Trust founder James Holden has sent the following update from his recent visit to the Gambia:
“After prayers (Muslim and Christian) on Friday 3rd March, I enjoyed a spicy Chicken Domada in the bantaba at The White Horse Residence with the Gambian committee of the AOT.
“General Manager Fanding Manjang surprised and delighted me by presenting me with a special certificate of appreciation and looking round the room I could see from the faces of Saineh, Ansumana and Kemo that this was a very genuine gesture.
“Kira quickly made it clear that this was not something she had engineered and to be quite honest I felt very humbled.
“I was even more humbled once our meeting proper kicked in to gear as there are so many positive things that our newly formed Gambia committee is achieving.
“Despite all the recent uncertainty that The Gambia has experienced, it seemed to me that although Kira still plays a key role, her plan to put an ever increasing responsibility into Gambian hands is working very well indeed.
“The governance of the AOT's work in the Gambia is very strong and there's no doubt that the Trust's commitment to The Gambia is still vital as this smallest of mainland African nations sets out on its journey to establish itself as a genuinely self-governing and peaceful democracy.”
By Lady Kira Dalton
Well! It certainly has been a roller coaster ride these past few months. There is seldom a dull moment here in Gambia anyway but this year has truly been exceptional and very exciting.
For those who don’t follow African news closely, there was a Presidential Election held on the 1st December 2016. Much to everyone’s amazement, Sheikh Professor Alhajie Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh Babili Mansa, who had ruled the country with an iron fist since taking over in a bloodless coup twenty-two years ago, LOST to a coalition of eight other parties, headed by a total newcomer called Adama Barrow.
That evening, Jammeh duly congratulated Barrow and conceded defeat on national TV. There was dancing in the streets and much jubilation for a whole week! To say that people were ready for change would be a massive understatement.
The exact details of Jammeh's greed and abuse of power are only just beginning to emerge and there is already talk of either a truth and reconciliation committee or international criminal court proceedings against him. Today one of his henchmen, Interior Minister Sonko, was arrested in Switzerland.
On the evening of 9th December, Jammeh returned to our TV screens to declare the elections null and void and to demand a rerun. His announcement was met with shock, horror and near universal worldwide condemnation. Country after country announced that they would no longer recognize him.
Nevertheless, he endeavored to cling to power through the Supreme Court (which had insufficient judges to hear his case since he sacked most of them years ago), National Assembly who declared a state of emergency to extend his term by three months and the threat of armed enforcement of his wishes.
Radio stations were closed down, people were arrested for wearing opposition T-shirts and known dissenters within the army and police were locked up by the National Intelligence Agency.
As the date for the inauguration of Adama Barrow approached, things got very tense indeed. The African Union and the Economic Union of West African States, having attempted several negotiations with Jammeh, realised that he was becoming more and more entrenched in his views. So they and the U.N. authorised a military force, which was poised to dislodge him if he did not leave of his own accord.
Over 46,000 Gambian's and many more Senegalese, Nigerians and Guineans left the country. Many others fled to the provinces away from Banjul. Thomas Cook and Gambia Experience evacuated nearly 5,000 British tourists when the FCO issued a warning of imminent military action on the 17th. A similar number of Dutch were flown out by TUI and Caradon on the 19th and 20th January.
President elect Barrow was also flown out for his own safety, first to an AU meeting in Mali and then kept abroad to be inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal on the 19th January.
That day was the final deadline given for Jammeh to leave. He did not, instead requesting further talks and stalling in any manner possible. Those of us still here witnessed many reconnaissance flights overhead by the Nigerian Airforce, and streams of heavily armoured vehicles laden with Senegalese, Nigerian and Ghanaian peace keepers drove past our front doors heading for Banjul.
The presidents of Mauritania and Guinea, who were the last-ditch negotiating committee, extended the deadline and halted the military advance temporarily to 4 pm the next day. Finally, at 12:45am on the 20th January 2017, Yahya Jammeh announced on GRTS TV that he would be standing down.
Even then, he kept everybody in suspense for almost another full day, before boarding a plane bound for Equitorial Guinea late in the evening of the 21st. Allegedly, he took with him a substantial sum of the nation's currency, luxury vehicles and anything else of value that could be removed from State House. We are told that his wife Zaineb had already made several trips with assorted valuables.
Subsequently, when ECOMIG troops were able to enter State House the following evening, they found that the air conditioning system had been loaded with poisonous gas, furniture and carpets had been looted and there was a small armoury of weapons which had gone missing. It is believed that there are still numerous members of the presidential guard, and up to 2,000 mercenaries hired by Jammeh at large somewhere in the country. Peacekeeping troops will remain for up to six months to stabilise matters.
At last, today the 26th January, almost two months after the election date, our new President Adama Barrow has finally made a triumphant return to The Gambia.
The streets are once again lined with jubilant supporters and I can hear sirens, music, drumming and singing as I write. There will be another official celebration on Independence Day, February 18th.
Until then, there are huge expectations on the shoulders of the new government but no money and few resources left with which to achieve them. We all fervently hope that with help from the international community, this will be the start of a new era with vastly improved living conditions for the bulk of the population – rather than for the few at the top of the heap. Already Barrow's coalition has indicated that they will rejoin the ICC, perhaps the Commonwealth, and more generally forge close links with the world at large, in stark contrast to Jammeh's isolationism.
In the meantime, I am personally very relieved that this momentous transition took place with no bloodshed. So now, after weeks in limbo, we can all return to work/school/health centre.
There is still plenty to do here for a small but effective charity such as the African Oyster Trust.
Last week, Trust directors Dee and Steve went to Holt village hall for the presentation of the monies the musicians raised as a result of their 24-hour Playathon - an amazing £1,500.00. Our thanks again for such an amazing effort, and for this message from Joanne and the musicians.
“Dear All, following our 24-hour Playathon on October 7th and 8th 2016, we are delighted to donate the sum of £1,500 to the African Oyster Trust, with the specific aim of replacing the roof on the Lower Basic Jappineh School Library.
"Music for Adults @ Holt has thoroughly enjoyed raising funds for the African Oyster Trust during 2016 and wishes all involved a successful 2017. With best wishes, Joanne Jefferis & Holt Musicians”
We are delighted to announce that the African Oyster Trust has again been selected to participate in the Big Give Christmas Challenge.
We’re very excited to have been chosen for the 2016 challenge and are looking for your support to help us make it another huge success.
This year the challenge will run for 72 hours from midday Tuesday 29th November to midday Friday 2nd December.
So please do mark your diaries today!
To unlock this match funding and double your donation:
Remember, to double your donation you must make it via the secure Big Give donations page:
Thank you on behalf of everyone at the African Oyster Trust.
Report by Dee Bixley
The Playathon had been going for fourteen hours by the time I arrived at Holt Village Hall.
Joanne Jefferis, the professional cellist, teacher, and inspiration behind this venture looked remarkably bright-eyed as she greeted me.
She was delighted with the musicians’ collective enthusiasm for the project, and her mother Sue Steel was a great example of the support they had received. Sue had been up all night too, greeting visitors in the early hours and offering refreshments.
Five years ago Joanne founded the successful VLO String Quartet. She has also formed, with her students, the Severn Cello Ensemble – Worcester’s only 16-piece cello orchestra – and we were treated to a performance. Inevitably, their skills varied and so the immaculately-timed string plucking needed for the Strauss Pizzicato Polka went wonderfully awry.
The mirth of the more practised performers overcame them!
I heard how a lady came in at 3am, played for 1½ hours, went home for a nap and was back ready for more. One chap became so immersed in his music that he didn’t take the hint when his time on the programme was up!
But for me the best story featured one of Joanne’s cello students. Her husband is a professional pianist and her own lack of confidence means that she confines her cello practice for when her husband is playing golf! During the night, however, despite her nerves, they played together as a duo. And now, hours later, she played again with complete confidence.
And to think: all this might never have happened but for the need of a new roof for a school in West Africa! We will of course keep you informed about the library roof, but there's one thing for sure - there will be some highly delighted teachers and children.
A huge thank you from all of us at AOT to everyone involved in the 24-hour Playathon.
After the event, Joanne told us: "Everyone involved in Music for Adults @ Holt has found it a privilege to support The African Oyster Trust over the past few months.
"We have made small donations after collections at our concerts but the 24-hour Playathon was a dedicated effort by many people to raise funds.
"Although it was a bit daunting at first I am proud to say that all of the students who attend sessions at Holt wholeheartedly supported the event and contributed talent, time camaraderie and baking skills to the event. Without their generosity and the support of our families and friends, this would not have been possible.
"We had some moving moments, some unique moments and some hilarious moments - particularly in the small hours! I am very excited about the the total amount raised, which is still rising, and we anticipate that the final total will be near £1,000".
A 24 hour music playathon is the latest fundraising initiative from Music For Adults@Holt.
The event takes place from 7pm on Friday 7th October at Holt Village Hall, Holt Heath WR6 6NE, north of Worcester.
The event is free to attend with donations invited, and everyone who drops in will be able to enjoy performances by the Severn Cello Ensemble, The Phoenix Chamber Ensemble and various soloists, duos & trios.
Our grateful thanks to all the musicians taking part.
For further information contact Joanne Jefferis 01299 403508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A new book about the African Oyster Trust is now available to read online.
Happy! Happy! Happy! charts the founding of the African Oyster Trust, the people involved and the projects they support.
Author Dee Bixley wrote the book as she made her first visit to The Gambia, following the generous donation made by herself and husband Mel to secure the purchase of a new ambulance for Jappineh.
Dee has gone on to become a director of the Trust, and Happy! Happy! Happy! explains exactly what captured her imagination about our work.
To read Happy! Happy! Happy! click the cover image below.
A huge thank you once again to the children and staff of Birches Green Infant School for their continued support of the African Oyster Trust.
Trust director Steve Emery was back at the school earlier this year to help judge their annual business enterprise competition.
At the end he was presented with a £200 cheque for the Trust, the money made by the children in their various business initiatives.
He also received this card, made by the children for their counterparts at the Hilary Emery Nursery School in Talinding, Serrekunda.
The African Oyster Trust's 2016 Annual General Meeting will be held on Sunday 18th September at 3pm.
The meeting will be held in a room at The Blue Lias Inn, Stockton Road, Stockton, Warwickshire (see www.bluelias.com for details)
Supporters are warmly invited to attend.
Our main business will be to approve the accounts for the year ended December 31st 2015 and to appoint our independent examiner. However, there will also be the invaluable opportunity for us all to gather and learn more about the growing number of projects that your charity is now involved with.
As an exciting initiative to take us forward we shall also be launching a new dimension to the AOT, The Friends of the African Oyster Trust.
A kind sponsor has covered the cost of a cream tea for all attendees, so please do come and feel free to invite family and/or a friend to help make this a special occasion. Our AGM is the one chance in the year when we can all meet with Lady Kira Dalton and hear at first hand of her remarkable work through the AOT.
To help us with catering and arrangements, please let us know in advance if you are planning to attend. Please RSVP by Friday 9th September to Gill Evans, email@example.com or by post to Leycroft, Station Road, Claverdon, Warks, CV35 8PE.
Thank you to all those supporters who helped make our Big Give Christmas Challenge such a huge success!
The Christmas Challenge is the UK’s biggest online match-funding campaigns. It meant that donations made via the Big Give website during 4 and 5 December were doubled using funds pledged by one of the Trust’s major donors.
Our goal was to raise enough donations over those two days to unlock our full allocation of pledged match funding.
And with a wonderful £2,520 donated through the campaign by supported old and new we were indeed able to unlock that additional £2,500.
The campaign total of £5,020 was an extremely welcome boost to the Trust’s funds heading into Christmas, and we are grateful to everyone who took part.
The News Diary is a regular account of all that is happening at The African Oyster Trust. Please pop back for regular updates, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our RSS feed to have the latest news sent straight to your computer!
The news diary is written by a number of people close to the work of the African Oyster Trust, including founder James Holden, his co-directors, trustees and volunteers.