Former Gambian Prisoner's Fast Track to Success, Imprisonment and Freedom

George E. Curry | 9/27/2012, 2:22 p.m.

Amadou Scatred Janneh, one of two Gambians with dual American citizenship released from prison as a result of a mission by Jesse Jackson, has always had something to prove to the world. After graduating from high school in The Gambia in West Africa, he left for the United States to prove that he had a first-rate mind that would allow him to fulfill his dreams - all he wanted was an opportunity to succeed.

He got his first opportunity at Knoxville College, a small historically Black college in East Tennessee.

"There were a few Gambian students studying at Knoxville College," he recounted in an interview in the nation's capital, where he had been brought by Jackson to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Legislative Conference, better known as CBC Weekend. "Because I didn't have any money to go anywhere, they told me that Clinton Marsh, the president at the time, had worked in Africa and he may be willing to give me financial aid.

"So, when I went there, I had no money and appealed to him. I was given a grant just for one semester and I was told that financial aid from that point would depend on my performance. I not only got straight A's, but I completed the program in three years."

After graduating second in his class at Knoxville College in 1986, Janneh decided to go across town to enroll at the University of Tennessee, feeling he still had something to prove.

"Because people had doubts about a Knoxville College education, I decided I wanted to go to UT to prove to them that the education you get at Knoxville College is valuable and I did very well there, too," he said. "After a year, I got a master's degree and in another three years, a Ph.D."

After proving himself at the University of Tennessee, he was offered a position teaching African and African American studies and political science. After serving on the faculty for a decade, he felt he had proven his point and decided he wanted to prove that he could be successful in business.

"In 2000, I moved to Savannah, Ga. and became an entrepreneur in the area of information and technology - exporting computers and related products to The Gambia and Senegal," Janneh recalled. "As a result of that I decided to move to The Gambia because I saw that the economy was growing and I started making more money from that than from teaching."

Once back in Gambia, Janneh proved to everyone that he had talent.

"When I went back to The Gambia, instead of doing my private enterprise, the U.S. Embassy grabbed me and I was hired as a political adviser to the ambassador - that was in late 2003," he said. "I did that for about six months, then the president said, 'We want you to become our Minister of Information, Communication and Technology.' And that's how I got into government."

Janneh served from April 2004 until July 2005 when he decided to set up an information and technology company.