By Yankuba Jallow
Scores of Gambians assembled at Westfield on Sunday afternoon to express themselves against impunity and what they regard as the slow pace of reform.
Protestors played music with messages and issued a statement in the presence of combined security forces. The event passed off peacefully without incident.
According to the organisers, who are youths, the purpose of the peaceful assembly is to tell the government that impunity and tyranny have no space in the new Gambia.
The organisers greatly concerned that the period between which the new government took power and now, is marred by a series of occurrences which have the tendency of derailing that which we had fought for.
They stated that the security sector reform is slow and this is essential to revamp and retrain our security forces in dealing with peaceful protest and citizens’ right to free assembly. They also said that the loss of lives of three young Gambians, namely; Amadou Nyang Jawo, Bakary Kujabi and Ismaila Bah of Faraba who had died during a protest against the destruction of their environment could have been averted if the right thing had been done. The reform, they believe, should include training of officers on human rights, riot control, respect for the sanctity of lives and how to simply relate to civilians.
The activists maintained that allegation of corruption and due process of law and ‘institutional failures’ should be properly addressed by the government.
They stressed the need for the president to effectively communicate with the general public. The activists challenged the government to repeal Section 5 of the Public Order Act as it contravenes the right to freedom of assembly.
Also, the activists demand from the government to financially compensate the victims of Faraba Bantang and the families of the deceased including providing both the civilians and police with medical assistance. In addition, they called on the temporary closure of factories still operating along the Coast and other areas whose activities are environmentally hazardous and their licences reviewed.