Paradigm Initiative Statement on the Arrest of Gambian Political Scientist, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay

A pan-African digital rights organisation, Paradigm Initiative has condemned the arrest of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a lecturer at the University of The Gambia.  Gambian police detained and questioned Dr. Ismaila Ceesay yesterday, January 31st, over comments he made in an interview with The Voice newspaper, a local daily. The paper published a story in which Ceesay is quoted as saying “the presence of ECOMOG forces won’t prevent long-term security risks if the president does not win the trust of the army. According to local sources, “The police are saying that such a comment is a threat and should not be mentioned, thus the reason for his arrest.” While Dr Ceesay has now been released after spending a night in detention, we believe it is important for the government to investigate this unfortunate arrest and punish those responsible for the arrest.

While commenting on the development, Paradigm Initiative Program Manager for Anglophone West Africa, Adeboye Adegoke opined that “This is a very disturbing news from a government whose ascendancy into power is on the basis of campaign and promise freedom of expression. With this development, President Barrow is beginning to exhibit traits of his predecessor, President Jammeh who demonstrated intolerance and hatred for opposing views and dissent leading to many Gambians going on self-exile.”

It is important for the Gambian Government to embrace true democratic values such as freedom of expression which allows citizens to freely express their opinion on any issue without fear of arrest. It is only when this has been done that the New Gambia can truly imagine. This development is a sad one as it apparently reversed the gains of the victory won with the elections that ushered in the government of President Barrow” says ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director at Paradigm Initiative.

Speaking on the development,  Modou Joof, a Gambian born Journalist and free expression activist says “His arrest and detention is unacceptable and he must be released immediately. It violates freedom of expression which the new government promised to promote and protect. It could also have a chilling effect on citizens participation in issues of government” 

Speaking further Adeboye calls on civil society organizations, the media and the people of The Gambia not to go to sleep but to be on guard to protect the victory won last year through the successful removal of President Jammeh. This he said will be achieved among other measures by working to review and repeal bad laws such as the Public order act and the Amended communications and Informations Act 2013 and any other laws the Government may rely upon to suppress the fundamental rights of Gambian citizens”.

Paradigm Initiative commends the people of The Gambia especially the students and colleagues of Dr Ceesay at the University of The Gambia for standing up to the police and ensuring the release of Dr Ceesay. The vigilance and vibrant activism exercised by Gambians will go a long way in convincing on the police authorities the need to respect citizens’ rights. 

For more details on this statement, please send a mail to media@paradigmhq.org.

Join The Conversation