Home » Africa: Gambian govt. will expose masterminds behind Sun article says tourism minister

Africa: Gambian govt. will expose masterminds behind Sun article says tourism minister

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Africa: Gambian govt. will expose masterminds behind Sun article says tourism minister

The Gambia minister of Tourism, Honourable Hamat N.K. Bah has said the government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that it exposes the masterminds behind the Sun online article that puts the country in bad light.

The minister was answering questions from members of the culture, travel and tour reporters during a recent tourism facilities tour he spearheaded in the country.

According to thepoint.gm, the minister alleged that the article was developed by Gambians to misinform and destroy the country and as well destroy the achievement of government of Adama Barrow. He affirmed that “those behind it will be exposed.”

He stressed further that the authorities are working with forensic experts to establish the whole truth about the article.”

“Those that are found wanting will be brought before the law because the government will get to the truth of the matter.”

He noted that government has gone very far in getting all the facts, adding that “in any profession whatever you do, you should place your country first because what matters is The Gambia, wherever you go, your home is always the best no matter what you have, we need to be patriotic.”

Meanwhile, the said article published in The Sun online with the headline ‘Inside ‘paedo paradise’ The Gambia where sex beasts are buying African children and toddlers to rape’ almost caused despair among the stakeholders taking into consideration the story pitch, which states “tragic Gambian children are being sold to British paedophiles for as little as £2-a-time by their desperate parents.”

A report in an online medium, atqnews.com, the article published by the United Kingdom medium states that British paedophiles are preying on Gambian children for sex.

The article reads:
TRAGIC Gambian children are being sold to British paedophiles for as little as £2-a-time by their desperate parents, Sun Online can reveal.

Huge numbers of predators are taking advantage of lax laws in the poverty stricken African country to embark on sick child abuse holidays where they openly target little boys and girls.

Sun Online saw firsthand how poor Gambian children can be vulnerable to British paedos when we visited the beach resorts that dot Kololi on the country’s picturesque Atlantic coastline.

Our reporter was constantly shocked by the number of unaccompanied African minors he saw being cared for by middle-aged, Western men who did not appear to be their biological fathers.

The encounters witnessed included a girl aged between six and eight having lunch with a balding, white haired man in a restaurant filled with similarly aged tourists.

The same day we saw a stoutly built man in his 50s or 60s wading into the ocean gripping the hand of a tiny African child in white swimming shorts.

Equally unsettling was the sight of a Gambian toddler watching wide-eyed with fear as a middle-aged white woman got into a fist fight with a young black prostitute at a popular beach bar.
It was 11.30pm at night and the air was thick with cigarette smoke. The child, no older than two, was being held closely by a white man with a British accent.

Children sold for £2
Our investigation comes as experts warn that the economic crisis unleashed by the collapse of travel firm Thomas Cook is helping turn the former British colony into a “paedophile paradise” where perverts can operate unchecked.

Thomas Cook flew 45 per cent of The Gambia’s 100,000 annual visitors from the UK to the capital Banjul until it went into liquidation under the weight of its debts in September.

In an exclusive interview, Lamin Fatty, the National Coordinator of the Child Protection Alliance in The Gambia, reveals that both male and female tourists are targeting African minors.

He warns: “Sex is cheap in my country and children are being sold for as little as 150 dalasis, or just over £2 in your currency.

“Some of the parents know their children are being abused and they accept it because they are so desperate for food in their bellies.
“Others are too naïve to realise. They think the Westerner is paying their bills and helping their boy or girl out of the kindness of their heart, while in reality they have bad intentions.

“Child abuse is going on all the time in The Gambia and the government is not doing enough to put a stop to it.

“Our children are being approached directly on the beaches or the street and child abusers from all over Europe including the UK are coming here for this.

“I want to make clear that this does not just involve men but also adult women who are paying for sex with teenage boys in The Gambia.
“We have laws that are supposed to stop this from happening but they are not being enforced so we have become a paradise for paedophiles.”

Locals ‘desperate’ after Thomas Cook collapse
As tourism makes up one-third of the country’s GDP, there are fears that businesses will go bust and locals will go hungry following an estimated 50 per cent drop in economic activity that has already hit beach resorts.

Lawyer and children’s rights advocate Malick Jallow told Sun Online: “While some tourists will always want to help poor Gambians, others will see this situation as an opportunity to exploit young children.
“The problem is that the abuse is sometimes carried out with the blessing of the parents because they are so in need.

“The perception is that white people, or ‘toubabs’ as they call them, have stacks of cash and these parents are often excited that their child has attracted the attention of a white man.
“It actually makes them feel proud so they give their permission for the boy or girl to go with the person and when the police try to question them they will not co-operate.”

‘She didn’t look comfortable at all’
Former Thomas Cook rep Anne Heap, 53, from Wigan, said: “These people are as poor as poor can be — it’s rare to see a child wearing shoes — and there isn’t any other trade for them outside tourism.
“Thomas Cook used to always give us an extra 10kg luggage allowance so the workers and passengers could bring aid boxes to The Gambia — basic things like clothes, medicine and school equipment.

“The first thing I thought of when we went under was, ‘What is going to happen to people in The Gambia?’ We were the only airline flying directly there.

“I’ve heard that crime has already shot up as there is not enough money coming in — the hand that feeds them is gone.
“Sex tourism is already huge in The Gambia — some bars are like brothels — and I do worry that more children will get lured into prostitution to feed their families.

“When I was working there I would see old men walking with girls as young as 10, 11 or 12. There is a dark side to The Gambia.
“One time when we were flying back to Manchester there was a British man in his 70s with a girl who was only about eight or nine. This was about eight years ago.

“I was so concerned about what was going on that I got chatting to him outside the toilet during the flight. I wanted to speak to the girl too but she never left her seat, she didn’t look comfortable at all.

“I reported it and border security later told me the man had been ‘apprehended’ but I was not able to find out what happened to him or the girl after that.”

Tots hand-in-hand with ‘paedos’
There is no proof to suggest that any of the men we pictured were paedophiles.

However the experts we showed our dossier of photos to said the police should have questioned them according to Gambian child protection laws.

Lamin Fatty said: “This does worry me because, if the children are unaccompanied, they should not be alone in tourist areas without their parents.

“It is also forbidden for a child to be in a bar so late at night and we do not encourage physical affection with minors.
“I work with young girls and boys and I would not hug them or pick them up, it is not appropriate.”

Malick Jallow added: “I would have questioned these men had I seen them myself. As a lawyer and an activist, I would want to know if they have the authority to be caring for that child.

“We have a lot of good Samaritans coming to The Gambia but we also have people who use charity as a front to hide their bad intentions.
“The security guards should have questioned these men but there is a culture of inferiority here and they would have been scared to challenge a wealthy Westerner.”

British tourists can still fly to The Gambia via Lisbon with the TAP airline or via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc. There is also a limited direct service run by ‘The Gambia Experience’ company and package deals can be snapped up for just over £500 a person.

Pensioners taking teens to hotels
Health care assistant Lucy Mendy, 33, from Gloucester, was trying to enjoy a winter holiday in the country she has come to see as a second home — but says she was shocked by some of the things she had witnessed during her trip.

She said: “I’ve seen old men taking girls looking as young as 15 or 16-years-old to their hotel room.

“It made me feel sick and I wish I could have intervened, but this is not the UK and I was scared what might have happened if I tried to confront them.

“People here are so poor, some of them will do anything for money, even if it means giving their bodies to a tourist.”

Lucy’s mum, pensioner Marjorie Botton, 68, also from Gloucester, added: “The collapse of Thomas Cook has hit people so hard.
“They are getting half as many British tourists and that means they might not make enough money to get through the quiet season, which starts in April.”

Dutch tourist Corina Bouwman also witnessed suspected child abuse during her two week, winter vacation in December.

The social worker, 54, said: “I’ve seen a number of tiny African children walking around with big white men.
“On each occasion I thought, ‘What is going on here? Where is the child’s mother?’

“But I didn’t want to accuse anyone in case I had misread the situation.”

‘White men approach little boys and girls’
Father-of-four Abdullah Labamba, 48, runs a fruit stand next to one of the many hotels that line Kololi’s palm-tree fringed beach and says he has witnessed paedophiles targeting vulnerable child workers selling peanuts for less than £1 a bag.

He said: “I’ve seen white men approach the little boys and girls right here on the beach. I do my best to stop them.
“I tell the children, ‘Get out of here, this is not a safe place for you.’

“The children will run away but they normally come back. It’s shocking.

“Their parents are desperate for money and they know they won’t be allowed home until they have sold at least five bags.
“Some men try to take advantage of that by offering them £50 for the whole basket. Then they will ask them to come back to go somewhere private.”

Child abuse scourge
Tragically, child abuse is now endemic in The Gambia, where 60 per cent of the 1.9m population live below the poverty line.
Previous research has shown that paedophiles often pose as charity workers and Good Samaritans so they can befriend poor families — and UNICEF has warned that The Gambia is one of Africa’s top destinations for child sex tourism.

The Gambian government meanwhile has tried to crack down and in 2013 introduced new laws allowing them to seize hotel properties if children are knowingly abused on the premises.

They also pledged to give out “hefty fines” and “stiff sentences” to paedophiles that are caught.

But incredibly there has been only one successful prosecution since laws were tightened and that man ended up being pardoned by the president.

Norwegian teacher Svein Agesandakar, 57, was found guilty of abusing six children, the youngest aged three, in 2006.

The court heard how he had tricked his way into a hard-up Gambian family by posing as a do-gooder, giving the parents sacks of rice and new shoes in exchange for time alone with their large brood of six kids in a hotel room.

The paedophile had separate convictions for child abuse in Norway but was sentenced to just three years in jail.

Then, in 2018 President Adama Barrow decided to pardon him for reasons that have never been explained.

The pardon was later revoked amidst a public outcry but experts fear his case has given a green light to other paedophiles.

Predator free
In October last year an official UN investigation found that Gambia’s tourist areas continue to be a dangerous place for children and that predators now stay in motels and private apartments so they can avoid prying eyes.

UN Special Rapporteur Maud de Boer-Buquicchio reported: “The rare instances when complaints are lodged with the police are not duly acted upon, the gathering of compelling evidence is delayed, and investigation and prosecution is stalled, resulting in victims or witnesses withdrawing their complaints.

“Some cases have also reportedly been dismissed on the grounds that statements by child victims were allegedly inconsistent.”

Our report comes after the UK government was slammed for failing to protect children overseas from British predators.

A report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found more needs to be done to make sure offenders operating in poor countries like The Gambia are caught and prosecuted.

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