Pressure Mounts On Gambia As ‘Pre-electoral Climate Darkens’

By Abdoulie John
“ARTICLE 19 is gravely concerned by the ongoing attacks on civic
space, the imprisonment of opposition leader, Ousainou Darboe, two of his family members, and 25 opposition party supporters, and by allegations of torture and violence ahead of presidential elections,” said the human rights watchdog in a statement issued on Wednesday.The statement comes amid rising concerns about ongoing political
crisis that erupted since April 14 when Ebrima Solo Sandeng
spearheaded a protest march calling for ‘proper electoral reforms.’
Their move was met with a full-scale crackdown by Gambian security personnel that led to the arrest of dozens of UDP supporters. Sandeng reportedly succumbed to torture. On April 16, Ousainou Darboe and agroup of party members took to the streets of Serrekunda demanding Gambian authorities to ‘produce Solo Sandeng dead or alive.’ Their
were subsequently arrested and charged. Their trial was marred by
legal flaws prompting the withdrawal of the defense team. Darboe and supporters were sentenced to a 3-year jail term each.“The imprisonment of Ousainou Darboe and UDP members is a serious and deliberate violation of the right to protest and to freely participate to the electoral process,” said Fatou Jagne Senghor, Director of Article 19 West Africa.On Tuesday, United Kingdom Ambassador to Gambia Colin Crorkin added his voice to the chorus of condemnations and decried the verdict that “The British Government is concerned by the severity of the sentences in the case of the Gambian UDP (United Democratic Party) leader, Ousainou Darboe, and his supporters. These sentences are disproportionate and not in line with internationally acceptable human rights standards,” he said in a statement.

The British plenipotentiary reaction followed  increased pressure
being mounted by some Western countries urging the authorities of the tiny West African nation to respect human rights in freeing UDP leader and those arrested for exercising what many considers as their constitutional right.

A week ago, it was the US Department of State that issued a statement condemning what it described as ‘harsh sentences’ against the country’s largest largest opposition party. The US govt called for the immediate release of all those convicted by two Gambian courts linked with the April 14 and 16 demonstrations.

Gambia is ruled with an iron by President Yahya Jammeh who seized power in a military. His 22-year rule has been marred by gross human rights  violations. He has vowed to vie for a fifth term in office.


One Comment

  1. Thank you for the pic. and a framed excerpt of Ousainou Darboe’s unpresented statement Mr. John. Thank you too for the good information in your article regarding international reactions from countries like the U.K and the U.S.A. It is true when one says ‘democracy cannot be imported’ but also true to say, ‘be helped restored’. The failing to engage dictatorships, by democracy big stakeholders, only helps to endorse them and entrench them as well. Thanks to both countries for their post independence good diplomatic relations with the Gambia and for prevailing as friendly grounds for the Gambia’s civil society democracy restoration process.