Gambia Participates, a civil society organization for transparency and accountability in the governance of The Gambia’s public finances has revealed that huge sums of toxic monies have been generated in The Gambia over a decade of illicit timber trading from Casamance, in Senegal. Presenting an in-depth investigative report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Gambia Participates’ Executive Director Marr Nyang has revealed that the enormous revenues from the illicit trade on rosewood avoids The Gambia’s national budget and fills the pockets of environment poachers.
President Adama Barrow succumbs to the sirens of rosewood dealers
After Adama Barrow took over the presidency in February 2017, he imposed a ban on illegal rosewood trafficking. Barrow was quickly subjected to an intense pressure by Gambian and Chinese timber lobbies who, not only undermined the ban, but strengthened a network of illegal traffickers in connection with some government officials. In as much as they enabled a record timber export to China, they succeeded in getting President Adama Barrow to lift the ban for a year before he reinstated it in August 2019.
Marr Nyang said “From the records of 2019-2020 and 2021 reports we have accessed, the revenue generated on illegal timber trafficking was not reported in the government’s statement. The timber revenue goes to personal pockets of individuals, which is costing the government a lot of losses in money”, the founder and Executive director of Gambia Participates revealed.
Marr Nyang said the actual national tax alone collected from the timber trade in 2019 was a total of D13 billion collected in Gambian currency and about $471 million dollars raked up in foreign currency. This according to Marr Nyang outlines an equivalent to 24.2 billion dalasi that was under reported by the Gambia Government on the proceeds of timber trafficking. He said the former regime of Yahya Jammeh has benefited of huge amount of monies up 356 million US dollars on illicit timber trading, Marr Nyang revealed.
How Chinese and Gambian traffickers feed the pillage in Casamance
The Executive director of the civil society organization “Gambia Participates” said these facts among many others prompted an undercover investigation that led to the key findings by the Environmental investigation agency (EIA), based in Washington DC. EIA is a world leading organization that investigates and campaigns against environmental crimes and abuses. It conducted a three year investigation on illegal rosewood trafficking between Casamance and The Gambia to China.
“Cashing-In On Chaos”, the full video on Casamance illegal timber trade in The Gambia from the EIA investigation.
The IEA investigation revealed that Gambia is the third largest source of rosewood export in the African continent, as rosewood sales becomes a growing market in Asia.
Informing journalists on the content of the EIA findings, Marr Nyang held that between June 2012 and April 2020, The Gambia has harvested 1.6 million trees from Senegal. He said the illegal logs were obtained out of the Casamance woods and smuggled to the Gambia.
The Executive director of the civil society organization “Gambia Participates” has also explained that there is a strict law in Senegal that prohibits smuggling and exportation of rosewood. “As a result, these rosewoods are illegally transported from Senegal via The Gambia, for export purpose to some Asian countries” Marr Nyang said.
The IEA investigation has revealed that Casamance rebel groups have uses the rosewood illegal trafficking as a source of income in order to procure ammunitions in support of their rebellion. The MFDC rebels are enabled by a “criminal network making fortune on illegal timber trading from the southern Senegal, in Casamance, to the Gambia” according to Marr Nyang.
Investigations indict Gambian officials in the timber corruption
A BBC investigative televised documentary has revealed a year ago that traveling to the rural part of the Southern Gambia, there are illegal rosewood logs piled up on depots along the border villages of The Gambia with Casamance. Marr Nyang alleged that some Gambian security authorities are benefitting from the illegal timber export transactions between Casamance, the depots in the villages and along the route from depot to the ports in Banjul.
Quoting a report from the Chinese customs, the Executive director of the civil society organization “Gambia Participates” said China has officially reported that between February and April 2020, about 329,351 tons of rosewood arrived in Chinese ports from The Gambia.
Marr Nyang also explained how undercover EIA investigators have interviewed timber smugglers who clearly named some Gambian government officials allegedly involve in the illegal timber trading.
On how the business operates, Marr Nyang informed that there is a private entity called Jagne Narr that has been created to be an actual player between the Ministry of Environment and timber dealers. He said this has been now established by the international investigators’ report.
Concluding his presentation, “Gambia Participates” boss called the media and environmentalists to join hands to fight corruption in The Gambia.
Present in the event, Hon. Muhammed Ndow, a Member of Parliament for Banjul Central who is also in the National Assembly Environment select committee said parliamentarians are au fait with the recently confiscated 22 containers of rosewood bound for illegal export.
The Banjul representative said the problem with the Gambia is enforcement of the law. He revealed that the parliament has asked the Minister of Environment to act swiftly to end the illegal timber export. He also said the EIA reports is yet to be received by the parliament Select committee on Environment.