The Gambia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters has been condemned left and right, with some opposition party leaders decrying the use of ‘excessive force’ against United Democratic Party (UDP) supporters protesting against court decision to deny their leader Ousainou Darboe and his co-accused persons bail.
“The crackdown on protesters is not justified. It is unconstitutional and illegal,” Omar Amadou Jallow of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said.
Last Monday, UDP militants gathered outside Banjul High Court to show support for their leader and other party members standing trial for multiple charges including conspiracy to commit felony. They all pleaded not guilty to charges filed by State prosecutors against them. The decision of the presiding judge to deny them bail provoked angry
reactions from the large crowd of party militants in Banjul. In Serrekunda, the police heavy-handedly dispersed a spontaneous protest march initiated by UDP supporters. The repression left almost 50 people wounded and
“The young people have the right to show their disgust and their anger over what is happening here in the judiciary, “ said PPP leader.
Omar A. Jallow seized the opportunity to reiterate that Ousainou Darboe should not have been arrested as he was exercising his constitutional rights to denounce what happened to Solo Sandeng and his group.
He questioned the independence of the judiciary for politicizing a case that continues to draw media attention. “Why should he (UDP’s Ousainou Darboe) and most of his executive be put in prison?”
He decried the court’s decision to desist from a favourable consideration to the bail application filed by the defense team. “Now, the court has denied them bail. There is no charge that is not bailable. They should have been bailed. The young people have the right to voice their frustration after what happened in court.”
Condemning the violence meted on peaceful protesters by security forces, Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) leader Mai Ahmad Fatty described it as ‘barbaric, cowardly and criminal’.
“There can be no justification for such vile brutality against unarmed, peaceful civilians merely shouting their grievances,” he said.
These events have prompted many pro-democracy activists to urge opposition parties to take a stronger stance against the Jammeh regime and dissociate themselves from ongoing talks with the Independent Electoral Commission.
“They must disengage and prepare for the difficult walk to freedom, in the streets with the long suffering citizens of a battered country. This Gambian question will not be solved by making deals with a government party which is unreliable, unpredictable and which has a record of unfulfilled promises, of repeated failure to honour
agreements and a total disregard for civilise norms of behaviour,” said the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia (MRDG) Chairman James Jeggan Bahoum in a statement.
The Gambia has been mired in political crisis since the death in state custody of Solo Sandeng and jailing of opposition leadership.