As Gambia Clocks 51, Opposition Leader Challenges Jammeh’s Legitimacy

OJBy Abdoulie John

The Gambia’s opposition leader has challenged the legitimacy of the country’s leadership. Omar Amadou Jallow described President Yahya Jammeh’s 21-year rule as “terrible.”

“The government of the people of The Gambia, elected through a free, fair and transparent election, was overthrown by a group of misguided soldiers within our armed forces who imposed themselves on the Gambian people,”Mr. Jallow, the Interim leader of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), on Tuesday told a press conference held at RADDHO headquarter in Dakar, Senegal.

The PPP leader’s statement comes on the heels of celebrations marking The Gambia’s 51 independence anniversary. While low energy celebration was about to kick off, Mr. Jallow travelled to Senegal where he had consultation with Dakar-based human rights organisations (Article 19, Amnesty International and RADDHO) and pro-democracy groups.

Over the past two decades, The Gambia has undergone dramatic changes with a regime that continues to be spotlighted with a poor human rights record by activists.

The PPP leader said those who staged the 1994 military takeover turned into civilians in order to organise election which they rigged in favour of Mr. Jammeh. “They took over the reins of government irrespective of what is the consensus of the people,” Mr. Jallow said.

Omar Amadou Jallow, an outspoken critic of the current state of affairs in the country, blasted the government for its disrespect for democracy and the rule of law.

“People have been arrested and detained without due process. People spent months and years in prison without being charged or taken to court,” the maverick politician said, citing his case as a living example. “I have been arrested and detained for 22 times; and for three occasions seriously tortured until I lost my left eye.”

After his release, Gambian authorities refused to return his passport thus denying him the opportunity to undergo a medical treatment abroad.”The Commonwealth has to sent a delegation to The Gambia from London for them to give my passport and have my eye treated in Ghana.”

He denounced the continued violations of civil liberties that have forced many rights defenders and activists, including journalists and lawyers, to leave the country. “How many journalists have been detained? Tortured? How many journalists have left The Gambia because of the hostile situation that we have against the press?” he asked.

He said there is a new trend of arrests that have left many religious leaders behind bars.

“So far, six imams have been arrested and detained without due process. Presently, there are imams Sawaneh, Gassama and Colley in detention for the last 140 days without being charged or taken to court,” he stated.

Since the advent of the Second Republic, Gambians have seen their civil liberties gradually eroded by the Jammeh regime. Human rights organisations accused Yahya Jammeh of conducting summary executions, and clamping down on political opponents and journalists. A situation that has prompted many observers to ask whether Gambians have something to celebrate on February 18, 2016…


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