Mr. Editor, after the Rwandan genocide, the country took in many of the perpetrators and incarcerated them at the famous Gasabo prisons. Perhaps the crimes those genocide perpetrators committed warrants them to be incarcerated for as long as possible. Irrespective of how tough genocide was on Rwanda, the country chose restorative justice with a view to bring lasting peace in Rwanda. Today, victims and assailants in Rwanda are able to sit and talk with a promise not to venture genocide anymore. Instead of Rwanda turning into an incarceration nation after genocide, peace and reconciliation had become the order of the day.
That being said, little Gambia with a population of less than 2 million people is turning into an incarceration nation because people with a political opinion different from those of dictator Jammeh have no other home but prison. What we are witnessing in the Gambia these past few days heralds the fact that President Jammeh is losing grip of the nation and the only way to silence his political opponents is to lock them in prison under excruciating circumstances.
President Jammeh has failed to realize that incarceration does not silence political opponents; it only rekindles the zeal for people to demand change by all means possible. We have seen more repressive governments in Africa that incarcerated most of their political opponents and still fall with a popular uprising. What happened to some of those leaders like his mentor Gadhafi; he died in the hands of the very people he had oppressed for so long.
The people that went out to demonstrate against unjust electoral laws acted in good faith and were only exercising a fundamental right. In turn, state security agents unleashed a very serious crackdown to the extent of taking the life of some of them. What is morally or legally wrong about a peaceful demonstration? Why would someone lose their life for just parading the streets of Serrekunda with a banner demanding changes in electoral laws? There is nothing wrong in all these actions. Even great sociologists agree that there is nothing wrong when a person breaks a just and reasonable law. Daniel Boonin (2016) argues that “how can the fact that a person has broken a just and reasonable law render it morally permissible for the state to treat him in ways that would otherwise be impermissible?” The Gambian government security agents acted so badly and treated those demonstrators with so much hatred and everything they did to them is impermissible.
The Gambian government has failed to realize that punishing those demonstrators does no good to the image of an already despotic government neither does it stop any further demonstrations. James Galligan (2016) argues and I agree that “Punishment does not prevent or inhibit further violence, it only stimulates it”. The way and manner in which the Gambian government security agents treated those demonstrators will only create an impetus for more demonstrations and eventually a popular uprising might lead to the downfall of the Government.
- D. (2016). Incarceration Nations: A journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World. In Revenge and Reconciliation, Rwanda. New York, NY: Other Press
Written By Ebou Ngum, Everett Washington.