The recent arrest and subsequent release of the coordinator of the Coalition for Change -The Gambia (CCG) Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh and human rights journalist Seedy Ceesay of Freedom newspaper by Karang gendarmerie border post has left many skeptical about the safety of Gambian dissidents in Senegal. In this interview with journalist Abdoulie John, former Information Minister provides a detailed account of their ordeal. Dr. Janneh also lifts a corner of the veil on the “JAMMEH MUST GO” Campaign which continues to gain momentum. Please read on….
Could you please give us an account of your arrest?
As part of a sustained campaign to highlight gross human rights abuses and the culture of impunity in The Gambia for the past 20years, a loose association of dissidents (The Time is Up) decided to print and distribute t-shirts in Senegal.
Seedy Ceesay (UK national) and I embarked on the distribution in Karang on Thursday, November 13, 2014. We were arrested in Sokone on our way back to Dakar around. 10 pm. We were returned to Karang Gendarmerie for questioning. We alerted the US and UK consular services, human rights organizations, and colleagues. We spent the night at Karang, but the officers were quite professional and treated us well. There was sustained pressure from organizations and individuals since our arrest, and we were ultimately released the next morning at 10:00 am.
Do you think it is a worrying development for Gambian dissidents in Senegal?
I believe getting arrested for printing and distributing anti-dictatorship t-shirts is a worrying development for all – not just Gambians. Senegal is seen as a beacon of democracy in this region, and we hope this was an isolated incident. Gambians can learn a lot from the professionalism exhibited by Senegalese security officers from the time we were arrested to our release.
Could this be seen as a signal sent by Senegalese authorities to Gambians to refrain from political activism?
It is a known fact that the Senegalese are uncomfortable with political activism by Gambian dissidents in their country due to pressure from the Gambian dictatorship. However, Senegalese laws permit such activity and as long as we adhere to them, we have nothing to worry about.
As the “Jammeh Must Go” campaign is gaining traction in the Diaspora, are you envisaging plans to storm the cyberspace in order to get global fame?
Our goal is to keep the spotlight on the repressive political environment in the Gambia and to put pressure on the regime to change.
This effort is part of a broader campaign by a cross-cutting alliance of groups to end dictatorship in the Gambia.