Barely a week after Gambian authorities launched a full-scale police crackdown on peaceful protesters that led to arrest and torture to death of three opposition members, the situation seems to have set off waves of outrage across the globe, with flurry of condemnations pouring on the brutal Jammeh regime.
“Sandeng’s senseless death in custody appears to be the latest in a long line of abuses against the political opposition in Gambia,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a joint statement, which is also endorsed by Amnesty International and Article 19. “This case heightens concerns that the Gambian government will intensify its crackdown on independent voices ahead of elections in December.”
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) and his supporters took to the streets last Saturday to protest against the death of Solo Sandeng and two other party members while in custody. Their protest march was greeted with violent reaction by security forces. UDP leader, his daughter and some executive members got arrested sparking an international outcry.
Fadel Barro of the Senegal youth group Y’en a Marre joined his voice to condemn The Gambia’s excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators pushing for ‘proper electoral reform’.
“There can be no justification for the type of violence that has left three opposition members dead. President Yahya Jammeh should be held accountable for killing opposition members,” he told this reporter.
Mr. Barro called on Senegalese authorities to lead an international effort to put a stop to the ongoing political repression in the tiny West African nation.
“Senegal has the responsibility to act in order to end the spiral of violence against innocent civilians,” he reiterated.
Relocating The ACHPR Secretariat?
Meanwhile, West Africa Civil society Forum (WACSOF) has called on President Jammeh to respect and protect the rights of Gambians to engage in peaceful protest. “The Gambia, which hosts the continent’s highest human rights body (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights), has been the focus of the international community, and justifiably so, because of its poor human rights record. That one of Africa’s most abusive regimes continues to violently deny the basic human rights of its citizens and, at the same time, play host to the African Commission is both shameful and untenable,” said the pro-democracy group in a statement issued before.
Slamming Gambia govt for the deadly crackdown on protesters, Aboubacry Mbodji of the Dakar-based human rights watchdog RADDHO said last week events should compel the African Union to consider relocating the ACPHR headquarter to another country. “Since 2012 in Abidjan, we have been calling for the relocation of the Commission to another country in respect for human rights,” he said.
He said ACPHR Secretariat could be headquartered in Cape-Verde, Ghana, Benin or Burkina Faso.
Over these past 22 years, he said, Gambians have witnessed how the country passed under a dictatorial regime to such a point that they have gradually been denied their fundamental rights.