By Absolute John
The conviction and sentencing of the United Democratic Party (UDP) leadership, including party leader Ousainou Darboe and supporters has caused uproar in the Gambia, with many people venting anger on Nigerian lawyers and judges on technical aid to the West African nation. Mr. Darboe and 18 others were sent to jail by Justice Eunice O. Dada, a Nigerian Judge whose partiality was evident throughout the trial, forcing defence lawyers to walk out of court in protest. Even ordinary Gambians have not seen sense in jailing peaceful protesters for three years for demanding the release of their colleague.
“This wasn’t a trial. It was a farce and an attempt by the criminal regime of Yahya Jammeh to thumb its nose at the Gambian people in particular and the wider international community who are adamant that the government fully account for its murderous conduct surrounding the peaceful events of April 14th and 16th,” the UDP said in a statement.
The Gambia’s biggest opposition party faulted President Yahya Jammeh regime for the jailing of their leader and dozens of party members after tremote-controlled court found them guilty of organizing a protest march in April.
The verdict ended an unprecedented legal battle that was punctuated with the decision of the defense team to withdraw from the trial after claiming that their clients were “denied due process”.
In what may be an attempt to stand firm on their ground, UDP remains firm in enduring whatever comes their way in their justified
pursuit of the freedom and justice Gambians deserve.
Gambian authorities have not shown any signs of backtracking what has become one of the greatest assault on justice and the rule of law. The leader of opposition Gambia Moral Congress who called for a practical response to the judgment, said “Justice was violently raped.”
Assan Martin, a human rights lawyer, blamed Nigerian judges who are being used as ‘tools’ of the government to oppress the Gambian people.
Lawyer Martin described judgement as a “grave travesty of justice” passed against innocent citizens. “The regime has no regard to rule of law and is acting with
impunity,“ he said.
To many observers the verdict has provoked chains of resentment
directed against Nigerian nationals serving in the country’s
judiciary. “We will continue to explore all possible means to end this ongoing repression in the Gambia. It is high time we put an end to the collusion between Yahya Jammeh and mercenary judges from Nigeria,” Martin added.
However, Alagi Yorro Jallow, a former managing editor and
co-proprietor at The Independent (a newspaper illegally shut down by the Jammeh regime) said Gambians have nobody to blame but themselves.
“The Gambian People are responsible for their predicament and not the mercenary judges, the Gambia has long tradition of recruiting foreign judges since the PPP era,“ he said in a post on his Facebook page.
“The “mercenary judges” are not responsible for our problem,” Mr. wrote, heaping blame on Yahya Jammeh who hires and recruits these Nigerian judges. He said most of these judges have been recruited from the ranks of the Nigerian judiciary to serve in the Gambia mainly due to a shortage of domestic expertise. This was inherited by the current regime.
The Gambia, a ring-sized nation in Africa has been ruled with an iron fist by a former military lieutenant since July 1994 when a group of rag-tag soldiers overthrew a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara. Yahya Jammeh’s 22nd -year rule has been marred by gross accusations of human rights violations. He has vowed to “kill trouble makers and politicians” as “nothing will come of it…”