Activista The Gambia, in a statement, frowned at President Barrow’s recent statement to suppress political activities amid victory at December polls.
The Civil Society Organisation also demands the President to make an immediate public apologise for his statement and reassure citizens that he will not tamper with their rights, hence.
“On the backdrop of this statement by the President, Activista The Gambia expresses concerns over the president’s unequivocal desire to stifle the country’s political and democratic landscape. It further shows an attempt to stifle political freedom and freedom to associate and assemble as enshrined in our Constitution,” the Civil Society Organisation [CSO] said in a statement on Friday.
The CSO reminded Barrow that The Gambia has come from a ‘difficult past’ during which Gambians learnt enough lessons and they would fight ‘tooth and nail’ to prevent such an occurrence.
“Activista would like to remind the President of the republic that this country has come from a difficult past. As such, we are reminding the president that Gambians had learned enough lessons of living under a dictatorship and will therefore fight tooth and nail to prevent ourselves from sleepwalking into the rebirth of another dictatorship in the Country. In 2016, we fought so hard as people to free ourselves from the shackles of a long-standing dictatorship. And therefore, we will never trade off this victory for anything whatsoever.
“Activista The Gambia, is a fervent believer of democracy as guided by the fundamental principles of freedom of movement, association, and assembly, as enshrined in Section 25 of the 1997 Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia, and Articles 10, 11, and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” the statement added.
The dispatched further reminded President Barrow that he does not have any powers to instruct the Police Chief to deny permits for political activities.
The organisation described any attempts by the President to give such instructions amounts to running a ‘fool’s errand’.
“Furthermore, with reference to the President’s statement to instruct the IGP to deny issuance of permits to those who seek it after December 4, 2021, we are again reminding him that he, Mr. Barrow, does not have any legitimate powers whatsoever to give such instructions, and therefore he will be running a fool’s errand in trying to do so,” Activista said in the statement.
The organisation said the Public Order Act, which gives the Police [IGP], the power to grant or deny permit to public assembly is an archaic and draconian law, which is blatantly unfit for use in a democratic and progressive society.
The Act, Activista added, was a tool designed to curtail peoples’ freedom as it leaves our rights and freedoms to assemble at the mercy of the state security apparatus.
It called for such “obnoxious” laws to be removed from The Gambia’s statues, to consolidate the country’s fledgling democracy.
Activista takes on Government statement
The government on 17th August issued a statement amid wide public condemnation of the President’s statement in question.
The statement said Barrow has “no intentions to curtail citizens’ freedom, or to control or ban political activities”.
It added that the President “envisages a more tolerant and diverse Gambia where citizens can openly debate over issues to agree and disagree amicably without resulting to insults and foul languages.”
However, reacting to the said government statement, the CSO described it as ‘unapologetic and an insufficient’ and urged the President to make an instant public apology to Gambians and reassure them that we will not limit the exercise of their rights.
“Sequel to this, Activista considers the government’s August 17th Press Release as unapologetic and an insufficient way to address the President’s statement. Therefore, we hereby urge the President to (a) openly apologise to Gambians immediately and reassure us that henceforth he will not threaten to limit our fundamental rights and freedoms as a people and citizens; (b) focus on delivering development to Gambians and desist from using the State House and its resources as ground to consolidate his party’s political fan base; (c) ensure that state apparatus including security forces desist from acting upon unlawful directives and act within the confines of the law,” it concluded.
It could be recalled that, President Adama Barrow last Sunday in a meeting with a Serer Community from New Jeshwang at State House expressed his desire through the Police Chief to stop all party-political activities following victory on December 4, residential elections, in order to stop what he described as “never ending politics”, among others.
The statement of the president attracted a lot of condemnation from political parties to right activists.
The statement, critics say should not come from the President, given the country’s reputation in the past two decades under former President Jammeh notorious for “gross human rights violations”.