The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the arrest and detention of peaceful protesters in The Gambia, and call for their immediate and unconditional release.
The Police on May 11, 2019, arrested 15 people, seven of them females, as they were demonstrating to demand that the government of President Adama Barrow respect its pledge to limit its mandate to three years.
Police spokesperson, ASP Lamin Njie, confirmed the arrest and detention of the protesters at the Kairaba Police Station.
“They were charged with obstructing the Public Order Act by breaching the peace contrary to Section 9 of the Constitution,” ASP Njie said.
Although a President is elected for a five year term under The Gambia’s constitution, the Coalition of Opposition Parties which President Barrow leads, campaigned on a platform of running a three-year transitional government to carry out desperately needed democratic reforms after Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of brutal dictatorship.
The recent arrest and detention bring back chilling memories of July 2016 when a High Court sentenced 19 persons to three years in prison each for “demonstrating without permit.” The demonstration had been sparked by the death of Solomon Sandeng while in custody on April 16, 2016. Sandeng had been arrested alongside many others demonstrating to demand electoral reforms.
The MFWA finds the arrest and detention of the 15 people who were demonstrating peacefully on May 11, 2019 very disturbing, especially in the post-Jammeh Gambia.
The constitution of The Gambia guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and procession. The MFWA, therefore, calls on the authorities, especially President Adama Barrow, to ensure that all the detained protesters are released and charges against them dropped.