul. He also made significant improvements to the country's road network. After a brief period of military rule, Jammeh restored the country to multiparty democracy, formed his own political party and has comprehensively won every election ever since.
Adama Barrow

Yahya Jammeh has however been criticized for his strong arm tactics, especially against the country's fractious opposition. Recently the leader of the country's largest opposition party Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, was jailed for about three years, together with some members of the opposition for holding public demonstrations in the capital. Journalists have also complained of political persecution, starting with the assassination of a prominent veteran journalist. Many journalists have faced arrests and detention in The Gambia and many have fled the country, some becomimg political activists in exile.

The Gambia leader, under pressure from the International community, especially the west, for his record on human rights, withdrew a few years ago from the Commonwealth of Nations, labeling the organization a symbol of colonial repression. Just this week, Yahya Jammeh joined the slow trickle of African leaders who have withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which they complain is focused only on the prosecution of African political leaders. 
Dr. Lamin Bojang

Roughly a year or two ago, Jammeh survived an attempt by a group of Gambians living overseas to overthrow his government while he was out of the country. The attempt was quickly quashed by security forces loyal to him. Since then he has further tightened his grip on all the security apparatus in the country.

Yahya has faced strong opposition to his rule from within the country since he came to power, but the opposition has been divided, with political parties based largely on regional and ethnic lines. Jammeh has handily won every single election. However for this year's election slated for December 1st, about five of the main political parties have formed an alliance to have a single candidate, with 419 delegates voting to elect one standard flagbearer for the united opposition. The winning candidate will be the first to get the support of 245 of the voting delegates. There could be several rounds of voting until a candidate gets the 245 number. 

It will remains to be seen whether the alliance members will stick with the agreement once a consensus candidate is chosen, as many such plans have failed in the past to yield dividend.  In the past, people have shown more devotion to their political parties, more which are ethnic based, rather than to a united opposition. Two minor opposition parties decided not to join the alliance. However, all the members of the historic opposition are represented. The four candidates include Hamat Bah of the NRP, Halifa Sallah of PDOIS, Adama Barrow of UDP and Dr. Lamin Bojang of the NCP. The only female candidate Dr. Isatou Touray did not participate in today's alliance vote.

The results will be published as soon as the voting ends.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sierra Leone Peoples Party North America Reelects Dr. Lawrence Sandi as Chairman

SLPPNA Chairman
Dr. Lawrence Sandi
The incumbent Chairman of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party North America (SLPPNA), Dr. Lawrence Sandi fought back a determined challenge from Mrs. Seray Dumbuya, the wife of former SLPP presidential aspirant Mr. Umaru Dumbuya, to recapture the leadership of SLPP's formidable North America region.
Mrs Seray Dumbuya

Mrs. Dumbuya was until the last few weeks a very serious contender for the regional leadership position, causing much discomfort within the Sandi support group, until a recording of her trying to influence the regional secretary generalship position along factional lines was made public.  This caused many independent members to question the veracity of the statements by her field agents that she was not tied to any faction within SLPP.

Mrs. Dumbuya was the former SLPPNA electoral commissioner who skillfully presided over peaceful elections in the party a few years ago that led to the election of Lawrence Sandi as Chairman of the region. Initially during the campaign, Mrs. Dumbuya's surrogates effectively convinced members of the region that she was politically neutral and belonged to no camp. Many people who were simply tired of the campism in the party along flag bearer candidate lines quickly gravitated to her message of inclusiveness.  Mrs. Dumbuya promised to make the region strong and independent of factional interests. Some people also took into consideration the long service of the Dumbuya family to the  Sierra Leone Peoples Party.  Initially some people tried to tie Mrs. Dumbuya to the Maada Bio paOpa support group in USA, but her surrogates were quick to suggest that there was no link to the camp and some of her supporters were known to support other flagbearer aspirants like Allie Kabba and Alpha Timbo
Unopposed Women's Leader
Kadie Ballah Jalloh

Unfortunately, a few days ago, Mrs. Dumbuya had a damaging Donald Trump moment. Somebody apparently close to her campaign forwarded a message in which she was heard proposing a clandestine meeting between two candidates vying for the position of Secretary General to gang up against another who was seeing as belonging to another flagbearer camp. This recording seriously undermined Mrs. Dumbuya's claim of factional neutrality and probably dealt a fatal blow to her campaign. 

Chaplain Rev. Titus Gebeh
In the election held today in the city of brotherly love Philadelphia, Dr. Lawrence Sandi who has been accused of being a KKY supporter, a charge has vociferously denied, won a resounding second term mandate by a convincing 69% to Mrs. Dumbuya's 30%.  Most of the candidates who were seen as belonging to Dr. Sandi's support group also won their contests handily.
Imam Alpha Saidu Bangura
(Me Salone Fambul Dem)

Lawrence Sandi, a young calm and affable intellectual type, has brought some element of stability to a region renowned for political intrigue and infighting. He is seen as a steady hand.

The new SLPPNA executive for the coming two years would be:
Chairman: Dr. Lawrence Sandi
Vice Chairman: Mrs Martha Bah Tsagli
Secretary General: Mr. Emmanuel Allie
Deputy Secretary General: Mr. Algasimu Bah
Women's Leader: Mrs Kadie Ballah Jalloh
Deputy Women's Leader: Mrs. Namisa Kramer
Financial Secretary: Mr.Gbonda Sei
Organizing Secretary: Mr. Ishmael Taylor Kamara
Deputy Organizing Secretary: Mr. Frank Kpewa
Deputy Secretary: Desmond Pessima
Imam: Alpha Saidu Bangura
Internal Auditor: Maada S. Jusu
Whip: Bobor Bayoh
Chaplain: Rev. Titus Gebeh
Sec Gen Women's Wing: Ann-Marie Williams
Young Generation Leader: Mohamed Bah
Young Generation Sec. Gen: Hindolo Barnett
Dep. Fin Sec. Young Gen: Alhaji Koita
Council of Elders
Dr. Josephine Ladipo
Mr. Samuel SAIDU
Mrs. Fatmata Kamara
Dr. Lahai Rogers
Mrs. Rugiatu Saffa

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Short 501 (c) (3) Guide for Immigrant Nonprofits

saint paul-201.jpg
US Immigrants

USA is a country of immigrants, many of whom come to the country for a variety of reasons. Some immigrants come to flee political and religious persecution. Others come for educational opportunities, while others come for the economic opportunities that are unique to the USA. Many come to seek refuge from the never ending conflicts in unstable regions of the world, while others come to seek refuge from natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and so on.

Regardless of the reasons why immigrants come to the USA, many still maintain strong ties to their countries of origin. Many, having lived in USA and benefiting from the many opportunities the country presents, become disillusioned by the lack of opportunities, the poverty, the repression and the destitution that characterizes their native countries. Some immigrants in America give up on focusing on the many problems back in their countries of origin. The decide instead to cut ties, become fully immersed in the American way of life. Other immigrants become political activists, agitating for positive change in their native countries. Still, some decide to directly make a difference, engaging in individual and group efforts to launch meaningful community development programs or projects in their countries of origin.

United States is unique in the opportunities it offers to those who want to engage in social good. The country has a long and strong tradition of individuals with a common bond coming together to tackle community issues outside the scope of formal government.

Immigrant Philanthropists
Many Americans, unlike people in other areas of the world, believe in limited government and maintain steadfast faith in the capacity of individuals to solve their own local problems. Americans believe that communities of people can band together and solve their own problems effectively, with little interference from an overarching government. This American characteristic is truly different from what occurs in many countries around the world, where citizens are led to believe that the government is the solution to almost all of society's problems.

American federal and state governments actively encourage individual and group initiatives that are directed towards public good. Federal and state governments provide many incentives for people to engage in these activities. In order to promote community initiatives to tackle problems such as homelessness, poverty, job skills development, the care of vulnerable adults, tackle child poverty and so on, the American government provides tax incentives to people forming nonprofit organizations to tackle these challenges that government and the private sector does not adequately address. Nonprofit organizations are formed by individuals or groups to pursue a social mission rather than profit. Though nonprofits can engage in profit making ventures, the profit from such ventures must be used to further the mission for which the nonprofit was founded.

There are many type of nonprofits. However, a discussion of the types of nonprofits that exist is not the focus of this paper. The most popular nonprofit organizations among immigrants are the tax exempt or 501 (c) (3) nonprofits. These nonprofits typically enjoy two main types of tax advantages. The first is that they are not required to pay taxes on the earnings from their activities. They should however ensure that the majority of the earnings are put towards the organizational mission. The second advantage of these nonprofits is that financial contributions made to them by individuals are tax deductible. Individuals can reduce their tax burdens by the amount they contribute to the nonprofit. This second advantage provides a great incentive for individuals to engage in charitable giving, as doing so substantially reduce their tax burdens.

The process of becoming a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit can be time consuming. However, there are many organizations and professionals that can guide new nonprofits navigate this complex process. The attainment of 501 (c)(3) status by a nonprofit is usually a period of celebration, as the organization is now permitted by the government to raise funds for which the donors can claim tax deductions! This should greatly facilitating fundraising.

What Distinguishes A 501 (c) (3) from Other Nonprofits
The term 501 (c)(3) is derived from the section of the Internal Revenue Code that deals with tax exempt nonprofits. Apart from the fact that 501 (c)(3) nonprofits receive tax exempt contributions and are not required to pay taxes on their earnings, there are other requirements that must be met for an organization to become a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. The IRS clearly defines the purposes for which a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit can be formed. In order to qualify for tax exemption, the organization must be engaged in a purpose that is “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fosters national or international amateur sports competition, and prevents cruelty to children and animals.” According to the IRS, the type of charitable purposes that can qualify includes, “relief to the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burden of the government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency” (IRS, 2016)

Even though there are restrictions on the type of purposes for which a tax exempt nonprofit can be formed, there are still a lot of purposes for which tax exemption can be sought. Organization seeking tax exemption must ensure that their activities fall within the scope of purposes permitted by the IRS.

Relevance of 501 (C)(3) Nonprofits to Immigrants
Immigrants from many poor parts of the world can form tax exempt nonprofit organizations to address the same needs outlined in the IRS code, within their native countries. Nonprofit organizations registered in the USA can take advantage of the same tax advantages regardless of where their charitable operations are being undertaken. OneVillage Partners (OVP) is a Minneapolis based nonprofit that is helping rebuild rural communities in Eastern Sierra Leone. Rural Health Care Initiative (RHCI)  is another Minnesota based nonprofit that partners with the people of rural Sierra Leone to improve health.

Ebola Worker in Kenema Sierra Leone
Immigrants who want to improve social conditions in their native countries can establish tax exempt nonprofits to tackle a variety of socioeconomic challenges .For example both the countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia suffered through many years of brutal civil wars that devastated much of the  economic infrastructure in the two West African neighbors. Barely a year ago, an Ebola epidemic struck both countries, killing a lot of people, revealing the institutional weakness of the health care institutions in both countries.

The government of both countries have very weak tax bases, with public sectors that are characterized by inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption. Both governments either lack the resources to tackle the many problems existing in local communities or lack the political will or know how to effectively provide meaningful solutions. Both countries however have large immigrant populations in the USA and many other developed countries. The remittances sent back home by these individuals represent a significant fraction of national revenue in their home countries. Immigrant groups can take advantage of the nonprofit culture in the United states to initiate nonprofit programs in local communities within their countries of origin. RHCI was formed in 2010 by a group of Sierra Leone immigrants and a group of philanthropic Americans to address health care needs in rural Sierra Leone.

Immigrants who have the motivation to help their communities of origin can use tax exempt laws to do considerable good and help alleviate a lot of problems such as lack of access to good schools, clinics, clean water supplies, clean energy, and many other social challenges.

Words of Caution
The tax advantages that a nonprofit acquires from being a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit are granted with the expectation that the organization is run with the utmost integrity and purely for public good. All actions taken by nonprofits are only for the organization’s mission and never for private benefit. No individual or group owns a tax exempt entity and even where the organization is dissolved, no individual can benefit from its assets. When a nonprofit is dissolved it is generally advised that its assets be transferred to another nonprofit and strict records of such transfer be kept.

Nonprofit organizations are governed by a board of directors who act as trustees of the organization, providing guidance, oversight and strategic direction. Board members are expected to be morally upright individuals with integrity and good character. Nonprofit survival is  based on the trust donors to the organization have that their donations will be put to the use for which they were intended. Any action on the part of the board or management that causes an erosion of this trust will negatively impact future fundraising and could cause the organization lose its tax exempt status and its management prosecuted. Nonprofits are therefore expected to display the highest degree of accountability and transparency.

Nonprofits must never lose focus of the mission for which they exist. Many African nonprofits fall prey to personality conflicts and other negative tendencies that distract from mission and put an emphasis on power relationships within the organization. Nonprofits exist purely for their mission and where the mission cannot be attained, it should either be modified or the nonprofit dissolved. Nonprofits should ensure that board members elected are those who will make a positive contribution to the organization’s mission.

Nonprofit organizations are expected to devote a substantial part of their revenue to programs that further the mission. Some nonprofits like hospitals may have high operating expenses and are labor intensive. A quick look at their books may lead one into the belief that they are spending more on payroll than programs. However, it should be noted that without these employees, the hospital will not undertake its programs, consequently not attaining its mission. In any case, nonprofits must demonstrate that most of the incomes they receive are directed towards the fulfillment of the organizational mission. Board members of a nonprofit are not paid. They may however receive reasonable reimbursement for expenses related to the mission of the organization. The staff of a nonprofit are however paid like employees of any other organization.

As long as proper guidelines are established, individuals remain focused on mission, and all involved with the nonprofit are doing so in furtherance of the public good, nonprofit organizations can be a vehicle through which immigrant groups can help their communities in their countries of origin. The can be valuable vehicles of social progress.

Note About the Author
Sheku Sheriff, BSc Hons, RN, MNM, MPA is a manager at Highland Chateau Health and Rehab in Saint Paul, MN. He holds degrees in Economics, Nursing, Public Administration and Nonprofit Management. He is a founding member of Rural Health Care Initiative. His hobbies include blogging, photography and playing scrabble. He was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

How Trump Fails the Religious Test

I am a Christian Conservative 
What is truly baffling about the Trump campaign is not even the sheer number of daily gaffes that could have sunk anyone but the Reality TV star, but just the high  number of prominent, self professed Christian conservatives who have come out in favor such a plain sociopath.

Here is Donald Trump, a rich man with a long history of degrading women, ripping off small businesses who've worked with him, promoting racial discord, flaunting a vulgar and hedonistic lifestyle, making demeaning statements about the poor, mocking people with disabilities and recently caught on tape glorifying a history of sexual assault on women. Yet, this is the candidate of America's Christian Conservatives? Give us a break.

If Trump is a Christian Conservative then Mussolini was a prophet.
Think America 

The Christian faith is based on Ten Commandments. One of those commandments is "Thou Shall not commit adultery." Donald Trump is not only a serial adulterer, but he actually brags about touching married women on their privates parts and regularly trying to have intercourse with them. He calls reports about this, "a distraction and just locker room joke." If adultery could be just dismissed as a distraction, then is the ten commandments just a distraction to Donald Trump?

Another one of the ten commandment says that a man shall not covet his neighbor's wife. Trump has a history of coveting other people's wives, boasting that as a celebrity, they even let him grab them by the crutch, using language that we can't even use here. He sponsors beauty pageants and walks in on the models at their most vulnerable moments in their dressing rooms. They have to stand the degradation because he is the owner of the competition and can have them removed. Is this truly a man Christian conservatives would rally around as a leader or is just a pervert?

Another of the ten commandments is "Thou shall not steal." Trump has a history of working with struggling contractors and then finding  loopholes in their contracts to avoid paying them. Most times, he does this by saying they "did a lousy job," and throwing them to his lawyers. If this is not the same as stealing?

In order to avoid paying honest debts, Trump would rather declare bankruptcy and leaving his creditors hanging out to dry. Trump even reportedly refused to pay the people who catered one of his weddings, stating that adding his name to their business was payment in the form of free marketing and publicity.

Even when Jesus says "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's," Trump unlike the rest of hardworking people like us,  will use every rule in the book to avoid paying his share of income taxes, bragging that he is a genius who knows every tax loophole that exists. He claims Warren Buffet another billionaire does the same yet Buffet has publicly declared his taxes, yet Donald won't.

Some years ago, Donald Trump set up a so called "Trump University" proposing to teach successful real estate strategies to ambitious people who wanted to go into the real estate business. He hired a group of people, some with bogus qualifications and proceeded to advertise his "university" agressively.  People who were just looking for ways to achieve the American dream, captivated by the Trump name and the "university" label, spent thousands to acquire bogus "Trump University" qualifications, many of which  were not even worth the papers they were printed on. These people spent their time learning real estate information they could have discovered from simple google searches. Later when they discovered that the Trump University was a fraud and that they had just been duped, they filed lawsuits against Trump. But Trump always has a battery of lawyers, and many of the cases are still in court. Yet this is the candidate of Christian Conservatives.

Another of the Biblical ten commandments states that you should not make false witness against your neighbor. Donald Trump's life is a history of making unsubstantiated allegations, mostly false, against other people.

For the past few years he has been the leading advocate of the theory that President Barack Obama, the first African American president of this country, was not born in USA. According to Trump, the President was born in Kenya and secretly brought into the United States and registered as being born in Hawaii.
The stupidity of this assertion is apparent to any one who spends even a minute thinking. Even if Barack Obama's mother was traveling abroad when she gave birth to him, he was a US citizen by birth, as his mother was a citizen born in the USA. So the only reason why she would have had to hide the fact that he was born abroad was if somehow, she had had a prophesy that her son would grow up to be president. As that is the only job that is the sole preserve of natural born citizens, a term which is subject to considerable debate.

Another of Trump's hurtful lies was tying the father of his opponent Ted Cruz to the assassination of revered US President John F. Kennedy. Even though everybody knows that this particular dark conspiracy theory had no basis in fact and news outlets had consistently debunked the theory, Trump was just too happy to use it to smear his opponent. Yet, this is the candidate of conservative Christian leaders.

The religious right's excuse for backing Trump is the statements that he is one of their own, a conservative who is pro-life and has vowed to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

This I belive is Donald Trump's grand deception. Here is a man who is thrice divorced, most of his marriages ending because of adultery, who hosts beauty pageants in which women are paraded almost naked, who serially talks disparagingly about women on shock radio, who calls women fat, pigs, "with blood running out of their wherever," accuses them of having fake boob jobs, is fond of touching their private parts, and has just become pro-life after being pro-choice all his life. Yet this man is a conservative? Give me a break.

The Christian faith teaches humility and moderation. Donald Trump is anything but these. Trump is loud, brags that he knows everything more than anybody, has respect for no one, is petty, rude and  conniving. In essence, Trump represents everything the Bible teaches Christians not to be. Trump is a false prophet, the pied piper of conservatives.

Truthfully, most of these so called Christian conservatives are just using conservativism as an excuse to support Trump, because they can't publicly state the real reason. For many of them, Trump represents the bigotry and intolerance for others that they are afraid to publicly manifest. Trump represents the same group who for eight years have only been happy to delegitimize the President by saying he was not one of them, but foreign born. The same people who "want their country back." The same people who populated the "Tea Party" mob. All this conservative talk is just a charade. That is why the true conservatives are washing their hands off this false prophet.
False Prophet 

COVID-19 Preparedness in Sierra Leone

As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy. In Sierra Leone, the Julius Maada Bio led government has been very eager to prevent a repeat ...