Gambia: Editorial: Is The New Gambia A Democracy Or A New Dictatorship In The Making?

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There is public resentment in the Gambia against the current Barrow government. This is largely due to the government’s slow place of meeting the developmental needs and aspirations of the Gambian people. Hence, the right to free assembly and protest is now becoming a security concern in some quarters within the new government.

This was a government, which campaigned on the premise of restoring democratic freedoms and liberties in the Gambia, prior to ascending to power. In fact, protest marches ushered our new found democracy—thanks to the supreme sacrifice made by the late Ebrima Solo Sandeng and his group, who defied the then Jammeh dictatorship to demand for electoral reform. Sandeng was killed in the process, while his co protesters were subjected brutal torture by their captives.

Nine months into Barrow’s presidency, the right to peaceful assembly and protest demanded by the very electorate, who voted them into office, is being denied. It is a sad day for the Gambia. This was not what Gambians aspired when they elected Adama Barrow, in December of 2016. 

Fear is a disease affecting leaderships that are operating in secrecy, and lack of public accountability. Any democratic and responsive government would have defended the protesters rights to be heard. Denying them the right to peacefully congregate to vent their anger against NAWEC or any other institution in the Gambia, will only alienate the government from the Gambian community. That’s bad! 

Our democracy is under test. Those in power had a responsibility to defend the rights of Gambians and not to trample it. It is a travesty and an affront to our constitution, which Mr. Barrow and his cohorts had swore to defend and protect.

Now the electorate are at the receiving end of the so called new Gambia. The new Gambia should encourage an open, just and democratic society and not otherwise. The culture of subjugation of citizens in the name of “ preservation of national security” should be a thing of the past.   

The Public Order Act, which the police relied upon to deny permit to the Occupy Westfield protesters, is an old Colonial law. This was the law Jammeh used to send the likes of Ousainou Darboe, and co to jail.

Mr. Darboe is Gambia’s Foreign Minister and the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP). In fact, Darboe and his party have filed a lawsuit before the Supreme Court—challenging the constitutionality of the old colonial law. The law prohibits Gambians from using a PA System without police permit. Failure to secure a police permit, could land one in jail. Ridiculous, right?  

The only way to restore public confidence in the current system is for the authorities to engage the citizenry. Marginalizing or denying Gambians the right to speak up against failed institutions such as NAWEC, would only attract more opposition against the government. We rest our case!

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