Demonstrators arrested for demanding follow through on promises made

This statement was originally published on on 15 May 2019.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the arrest and detention of peaceful protesters in The Gambia, and calls 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 a 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.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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