GAMBIA: PEACEFUL PROTEST TURNED UGLY

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Para-Military Personnel Manhandling Protesters

Para-Military Personnel manhandling Protesters

Lawyer Darbo & top opposition figures sticking together and marching forward

Lawyer Darbo & top opposition figures sticking together and marching forward

They held a banner with the inscription “We Need Proper Electoral Reform In The Gambia” marching on the main highway in Gambia’s biggest town Serekunda but the procession of defenseless protesters was seriously cracked down by security personnel. The leader of the protest Solo Sandeng was whisked away together with close to a dozen other protesters.  What started as a peaceful protest demanding electoral reform turned ugly in no time on the 14th of April 2016. The peaceful protesters initially resisted arrest for they have not committed any crime; what they did is sanctioned by section 25 sub section 1(d) of the Gambian constitution but they were taken away when a truck load of paramilitary personnel arrived on the scene.  According to reports reaching our desk those arrested on Thursday were taken to mile II central prisons and then later transferred to NIA torture chambers where they were severely tortured. The leader of the Protest Mr. Ebrima Solo Sandeng is reported to have died and one of the female protesters arrested along side with him seriously injured according to a report issued by Amnesty International.

The leader of the opposition party United Democratic Party (UDP) Lawyer Ousainou Darboe  issued  a press statement condemning the arrest of peaceful protester and allege killing of one of the party’s youth leaders Mr. Sandeng. In his press statement Mr. Darboe abhorred the behavior of the NIA Director Yankuba Badjie whom he said got his men drunk and unleashed them to severely torture defenseless protesters couple with filming torture sessions to satisfy the sadist Yaya Jammeh.  After issuing the press statement Lawyer Darboe took to the street together with top opposition figures demanding the release of those still held in custody and an explanation of the death of Solo Sandeng.  Mr. Darboe’s peaceful procession also turned ugly as security forces confronted them spraying tear gas and taking in Lawyer Darboe and other top opposition figures.

The U.S State Department has issued  a statement urging the Gambia government to exercise restraint and not deny the protesters their right to peaceful assembly.   Meanwhile the Government of the Gambia through it’s mouth piece Information Minister Sheriff Bojang issued a press release urging the international community not to interfere with the domestic affairs of the Gambia.  Up to the the time of going to press Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and close to a dozen top opposition figures were still held incommunicado. The information minister when confronted on BBC on the illegal detention of opposition figures he claimed that those arrested have breached the public order act.  Some people in some quarters especially western holiday makers have expressed concern on the effect of the recent turmoil on tourism but others responded to such concerns that fundamental freedoms and respect for human dignity are more important than some chicken change from tourism.


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