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Ex Police Officer Aldul Aziz Sowe
Ex Police Officer Aldul Aziz Sowe

Mr. Editor,

Could you allow me some space on your online newspaper to say few things to the President of the republic of the Gambia and to address my Comrades in uniform? First let me introduce myself. My name is Mr. Abdul Aziz Sowe I had also served the uniform service for about over 10 years with total dedication my country to the best of my ability and according to the constitutional oath of office which was and I still belief is to do my duty to God and Country without fear, Favour, ill-will or affection.

My comrades in the Service may I share with you some of the things I observed during my days in the service? I have observed that torture or even beating of civilians was never a thing any officer could contemplate doing and even if it does happen, it was not to my knowledge as it used to be very minimal. So Officers of the uniform services, May I now ask what had gone wrong today? Because I was so dismayed and ashamed that the same national uniform I wore which used to be full of praises and respect is the same uniform am now seeing men in the Gambia wearing and publicly brutalising unarmed civilians who were holding peaceful demonstrations guaranteed in our constitution and whose only weapons were brooms and calabash and peacefully singing songs including our National Anthem. Even when reports of death of peaceful protester under custody of state security was reported and other opposition went on the street demanding the release of the other detainees and the body of the reported dead either dead or alive, they also went holding hands with no weapons but only our national flag which show their patriotism and respect to the statehood  and sovereignty of the Gambia and to must utter disbelief, they too were met with such force and harassment never thought could happen in a peaceful Gambia.

What happened to the moral duty to protect those civilians and the discipline of our uniform service? Why beat civilians whose taxes pay our salaries and keep our children in schools when they mean no harm to us or to the state security we were meant to protect? Comrades when I was in the service, I was posted at the Sere Kunda Police Station working at the mobile traffic unit as a mobile traffic officer responsible for traffic offences and driving related crimes but in even those days our relations with drivers were like cousins always joking with each other. Sometimes when someone commits a minor offence, the pleadings you as an officer receive from those drivers would sometimes melt your heart not to bring up charges against them. That is why I sometimes keep denying the fact that what I am seeing is definitely the Gambia I know. How could the Gambia which is called the smiling coast have uniform servicemen/ women allow themselves to descend so low as to brutalise their own fellow citizens thus creating an atmosphere of hate, brutality and wickedness? Every sane person in any democracy expect men/women in uniform to be fully trained with so much discipline training that using force would always be their last resort and always in an event where only force was necessary but that was definitely not the case anymore I suppose because dealing with protesters who sing songs with our national anthem and holding brooms and Calabash which in all sense cannot be compared to the tea gases and guns and besides the protesters never broke even a car wind screen not to talk of even burning a single tyre. Have you officers forgotten Section 21 of our Gambian Constitution? Protection from inhuman treatment which states that: No person shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. You must also understand that when brutality creeps into any society, hatred and hidden vendetta against perpetrators of such brutality gains ground and you all would be individually responsible for your actions for violating our constitution to use force on armless civilians one day. Remember everyday has a tomorrow and governments come and go therefore this one too would go at some point. So why violate the Law for such or any government for that matter?

Have you not read Section 25 of the Gambian Constitution which dealt with Freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, association and movement?

(1) Every person shall have the right to –  (a) freedom of speech and expression, which include freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom; (c) freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice; (d) freedom to assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms; (e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions; (f) freedom to petition the executive for redress of grievances and to resort to the courts for the protection of his or her rights.

(2) Every person lawfully within The Gambia shall have the right to move freely throughout The Gambia, to choose his or her own place of residence within The Gambia, and to leave The Gambia.  That is what the law of the land says so why would you defenders of that law violate it? Be careful officers in uniform. That is my friendly warning to you all my conrades.

Now your Excellency sir, I am battling with thousands of questions pouring into my head right now hope you can help me with some of it? Sir may I ask what is it that you are always afraid of? Because I do not know why anyone’s calling for electoral reforms would bother you so much so that you would want those arrested, tortured or even killed? Sir can I respectfully ask you if there is anything you hiding something which most Gambians do not know? Your Excellency I asked because we have all seen or heard during every elections  that “Alhagie Yahya AJJ Jammeh Presidential candidate of the APRC Party has won so and so election with landslide” therefore Alhagie Yahya AJJ Jammeh is duly elected as President of the Republic of the Gambia for another five year term. Sir so If true, what would electoral reforms do to your winning style? After all those calling for electoral reform can shout from one end of their mouth to the other or even calling you to step down but if you don’t want to step down or allow electoral reforms, what do you think can they do with all state securities under your loyal command? I honestly think they can only do you harm if they take up arms and become rebels or start destroying properties of both government and civilians. But sir in this case no such thing happened. So why the beating and torturing when they’ve not even refused arrest meaning they were still law abiding? Mr President it looks like something is fishy these that these people are demanding and it puts a lot of stains about all your wisely chosen IEC Chairman’s claims of your winning every elections because even the constant changing of those very electoral officials and amending of the electoral laws shows a lot of your uncomfortability about your securing and maintenance of the high office. Do you think in a free and fair election you would lose or have you lost before? Sir to be honest I have been wondering about the way and manner the electoral laws are set. But please permit me to share so of it closely with the readership here:

It is you President Jammeh who is mandated under Section 42 (3) for appointment of chairman and four senior members of the electoral commission and under the same law Section 42 (6) empowers you the President to remove the chairman and members of the electoral commission but emphasised that such mandates should be executed in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Public Service Commission. Now your Excellency, over the past years, there was little evidence to show or even suggest that you ever consulted any of those two commissions over your appointment or even sacking of members of the Independent Electoral Commission. That is disrespecting the dictates of the constitution or should anyone think you possibly were afraid that once the IEC officials are allowed such independence from your influence and total control, in free and fairer elections, you would be removed from office through the ballot box? Was that why you keep saying no elections can remove you from power? If so then if so why holding any elections? It is clear from all angles that there is no transparency and fairness in the appointments of key members of the IEC and as a result there is an non political neutrality of those you chose to conduct what is expected to be free and fair elections in the Gambia. Also Mr. President we all saw your total disregard to the constitution with the way and manner you fired three chairmen of the electoral commission and many commission members without any consultations with what the constitution requires of you or at least tell the people of the Gambia the reasons for their removal or maybe give them the right to defend themselves. The way and manner the electoral laws were designed only favours you alone. For instance all chairman and members of the electoral body are seen to be under your direct control and as they knowingly lack job security they have no options but operate under a climate of fear and intimidation from you which is an indication that either they are careful not to offend the one who decides their fate in that job or risk getting sacked like their predecessors. This is a serious contravention of our national laws the constitution which stated in Section 43 (3) that: “In the exercise of its functions under this Constitution or any other law, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”

Also while the constitution gives  every Gambian of electable age the  right to seek political office, your regime has recently restricted that right by increasing  the registration fee of political parties to pay from D10,000 to D250 thousand Dalasis  knowing fully well that the Gambia being among the least developed and poorest countries in the world where a large percentage of the population lives on less than $2 a day, such fee will make it almost impossible for some individuals or even certain oppositions to contest in elections. All these decisions has shown a high level of your insecurity on the presidency despite you have the full backing of most senior uniform officers. Mr President what are you hiding? Are you sure you’ve been winning all the past elections freely and fairly meaning Gambians vote for you landslide? These have been my thinking lately because I do not see the need to worry about electoral reform to a point of arresting, torturing or even killing those protesting and demanding for it. No sensible human being would see the need. The notion of threat to peace which peace? When has calling for free and fairer elections because threat to peace. I belief in all honesty a free and fairer elections would guarantee more peace as those who lost would know they’ve lost openly without dispute. So these hide and refusal to come in the open is raising more doubt in your winning of any elections than clear evidence of your mandate from the people.

We have all seen during Presidential elections you as President freely uses all state machineries to facilitate your re-election which in all fairness contravenes the electoral law. State radio and television have been freely used by you while opposition parties who are also tax payers are denied access to such services only weeks before pooling day. Should I dare say all done in your effort to keep voters in the dark about their policies or what they would say about your flows and why people should vote you out? So the people listen to you and your good work for the country throughout the five year period only and nothing else that would tell the electorates some of the mistakes you and your administration made which needs correcting. Sir despite all you do to keep the people uninformed about some of the faults of your regime, when elections come, despite the opposition given minimal airtime on radio or TV, they score hundreds of thousands of votes. I keep wondering what is it that made all those voters refusing to vote for you despite all what the TVs and radios keep praising you five years nonstop and despite all kinds of intimidations from security and NIA personals, with even denial of permits from police, the opposition still manages to pull such high level of votes from the electorates. Sir in reality do you think the people of the Gambian give you victories over you opponents or the IEC does? Because despite your constant winnings, you always angry with all Gambians irrespective of whether they are APRC, Oppositions, Civil Servants or Security uniform Services Could it be that Gambians actually vote for your opponents and not you as their president but IEC gives you victory as you employed them not the people of the Gambia? Why have you removed the Second round of voting recommended during the 1994 constitutional consultation commissions’ findings? I asked because even term limit was there but removed  because you do not want to leave office after serving a two term.

I know without doubt most officers in the security service have served your personal interests than serve according to the dictates of our national Constitution. It could be maybe because most of us are so ignorant of the law and dictates of the constitution that we simply think that obeying the Head of State is the same as defending the constitution. So even if the Head of state violate the constitution by ordering us to brutalising the people of State we should carry such orders as he is the custodian of the constitution and the commander in chief. But in reality power lies in the people of a State, for without the people there would be no head of state therefore the constitution is supreme law which is above even the head of state. Sir you are bound to obey and respect the constitution and when you violate the constitution, officers wearing state uniform or even in plain cloth should disobey your orders if they are patriotic to the laws of the constitution they swore by their religious books to defend without fear favour ill will or affection.

Sir a good leader is one who leads by example for today you are the leader but tomorrow it would definitely be someone and if that leader is not your child, your actions could hunt you even in your grave. Yes officers are expected to be loyal to their leader when the leader leads by example meaning respect the state laws that enable him/her to govern over the people in that state but not when that leader openly violates the laws every time ruling instead of leading violation of his/her oath of office. Mr President, remember you are under oath as well as each and every officer of State therefore their actions towards that state matters more. How about retiring and leaving office so that while still young and fresh you can continue enjoying your wealth? I have a feeling that the prospects of that too happening is troubling your mind each second because of the alleged murders and tortures that occurred during your tenure as ruler of your people. Have you now seen what violating the rights of those under you can cause a mind?

Think about what I said above and try digesting all of it sir. Maybe you would say to yourself this man is the only Gambian who knows what always runs through my mind.

Thank you sir I remained once a servant of the conbstitution of the Gambia we both love,

Mr. Abdul Aziz Sowe