By Yankuba Jallow / Kebba AF Touray
Civil Society Organisations have resolved that there is no room for error and mistakes for any government including that of President Adama Barrow, in the new Gambia.
They made these statements at a Press Conference held at the TANGO headquarters on Friday, 2ndFebruary 2018.
The CSO’s resolved that no security officer should act on an order that is unlawful; that any government that fails to listen to the voice of its citizenry is a failed government. They believe that it is in the interest of the government to listen to the citizens; that citizens have a social contract with Government because they voted for them and have legitimate expectations from them; that this was not what they expected from a government of the new Gambia.
In their resolve, the CSO’s said the Inspector General of Police (IGP) should be independent and should be able to act on their own without any influence from any person or authority and unanimously condemned the arrest and detention of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, saying it was unlawful.
Madi Jobarteh, TANGO Program Manager, said freedom of expression is one of the foundations of democracy and good governance; that it is one of the tools that empower citizens to hold their governments to account, enables them to combat corruption and ensures that public services are delivered effectively to the citizenry.
“Where you curtail freedom of expression effectively, you would disempower the citizenry and The Gambia has seen evidences of that in the past 22 years”, said Jobarteh.
According to Mr. Jobarteh, this action by the Police has prompted the CSOs to convene meetings on Thursday and Friday, to discuss the concerted efforts needed to be taken to address the arrest of Dr. Ceesay as well as to respond to the wider civil, political, economic and social issues within the country, under the new dispensation, especially in their performance and decisions.
Mr. John Njie the Chairperson of TANGO, read the demands on behalf of the CSOs as follows: a) to issue a press statement to condemn the arrest and detention of Dr. Ceesay; b) to stage a peaceful protest to defend human rights and democracy in the New Gambia; c) to seek a meeting with the IGP to discuss the need for the protection of human rights; d) to demand that the IGP offer a public apology to Dr. Ceesay; e) to hold a press conference to further popularize these issues to the general public; f) to sue the IGP for unlawful arrest and detention contrary to Section 19 subsection 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia 1997; g) to urge all Gambian media to report on issues of human rights extensively in line with ECOWAS Human Rights indicators; h) to petition all international development partners and foreign missions on the state of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the Gambia; i) to seek audience with the President of the Republic to express civil Society concerns and demands for effective and accountable leadership, promotion of democracy, the protection of human rights and adherence to the rule of law; j) to seek engagement with the National Assembly to ensure the repeal of anti-democratic laws and the creation of human rights friendly laws; ) to urge the Government to hold to account all officers responsible for the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay and any infringements on the rights of citizens.
Lawyer Combeh Gaye on behalf of The Gambia Bar Association said, the Bar Association was disheartened and concerned about the arrest and detention of Dr. Cessay, a political Science Lecturer at The University of The Gambia, which she noted, boiled down to views expressed in the voice Newspaper on the 23rd January 2018, where Dr. Ceesay stated that the presence of the ECOMIG Forces in The Gambia will not prevent a long term security risk if the President does not win the trust of the Army. She said Dr. Ceesay was arrested and charged with incitement of violence contrary to section 59 1(B) of the criminal code cap 10(01) volume 3 Laws of The Gambia, which charges were since withdrawn.
She said section 25 1(A) of the constitution of The Gambia guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include the freedom of press and other media and subsection B guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience, beliefs, which shall include academic freedom.
“The opinions expressed by Dr. Ceesay are views that are guaranteed by the Constitution. It is therefore a derogation of Constitutional principles that the same organs of government are enjoying under section 17 of the Constitution to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights including the freedom of expression”, noted Lawyer Gaye.
A total of sixteen or more Civil Society Organizations, participated at the conference.