By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT on Twitter
Alhagie Ceesay was rushed to the hospital barely two days after the 16th anniversary of the bloody April 10th and 11th student carnage. The Teranga FM radio manager is being persecuted by The Gambia government for sedition. He was arrested by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officials on July 2nd last year. After his initial arrest Mr Ceesay was released, re-arrested and held incommunicado for two weeks. He has been held for over 10 months.
Mr. Ceesay’s concerned family member said he has been hospitalised three times in the last six days.
Alhagie has been accused of distributing photos of President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.
It can be recalled that in January 2016 Alhagie was hospitalised twice in a month, sparking health concerns on his fitness to stand trial. His family said the state is denying everyone access to Alhagie. “He is very, very sick; we don’t know whether he is dead or alive,” one concerned family member told Gainako. A notice was posted on the main gate of the notorious Mile 2 prison denying people access to the frail-looking journalist.
What is most worrying is that Alhagie’s family is currently being monitored and pursued by the NIA agents. The rest of this news article will canvas fresh concerns from Gambians and the International Community who continue to mount pressure demanding for Alhagie’s immediate release.
On March 7th this year, 37 freedom of expression organisations across the world, including the the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) petitioned the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to prevail on President Yahyah Jammeh to release the detained journalist. Two days later Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement calling on Gambian authorities to release Alhagie Ceesay “who has been arbitrarily detained”. These organisations have also called on the Jammeh government “drop all charges against him.”
A youth activist residing in The Gambia raised concerns about Alhagie Ceesay’s pathetic situation. “It’s inhumane to detain someone in poor health condition that has committed no crime in the first place to warrant detention,” the said activist said. “It’s so sad to see a productive young Gambian being detained by the government for an unjustifiable and bail-able offence. This is a total violation of Alhagie Ceesay’s Human Rights. Gambian youths must not sit down quietly while one of our own is being persecuted for so long.”
Another young Gambian activist, whose identity is being withheld for security concerns, said “if this can happen to Mr Ceesay who among the Gambian youths is safe?”
Alhagie’s case should be a concern to everyone. We the youths cannot let him face it alone. For that being the case I a urging the state to withdraw all the false charges against him.”
“The treatment of Alhagie Ceesay is a gross travesty of justice,” concurred a Washington-based veteran Gambian activist Pa Samba Jow. “It also exposes the wickedness of the regime and the extent to which Jammeh’s tyranny will go to abuse Gambians. I implore the political parties, Bar Association and the Gambia Press Union to mobilize their members and supporters to attend the next hearing and demand an end to this abuse. Gambians must stand up for justice and against this blatant mockery of justice.”
Alhagie’s next court hearing is scheduled for Thursday April 21st at 1PM in Banjul.
Also adding his voice to the precarious situation of Mr. Ceesay is an exiled Gambian activist. Omar Bah, the author of “Africa’s Hell on Earth”, pressed for Alhagie Ceesay’s unconditional release. “I call on the Gambian government to release Journalist Alhagie Ceesay forthwith. His only crime is to speak truth to power and should be let free. We hold the Gambia regime responsible for anything that happens to this young man. He is currently very ill and the responsibility lies on the authorities to both free him and offer him treatment. Anything short of this should warrant the Gambia civil society including political and media groups to take to the streets to protest against the blatant disregard of our laws by the Jammeh regime. This arbitrary way of governing should end and I call on Gambians and the international community to expand the pressure on the dictatorial regime in Gambia in order to free Journalist Alhagie Ceesay.”
What Next for Alhagie
In November last year, 33 youths protesting against environmental destruction caused by sand mining in Kartong were arrested and held for a week. The men, whose arrest was exacerbated by the death of a young boy who fell into an open ditch left behind by sand mining, were released within a week. The release was effected mainly due to overwhelming pressure by Gambians at home and abroad.
Similar pressures were mounted in the case of Alhagie and many other innocent Gambian citizens being held, yet they remain in state custody.
Yesterday Gambian based newspaper Foroyaa, published an article about the demise of the late Sheriff Dibba [Secretary General of Gambia National Transport Control Association] who died in Police custody. The Jammeh regime continues to demonstrate an acute disregard for human life, especially towards those deemed anti-government. Gambians must learn from the Kartong saga and it must be highlighted that urgent situations require urgent actions. Alhagie Ceesay’s situation looks increasingly ominous, considering the dangerous precedence set by the government in Sheriff Dibba’s case. The sooner Alhagie is released, the better for him to seek urgent medical treatment. Failure to release him will leave government answerable to a manslaughter charge and The Gambian people wallowing in their conscience. Suma hamon, romba na meaning had I known is always too late.