Gambia Receives Civil Society Punches

Auwal Ibrahim Musa, Acting Secretary General of WACSOF

The Gambia’s dictatorial government is once again at the helm of international criticism. The country receives punches from members of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) in the Senegalese capital Dakar. The latest punches are contained in a resolution passed by WACSOF forum prior to the 49th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

CSF II: Resolution adopted at the WACSOF forum prior to the 49th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Dakar Senegal: Gambia- governance, democracy and respect for the rule of law Cognizant that WACSOF and participants of the CSF II met on 1-2 June, 2016, in Dakar, on the margins of the ECOWAS Summit, to deliberate on the political, economic and human rights situation in ECOWAS member states and the crisis in The Gambia;

Considering that ECOWAS espouses the fundamental Principles of Accountability, Economic and Social Justice and Popular Participation in Development; Rule of Law, Human Rights and Good Governance;

Recalling the Principles contained in the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance namely: Constitutional Convergence Principles; Free and Fair Elections; specifically- popular participation in decision-making, strict adherence to democratic principles and decentralization of power at all levels of governance;

Further recalling that these rights set out by the African (Banjul) Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights (adopted 27 June 1981), and reflecting on the prescribed articles: article 3- equality before the law and protection by the law; article 4- respect for human life; article 6- right to liberty and protection from arbitrary arrest; article 7- right to fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty; article 9: right to receive information and express and disseminate such information within the law; article 10- freedom of association; article 11- freedom of assembly; article 12- freedom of movement; article 25 duty to promote human rights; article 26- duty to guarantee independence of courts;

Recalling the provisions of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Right of Women in Africa, ratified by The Gambia on May 25 2005, compelling state parties to protect the right to dignity and prevention of any form of violence against women;

Recalling Article 77 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, which clearly spells out the sanctions regime for non-fulfillment of state party obligations; and Article 45, which states that: “In the event that democracy is abruptly brought to an end by any means or where there is a massive violation of human rights in a member state, ECOWAS may impose sanctions on the state concerned”;

Noting that The Gambia is a state party to the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which it ratified on May 21, 2008; as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ratified on June 8, 1983;

Aware that The Gambia is the only country within ECOWAS that has regressed drastically in its governance and rule of law- from the days of the 1980s when Gambia was seen as a bastion of democracy and rule of law on the whole continent to a point where it was rewarded with hosting the ACHPR, to now a pariah state where its citizen’s live in fear due to the unconscionable brutality meted out to its citizens on a daily basis, the most recent of which was on 14 and 16 April 2016.

Alarmed by the rapid deterioration of rule of law, further erosion of human rights, enforced disappearances, arrests of political party opposition, torture, illegal detention and extra judicial executions, as well as wanton abuse of executive power in The Gambia as evidenced by recent events, which indicates that the country is presided over by an undemocratic regime, where impunity and terror are firmly entrenched, which is a violation of the ECOWAS Principles of Governance and Democracy;

Fully cognizant of the fact that 14th April 2016 youth leaders from the United Democratic Party (UDP), calling for electoral reforms in The Gambia, were illegally arrested, resulting in the death of Mr. Ebrima Solo Sandeng in custody.

Shocked by the statement made by president Jammeh in the Jeune Afrique Magazine no 2890, on June 16 2016, that: “People die in detention, or during interrogation, here one person died, and they want an enquiry. Nobody will tell me to do that in my country…..Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International can go to hell….who are they to ask me to organize an enquiry….I will not.”

Having regard to the arrest of the UDP leadership, pursuant to their demands to the release of the detainees and the body of the deceased, during a peaceful protest on Saturday 16 April, alongside his entire party executive, Mr. Darboe and others were physically assaulted, arrested and taken to unknown locations around the country. And the further arrests and detention of over 86 protestors;

Recalling the demands made by the ACHPR, ECOWAS, the African Union, United Nations Human Rights Council, European Union and civil society and rights groups for The Gambia to honor its commitments to the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international treaties dealing with rights issues;

Aware that on November 22, 2011, before the presidential elections in The Gambia, the ECOWAS Commission, wrote to the Gambia Government stating: “In the circumstance, the ECOWAS Commission is of the view that the conditions prevailing in the country do not meet the minimum standards set under the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance for the conduct of elections and has, therefore, decided to exercise the discretionary powers conferred on the Commission’s President under the Protocol to stand down the ECOWAS Observer Mission.”

WACSOF Condemns the acts of illegal and arbitrary arrests, torture, physical and sexual violence against protesters including women, the ultimate killing of Solo Sandeng, and continued threats by the Government of the Gambia on its population;

Condemns at the passage of the Electoral Amendment Act 2015, without public consultation, and in clear violation of the of regional norms and standards;

Condemns the undemocratic processes adopted in the Electoral Amendment Act, which makes The Gambia one of the most expensive countries in the world for aspiring candidates to public office, especially for the most vulnerable, youth and women;

Condemns the continued threats meted out to human rights defenders and political opposition- especially given utterances made by President Jammeh, that he cannot guarantee the safety of human rights defenders working in The Gambia and he will bury political opponents nine feet deep and those that support them;

Further condemns the Government of The Gambia’s lack of respect for the rule of law; and that the Separation of Powers – the mandate and functions of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary has been systematically blurred and rendered no existent; parliament has been systematically weakened and rendered ineffective; independence of the Judiciary has been eroded and judges are not independent in the discharge of their duties; freedom of the members of the Bar is not guaranteed;

Condemns the attitude and contempt shown by The Gambia government to the ECOWAS Court, by the refusal to honour the court ruling to produce Chief Ebrima Manneh and compensate his family, as well as compensate Musa Saidykhan for torture meted out to him whilst under the custody of state security agents; and the findings of the community court that The Gambia Government did not uphold its responsibility to fully and properly investigate the murder of Deyda Hydara;

Condemn the continued acts of police brutality, the use of military force to terrorize a population, and the inhumane conditions in prisons and detention centres;

Condemn the government of the Gambia’s continued position to ignore the calls for reforms by its peers, civil society and the international community; and its determination to continue to violate the rights of its own citizens through the rule of terror, and instilling fear within the general public;

WACSOF hereby calls upon ECOWAS to:

Call The Gambia to comply with its obligations as a member state and align with the normative regional frameworks such as the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and the ECOWAS Court rulings, and adhering to the collective aspirations of member states to live in a peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic dispensation:

Call for the unconditional release of the UDP member’s and individuals arrested in connection with the April-May 20116 peaceful protests.

Diligently follow up on its call on the Gambia government to conduct a full, effective, and independent investigation into the death of Mr. Solo Sandeng,

Call on the Gambia government to honour its commitments to political pluralism; to respect the freedom of expression of the Gambians and their right to peaceful protest.

Further call on the Gambia government to release Lamin Marigo (Comes), Lamin Sey (L-Tigo) and Pa Landing Jobe, youth activists who were picked up by the National Intelligence Agency on May 9th 2016, and have not been seen since.

Encourage President Jammeh to allow national dialogue for urgent political, electoral, media legislative and state institutional reforms to take place in the country.

Apply appropriate measures to state party violations, according to its own rules of membership and regional treaty, Article 77 of the ECOWAs Revised Treaty, and 45 of the Supplementary Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy.

Engage The Gambia government on these requests made by the representatives of the nonstate actors, and citizens of the ECOWAS community on behalf of a Gambian people who lived and continue to live, in fear of state repression and military brutality for 22 years.

Done in Dakar, Senegal, on 2 June 2016

West African Civil Society Forum- WACSOF serves as a receptacle for civil society organizations feeding in to the ECOWAS System processes, and empowers them to exploit the public space at the National and Regional levels, in order for civil society to contribute to an integrated, stable and developed regional community. WACSOF’s mission is therefore to create the avenues through which CSOs can more constructively engage with the authorities at the national levels as well as the Institutions of the ECOWAS System. WACSOF has membership and country representatives in: Benin; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde; Cote D’Voire; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; and Liberia.

Civil Society Forum II Gambia- CSF II is the second series of conferences on and about governance, rule of law and democracy in The Gambia. Organizers are a coalition of non-state actors which include: African youth and gender activists; academics; lawyers; advocates; religious leaders; regional and international human rights organizations and other independent entities; parliamentarians. It is convened by the Coalition for Change Gambia-CCG and supported by Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional Office.


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